[From Rick Marken (2014.08.21.1920)]
Philip (8.20.14 @ 20:01)
RM: Thanks Philip; this was a very thought provoking post for me. It really got me to go up a level by getting me to think about what these conflicts are about.
PY: Jesus Christ, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Stop fighting and let’s get to the heart of this.
RM: I believe that this “fighting” is the heart of it, for me anyway. My interest in PCT is scientific and science is a social enterprise and, as in all such enterprises, there will be conflict . This is because people have different beliefs regarding the way things, like human nature, work. So people doing science are often in conflict about whose beliefs are correct. The nice thing about science is that these conflicts are ultimately resolved by testing these beliefs against observation. But in order to do this we have to have a nice, clear idea about what these beliefs are so that we know what observations are predicted.
A formally developed scientific belief is a scientific theory. PCT is such a belief. The process of getting to a nice, clear idea of what a theory like PCT predicts involves getting the theory into a form, outside of peoples heads – as a set of equations or a software or hardware model – so that people can agree that that’s the theory. I think most of what are seen as “fights” on CSGNet are attempts to come to agreement about what PCT is so that it can be implemented as a mathematical or computer model in order to see what it actually predicts. The process of getting to these agreements can involve rather heated – I prefer to call it spirited – discussions but that’s the way conflict works; each side pushes harder and harder. But unlike arguments over other beliefs, such as religious and ideological ones, arguments about scientific theories are eventually resolved by observation (test).
PY: What is the purpose here? Are we trying to establish exactly “why PCT is necessary”?
RM: In this specific case my goal was to try to get to a point where I could develop a working model of what Martin was proposing and/or write a computer demonstration of how control of entropy worked (or didn’t). Although these arguments ramble all over the place this one actually gave me a great idea for a demo that I may implement if I get the time. The demo would show that control does not necessarily involve a reduction of entropy, where entropy would be measured as Shannon’s information measure, H =- Sum (p.i * log(p.i)).
PY: Is this a quarrel over whether a tracking task or an observation of decay in living organisms establishes the necessity of PCT?
RM: Yes. And other things as well. It’s pretty much going all over the place, as these discussions often do. But I always get something worthwhile out of them.
PY: I don’t even know.
RM: Neither do I, often.
PY: But you guys REALLY seem to be having a blast with this.
RM: I certainly am. I don’t know about Martin. He gets pretty exasperated with me so he might not be having as much fun.
PY: When I look at these conversations, I truly believe PCT is in a state of crisis.
RM: These kinds of conversations have been going on since PCT began in 1961; certainly since CSGNet began in 1990. So I guess PCT has always been in crisis. But I don’t see it that way. The only crisis for PCT would be if behavior turned out not to be a control process, which is highly unlikely.
PY: There is only one way to put an end to this.
We all need to answer the following question: what is the most serious threat to PCT?
RM: Treating it as revealed truth.
PY: We all know in our heart of hearts that PCT is accurate and true (meaning that: when we came across PCT, we felt intuitively that we knew something which we never knew before). We are absolutely certain that Bill Powers was a good man and that his ideas were powerful. But Bill Powers had died before he had ever seen PCT blossom into fruition. And PCT has still not blossomed. And PCT will not blossom at this rate. We’ve been seeing the same exact sentences describing the meaning of control for decades now.
RM: I think PCT “blossomed” back in 1960, when Bill first developed it. It hasn’t “blossomed” in the sense of becoming generally accepted in the behavioral/life sciences because there is tremendous inertia preventing this from happening (textbooks, curricula, careers, reputations, etc). I don’t believe PCT is being prevented from blossoming in the sense of becoming more popular by arguments on CSGNet.
PY: Very good. We know that PCT explains every observation we have. And it does so WITHOUT exception. Thus, unlike most scientific theories, PCT is essentially immune to falsification.
RM: PCT is certainly falsifiable. Only religious beliefs are not falsifiable, which is what makes them so uninteresting.
PY: Why has QM - a theory which has absolutely NO(!!!) intuitive appeal - become a household name, whereas PCT is relegated to obscurity?
RM: For the reasons I gave above: mainly the inertial forces that now exist in the behavioral sciences.
PY: There needs to be a link between quantization and PCT and I think I can find it.
RM: That’s fine. But that approach to science doesn’t interest me much. I like building models and testing them against actual observation. That’s what originally attracted me to Powers’ work and it’s really what I enjoy doing most.
RY: Rick and Martin (because it’s mainly you two), I promise not to post anything stupid or snobby if you don’t either (we all know I’m the master of the snobby post anyway).
RM: I’m sure I’ve posted some stupid stuff but the fact is that I enjoy the spirited interchanges on the net, as long as they are carried on in good faith and are based on a reasonably good understanding of PCT. I’ve certainly benefited from several such interchanges over the years, with Martin and others (including Bill Powers). I think these spirited interchanges are a sign of a healthy, scientific interest in understanding the controlling done by living systems.
Richard S. Marken, Ph.D.
Author of Doing Research on Purpose.
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