[linux-elitists] git and a sysadmin book

Bob Bernstein rs@bernstein.providence.ri.us
Fri Jan 16 23:12:36 PST 2009


On Wed, Jan 14, 2009 at 02:56:32AM -0800, Rick Moen wrote:

> Anyway, whether the inexact borrowing was from one, two, or a
> dozen sciences' stockpiles of jargon really doesn't rise above
> trivia, nei? 

The conversational, "poetical" or metaphorical use of concepts
extracted from physics ought to be deprecated. All manner of
policy nonsense, from homeopathy to angels, is being pitched --
very successfully -- in the marketplace via such linguistic
sleight of hand. This is not news. In the nineteenth century
biblical creationists seized on the Second Law of Thermodynamics
and argued from it that evolution must be wrong, that creatures of
higher complexity could never "spontaneously" arise out of lower
animals. 

You don't want to get in bed with this crowd Karsten. You have an
insight, but your use of the term "entropy" does not help its
exposition; it hinders. It's *not* as if there is a wide-spread,
well-understood meaning of the term "entropy" that you can draw
on; this, despite the fact that some have learned their
thermodynamics in high school.

Here's Philipp Frank writing in the 1940's. He's discussing
"where" to begin a philosophical presentation of then-current
physics:

--snip--

In this presentation of physics we shall attempt to bring under
control only a few key positions in the huge symbolic structure by
which the scientists have been "mapping" the wide domain of physical
phenomena.

It is not difficult to find out these key positions. We must look
only for the starting-points of current "interpretations" of physics
on behalf of some philosophical creed, usually idealistic, or even
spiritualistic. If we examine these "interpretations", we notice
almost regularly that they are not interpretations of physics itself
but interpretations of the symbolic structure, ignoring the
operational meaning of these symbols. This means that they ignore
the link between symbols and observable phenomena. Examples of this
type of interpretation are obvious. The "energetic" aspect of
physics is interpreted as a "refutation of materialism" and the
four-dimensional presentation of relativity theory as establishing
the "existence" of a four dimensional world.

--snip--

It was clear early on that modern physics especially would be
pillaged by hucksters. It's all come true, as can be seen by the
upsurge in physics PhD's now selling themselves as new age gurus
and visionaries. Frank, and his American benefactor Percy Bridgman
were *pedantically* insistent on limiting the use of basic concepts
to contexts tied to observation, in part to minimize the misuse of
the tremendous power that lurks behind the word "science."

Carl Sagan is dead; it's up to us now.


-- 
Bob Bernstein   

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