Politics, God and Religion vs. Science

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Dr. F.

Big Wall climber
SoCal
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 29, 2013 - 04:27pm PT
How do u guys even define enlightenment? Or describe it ?
BB

Good question.
But it's not what you have described

It is what the Buddha achieved, as we are told in the traditions

there are others that say they have achieved the state of enlightenment.
The question is, is it real?
cintune

climber
The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Apr 29, 2013 - 05:46pm PT
You should try it sometime for about a half an hour (sitting in the pitch dark with your eyes open). It's a good contemplation practice used by Dzogchen. I use it myself sometimes.

Tell me if you can figure out what's going on.

Have done it lots, was surprised to find there was a name for it. Best place is deep in a cave, no sounds either except maybe an occasional drip of water, and your own breathing and pulse, and tinnitus of course.

As far as what's going on? The article is vague, but essentially sensory deprivation falls into the "nature abhors a vacuum" phenomena. And so, the idea behind the post was a possibility that this so-called nothingness Largo is so very fond of might be just the same, not really nothingness at all, but rather a construct superimposed by deprived neurons, in fact, something.

Twenty five bazillion years of tradition might say otherwise, of course.
rrider

climber
Mckinleyville, Ca
Apr 29, 2013 - 07:18pm PT
not trying to be any thing here. its just old tv.

I strive for no thing:
http://youtu.be/PrWUxfaizms

Dr. F.

Big Wall climber
SoCal
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 29, 2013 - 07:26pm PT
Credit: Dr. F.
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Apr 29, 2013 - 09:19pm PT
So what does everyone think about mental illness? Does it exist, or is it some sort of fabrication?


this is a very misunderstood subject, both in societies at large and within professions that supposedly make a science of the subject

i will not claim any particular level of expertise, but will relate some personal observations and opinions

there is no normal

people see things differently, sometimes as large or small groups, sometimes unique to an individual

people who think differently or outside the box are often declared to be insane, both by common idiots and by credentialed professionals

someone viewing things differently from their peers is not mentally ill, simply seeing aspects of reality not seen by some others, or relating what they see to their own unique world view

those who are the least secure in their view of reality are those who are the most uncomfortable with these alternate views and the most critical of others

i tend to have a high respect and tolerance for alternative views, which makes me safe to talk to and means people tell me all sorts of unusual things they have seen and experienced

i have previously mentioned an interesting neurophysiology book that became very popular among my AI colleagues: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales [Oliver Sacks, Jonathan Davis]

since my professional expertise relates primarily to thinking outside the box, i am personally familiar with this phenomena among people, even (gasp!)here among friends on SuperTopo...

i have had opportunities to talk to people who were declared deeply mentally ill...my experiences have been that their view of reality tends to have an internal coherence that makes sense to themselves even when others think they are completely nuts

of course we don't have anyone like that here...

;-0

Quokkas, the happiest critters?
Quokkas, the happiest critters?
Credit: TomCochrane

in my opinion the real definition of insanity is someone who seeks to destroy or harm others...generally motivated by having themselves been damaged or harmed by others...so this is a contagious phenomena...
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Apr 29, 2013 - 11:50pm PT
this thread exhibits a lot of intelligent discourse, without really shedding much light into areas beyond what humans generally are encouraged to accept in our societies



scientific exploration is quite capable of dramatically furthering understanding by exploration of fields, i.e. gravitational, electromagnetic, and unnamed...or rather perhaps misnamed...(as in the thread title)

Credit: TomCochrane

note that his research was shut down by j p morgan

there is a big problem with this domain of understanding in a slave-master society: deep knowledge undermines centralized control and monopolistic economics based upon 'scarce energy' con games

what a tangled web someone is weaving...
what a tangled web someone is weaving...
Credit: TomCochrane
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Apr 30, 2013 - 05:20pm PT
It's funny what those darned scientists will say.


It will remain remarkable, in what ever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world has led to the scientific conclusion that the content of consciousness is the ultimate universal reality. (Eugene Wigner, Nobel prize winner)

Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature because in the last analysis we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve. (Max Planck)


Existence couldn't be weirder. What's external is entangled with what's in our minds. Existence is a product of consciousness. Every thing is completely open and exists as probability until some kind of measurement is made. Nothing (model, framework, belief, concept, etc.) can help determine what existence IS. One comes to the conclusion that even if one knew what existence IS, one couldn't express it.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Apr 30, 2013 - 06:32pm PT
Dan Dennett... in conversation with Steven Pinker.

Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking offers seventy-seven of Dennett’s most successful "imagination-extenders and focus-holders" meant to guide you through some of life’s most treacherous subject matter: evolution, meaning, mind, and free will.

http://www.harvard.com/event/daniel_c._dennett/

.....

Ever been to the Great Pyramids?

FYI: 85 percent of the 75% of Egyptians who support Sharia support capital punishment for those who leave the faith.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/04/daily-chart-20?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/sharia_do_like_it

85 per cent. Death to the apostate.

Be the change you seek in the world.
Dr. F.

Big Wall climber
SoCal
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2013 - 06:53pm PT
MIkeL.
I have a question for you
Is this cactus plant and flower real?
Credit: Dr. F.
I can take a picture of it, it can touch it, I can see it, I can ask others if they see it, and if they will describe it for me,
if I pull it out of it's soil and stomp on it it will smash and die, I grew it from a seed, it is one of a kind hybrid, it has a history of posts on the Internet documenting it's existence ??

What gives, is it real or not?
I say it is real,
"I", nor my "mind" doesn't matter in the question if it exists or not IMO.

I don't really get what you're trying to say.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Apr 30, 2013 - 07:19pm PT
"I", nor my "mind" doesn't matter in the question if it exists or not IMO


Do you mean to say that a flower exists separate from the mind that perceives it? Where is that flower?

My sense of this is that you believe that a flower exists exactly how your mind experiences it, say, on some remote area of the Sierras, and if you went there and saw it, you could assume that it existed before you were ever there to witness it. But in fact virtually all the qualities we ascribe to the flower are the product of our sense organs and our mind organizing potentialities into what we call a flower.

JL
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Apr 30, 2013 - 08:21pm PT
Or you can look the flower over, examine it, take notes, compare it with all other flowers, take notes, and figure out how flowers work and why. There is way too much information on flowers to hold in your head, so you write it all down, make sketches, etc.

They are still just as pretty even if you know how they work, and how they have adapted, often to a single insect who pollinates it.

Adaptation is a powerful thing.
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Apr 30, 2013 - 09:54pm PT
Energy monopolies are basic to our current centrally controlled societies:


http://grist.org/climate-energy/solar-panels-could-destroy-u-s-utilities-according-to-u-s-utilities/


Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities

By David Roberts

Solar power and other distributed renewable energy technologies could lay waste to U.S. power utilities and burn the utility business model, which has remained virtually unchanged for a century, to the ground.

That is not wild-eyed hippie talk. It is the assessment of the utilities themselves.

Back in January, the Edison Electric Institute — the (typically stodgy and backward-looking) trade group of U.S. investor-owned utilities — released a report [PDF] that, as far as I can tell, went almost entirely without notice in the press. That’s a shame. It is one of the most prescient and brutally frank things I’ve ever read about the power sector. It is a rare thing to hear an industry tell the tale of its own incipient obsolescence.

I’ve been thinking about how to convey to you, normal people with healthy social lives and no time to ponder the byzantine nature of the power industry, just what a big deal the coming changes are. They are nothing short of revolutionary … but rather difficult to explain without jargon.

So, just a bit of background. You probably know that electricity is provided by utilities. Some utilities both generate electricity at power plants and provide it to customers over power lines. They are “regulated monopolies,” which means they have sole responsibility for providing power in their service areas. Some utilities have gone through deregulation; in that case, power generation is split off into its own business, while the utility’s job is to purchase power on competitive markets and provide it to customers over the grid it manages.

This complexity makes it difficult to generalize about utilities … or to discuss them without putting people to sleep. But the main thing to know is that the utility business model relies on selling power. That’s how they make their money. Here’s how it works: A utility makes a case to a public utility commission (PUC), saying “we will need to satisfy this level of demand from consumers, which means we’ll need to generate (or purchase) this much power, which means we’ll need to charge these rates.” If the PUC finds the case persuasive, it approves the rates and guarantees the utility a reasonable return on its investments in power and grid upkeep.

Thrilling, I know. The thing to remember is that it is in a utility’s financial interest to generate (or buy) and deliver as much power as possible. The higher the demand, the higher the investments, the higher the utility shareholder profits. In short, all things being equal, utilities want to sell more power. (All things are occasionally not equal, but we’ll leave those complications aside for now.)

Now, into this cozy business model enters cheap distributed solar PV, which eats away at it like acid.

First, the power generated by solar panels on residential or commercial roofs is not utility-owned or utility-purchased. From the utility’s point of view, every kilowatt-hour of rooftop solar looks like a kilowatt-hour of reduced demand for the utility’s product. Not something any business enjoys. (This is the same reason utilities are instinctively hostile to energy efficiency and demand response programs, and why they must be compelled by regulations or subsidies to create them. Utilities don’t like reduced demand!)

It’s worse than that, though. Solar power peaks at midday, which means it is strongest close to the point of highest electricity use — “peak load.” Problem is, providing power to meet peak load is where utilities make a huge chunk of their money. Peak power is the most expensive power. So when solar panels provide peak power, they aren’t just reducing demand, they’re reducing demand for the utilities’ most valuable product.

But wait. Renewables are limited by the fact they are intermittent, right? “The sun doesn’t always shine,” etc. Customers will still have to rely on grid power for the most part. Right?

This is a widely held article of faith, but EEI (of all places!) puts it to rest. (In this and all quotes that follow, “DER” means distributed energy resources, which for the most part means solar PV.)

Due to the variable nature of renewable DER, there is a perception that customers will always need to remain on the grid. While we would expect customers to remain on the grid until a fully viable and economic distributed non-variable resource is available, one can imagine a day when battery storage technology or micro turbines could allow customers to be electric grid independent. To put this into perspective, who would have believed 10 years ago that traditional wire line telephone customers could economically “cut the cord?” [Emphasis mine.]

Indeed! Just the other day, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers said, “If the cost of solar panels keeps coming down, installation costs come down and if they combine solar with battery technology and a power management system, then we have someone just using [the grid] for backup.” What happens if a whole bunch of customers start generating their own power and using the grid merely as backup? The EEI report warns of “irreparable damages to revenues and growth prospects” of utilities.

Utility investors are accustomed to large, long-term, reliable investments with a 30-year cost recovery — fossil fuel plants, basically. The cost of those investments, along with investments in grid maintenance and reliability, are spread by utilities across all ratepayers in a service area. What happens if a bunch of those ratepayers start reducing their demand or opting out of the grid entirely? Well, the same investments must now be spread over a smaller group of ratepayers. In other words: higher rates for those who haven’t switched to solar.

That’s how it starts. These two paragraphs from the EEI report are a remarkable description of the path to obsolescence faced by the industry:

The financial implications of these threats are fairly evident. Start with the increased cost of supporting a network capable of managing and integrating distributed generation sources. Next, under most rate structures, add the decline in revenues attributed to revenues lost from sales foregone. These forces lead to increased revenues required from remaining customers … and sought through rate increases. The result of higher electricity prices and competitive threats will encourage a higher rate of DER additions, or will promote greater use of efficiency or demand-side solutions.

Increased uncertainty and risk will not be welcomed by investors, who will seek a higher return on investment and force defensive-minded investors to reduce exposure to the sector. These competitive and financial risks would likely erode credit quality. The decline in credit quality will lead to a higher cost of capital, putting further pressure on customer rates. Ultimately, capital availability will be reduced, and this will affect future investment plans. The cycle of decline has been previously witnessed in technology-disrupted sectors (such as telecommunications) and other deregulated industries (airlines).

Did you follow that? As ratepayers opt for solar panels (and other distributed energy resources like micro-turbines, batteries, smart appliances, etc.), it raises costs on other ratepayers and hurts the utility’s credit rating. As rates rise on other ratepayers, the attractiveness of solar increases, so more opt for it. Thus costs on remaining ratepayers are even further increased, the utility’s credit even further damaged. It’s a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle:
EEI: vicious cycle of disruptive forcesEEI

One implication of all this — a poorly understood implication — is that rooftop solar f*#ks up the utility model even at relatively low penetrations, because it goes straight at utilities’ main profit centers. (It’s already happening in Germany.) Right now, distributed solar PV is a relatively tiny slice of U.S. electricity, less than 1 percent. For that reason, utility investors aren’t paying much attention. “Despite the risks that a rapidly growing level of DER penetration and other disruptive challenges may impose,” EEI writes, “they are not currently being discussed by the investment community and factored into the valuation calculus reflected in the capital markets.” But that 1 percent is concentrated in a small handful of utility districts, so trouble, at least for that first set of utilities, is just over the horizon. Utility investors are sleepwalking into a maelstrom.

(“Despite all the talk about investors assessing the future in their investment evaluations,” the report notes dryly, “it is often not until revenue declines are reported that investors realize that the viability of the business is in question.” In other words, investors aren’t that smart and rational financial markets are a myth.)

Bloomberg Energy Finance forecasts 22 percent compound annual growth in all solar PV, which means that by 2020 distributed solar (which will account for about 15 percent of total PV) could reach up to 10 percent of load in certain areas. If that happens, well:

Assuming a decline in load, and possibly customers served, of 10 percent due to DER with full subsidization of DER participants, the average impact on base electricity prices for non-DER participants will be a 20 percent or more increase in rates, and the ongoing rate of growth in electricity prices will double for non-DER participants (before accounting for the impact of the increased cost of serving distributed resources).

So rates would rise by 20 percent for those without solar panels. Can you imagine the political shitstorm that would create? (There are reasons to think EEI is exaggerating this effect, but we’ll get into that in the next post.)

If nothing is done to check these trends, the U.S. electric utility as we know it could be utterly upended. The report compares utilities’ possible future to the experience of the airlines during deregulation or to the big monopoly phone companies when faced with upstart cellular technologies. In case the point wasn’t made, the report also analogizes utilities to the U.S. Postal Service, Kodak, and RIM, the maker of Blackberry devices. These are not meant to be flattering comparisons.

Remember, too, that these utilities are not Google or Facebook. They are not accustomed to a state of constant market turmoil and reinvention. This is a venerable old boys network, working very comfortably within a business model that has been around, virtually unchanged, for a century. A friggin’ century, more or less without innovation, and now they’re supposed to scramble and be all hip and new-age? Unlikely.

So what’s to be done? You won’t be surprised to hear that EEI’s prescription is mainly focused on preserving utilities and their familiar business model. But is that the best thing for electricity consumers? Is that the best thing for the climate?
jstan

climber
May 1, 2013 - 01:56am PT
Largo is saying that the only thing that we know is our experience, and there isn't anything else but that.

If so then that is the answer to the question to which I never got a reply.

OK, what are the consequences?

A number of people subscribe to the idea that it really is not possible exactly to reproduce another's experience simply from a description. Not a single valued mapping and two people reading the same description end up in different parts of experience space. If that is the case Largo is living in a place no one else ever actually reaches.

I asked the question because it promised to show why this thread is as it is.

In the final analysis we meet only in the real world.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
May 1, 2013 - 09:14am PT
Largo is saying that the only thing that we know is our experience, and there isn't anything else but that.


Nope, I'm simply saying that there is no "knowing" and no "thing" seperate FROM experience. Nothing is separate from anything else. We can posit the world as existing before a point in time, but this positing is never anything more than a bit of content in our experience. Put differently, the idea of stuff separate from consciousness is something (mental content) itself that NEVER exists outside consciousness. I'm not saying nothing but consciousness exists, just no separate "world" we perceive through our minds.

JL
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
May 1, 2013 - 09:28am PT
Dr. F.:

Largo answered the question. In sum, what you have available to you are your perceptions, your 5 senses. Perceptions are what you're basing your experience of reality upon. You belief (and strong beliefs at that!) your perceptions correspond on a 1:1 basis with objects in the world . . . and why not? You've been doing it that way for as long as you can remember, and you think it's worked pretty well so far. You have a somewhat reliable theory going on for your life.

A closer examination might reveal that you've been wrong about "what's what" now and then. The broad brush strokes of your theory seem to be reliable, but the closer you look at the details, the less ground you find under your feet. You find you are completely relying upon theories, concepts, and frameworks and less and less on your five senses--on the things that you have direct experience of. Well, heck, . . . what's a few missing details? No problem. The strength of the provisional nature of your theories are getting you through life. Hardly any experiment in social science (where your perceptions and interpretations are analyzed) provides a high R-squared. Your beliefs are expedient and convenient.

If you are a strong adherent to empirical science, though, you're going to be a little more careful about claiming what you really know and what you really don't really know. What you appear to know most strongly are your perceptions. Your five senses. As I look at the image you post here on the screen, I have to be brutally honest and say that what I see are pixels. I don't see a flower. I see a representation of a flower. I have a cast of lilies here in my dining room smelling up the place, and I can go over and touch them on the table. Aren't they really real? They are as real as my perceptions are real. But if I am really really careful, I see that I've bracketed pixels, space, time, tactile sensations, etc. conceptually from all the other pixels, space, time, etc. around me. I've selectively perceived what I want to see. It was automatic and almost instantaneous. I've bracketed off a parcel of existence and given it a frame and a name.

(I won't even begin to explain the almost absolute power of social construction, institutionalization, socialization, groupthink, and education in defining realities.)

Sounds all pedantic and philosophical, I'm sure to you, but I'm just being careful, systematic, and honest with myself about what's available to me.

What constitutes evidence for you? The five senses? I'll bet you go beyond the 5 senses, way beyond. I'll bet you rely upon experts, authorities, and what others have told you. But if you were honest and looked carefully for yourself . . . well, that I think that could provide you with new realizations.

On the other hand, it probably isn't of interest to you. No problem.

I think the quotations I provided above from physicists from the early part of the last century were saying the very same things that had been said by spiritual masters in Buddhism, Bon, Dzogchen, Kashmir Shaivism, and other esoteric practices centuries ago. What is that?? As soon as you create a label and point, you define something into existence. Until then, existence cannot be pinned down objectively. Pinning things down, saying what anything is, makes it less and hence false. You collapse a probability into concreteness.

I can't say enough about the Allegory of the Cave. If you get the allegory, you can begin to see how everything could be an illusion of sorts. I'm not saying we're living in a dream; I'm saying that we should take existence as if it were a dream. Do that, and you'd be so much closer to understanding existence and reality As It Is (whatever it is).
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
May 1, 2013 - 11:31am PT
Well, Ed, I think I can hear and understand any theory of how anything works and develops from one state to another. Indeed, and with kudos, I'd say such theories are very useful and productive in the world, and indeed, they can be particularly predictive.

But rather than saying how things work (which invariably relies upon models, frameworks, theories), almost no one says what things ARE. What ARE things? What IS any thing? I request you do that without a theory, framework, or model.

For example, we are pretty sure about what electricity does, but what is it? What IS electricity?

I think you face the exact same problem with any "thing." What IS it?
cintune

climber
The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
May 1, 2013 - 12:01pm PT
I think the quotations I provided above from physicists from the early part of the last century were saying the very same things that had been said by spiritual masters in Buddhism, Bon, Dzogchen, Kashmir Shaivism, and other esoteric practices centuries ago. What is that?? As soon as you create a label and point, you define something into existence. Until then, existence cannot be pinned down objectively. Pinning things down, saying what anything is, makes it less and hence false. You collapse a probability into concreteness.

This is a bit disingenuous in that the physicists were talking exclusively about the subatomic realm, with no overt extrapolation to the macro world our awareness inhabits. That said, it certainly hasn't stopped the New Age gurus of this world from taking the idea straight to the bank.

Cynicism aside, though, it remains a lovely sentiment.

It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man's hand and the wisdom in a tree's root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name. - Ursula K. LeGuinn
jstan

climber
May 1, 2013 - 12:46pm PT
We can posit the world as existing before a point in time, but this positing is never anything more than a bit of content in our experience.

Not true. What we posit is not based on what is occurring in our minds. It is based on a larger logical structure used by many people, that has been criticized very generally and found valid, and that is based on large volumes of diverse data.

We are not just living in our heads.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
May 1, 2013 - 02:24pm PT
Not true. What we posit is not based on what is occurring in our minds. It is based on a larger logical structure used by many people, that has been criticized very generally and found valid, and that is based on large volumes of diverse data.

We are not just living in our heads.


Didn't you get the memo that there is no independent thing?

So you contend that the "larger logical structure" is happening not "in our minds," but - where, exactly? And where does it exist and by what means is it accessible other than through our experience. I think this goes back to the dream that we can create structures that exist above and beyond human consciousness.

This is a little like Ed's contention that everything has been well described objectively EXCEPT the problem of consciousness, assuming as he does, that consciousness is an aspect of reality basically the same as most any other "thing" out there - like an oak tree or a shoe horn. When all things are considered as qualitative equals, a one-size-fits all descriptive model is assumed to, well, fit all. No cigar, obviously, but watch people keep doing the same thing expecting different results.

JL
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
May 1, 2013 - 02:55pm PT
Oh Boy! There were a lot of Great summations on that page!!
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