Discussion One: The meeting

Professor Murkywaters meets two students at the coffee house. The following is a conversation which they had. The students are Ms De Esdeetee (De) and Mr. Online (On) They are talking about a series of lectures Murky has been giving in their Molecular Philosophy course.

Murky: Well how are things going?
De: Horrible!
On: Yeah, I'm having trouble.
Murky: Really! Tell me about it!
De: Well, I'm not sure how to say this, but you keep jumping around so!
On: Yes, and I'm not sure where it all is going. And all those equations! What can that possibly have to do with the meaning of life?
De: Well, I follow all the equations ok, but some of that philosophical stuff really sucks!
Murky: Hmmm. We have a problem, I can see that! Let me see if I can recover a bit. What I am trying to show you is that when classical science breaks down it doesn't just do it at one level. Now some people really believe in the division between so-called hard science and so-called soft science. They believe that scientific concepts have to be mathematical and rigorous for the hard scientists and nice and soft and mushy for the rest. I don't believe that. I think that mathematics is more than just a set of equations here or there, but to be concrete and to reach those who are snobbishly hard scientists you must use their language. Others have an advantage, they can skip the math and try to deal with the accompanying words directly.
On: Whoa! The ones who don't like the equations have the advantage??
Murky: Yes, they don't have to get bogged down in the details. They are free to use their intuition.
On: Oh, oh. I think I'm in trouble. I just shut off when I see the math.
Murky: Could be. Try reading "around" the math and accepting he fact that if there is skullduggery in the math it will be quickly revealed by our silent friend here!
De: You got that right! I go through every derivation with a fine tooth comb. But then all this philosophy and stuff from the social sciences DOES seem a bit mushy to me. Why can't that be turned into equations?
Murky: Because most of what is important takes much more than math to express. If we could write equations for everything this would be a horrible world! In fact, reality never can be expressed in just one way. That is why I "jump around" so much. Look at the relationships again, It is the soft stuff that touches on more and the hard stuff that is special. That's why the so-called "science of complexity" seems new to most folk. They had been given tunnel vision by those who thought hard science was everything important and that soft science was ONLY good for the mushy stuff. They had us convinced that backwards is forwards and vice versa!
On: Darn, just when this gets interesting I've got a hot date in a chat room! Can we continue this tomorrow?
De: Yes and I have to go read Hilbert. I'd like to continue too.
Murky: My pleasure! I'm always willing to dig myself out of a hole I dug myself into.

They all get up and leave saying good-byes as they do.

Second in the series

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