Politics, God and Religion vs. Science


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Social climber
An Oil Field
May 17, 2013 - 10:08pm PT
Mike, I sure wish that some of that would rub off on Largo! I have tried to be open minded about all of this, and don't want to act pompous, but at some point I have to make a stand.

As for mathematics being a part of the fabric of the universe, what I mean is that nature is just nature. It is the way it is. Don't tear your hair out over it.

Being a curious species, it was probably inevitable that we would start poking around. As it turns out, math is a great way to study nature. On one hand it is great at describing nature in a thoroughly objective way, and on the other hand it has a great language with little ambiguity.

Look at geometry, which is filled with proofs. Is the relationship of a circle to its diameter willy nilly and in some way dependent on the observer? No. This is the number Pi, and it just is. To think that Pi did not exist before there was some person to understand it is a very narrow minded and untenable position. Of course there are circles throughout nature. I am quite sure that a tree falling in the forest does make a sound, whether or not there is an observer. Come on. Do you really think that sound is in some way independent from the observer?

If you want to have fun, look at Dark Energy and Dark Matter. Are these real properties or are they properties that we cannot observe because of scale?

Am I composed of mostly dark matter and dark energy? I want to know. Are these problems with our current best theories, or are these actually new and fundamental parts of nature that we are just now able to observe, but not explain.

Even a frog understands gravity in its own way, and you can go to Mars using Newton's laws of motion and gravity. We know that they aren't precise when dealing with large mass or high velocity, but for a quieter environment, relativity isn't necessary and Newton's laws are much easier to use.

If you ever take physics, you will notice right away that calculus is so tied up with physics that it is freaky.

This is an exciting time. We have some real scientific problems to solve.

Of course this has nothing to do with happiness. On that note I am willing to listen to MikeL until the cows come home. He has common sense, or seems to.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
May 17, 2013 - 10:47pm PT
Numbers and counting are not mathematics.

I'd like to see the math that your are talking about that has no numerical or quantitative symbology or scale, which are all basically the same things. the first math was counting on our fingers. The rest issued from that genius.

It rather amazes me that you can't get hold of the correlation of how your brain works and how those inherent patters leads us to see "out there" things like "mathematical terrain." Believe it - these are just so many models. If you removed the stuff in which the math applies, from the very beginning, it is incontrovertible that you have no such "mathematical terrain."

Again, this is a point worth understanding because it is tied up with how our discursive minds project their own structures and propensities onto so-called external reality. But of course we can never remove the subject from any human enterprise without removing the content of the subject, be it numbers or music or (fill in the qualia).


Trad climber
SoCal Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
May 17, 2013 - 11:48pm PT
All this talk about math, i've often wondered how analytical reasoning factors into the grand scheme of things. When I was an undergrad, I took this upper division statistics class. During the first week the professor gave us this analytical reasoning IQ test. it was the standard one at the time. Sixty questions, one hour. It was an internationally used test (no words, just problems). each question had 4 squares/boxes, inside each square were 4 more squares, a total 16 squares. You started with one square (whatever was in it) and decide what would be the next logical square, which would lead to the next up to the 16th, which would be your answer. The problem was, you had to remember the sequence, run the whole sequence through your head each time to get the next square. For instance, if you had just figured out which one was 9, to get 10, you would have to recall/rerun 1-9 from the beginning again to arrive at 10. And, finally, to arrive at 15, you would have to go back run through the whole sequence 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14.

Anyway, around 32 or 33, when i had just about solved it, this student sneezed and it broke my concentration. I would have had to start all over at square one, and I was somewhat pissed at myself for letting my concentration be broken, so i decided to just come back to it later. Each question gets consecutively more difficult. By the time I had finished the 60th question, it was so much more intense and difficult in nature, that I new I could have easily answered the one I had skipped , so I didn't go back. It wasn't a graded test, don't recall why she had given it to us, I think it was for either a paper or study she was doing.

Anyway, I got 59 out of sixty right, since i didn't answer that one question. The prof was really blown away, she mentioned something about my frontal lobes, and said that I was in the top 1% in the nation. I had plenty of time to go back and do the one I had skipped, and wondered where I would have been considered then, probably still top 1%. I ended dropping out of business as a major, found it to boring. And doing well on that analytical reasoning IQ test proved to be more frustrating than anything else for a long time, since I couldn't decide what to do with my life. Ended up going into the health services, but perhaps I should have majored in math, something that I had always found very stimulating / challenging. Have always wondered how I could have applied or utilized that type of skill?

The speed of light has always fascinated me. I recall there being only one other time in which I have concentrated as hard as I did when I took that test. It was when I was 18 years old and was thinking about the speed of light 186,202 mps! that's over 7 times around he planet in 1 second, and light years and the distance between stars and across our galaxy, relativity theory, etc! I was interested in astronomy back then.

edit: i meant miles per second/not mph! 186,202 miles per second (700M mph)... fascinating!!

in the mid 80's i was living & working in LA and a friend (animal art from mammoth) and i and our two gf's at the time went up to the griffith observatory one saturday evening. they had opened up their telescope to the public and had it focused on this far away star or galaxy that had just been discovered (or perhaps it was a newly discovered planet of some far away star/i fergit). the line was about 1.5 hours long, seemed like half of LA had shown up. and when your turn came up, you only were allotted 60 sec to view it. i found it so fascinating that i tried to talk them (art and the gals) into waiting in line again, another whole hour and a half, just for 60 seconds of viewing. they weren't about to, and i was pretty disappointed, but understood. like i said, "I was interested in astronomy back then." there was just something about looking at something in real time (rather than a pic), or at least the light it had created that was extremely fascinating, imo! i could have sat there all night long looking at it, pondering it and the grand scale of the universe, etc! ...i guess that is what i find "stimulating and challenging", lol!

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
May 18, 2013 - 12:53am PT
And regarding Werner's assertion that language comes from the soul. I believe this is connected to the idea in India that Sanskrit is the language of God and the mother tongue of all other human languages. This is a religious belief not a linguistic fact.

it is commonly believed in many religions however, that a particular language is sacred - Catholics and Latin, Arabs and the Koran, some Protestants and the King James version etc. In India, it is claimed that only mantras pronounced in Sanskrit will have certain meditation effects yet these are completely mispronounced by Chinese and Japanese who still manage to get enlightened. Likewise writing systems. I have been told in India you have to visualize Sanskrit letters for certain meditational effects and in Japan certain kanji for the same effects.

Well, I think Werner would tell you that you're looking too deep. The truth is right in front of you, yet you want to put a microscope on it.

Language is not the key, wisdom and knowledge are. Language is the vessel of knowledge.

I guess the question becomes, what is the fundamental wisdom? Life? If so then what defines life?

See where I'm going here?

Trad climber
Here and There
May 18, 2013 - 02:25am PT
Words all to often are used to obfuscate reality. But what is reality? Is it what is happening right now as you perceive it or has it already happened and not quite legitimate because you're only perceiving it? And by your perception you're one step away and by your words in trying to describe it you're at least two steps away?

Reality is this and perception of that reality is something else. The rock still hurts when it hits me in the head. The body still starves when deprived of nutrients.

If I change my perception ,my understanding, or anything else, at all, will either of those change?

Trad climber
SoCal Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
May 18, 2013 - 05:09am PT
bluering - Language is not the key, wisdom and knowledge are.

Knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

Knowledge is the basis for the other two, understanding and wisdom. In the most basic form, knowledge is the accumulation of facts. A fact represents a statement of truth. Knowledge is the accumulation of both explicit and implicit facts. Understanding is the correct organization and ordering of associated facts and truths. To get wisdom we need to achieve understanding by first gaining accumulating facts. And wisdom is the practical application of correct knowledge and understanding. Knowing what to do, when to do it, and with whom to do it, is the revealed ability to make wise choices.

It's a basic biblical principal. "Wisdom is the principle thing; therefor get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding." "My people perish for lack of knowledge: because you have rejected knowledge, I have rejected thee,..." etc.

May 18, 2013 - 10:24am PT
It rather amazes me that you can't get hold of the correlation of how your brain works and how those inherent patters leads us to see "out there" things like "mathematical terrain." Believe it - these are just so many models. If you removed the stuff in which the math applies, from the very beginning, it is incontrovertible that you have no such "mathematical terrain."

I'd like to hear more about how my brain works and the inherent patterns that lead me to see mathematics. What do you know?

When you talk about removing the stuff in which the math applies, are you talking about removing my brain? That would leave me at a handicap for math and a few other things.

Whole numbers and counting are not mathematics. Mathematics begins where nature leaves off. Mathematics concerns such things as the Pythagorean theorem and the relation between the circumference and diameter of a circle. No matter how much experience you have with nature and how many measurements you make you will only get approximate answers in those cases. Mathematics extends your understanding beyond what you see and gives you certainty.

Social climber
An Oil Field
May 18, 2013 - 11:47am PT
My point is pretty simple. One person gains knowledge and then that knowledge dies with that person if it is not shared with others before he dies.

You can hand stories down orally, and no doubt this was the way things were done for a couple of million years, but written language is far more precise.

Written language is a great tool for this. Without it, we would be a far less capable species. The symbolic written language of mathematics is just a great example of this.

That is all that I am saying, and to try to draw some conclusion from it about the is-ness or whatever is a fools errand unless you study this specific topic for a living.

This written language, and all written language for that matter, is a handy way to improve the knowledge of others that were not present or do not understand a specific problem.

I know that Jan loves illiterate cultures, but those cultures now come into contact with those who aren't illiterate and change. You don't have to understand physics to turn on your TV, for instance.

A great saying is this: "You don't need to understand how a watch works to tell what time it is."

That is mainly used as a joke on people who yap too much (like me). "Hey Mark, you don't need to tell me how a watch works when I ask what time it is." Pretty funny.

The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
May 18, 2013 - 12:22pm PT


Probably far too mundane for those concerned with The Deeper Issues™ but kinda cool anyway.

Also, uh, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moons_of_Pluto

Hebrews 1:3
May 18, 2013 - 03:07pm PT
That was spot on!

May 18, 2013 - 03:15pm PT

"Are they circling the moons of Pluto, which is hard, it is true, seeming that Pluto has no moons"


May 18, 2013 - 03:35pm PT
Meanwhile, back in the real world (chuckle) . . .

It's been 13 years since I stood in front of students in a classroom so I'm wondering if those of you with more recent experience might comment on this:

Ward Trotter

Trad climber
May 18, 2013 - 03:51pm PT




May 18, 2013 - 04:14pm PT

I assume you mean when students get distracted? Not your own distractions?

If they're getting distracted, then you're not interesting or important enough. You can talk directly to them pointedly; you can throw something in their direction at them (an eraser will work); you can stop talking until you have their attention again; you can ask them a question about what you're talking about; and you can walk over to them and make a comment to the class or them that recognizes the distraction ("Mr. Smith, I'm not boring you TOO much, am I?"). You can do almost anything in a classroom setting if you do it from your heart. You can even give them a pop quiz on the spot or leave class.

Have some fun; be genuine; tell some jokes; make fun of your views and habits. I find this generation (millennials) want honest feedback. Give it to them. Many of the millennials are bored, and rightly so. Challenge them. Give them an advanced problem, and let them run with it in teams or groups and use the internet. You'll be surprised what they'll come up with. Cajol them. Mother them. Trick them. Tease them. Role-play with them. Ask them what they really think. Do anything that you think you have the moxie to get away with. Astound them. Be yourself--that self that is the best part of you. Let go.

If you're getting distracted, it's the same issues: the work isn't interesting or important enough to you. You have to love your students. From that everything flows. The more you care, the more they care.

You'll do well. No doubt. Be one of those teachers we all talk about and remember most fondly.

Dr. F.

Big Wall climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 18, 2013 - 08:40pm PT
I disagree with the notion that we don't know the objective reality.

Our mind works like Google Earth, we take bits and pieces of reality in through our senses, and the brain puts it all together like a super computer into the observed reality that sits in front of us.
The cactus does exist, and it's spines do hurt.
Credit: Dr. F.

we don't need to experience every possible nuance or caliper measurement to know the shape of something, the weight, the texture, and so on.

The colors may be different under other wavelengths, but does that matter?, not really, that just a small part of our goggle earth picture

Social climber
joshua tree
May 18, 2013 - 09:20pm PT
This is the best page ever. (Yet!)

Reality is this and perception of that reality is something else. The rock still hurts when it hits me in the head. The body still starves when deprived of nutrients.

Those are still things that already happened! I long ago expressed that our only (individual) Truth is our experiences of yesterday, and 2+2... What's True today, right now? Or right now? Or right now? 2+2, Yes. Tomorrow,.2+2? Yep! Maybe math is The Truth?

May 18, 2013 - 09:21pm PT
Dr. F, I think you know Largo better than that. Whatever objective reality you find in the cactus, an amoeba or a slug or a hypothetical alien with a hypothetical experiencing apparatus would experience something different than you. JL shifts his exposition as needed to confound us. You appear to work as his foil.

Hebrews 1:3
May 18, 2013 - 09:57pm PT
photo not found
Missing photo ID#303614

"The truth of Scripture demolishes speculation"
R. C. Sproul

Dr. F.

Big Wall climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 19, 2013 - 11:20am PT
A slug would experience the objective reality exactly the same as us if it had a brain that could put it all together like ours can, the Only difference would be the color of objects

The color of things make practically no difference in the bigger picture, we all know that we can put on a colored pair of glasses and everything is still the same.

But that is all Largo really has to make his point, that the color the slug sees is different than mine.
I find that a weak argument to base his premise of us not knowing the objective reality.

May 19, 2013 - 11:27am PT
Yes, but you might do better to say that even weird aliens would find that electrons have the same properties and interactions that we find. Physics gets closer to objective reality.
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