This video is predominantly a reading of an essay written on the subject my Michael Langan. Michael Langan is supposedly the most intelligent man alive, clocking in an IQ somewhere between 190 and 210. He has his own theory of reality called the cognitive theoretic model of the universe for those who might be interested. In essence it is a theory of everything. However, this video is not so much concerned with Michael Langan’s work in general but particularly an exposition on theories in general.
I will be reading the essay and interjecting my own clarifying comments as some of the content could benefit from further examples and exposition. What I hope you get out of this video is a better understanding of the relationship between science, mathematics, and philosophy.
So, let’s get started.
What is a “theory”? Is a theory just a story that you can make up about something, being as fanciful as you like? Or does a theory at least have to seem like it might be true? Even more stringently, is a theory something that has to be rendered in terms of logical and mathematical symbols, and described in plain language only after the original chicken-scratches have made the rounds in academia?
A theory is all of these things. A theory can be good or bad, fanciful or plausible, true or false. The only firm requirements are that it (1) have a subject, and (2) be stated in a language in terms of which the subject can be coherently described. Where these criteria hold, the theory can always be “formalized”, or translated into the symbolic language of logic and mathematics. Once formalized, the theory can be subjected to various mathematical tests for truth and internal consistency.
But doesn’t that essentially make “theory” synonymous with “description”? Yes. A theory is just a description of something. If we can use the logical implications of this description to relate the components of that something to other components in revealing ways, then the theory is said to have “explanatory power”. And if we can use the logical implications of the description to make correct predictions about how that something behaves under various conditions, then the theory is said to have “predictive power”.
From a practical standpoint, in what kinds of theories should we be interested? Most people would agree that in order to be interesting, a theory should be about an important subject…a subject involving something of use or value to us, if even on a purely abstract level. And most would also agree that in order to help us extract or maximize that value, the theory must have explanatory or predictive power. For now, let us call any theory meeting both of these criteria a “serious” theory.
Those interested in serious theories include just about everyone, from engineers and stockbrokers to doctors, automobile mechanics and police detectives. Practically anyone who gives advice, solves problems or builds things that function needs a serious theory from which to work. But three groups who are especially interested in serious theories are scientists, mathematicians and philosophers. These are the groups which place the strictest requirements on the theories they use and construct.
While there are important similarities among the kinds of theories dealt with by scientists, mathematicians and philosophers, there are important differences as well. The most important differences involve the subject matter of the theories. Scientists like to base their theories on experiment and observation of the real world…not on perceptions themselves, but on what they regard as concrete “objects of the senses”. That is, they like their theories to be empirical. Mathematicians, on the other hand, like their theories to be essentially rational…to be based on logical inference regarding abstract mathematical objects existing in the mind, independently of the senses. And philosophers like to pursue broad theories of reality aimed at relating these two kinds of object.