The map is not the territory

Chaos Manor View, Saturday, August 29, 2015




Still hot in Los Angeles, and the only coolers are in places like the Monk’s Cell where I can’t go. Ah well. Still hard at fiction, not making as much progress as I would like, but plugging away.

Peggy Noonan has summarized well the essence of Donald Trump’s remarkable campaign: Her essay is well worth reading.

Trump has brought immigration to the fore in political discussions. This strikes terror into the hearts of the country club Republican establishment. Nearly all the Republican “base” wants something done about our open border. So do a lot of Democrats. So do a lot of legal immigrants, who have discovered that the entry level jobs tend to be kept at low wages because intelligent and trainable illegals are eager to get them.

The latest story from our masters is that, well, a wall would be a lovely thing, but we can’t afford it. This from people who spent around a trillion dollars on Keynesian attempts to revive the economy, while the Great Recession – I would call it the Second Depression – continues, the unemployment rate falling not because more people have jobs, but because so many have given up looking for them; if you are not actively seeking work, you are not unemployed. If you have decided to live off welfare, food stamps, the various other benefits that allow those in poverty in the United States to live better than the lower middle class in most of the world, you are not unemployed. I don’t know the true unemployment rate in the US, but it is a great deal higher than the official one.

The ruling class says we cannot afford a wall, and anyway what about tunnels? We’re looking into the problem, and it’s complicated. After all, if we can’t understand it, then surely you can’t.

We can pay needless administrators high salaries to keep the cost of education high, but there are no funds to pay workers to build a wall. Hmm. Sometimes if you have multiple problems they can solve themselves; we could have a contest to find needless government jobs to eliminate while raising funds for a wall. Bunny inspectors could carry concrete blocks. As to tunnels, perhaps digging listening mines with drums scattered over with dried peas? Well, that is a rather old technology employed in 1529, and we might have something more modern and effective in detecting tunneling activities if we care to deploy it. Even an agent with money to buy drinks in bars across the border…

Of course it doesn’t matter; whatever technology we have, the ruling class will have good reasons, endlessly repeated by the media, for why it won’t work.

And they don’t understand why Trump is popular.

Last night I heard an establishment spokesman say that illegal aliens turn a profit for the United States. They pay taxes. They pay Social Security bot can’t collect it. Most don’t break laws. They don’t send much back home, after all they have to live on what they earn. Etc. I didn’t listen for long, I had better things to do; but I doubt that this the last time I hear this argument.

Read Peggy Noonan and have a better understanding of Trump and the ruling class.


When I was an undergraduate I became much enamored of Kris Neville’s novella, Bettyann.  It influenced me, I am not sure why.  I later met Neville, and we became friends, but I never discussed it with him.  For some reason I thought of the novella recently, but could not find it. I found the novel it was expanded into, but I don’t see the charm I remember, and I frankly don’t understand what enthralled me.  A search for the novella was in vain although I found some evidence that it might be in the Gutenberg project; but that shows me only four works by any author and I can’t see how to look at all of them.

Does anyone know where I can get a copy of the 1940 or so novelette?


I first came to know of Carrie Slager through seeing something about this: in a search for something else. I wondered what this was all about, and when I read of the incident I still didn’t know, but I found her prose easy to read, so I decided to look at some of her reviews: (Alas the new program truncates the link titles.  The full title included the phrase the_day_an_author_suggested_I_kill_myself, which was what intrigued me to look it up in the first place.)

It turns out there are 26 pages of TITLES, hundreds of reviews, which seem remarkable. I read a few of them. Then I noted that although most of her reviews were of books and authors I had never heard of, some, like Bova’s The Hittite, and Scalzi’s Old Men’s War, I have read. I read those reviews, and then several others, and I have made a list of several historical novels, and biographies, ( ( I will buy if ever I get back to light reading. I know nothing about Carrie Slager that isn’t on her blog. But if you’re interested in short, opinionated reviews by a well read young woman with, in my judgment, good taste in historical works, I recommend her reviews. She also has hundreds of other reviews of romances, urban fantasy, romantic fantasy, and probably a lot more I did not notice, but I assume she treats those with the same clarity as she does the occasional SF and historical work. I like brief reviews that give me an idea of whether I want to read the book, and Carrie Slager so far satisfies that wish.

Apparently I misspelled her name in an earlier edition. Apologies.


The discussion of the nature of scientific knowledge – often called the philosophy of science – continues.

Who could have guessed? (the truncator at work again to cause me more work. scientific-peer-review-reproducing-data)

scientific studies not reproducible

Dr. Pournelle,
Several articles appeared about this yesterday. Best I’ve found:
“An emerging challenge to science’s credibility”

The structure for causing replication of experiments does not exist; and with the axiom that social “science” babble is as important as experiments in biology or physics, it is unlikely to be created. That constitutes a real problem.

You may like the guardian peer review reproducing data  although the audio may become offensive.

Many Psychology Findings Not as Strong as Claimed, Study Says – The New York Times

Surprisingly, the Social Sciences aren’t all that science-y.

The new analysis, called the Reproducibility Project and posted Thursday by Science, found no evidence of fraud or that any original study was definitively false. Rather, it concluded that the evidence for most published findings was not nearly as strong as originally claimed.

“Less than half — even lower than I thought,” said Dr. John Ioannidis, a director of Stanford University’s Meta-Research Innovation Center, who once estimated that about half of published results across medicine were inflated or wrong. Dr. Ioannidis said the problem was hardly confined to psychology and could be worse in other fields, including cell biology, economics, neuroscience, clinical medicine, and animal research.®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0 (social science not as strong as claimed study says.)


Munchhausen, Fries, Popper and Epistemology

The Munchhausen Trilemma, as stated in the all too brief Wiki article that Mr. Jordan references, appears to be concerned with the realm of philosophy, mathematics, and abstract knowledge systems in general – what Kant called the analytic realm. It is only in the analytic realm that we can properly speak of “proof”, and in essence all mathematical (including logical) proofs are essentially tautologies – rearrangements of formal expressions to make them more relevant, salient, or useful to our minds. By the same token, the chief epistemological test of the validity of formal or analytic systems is their coherence.
There are two main epistemological problems with these formal systems. The least important problem practically is Goedels’ proof that no formal system of any complexity can claim to be both self-consistent and complete. The most important epistemological problem with analytic, mathematical, or deductive reasoning (because so few people with well-developed minds see that there is a problem) is that there is no necessary connection between any formal system and reality. That doesn’t bother us much because we naturally and intuitively think in terms of metaphors, and habitually extend our understanding by the application of metaphors, and we constantly go astray in this mode of thinking as well. Thus, it is natural for us to blithely and unthinkingly apply our mathematical constructs to the real world, and even to mistake the patterns we have thus imposed for a feature of unedited reality – thus Pythagarous projected his beautiful systems of numbers onto the heavenly bodies, and thereby groked the “music of the spheres”.
With this as preamble, here is what I find at Wiki under the Münchhausen Trilemma:
It is said that any LOGICAL [emphasis mine] argument is necessarily based on
(a) an Axiomatic assumption [or assumptions], in which certain truths are assumed to be true;
(b) circular argument, in which the premises are supported by the argument;
(c) infinite regress, where there is an infinite sequence of logical arguments;
The second part of the Münchhausen article summarizes the Fries Trilemma, which for brings in the real world of experience. The way I understand this (though I may be wrong as the statements here are radically unspecified and ambiguous):
(1) dogmatically
(2) by a chain of already accepted statements of type (2), which leads to recursion and infinite regress
(3) based on perceptual experience (psychologism)
Note that these are hardly equivalent theories because Fries has broadened the term “statements” to include the whole realm of empirical statements, which is entirely missing from the Münchhausen formulation.
As for where Popper fits into these schema, the answer is nowhere. Appended to the Fries section is a note to page 87 of Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery. The reference, however, is inapt. Popper discusses Fries’s epistemology on pages 93-94, but based on the way he characterizes it, I would not call Fries’s epistemology a trilemma. Fries was merely arguing that if we are to avoid dogmatism, or argument from authority, we must be able to justify our statements in the mathematical or logical sense by appealing to previously accepted statements, and that this leads to an infinite regress (for some reason, Fries seems to have failed to recognize that logical argument may also lead to the axioms or postulates that are the foundation of any mathematical system). Therefore, says Fries, the only way out of this dilemma is to be able to ultimately justify our statements by an appeal to perceptual experience, or (that is) through “psychologism”. There is no trilemma here: only a philosophical argument.
BTW Fries is here betraying the Idealist philosophical background that predominated during his time – according to idealism, the only thing we can know of reality directly (if we can know anything at all) are psychological representations that arise in our own minds. Exactly how and what our minds can know of reality remains an open question, but since the demise of logical positivism, and the vast increase in knowledge of how the human brain works, hardly anyone any longer believes that our knowledge is merely a passive perceptual recording of reality.
Popper, the scientific world, and most of those who have never studied philosophy take our ability to grasp reality for granted, though they may have only a vague idea of what “to grasp” actually means. However, like Popper I will gloss over that issue here. It is perhaps worth remarking, though, that the positivists (and “analytic” philosophy in general) sought to ground meaning exclusively in sense data, but that attempt fails because it doesn’t take account of the reality of what’s going on in our heads – things like the deductive reasoning we employ to organize our knowledge, formulate hypotheses, and the like. Since the positivists necessarily relied on these things too in their formulation of their theories, their philosophy is self-refuting.
Popper, though he too came out of the same Vienna School, doesn’t make that error. In fact his epistemology prioritized deductive reasoning and connects it to the real world – validates it, and confers meaning on its claims – by exposing our ideas about reality to falsification by means of “basic statements” – statements about the real world that are themselves subject to falsification. It might seem, though, that to require every basis statement to itself be falsified would lead to a different kind of infinite, or let’s say practically infinite regress. Popper addresses that on pages 47-48, and concludes that for purposes of scientific hypothesis testing it is enough that any and all supportative empirical statements that may questioned be at least in principle testable, and thus falsifiable, with the burden of falsification lying on the questioner (whether that be the original theorist or his critic).
Speaking of practicality, Popper has provided the soundest and clearest framework for working scientists, and it is worth noting and emphasizing that in his view, one cannot reasonably claim that an hypothesis has been falsified unless the falsifying facts can be reproduced at will: that is, it’s not enough to publish a single study that falsifies a particular hypothesis in whole or in part. It may not even be enough that the results be replicated. They must be replicatable at will. Several meta review studies published recently have found that only a small portion of scientific studies in certain fields ever get replicated even once. This Slate article provides a nice overview of this issue.
Meanwhile, the need for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, with its gatekeepers comfortably ensconced and entrenched in orthodoxy, both excludes those who have been recognized as scientifically incorrect (as is amply documented in Hilton Ratcliffe’s The Static Universe), and fails to exclude blatantly inadequate studies (nicely illustrated by this case ).
or even outright fraud, which can flourish like weeds where replicatability is no longer the norm for scientific respectability.
On these and other grounds, I conclude (subject to falsification, of course) that most science today is junk science and a waste of taxpayer money.
It should be obvious, if one comprehends what Popper is saying (and what scientists are supposed to be doing) that the scope of scientific epistemology is quite narrow. The vast majority of the knowledge problems we wrestle with aren’t subject to falsifiability in the strict Popperian sense, because we are mostly concerned with the things that we and others do, or in other words, with history – and historical events are not repeatable (e.g. Heraclitus: “You can’t step twice into the same stream.”) Yet these days, all academics seek to at least masquerade as scientists to claim their “entitled” place at the public trough, so we have the quasi sciences of economics and sociology with their heavy use of mathematical modeling of the doings of homo econimus and the social unit (both in the aggregate), which have no counterparts in the real world, or the descriptive “sciences” of anthropology, evolutionary theory (also infatuated with statistics and modeling), cosmology, “climate science” and the like which are little more than speculations on a history for which there is little or no data – a great convenience for constructing grossly oversimplified models of the real world that work – until they don’t.
The fact is that all these types of historical studies require a completely different kind of epistemology from the scientific one outlined by Popper, though they may well be able to make use of the characteristic tools and findings of science. I get into this alternate epistemology in my essay, The Epistemologies of History, Science, and the Law
The compensation for the inevitable lack of rigor and system in what are essentially historical or descriptive studies, is that they, and the arts, get to address “the big questions”, and formulate the metaphysical hypotheses that thoughtful people are ineluctably drawn to, but which are not, and cannot be, fit subjects for science.
Finally, I would like to point out that moral philosophy deals not in the currency of truth, or methodologies of truth-seeking (epistemology), but rather in values, and values are inherently: (1) individual; and (2) subjective – which is why all attempts to universalize and then reduce human behavior to a predictable science have failed, and will continue to fail. However, that doesn’t mean that psychologists, sociologists, economists and the like haven’t discovered interesting tendencies and patterns in human behavior that can help us make sense of ourselves and our world in ways that science, per se, cannot.
John B. Robb

I am not sure I have the time to comment on all of this. I will say that the map is not the territory, and forgetting that is dangerous. Popper’s rules are map making; they are not the same as exploring the territory, although often real exploration takes place as part of the process.

And have the bright immensities
Received our risen Lord
Where light-years frame the Pleiades
And point Orion’s sword?

Do flaming suns His footsteps trace
Through corridors sublime,
The Lord of interstellar space
And Conqueror of time?

The heaven that hides Him from our sight
Knows neither near nor far:
An altar candle sheds its light
As surely as a star;

And where His loving people meet
To share the gift divine,
There stands He with unhurrying feet,
There heavenly splendors shine.

Is another attempt to explore the territory; it does not claim to be a map.


Unrestricted capitalism
Regarding your assertion that unrestricted capitalism would lead to the sale of human flesh in the marketplace:
You say that the moral background to the assertion (i.e. the reason why you made a point of saying it in the first place) makes a difference to whether the assertion is a scientifically acceptable one – testable in principle, for a start. I disagree. The assertion is, in principle, testable whether one approves of the result or not.
Of course, the moral factor is relevant in the matter of whether the proposition will ever be tested and how high the potential sales might be. You wouldn’t buy long pig even if it was available (or so I assume) and neither would I. But some people might. Probably would, in fact.
For fun and giggles, consider the rather higher-tech version of this idea. How well would vat-grown long pig, or flesh from decerebrate clones, sell and would eating such be morally questionable in the first place? Would it be kosher/halal? 🙂
Ian Campbell

Actually the theorem has been tested and not falsified; I agree, judging its importance to our lives requires moral assumptions, and a different calculus. And once again I repeat, the map is not the territory, and it is well to keep that in mind.

I note that an authorized abridgement to Korzybski’s Science and Sanity is available I still have my first edition, but perhaps I will order the abridgement. I do not regret the time I spent reading the original edition as an undergraduate. It was not an easy book.

This one is probably easier but it is shorter than the blue peril. It will not be easy, and at times it will seem to be wasting your time, but I do not regret the time I have spent reading Korzybski’s ramblings; they have an effect on the way you think. And that’s enough on that subject.



There Will Be War
Dr. Pournelle,
Have finished all four volumes of There Will Be War on Kindle. I greatly enjoyed them all, and know of no other examples of anthologies combining contemporary essays on politics, tech, and the military with fiction. I think that I may have read all or part of one of the volumes from a library in hardback, but they are IMO much more appreciated as a series. While I have read some of your work and analyses in Chaos Manor and other publications, I don’t think I’d read your full analysis of the Vietnam war before now.

I think that I remember that, in your column, when volumes 1 and 2 were re-released, you wondered whether the series was still germane: I believe that it is. You probably don’t need any more work on your plate, but I think the series is not only pertinent, but could be updated in light of U.S. Cold War, NATO, Afghanistan, and Mid East history since the originals were written. While I can’t list any specific examples, I think there are many published short-format stories that can illustrate some of the points and positions you’ve written about in your blog.

Looking around, we can today see policy makers still fixated on MADD, growth of fundamentalist dictatorships, examples of budding imperialism and the collapse of nominal republics. Commercial greed, competition for resources, and demagoguery are still common drivers of politics by violent means. I think there’s room for updating and continuing the series.
Best regards,

It would be a lot of work, and I don’t think there is much money in it; certainly I have no offers of large advances. I haven’t time to keep the records and pay the contributors, much less write all the essays. And yet, as you say, the subject remains relevant.






Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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