Politics, God and Religion vs. Science

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MH2

climber
May 16, 2013 - 09:41pm PT
What seems hard and solid when looked at very closely shows up as almost entirely space (nothing, really). What seems incontrovertibly solid and concrete or serious appears radically different to another person or from another context or from another time. Even the notions of what makes a concept or classification or category is highly problematical. Indeed, any definition of anything is woefully incomplete and practically dysfunctional. All in all, in fine-grained detail, nothing really works. Every articulation is an approximation, all the better when gross and broadly applied.


MikeL,

Do you realize you are addressing these remarks to a mathematician? Mathematical reality has been incontrovertibly solid and concrete for as long as we have any record of it, across different persons and different cultures and contexts.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
May 16, 2013 - 10:01pm PT
Mike L's vocabulary comes out of the Buddhist tradition so some of the terms have slightly a different connotation than scientists would be familiar with. There is nothing he writes about however, that I haven't read before. I've just never known anyone at this particular stage of development.

Language is what makes this thread possible but it is also what divides us.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
May 17, 2013 - 07:31am PT


.....

Language is what makes this thread possible but it is also what divides us.

No worries. New discipline with its own language (cf: biology with its own language or rock climbing with its own language) is on the way. :)

Keep the faith. (the empirical faith)

.....

Last of the Syrians...
"A video circulating this week showed a rebel commander (our modern day Magua??) in Homs cutting out an enemy’s heart and liver, and biting into the heart."

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/world/middleeast/pressure-of-war-is-causing-syria-to-break-apart.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
May 17, 2013 - 09:17am PT
ut apart from your purely imaginary cosmic-ray beings, the sensory apparatus of all life forms fall within a fairly specific range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Birds and bees see ultraviolet, dogs and cats hear really high frequencies, etc. And extinct australopiths couldn't have even heard our speech, apparently. I pointed all this out earlier with the usual lèse-majesté, but you conveniently ignored it. Just a heads-up: there aren't any cosmic-ray beings, and even if there were, they would still be having equally dismissable "experiences" on par with our own, in terms of all this no-thing business you're on about.


The reason most aware life forms share similar sense here on earth is that life organized itself around this environment and we all share a lot of the same DNA ergo the "five senses." It hardly takes much imagination to picture other life forms organizing differently in radically different environments. The "search for life" studies going on are mostly people looking for conditions that could possibly give rise to life similar to ours.

But perhaps you're loosing sight of the larger issue, that our mental representations of what is "out there" and our measurements as well mostly refer to a brain-conceived world. A world that exists "just as it is," the illusive Kantian reality or "thing in itself" is, on the macrocosmic scale of "things," a product of consciousness organizing the undifferentiated, unborn (non-created) flux.

Just note how our mind fights the idea that what we see and take for objective reality - on the macro scale - is in fact an artifact of consciousness. You'd have to go into QM or other freaky, counterintuitive realms to find something as seemingly irrational.

And M2, what do you mean that mathematics is "solid?" Are you thinking that our quantifications exist independently, outside of consciousness? Like where? Are they circling the moons of Pluto, which is hard, it is true, seeming that Pluto has no moons.

JL
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
May 17, 2013 - 09:28am PT
Can you say with even the slightest degree of certainty that when you "see things for what they are (images, illusions)" what you are "seeing" is not itself an illusion? . . . Like a hall of mirrors.

Good choice of metaphors, Jogill.

As a postmodernist and budding spiritualist of various traditions awakening, I directly challenge reason, I challenge labeling, single perspectives, dualism, objectivities, reifications, and dominating frames of reference. I expose ironies, contradictions, mises en abyme, and aporias. I appreciate unending symbolism more than action. I deliberately misread and misuse texts, and I am playful with language. I promote the recognition of instabilities, undecideabilities, chaos, différence, and infinities. (See, Alvesson & Skoldberg's (2000) "Reflective Methodologies," or Cusset's (2003) "French Theory.")

All I can personally say is that when I see the illusion or image as an image, the immediacy of its impact floors me. It turns my world upside down. I'm dumbfounded. I can hardly believe what I'm seeing. It forces me to question everything. (I can easily see why an external conversant such as yourself might question the sanity or veracity of my report.)

On the other hand, Jogill, there is all that literature that I made reference to in my last post. As an objectivist and man of science, you can readily doubt my experiences, but I don't see how you can reject the stacks of research studies on the subject out-of-hand. At least you should admit that they make strong points. That's all I've ever said here: there is plenty of room for doubt--your personal surety notwithstanding.

Mathematical reality has been incontrovertibly solid and concrete for as long as we have any record of it, across different persons and different cultures and contexts.

Great. Define "one" incontrovertibly so that I know it when I see it, MH2.



Jan's being kind to me. She has her doubts that I'm in a useful place. :-)
jogill

climber
Colorado
May 17, 2013 - 09:35am PT
. . . our mental representations of what is "out there" and our measurements as well mostly refer to a brain-conceived world

Yes

A world that exists "just as it is," . . . a product of consciousness organizing the undifferentiated, unborn (non-created) flux

Not quite sure what all of this means. But I do think "objects" exist independent of mind.

And M2, what do you mean that mathematics is "solid?" Are you thinking that our quantifications exist independently, outside of consciousness? Like where? Are they circling the moons of Pluto, which is hard, it is true, seeming that Pluto has no moons

[Max Tegmark's Mathematical universe hypothesis goes further than full-blooded Platonism in asserting that not only do all mathematical objects exist, but nothing else does. Tegmark's sole postulate is: All structures that exist mathematically also exist physically. That is, in the sense that "in those [worlds] complex enough to contain self-aware substructures [they] will subjectively perceive themselves as existing in a physically 'real' world"] Wikipedia

A bit extreme, I admit!

Your "drone" is just a phenomenon, one among an endless array. All phenomena are empty and a display of mind

Well, MikeL, I guess there is no room for argument here. But if I were to look up in the sky and see one of those suckers coming at me I would take the precaution of seeking cover - just in case!

You have a most interesting take on things.


;>)

go-B

climber
Hebrews 1:3
May 17, 2013 - 09:36am PT
Everything in nature is made by God, Jesus is the light of the world, we are either for Him or not!
When you turn to Him you get the better end of the deal, because God loved us even before the foundation of the world, and sent His Son to show us the Father's love!
The joy of life is to love Him back, and to love His own! Either you are His own now, will be soon - I hope, or you won't be and that would just be missing out on all that God has for you, and for what?
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
May 17, 2013 - 09:57am PT
You know, my friends, I can't see how you can be a participant in the world--however you find it--and not see all these loose threads everywhere. Science has left them all over the place.

I can look at absolutely anything, listen to any sound, feel any sensation, taste anything, smell any fragrance, and find my experience of those things being spun out into infinities with specific details.

Make any sound with you own voice (choose a word) and say it over and over and over and over. After a while, the word becomes meaningless, and a while after that, the sound becomes magical. The sound takes you away into other worlds. What's up with that?

I told Base to look at any wall and see the infinite shades of color. You can't put your finger on any of them definitively. What's up with that?

You can experience any tactile feeling closely, and it becomes completely indescribable and a world unto itself. What's up with that?

Smell a fragrant flower with all your being. No definition or parts-analysis helps you do that. The experience transcends itself and continues to do so. It takes you to different worlds. What's up with that?

Am I crazy? No, I'm starting to wake up (but I'm just an egg).

Look at all the loose threads left around by all the theories, frameworks, models, and empirical research. Pull on any one of them. If you do you'll find that everything will start to unravel. The Buddha said the same with his final words: "Be careful with the construction of your salvation. In the end, all composite things unravel."

Oh-oh . . . .
MH2

climber
May 17, 2013 - 10:10am PT
Are you thinking that our quantifications exist independently, outside of consciousness? Like where? Are they circling the moons of Pluto, which is hard, it is true, seeming that Pluto has no moons.



Yes. I see no reason to suppose that mathematics is only an artifact of human consciousness. Otherwise, humans would not agree on math. For comparison we could point to doctrinaire religion, which probably does not exist outside human consciousness. If it did there would not be such disagreement over which religious practice is appropriate.

Even non-biological beings, if there are such, would be likely to have some conception of number. A few non-human species can count.

You yourself point out that all that we know comes initially through our senses. We could call that our personal reality or the human reality. However, we can go beyond that. Over the centuries, working together and building on what came before, we have found a physics reality. Physical reality shows a persistence and regularity that sets it apart from our shifting human reality. Take the early example of learning how to predict lunar and solar eclipses.

Physical reality and mathematical reality overlap. Although complex numbers were first discovered and used to solve math problems they also play a key role in modern physics.

Another reason to regard math as independent of human consciousness is that discoveries in math have at times dismayed and horrified that consciousness. The ancient Greeks worked with whole numbers and with fractions based on whole numbers. Then one day they asked themselves what was the length of the diagonal of a square whose sides were 1 unit.

In The Road to Reality Roger Penrose considers 3 realities: mental, mathematical, and physical. His view is that our mental reality is based in physical reality which is based in mathematical reality which is based in our mental reality. No need for turtles all the way down if all you need is 3 turtles, eh?



edit for MikeL

It's hard to thank you enough, Mike, for such a contrary view. Here, it isn't important whether we agree or not.

WBraun

climber
May 17, 2013 - 10:18am PT
I see no reason to suppose that mathematics is only an artifact of human consciousness.

Yes .... this is true.

Mathematics is eternal .......
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
May 17, 2013 - 10:55am PT
Yes. I see no reason to suppose that mathematics is only an artifact of human consciousness.


Where do numbers exist outside of human consciousness?

It's a trick question, I'll admit, since language and symbols were entirely the fruit of consciousness, meaning without a brain to cook them up, there are no quadratic equations, for example.

There ARE structures in the physical world that correspond to equations or can be numerically described as such, but the descriptions are once again not the real world things. This is underscored by the Second Rule of Mind: The map (here, the math), no matter how accurate, is never the territory itself.

Note that the same mind that wants a God to exist independently of "us," is not fighting to make all-mighty numbers the ultimate "stand-alone" reality.

But we all know that nobody discovered numbers "out there." We opened our eyes and saw things, and assigned numbers as symbolic correlates. Math is just another of our many useful languages. But just as the word "hot" might describe El Cap in August, "hot" is not itself heat.

JL
Malemute

Ice climber
the ghost
May 17, 2013 - 10:56am PT
From jogill's link above:
Some men seem to regard life as a talk show on which they are the star guest.

I know a guy like this.
I think of him as 10 pounds of BS in a 5 pound sac.
MH2

climber
May 17, 2013 - 11:10am PT
Define "one" incontrovertibly so that I know it when I see it, MH2.


In the history of math no one bothered or needed to define 1 until recently. It was enough to write down rules for operations done with it, such as addition and multiplication. Math is largely about relations among abstract entities. It is sometimes important to set aside any ideas you may have about what a mathematical object is and consider only how it behaves. At other times imagination and personification help. I knew a bright young physics scholar (and climber) at Chicago who could tell you what the various elementary particles sounded like.

However, along with whatever abstract reality the number one may exist in, examples of it can be found in physical reality. Let's imagine that I show you a penny, a sheep, a carrot, and a book. I tell you that although they look different there is one of each. To help the idea I may bring in another penny, sheep, carrot, and book and tell you that there are now two of each. Then I take away a penny and ask you which thing there is now only one of. If you point to the penny, you are getting the idea. Now I bring back the second penny and take away one carrot. Can you still identify which object to use the label one on? The point is that it is possible to separate the concept of number from any particular thing. We give up physical concreteness and gain mathematical insight.



Here is another way show you the number 1, or at least how to construct it.

If L, R are any two sets of numbers, and no member of L is ≥ any member of R, then there is a number {L|R}. All numbers are constructed in this way.

Since all numbers come from earlier numbers, how does the system start?

Even before we have any numbers we have the empty set, the set with no members. So the first constructed number is {L|R} with L=R=the null set. Call this number 0.

Now we have the null set, { } and the number zero, { | }.

We then get {0| } = 1.



from On Numbers and Games by J.H. Conway





edit for JL

Math is just another of our many useful languages.


If mathematics is just a language how is it that people all over the world for thousands of years have learned same language, often independently of other speakers?
go-B

climber
Hebrews 1:3
May 17, 2013 - 11:11am PT
Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding, 5 Who set its measurements?
...2+2=
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
May 17, 2013 - 11:58am PT
MH2:

You proved math with math? Nah, . . . that won't work for me. Petitio Principii.

If there is such a thing as a one, then show it to me. Don't use it as an abstract concept. I mean, it is a concept, isn't it?

The one penny? Where does that one penny start or stop? Do you think that one penny exists indpendently, alone, by itself, without the support of an infinity of other circumstances and conditions? How could that be? Where would it be? When would it be?

Show me a one.

Abstractions, models, frameworks, concepts. All are less than one, to be sure.

Getting dizzy yet? You should be. You're in Jogill's hall of mirrors.

EDIT: Look how you started the proof:

If L, R are any two sets of numbers . . .
jogill

climber
Colorado
May 17, 2013 - 11:59am PT
0={ }
1={0}={{ }}
2={0,1}={{ },{{ }}}
etc

This piece of set theoretic formalism is fairly recent.

The father of set theory Georg Cantor suffered for his efforts.


Arguing the realism of mathematics has little merit IMO.

[edit] Jan makes good, informative comments below!
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
May 17, 2013 - 12:00pm PT
Is math just another language?

As a student of linguistics, I can say that out of 6,000+ recorded languages, there are only three different ways of ordering grammar. While many of the original discoveries in math were made in either Europe or India by people using an inflective Indo-European grammar, math is clearly of a different construction than I-E grammar.

Since unrelated peoples with isolative and agglutinative grammars can comprehend math, yet struggle when learning languages with inflective grammar (and vice versa), it seems to me that math is an entirely different system. Chomsky and others search for a universal grammar within languages, but math seems to be a better candidate than any known language.

Ideagrams such as Chinese characters could function as a universal writing system with each pronounced in the native speaker's language. Math and ideagrams being symbols, can we say that the bottom strate of the human mind is symbols and the universe probably as well? God may be a mathemetician but language comes from the mammalian brain.
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
May 17, 2013 - 12:04pm PT
Jogill, the proof smuggles in numbers and then says, "Viola! A One!"

Please.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
May 17, 2013 - 12:19pm PT
The point is that it is possible to separate the concept of number from any particular thing. We give up physical concreteness and gain mathematical insight.
-
In exactly the same way that we can separate the concept of a word for color (blue, black, red, green, etc.) from any particular sky, tire, cherry, or meadow. This quite obviously does not magically reify these colors as something beyond symbols for the sky, tires, cherries etc. which gave rise to the symbols in the first instance. The way you have it, the symbols existed before or independent of the things for which they pertain. The fact that we can consider a number as a thing independent of a thing is a function of our discursive minds, which can objectify an idea just as easily as a physical event or thing. But just because our minds work like that doesn't mean the map suddenly becomes the territory. However, a number and any symbol can be considered an article of qualia or the stuff of awareness in every bit as tangible a way as a burning bush or a tomahawk. But note that this process is an internal job, not something that heppens "out there." Trying to deify numbers as having an independent existence from consciousness is just another attempt of us humans to fashion another God, which is always "out there."


edit for JL

Math is just another of our many useful languages.


If mathematics is just a language how is it that people all over the world for thousands of years have learned same language, often independently of other speakers?

Because all math began with people corresponding one sea shell, for example, with one finger, thereby mentally creating a numerical relationship between said finger and said conch. Later we gave a number to this relationship = One. One finger, one conch shell. Once the symbolic numbers exceeded our fingers, numbers took over. Since we all have fingers, we all naturally understand the rudiments of how this all works and got started. But you are wrong in thinking that ALL people all over the world are good with math and can easily understand it. It's like music, or poetry, and so forth. You have to have a certain predisposition to go far with any of these languages, though most can come to appreciate the basics of what is being said.

Hope this helps. The human tendency to reify symbols, things, Gods etc. as having stand-alone existence is a very strong one not easily seen through.

JL
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
May 17, 2013 - 12:30pm PT
Math is not a language, but math has developed an exquisite language.

This language is an example of how we have subjective ideas and then make them precisely quantitative and objective. It is probably the best example of this.

I agreed long ago with JL that as humans, we constantly rely on subjective analysis of information that we receive.

Where we part ways is the fact that we can, by using rigorous methods, convey these ideas in a perfectly objective way. I assume that both Mike and JL balance their checkbooks in a similar way, for example, and arrive at a precise balance of their accounts.

This beautiful symbolic language is quite useful in taking an idea, that may be utterly subjective, and checking it to be entirely accurate. I say that this is a method of sharing quantitative information between individuals, even if they speak different languages or have entirely different perceptions. This is one of the great achievements of our species.

There is an ability to follow a method in order to communicate ideas in a way that is immune from bias.

This is a problem in the softer sciences, but as I have been saying, the softer sciences are incredibly relevant and useful. They are just difficult to quantify. There are many things that are difficult to quantify. It doesn't make them imaginary.
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