Politics, God and Religion vs. Science

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MH2

climber
Feb 17, 2014 - 08:59pm PT
Three cheers for Strunk and White:

Simplify.

Simplify.

Simplify.
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Feb 18, 2014 - 01:08am PT
In quantum physics—the scientific study of the nature of physical reality—there is plenty of room for interpretation within the realm of what is known. The most popular mainstream interpretation, the Copenhagen interpretation, has as one of its central tenets the concept of wave function collapse. That is to say, every event exists as a “wave function” which contains every possible outcome of that event, which “collapses”—distilling into the actual outcome, once it is observed. For example, if a room is unobserved, anything and everything that could possibly be in that room exists in “quantum superposition”—an indeterminate state, full of every possibility, at least until someone enters the room and observes it, thereby collapsing the wave function and solidifying the reality.

The role of the observer has long been a source of contention for those who disagree with the theory. The strongest competition to this interpretation, and probably the second most popular mainstream interpretation (meaning, a lot of incredibly smart people think it’s a sound theory) is called the Everett interpretation after Hugh Everett, who first proposed it in 1957. It’s known colloquially as the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI), because it postulates simply that the wave function never collapses; it simply branches into its own unique world-line, resulting in every possible outcome of every situation existing in physical reality. If you’re having a hard time getting your head around that statement (and the fact that it’s held to be correct by the likes ofStephen Hawking), allow us to spell out some of the implications for you—but first, you may want to plug your ears to hold your brains in.

http://themindunleashed.org/2014/02/10-mind-bending-implications-many-worlds-theory.html
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Feb 18, 2014 - 01:14am PT
For example, if a room is unobserved, anything and everything that could possibly be in that room exists in “quantum superposition" ”—an indeterminate state, full of every possibility, at least until someone enters the room and observes it, thereby collapsing the wave function and solidifying the reality


I wonder about this statement . . .


Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Feb 18, 2014 - 01:19am PT
Reality is severely overrated.... just because it hurts when you get your finger stuck in it.
moosedrool

climber
Stair climber, lost, far away from Poland
Feb 18, 2014 - 01:56am PT
I think, Tom, that the other worlds still adhere to the laws of physics, so MikeL's landing on the moon has a very low probability in any world.

If our world(s) were not deterministic, it couldn't exist.

What is real and how our reality is generated are completly different questions.

Andrzej
sullly

Trad climber
Feb 18, 2014 - 02:13am PT
Hey Canadian, attribute the "simplify" line to Thoreau, eh?
paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
Feb 18, 2014 - 02:26am PT
What's in a room is what's in it, not what might be in it. No doubt all possibilities exist but the observers expectations are just that and stand in contrast to the reality of the room. The importance of the observer is a function of the scale of the observation so that observations of sub atomic particles are substantially different than observations of rooms in houses. To equate the two seems problematic to me.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Feb 18, 2014 - 02:50am PT
observation

Observation in this context should be understood as any means of observing the natural world.
One of the key discoveries of quantum physics, as I understand it, is that the mere act of observing fundamentally changes the behavior of the observed.
In addition to opening up a miasma of theoretical speculation this 'check&checkmate' state of affairs has also tempted otherwise frazzled subjectivists into jumping to the conclusion that human consciousness is fundamentally central to the creation of the cosmos.
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Feb 18, 2014 - 11:10am PT
MH2: Three cheers for Strunk and White:

I have a dog-eared copy from when I taught business and technical writing as a grad student (5-6 years), and I'm referring to it here.

Of all the topics that S&W write about, simplification is but a small part, and I question whether readers understand what S&W wrote. Moreover, "The Elements of Style" tends to concern the choice of words and phrases, rather than the composition and organization of ideas, topics, or content.

The most specifically relevant section that I find in their little book occurs in their section on style. There S&W guide writers with some of the following topics: revise and rewrite, do not overwrite, do not overstate, avoid the use of qualifiers, do not explain too much, avoid fancy words, be clear, and finally, do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity. Those topics account for 5 pages in a book of 81 pages in my edition. The rest of the book, for the most part, is grammar and syntax--elementary principles of composition and rules of usage.

Take for example, "Do Not Explain Too Much" (#11): "It is seldom advisable to tell all. Be sparing, for instance in the use of adverbs after "he said," 'she replied," and the like: "he said consolingly"; "she replied grumblingly." Let the conversation itself disclose the speaker's manner or condition. [Then 7 more lines on dialogue presentation.]

Or "Be Clear" (#14): "Clarity is not the prize in writing, nor is it always the principle mark of a good style. There are occasions when obscurity serves literary yearning, if not a literary purpose, and there are writers whose mien is more overcast than clear. But since writing is communication, clarity can only be a virtue. And although there is no substitute for merit in writing, clarity comes closest to being one. Even to a writer who is being intentionally obscure or wild of tongue we can say, "Be obscure clearly! Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand!" Even to writers of market letters, tells us (but not telling us) which securities are promising, we can say, "Be cagey, plainly. Be elliptical in a straightforward fashion!"
"Clarity, clarity, clarity. When you become hopelessly mired in a sentence, it is best to start fresh; [5 more lines here about breaking sentences into smaller sentences and mechanics of construction; then comes . . . ]
"Muddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a destroyer of life, of hope: death on the highway caused by a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter, anguish of a traveler expecting to be met at a railroad station and not being met because of a slipshod telegram. Usually we think only of the ludicrous aspect of ambiguity: we enjoy it when the TImes tells us that Nelson Rockefeller is "chairman of the Museum of Modern Art, which he entered in a fireman's raincoat during a recent fire, and founded the Museum of Primitive Art." This we all love. But think of the tragedies that are rooted in ambiguity; think of that side, and be clear! When you say something, make sure you have said it. The chances of your having said it are only fair." (pp. 79-80).

Not only is this direction by S&W long when "Be Clear" was alone the topic, but it also touches on the difficulties of trying to be succinct when topics are complex or difficult to pin down (which has been my claim from the beginning).

As for that issue, look at "Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity" (*#19): ". . . Many shortcuts are self-defeating; they waste the reader's time instead of conserving it. There are all sorts of rhetorical stratagems and devices that attract writers who hope to be pithy, but most of them are simply bothersome. The longest way round is usually the shortest way home, and the only truly reliable shortcut in writing is to choose words that are strong and sure-footed to carry the reader on his way." (p. 81).


MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Feb 18, 2014 - 11:23am PT
Tom's quote: 'you may want to plug your ears to hold your brains in.'

Hilarious!


Sullly:

Thanks for the correct attribution. Of course, Thoreau was a leading transcendentalist of his time, and his admonition to simplification was not about writing as much as it was about lifestyle. As a writer, he was not very succinct or plain. He was more a philosophical poet than an objectively oriented scientist, I'd say.
WBraun

climber
Feb 18, 2014 - 11:43am PT
Yeah for me when I was in high school Thoreau started it all.

Then Hesse with his beautiful Siddhartha.

None of that mundane dry speculative reductionist scientific jargon.

It's like the little girl and her father the big ass know it all scientist.

The little girl asks her father how life is.

The scientist starts going off in all different directions.

Basically chemicals neurons bones brain matter etc and all the reductionist blah-bering .

The little girl finally looks at her father and says "that's all real nice".

But Dad!!!! I just really love you the way you are and hugs him.

She just transcended all his knowledge in one fell swoop ......



MH2

climber
Feb 18, 2014 - 12:10pm PT
Hey Canadian, attribute the "simplify" line to Thoreau, eh?


"Simplify" is a line? "Simplify, simplify, simplify" is attributed by student E.B. White to a teacher of his, William Strunk, Jr.



Omit needless words, MikeL.



"It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules..."



More to know
Did never meddle with my thoughts.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Feb 18, 2014 - 06:47pm PT
When the meditators omit needless words just what is it they are left with?

The silence of their own thoughts.

They say this is nothing?

DMT
Malemute

Ice climber
great white north
Feb 18, 2014 - 07:13pm PT
The importance of the observer is a function of the scale of the observation so that observations of sub atomic particles are substantially different than observations of rooms in houses. To equate the two seems problematic to me.
Paul has it right.
A room does not have a wavefunction.
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Feb 18, 2014 - 07:17pm PT
Yep ^^^



We should thank MikeL for directing us to "quantum woo."



;>)
cintune

climber
The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Feb 18, 2014 - 07:48pm PT
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Feb 18, 2014 - 08:01pm PT

Try this thought experiment from a British neuroscientist:

Imagine all humans were killed - wiped off the earth. Now, what's left? Look through the eyes of the universe, so to speak, and tell us what's left:

If the universe still exists, if there remains something “out there,” than we can say that physical reality exists independent of subjective influence. But what, exactly, IS "the universe?" Can we still call "the universe" "the universe," now that the ones who labeled it as such are gone? What about our categories and qualifications? They are just as absent as we are? Is it just undifferentiated energy, now that we're gone and can no longer frame reality with our meaning and categories?

What color is the universe? Is it red or green? Wait. We're dead. Our visual perceptual system which hitherto has led us to believe that reality is full of colors is also nonexistent. So what color is reality? In the absence of people to see, what exactly IS color in the Newtonian sense, in the macro world of forms that we live in? We can say that color is a certain frequency of light waves, we know this is not “color,” which is a subjective experience, rather "frequency" and "photons" refer to material occurrences happening far below the Newtonian level of forms that we live in, and in which we are saying exists, as we see it, independent of or seeing. Color is not what photons do, or are. Color is what an observer does with the photos. And in the absence of an observer, what does the absence of color look like? Black? What inherent quality does a photon have at the macro level of our perception?

Now take it to the next level: We're conceptualizing reality as a thing - something that can be characterized, measured, described, perceived and understood ("Reality is..."). To represent and define a thing, in any way, is to assign qualities and meaning - to meaningfully differentiate the apple from the orange; to make a distinction. But a reality independent of subjective influence would have to exist in the absence of our meanings, and any designation of "things," including the notion of reality itself.

So what are we looking at? What exists out there independent of ourselves? We can't say, because if we do then we immediately rearrange reality according to the qualities our human brains assign to it. Since existence without qualities is a blank, when left to describe macro qualities in purely objective terms, all forms simply vanish. All we can do is look, and not think.

So what do you see?

JL
Randisi

Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Feb 18, 2014 - 08:24pm PT
Simplify, simplify, simplify!

attribute the "simplify" line to Thoreau, eh?

Wonder why Thoreau felt the need to write "simplify" three times?
sullly

Trad climber
Feb 18, 2014 - 08:42pm PT
Randisi, that's exactly what his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson said in a letter to him.

Aside also to Randisi: my dad's extensive philosophy book library is going to me. My mom said I beat out my four siblings because their spouses would throw out any book w/o a shiny cover. I'll take a pic so you and the other philosopher on this site can salivate.
Randisi

Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Feb 18, 2014 - 08:56pm PT
Randisi, that's exactly what his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson said in a letter to him.

Aside also to Randisi: my dad's extensive philosophy book library is going to me. My mom said I beat out my four siblings because their spouses would throw out any book w/o a shiny cover. I'll take a pic so you and the other philosopher on this site can salivate.

Yes Sully, I stole that comment from Emerson. Always steal from the best! (I forget who said that one.)

Looking forward to seeing your new library!
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