David Deutsch – The Beginning of Infinity

Meine Unterstreichungen:


Alchemists had dreamed for centuries of transmuting ‘basemetals’, such as iron or lead, into gold. They never came close to understanding what it would take to achieve that, so they never did so. But scientists in the twentieth century did. (S. 1)

Such ideas do not create themselves, nor can they be mechanically derived from anything. they have to be guessed - after which they can be criticised and tested. To the extent that experiencing dots ‚writes‘ something into our brains, it does not write explanations but only dots. (S. 8)

Thus „how do we know . ..?“ is trans- formed into “by what authority do we claim …?“ The latter question is a chimera that may well have wasted more philosophers’ time and effort than any other idea. It converts the quest for truth into a quest for certainty (a feeling) or for endorsement (a social status). This misconception is called justificationism. (S. 9)

We never know any data before interpreting it through theories, All observations are, as Popper put in, theory laden, and hence fallible, as all our theories are. (S. 10)

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. (S. 10 nach S. Holmes von C. Doyle)

I think that there is only one way to science - or to philosophy, for that matter: to meet a problem, to see its beauty and fall in love with it; to get married to it and to live with it happily, till death do ye part – unless you should meet another and even more fascinating problem or unless, indeed, you should obtain a solution, But even if you do obtain a solution, you may then discover, to your delight, the existence of a whole family of enchanting, though perhaps difficult, problem children Realism and the Aim of Science (1983) (S. 18 nach Popper)

Since theories can contradict each other, but there are no contradictions in reality, every problem signals that pur knowledge must be flawed or inadequate. (S. 18)

That freedom to make drastic changes in those mythical explanations of seasons is the fundamental flaw in them. It is the reason that myth- making in general is not an effective way to understand the world. (S. 21)

As the physicist Richard Feynman said, „Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.“ (S. 22)

The quest for good explanations is, I believe, the basic regulating principle not only of science, but of the Enlightenment generally. (S. 22)

That is what makes good explanations essential to science: it is only when a theory is a good explanation –hard to vary – that it even matters whether it is testable. (S. 25)

The growth of knowledge consists of correcting misconceptions in our theories. (S. 41)

As Einstein remarked, „My pencil and I are more clever than I.“ (S. 60)

That is to say, the rule is person-friendliness to people who have the relevant knowledge, death is the rule for those who do not. These are the same rules that prevailed in the Great Rift Valley from whence we came, and have prevailed ever since. (S. 69)

Outside our parochial perspective, astrophysics is incomplete without a theory of people, just as it is incomplete without a theory of gravity or nuclear reactions. (S. 70)

It follows that humans, people and knowledge are not only objectively significant: they are by far the most significant phenomena in nature – the only ones whose behaviour cannot be understood without understanding everything of fundamental importance. (S. 74)

Any theory about improvement raises the question: how is the knowledge of how to make that improvement created? (S. 87)

But the truth is always that knowledge must be first conjectured and then tested. That is what Darwin’s theory says: First, random mutations happen, (they do not take account of what problem is being solved); then natural selection discards the variant genes that are less good at causing themselves to be present again in future generations. (S. 89)

In contrast, the intermediate explanations leading a scientist from one good explanation to the next need not be viable at all. The same is true of creative thought in general. This is the fundamental reason that explanatory ideas are able to escape from parochialism, while biological evolution, and rules of thumb, cannot. (S. 114)

if you were suddenly the last human on Earth, you would be wondering what sort of life to want. Deciding ‘I should do whatever pleases me most’ would give you very little clue, because what pleases you depends on your moral judgement of what constitutes a good life, not vice versa. (S. 122)

Those ancient innovators only ever cared about the specific problems they were confronting – to write particular words – and, in order to do that, one of them invented a rule that happened to be universal. Such an attitude may seem implausibly parochial. But things were parochial in those days. (S. 127)

In 1994 the computer scientist and molecular biologist Leonard Adleman designed and built a computer composed of DNA together with some simple enzymes, and demonstrated that it was capable of performing some sophisticated computations. At the time, Adleman’s DNA computer was arguably the fastest computer in the world. (S. 145) Siehe Wikipedia

But, of all the different forms of universality, the most significant physically is the characteristic universality of people, namely that they are universal explainers, which makes them universal constructers as well. (S. 146)

So there is something special – infinitely special, it seems – about the laws of physics as we actually find them, something exceptionally computation-friendly, prediction-friendly and explanation-friendly. The physicist Eugene Wigner called this ‘the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences’. (S. 189)

There would be no existing ship designs to stick with, nor records to stay within, if no one has ever violated the precautionary principle. (S. 202)

Many civilizations in history were destroyed by the simple technologies of fire and the sword. Indeed, of all civilizations in history, the overwhelming majority have been destroyed, some intentionally, some as a result of plague or natural disaster. Virtually all of them could have avoided the catastrophes that destroyed them if only they had possessed a little additional knowledge, such as improved agricultural or military technology, better hygiene, or better political or economic institutions. Very few, if any, could have been saved by greater caution about innovation. In fact most had enthusiastically implemented the pre-cautionary principle. (S. 202)

the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig and his wife committed suicide in 1942, in the savety of neutral Brazil, because they considered civilization to be already doomed. (S. 205)

Consider also the revolutionary utopians, who typically achieve only destruction and stagnation. Though they are blind optimists, what defines them as utopians is their pessimism that their supposed utopia, or their violent proposals for achieving and entrenching it, could ever be improved upon. (S. 210)

In education, where our rivals from their very cradles by a painful discipline seek after manliness, in Athens we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter every legitimate danger. (S. 217)

The immediate reason is that the original sources of scientific theories are almost never good sources. (S. 255)

There is only one known phenomenon which, if it ever occurred, would have effects that did not/falloff with distance, and that is the creation of a certain type-of-knowledge, namely a beginning of infinity. (S. 275)

People can learn to see many things as beautiful or ugly. But, there again, people can also learn to see false scientific theories as true, and true ones as false, yet there is such a thing as objective scientific truth. So that still does not tell us whether there is such a thing as objective beauty. (S. 359)

During that biological co-evolution, just as in the history of art, criteria evolved, and means of meeting those criteria co-evolved with them. That is what gave flowers the knowledge of how to attract insects, and insects the knowledge of how to recognize those flowers and the propensity to fly towards them. But what is surprising is that these same flowers also attract humans. (S. 360)

Signalling across the gap between two humans is analogous to signalling across the sap between two entire species. (S. 364)

Humans are quite unlike that: the amount of information in a human mind is more than that in the genome of any species, and overwhelmingly more than the genetic information unique to one person. (S. 364)

Societies have been destroyed because some of the memes that were best at spreading through the population were bad for a society. (S. 379)

Since static societies cannot exist without effectively extinguishing the growth of knowledge, they cannot allow their members much opportunity to pursue happiness. (S. 386)

As Popper remarked, ‘It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood? One can only state the explicit content, which is insufficient to define the meaning of a meme or anything else. (S. 404)

For example, many laws refer to what is ‘reasonable’. But no one can define that attribute accurately enough for, say, a person from a different culture to be able to apply the definition in judging a criminal case. (S. 404)

The real situation is that people need inexplicit knowledge to understand laws and other explicit statements, not vice versa. (S. 405)

The transmission of human-type memes – memes whose meaning is not mostly predefined within the receiver – cannot be other than a creative activity on the part of the receiver. (S. 412)