Politics, God and Religion vs. Science

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Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Feb 13, 2014 - 12:01pm PT
Credit: Ward Trotter
Jim Clipper

climber
from: forests to tree farms
Feb 13, 2014 - 12:24pm PT
I've read that the world is becoming more peaceful. There have not been any "great" wars for some time. Still, the statistics must necessarily be based on estimates. Maybe I can agree with Paul, war is not unchecked, and wonder of the uncounted. Finally, some of the greatest advocates for peace are the men and women who have served and suffered in war.

Also, the distortion of facts, can prevent the realization of rational conclusions, or solutions. Don't let me get started on the Swift Boat Campaign. Now might not be the time.

I was thinking of quotes by Eisenhower, Einstein, Inouye, a guy who was jailed in Hanoi with McCain.

When did Einstein say you can not simultaneously prevent and prepare for war? Where was quantum theory at that point? What role was Einstein, or his colleagues playing in the development of military technology during that time? I believe Einstein spoke against the bomb.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Feb 13, 2014 - 12:37pm PT
Objective Reality, Maps, Territory and the “reality” of numbers: Part 1

The basic question: What is real?

Horse sense and our sense organs combine to tell us one thing, but that changes radically the closer we look at the process of perception, and how we possibly contribute to what we “see.”

It’s both interesting and instructive to look at quantum mechanics per these issues. That’s not to say we should try and constrast QM with perception, or draw conclusion from the quantum world per the macro world. This so often runs into murky waters, especially when folks look at QM and try and say what it “means” in the macro world we live in.

It’s just that for our limited purposes, QM has done an exhaustive job at framing the question about what is real, what an observer might or might not contribute to the thing described and measured, and how the map and the territory maintain such a curious and, to many, debatable relationship to each other – among other things.

So without drawing any fast conclusions, it is worth a brief look at the questions raised in QM, knowing that the study of perception – especially from an inside, experiential track – is by no means a quantum exploration, only that an apparently related set of questions arise while examining the experiential data stream.

Briefly: In QM, the issue goes back to the “Copenhagen interpretation,” one of the earliest and most commonly taught interpretations of quantum mechanics. “It holds that quantum mechanics does not yield a description of an objective reality but deals only with probabilities of observing, or measuring, various aspects of energy quanta.”

Here is the first suggestion, from one group, that just maybe, “objective reality” is not exactly so in a classical sense. In other words, the question is raised: Is there a fixed, unchanging, rock solid world of objects “out there” which remains exactly the same no matter if we are here measuring and looking, or not. Whatever the case, the Copenhagen interpretation insists that QM does NOT yield a description of an objective reality “out there,” independent of the observer.

For those that care, it was Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and others (circa 1924–27) who said that “the act of measurement causes the set of probabilities to immediately and randomly assume only one of the possible values. This feature of the mathematics is known as "wavefunction collapse” (itself a long, contentious, and special study).

You can imagine that back in the 1920s, as well as right now, few people were/are in any hurry to give up their world of fixed objects “out there,” existing as objective reality, just as they are, no matter who comes along with a yardstick. Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker even denied that the Copenhagen interpretation asserted "What cannot be observed does not exist." Einstein himself later said, "Do you really think the moon isn't there if you aren't looking at it?”

Such an idea sounds absurd, does it not? Surely the very moon does not change whether I'm here to see it or not. How can somebody flip the tables of those denying a "ghost in the machine,” by suggesting that the machine (a fixed, material, objective reality "out there") is itself a ghost?

End of Part 1 – more later. When depends on work.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Feb 13, 2014 - 02:05pm PT
For the more discerning climber nature investigators around...

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/sam-harris-vs-dan-dennett-on-free-will/

http://www.naturalism.org/Dennett_reflections_on_Harris%27s_Free_Will.pdf

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-marionettes-lament



Not for the inexperienced.

But a state-of-the-art pointer of what's to come.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Feb 13, 2014 - 03:44pm PT
Sam Harris writes:

I am not saying that the mere addition of indeterminism to the clockwork makes responsibility impossible. I am saying, as you have always conceded, that seeking to ground free will in indeterminism is hopeless, because truly random processes are precisely those for which we can take no responsibility. Yes, we might still express our beliefs and opinions while being gently buffeted by random events (as you show in your thought experiment), but if our beliefs and opinions were themselves randomly generated, this would offer no basis for human responsibility (much less free will). Bored yet?

-

Harris' fatal mistake in this is his lack of discerning the difference between the random and unbidden arising of mental content that was not consciously fashioned or evoked (a process he partially observed in his meditation practice), and the free will exercised as to what option of the many presented a person can and will choose. By attempting to anchor his beliefs (and they are only beliefs) about determinism on the arising of mental content, as opposed to our choice on what content to move on, Sam Harris - while glib, though not a particularly astute or progressive thinker - has queered his own game.

This is another instant where Sam needed to do some more work on the inside, observing the way the creative process actually works experientially, and he might have stayed a little more on target.

Basically, no one is suggesting that our mental content does not arise largely if not entirely unbidden, and that much of that content is conditioned by previous circumstances and life events. The matter or free will concerns what we do with that content, not the origin of same.

For instance, I can walk into a store and know I have certain options: buy the dog in the window, steal said hound, barter for it, bicker over the price, or just pay the figure asked, etc. The circumstance provides many of the options. But none of the circumstances determine my choice. Insisting that my choice itself is determined is another issue relating to the choice process also being entirely unconscious, or preconscious, since there are experiments suggesting that our choices register in our minds before we know them, as though they too were automatically generated sans choice. These are mitigated by the person who chooses to think it over, or who changes his mind, among many other things.

Interesting stuff.

JL
Dr. F.

Trad climber
SoCal
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2014 - 04:04pm PT
Interesting stuff, indeed.

Credit: Dr. F.
paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
Feb 13, 2014 - 04:11pm PT
Isn't there a problem not noted here? That is the body's, and in that sense the mind's, demands which negate what I believe you're calling freewill. Experiences such as severe hunger or thirst or the need for shelter. It seems to me that the demands placed on us through our very existence mediate any notion of freewill. You are not free to not eat and most will violate any notion of morality to eat. Remarkable anger is, likewise, something beyond our control. I would think there are a variety of circumstances born of our nature and existence itself that mediate any choice we might have.

When Woody Allen recites the quote "the heart wants what the heart wants" he repeats the plaintive declaration that in the matter of freewill the individual's ability to choose has remarkable and often devastating prejudices working against it.
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Feb 13, 2014 - 04:47pm PT
. . . especially when folks look at QM and try and say what it “means” in the macro world we live in

Is there a fixed, unchanging, rock solid world of objects “out there” which remains exactly the same no matter if we are here measuring and looking, or not. Whatever the case, the Copenhagen interpretation insists that QM does NOT yield a description of an objective reality “out there,” independent of the observer (JL)


Nice, entertaining ramble, John. But it may seem that these two statements (above) are not in perfect alignment. Nevertheless, you are always fun to read and ponder. You did come a little too close to Hilbert space at one point . . .



;>)

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Feb 13, 2014 - 04:56pm PT
A 'solid' reality can and does constantly change. By observing reality we most certainly alter it. It's patently obvious. And yet 1 + 1 will never equal 3 no matter how hard you stare at it.

Reality is shaped by all its possible outcomes and hence predetermined. Choice may only be made within the boundaries of the possible. You shant be planting tulips on Venus any time soon....

DMT
jstan

climber
Feb 13, 2014 - 05:45pm PT
It sure is a change. John has given up following this thread.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Feb 13, 2014 - 06:57pm PT
A 'solid' reality can and does constantly change. By observing reality we most certainly alter it. It's patently obvious. And yet 1 + 1 will never equal 3 no matter how hard you stare at it.


This has to do with the "reality of numbers" part of what I am talking about. Getting there. I need a little more run up or people will likely get lost. And I don't want to waste John S's time. What's more, John G., I wasn't talking about people who's occupation is QM discussing what it means. Rather those folks who are not professional QM researchers who crib bits of QM to make wild metaphysical pronouncements. My point here was only that QM had run into a similar set of questions found in other disciplines concerning the status of a fixed objective reality "out there," and how, curiously, the measurements themselves are the constants, while what our sense organs and common sense says is objectively "out there" is in fact not the case. I'll run down the reasons soon as I have time.

JL
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Feb 13, 2014 - 09:50pm PT
Largo: . . . maybe, “objective reality” is not exactly so in a classical sense.

It never really was, not scientifically nor philosophically for very long. The objective reality you're referring to is consensus-based reality, and it depends upon the naive realism of those who don't know how brains, sensory input, and consciousness seem to conspire together.

Neither the red of the buxom blond's sweater nor the yellow of the New York taxi are innate qualities of either. The experienced qualities of external objects are not innate in the objects but are illusory and dreamlike as are creatures in a nightmare.

It appears that perception is constrained by the physical objects we perceive, but the very qualities of the objects we perceive arise from the interactions of input, brain, and consciousness. No perceived quality is inherent. When experience cannot be drawn upon directly, then instruments generate "data" which can be more or less indicative of what is being sought by the instruments.

Taken together, this means that any object is ungraspable: no one can say what objects are because no one can be sure of an object's qualities--and indeed, what would an object be without qualities? (Ans: an empty thought?)

The sun might emit protons (as so defined and measured), but it is our perceptual and conceptual functioning that experiences what we call light and heat. Those particular qualities do not exist "out there" externally. The sun isn't "hot." It appears to emit thermal radiation that we perceive as "hot."

How did we get here? The effects of conditioning of mind and body pervade all consciousness (waking and dreams), and we came to our conditioning very early on in our development. (Should have cross-posted this on the karma thread.)

As for what is possible to perceive to begin with, I think that's where QM can be brought in to further, er. . . complicate the situation. But it's not necessary to do so. Illusion has been shown to exist in full force throughout our experiences without QM's addition to the conversation (although I appreciate it).


Whereas "dreaming can be viewed as the special case of perception without constraints of external sensory input. . . perception can be viewed as the special case of dreaming constrained by sensory input." (Steven LaBerge) Both are forms of dreaming, of illusion.
moosedrool

climber
Stair climber, lost, far away from Poland
Feb 13, 2014 - 11:38pm PT
http://www.world-science.net/othernews/140211_math.htm

"Beauty in math may touch same brain area as art, music"

I am not surprized.

Andrzej



Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Feb 14, 2014 - 12:23pm PT
Here is the first suggestion, from one group, that just maybe, “objective reality” is not exactly so in a classical sense. In other words, the question is raised: Is there a fixed, unchanging, rock solid world of objects “out there” which remains exactly the same no matter if we are here measuring and looking, or not. Whatever the case, the Copenhagen interpretation insists that QM does NOT yield a description of an objective reality “out there,” independent of the observer.

I don't see how this approach clarifies anything beyond a general thumbnail description of the state of Quantum Physics. If we are preceding on the assumption that we should not:
draw conclusion from the quantum world per the macro world.

Then we are left with two things:
1) the state of current knowledge about the physical world revealed by QM may not be the final truth about that physical world, even on the micro level. QM represents an epistemological freeze-frame, so to speak. This is how all knowledge of this sort must be regarded---especially in science. It is by and large provisional. Especially any sort of ontological, philosophical conclusions drawn from that provisional knowledge.

2) If that knowledge is indeed the final conclusion on the underlying nature of reality then it really changes nothing viv-a-vis the discussion we are having along these lines on this thread. A tree is still a tree, a rock is still a rock, and the macro world is still the macro world that human sensory and reflective consciousness deals with on a daily basis---whether those humans are meditating or shooting heroin or measuring halogen collision rates. That world is "fixed" for all intents and purposes. Not fixed within Newtonian standards, but within the spectrum of experience the physical world we inhabit has evolutionarily calibrated in the form of Homo sapiens---the naked ape with the small teeth and big cerebral cortex skiing downhill at 80 mph on slices of rigid plant material.


It never really was, not scientifically nor philosophically for very long. The objective reality you're referring to is consensus-based reality, and it depends upon the naive realism of those who don't know how brains, sensory input, and consciousness seem to conspire together.

In the interests of time I'll take the short approach at disproving the above assertion, as I have done much earlier on this thread, in presenting the same argument:

The geologic and fossil record has provided a picture of the world as being more or less the same , in its operation and constituents, long,long before humans ever appeared upon the scene.
"Objective reality" predates any conspiratorial consensus. For the physical world as objective reality to conform to the solipsistic notion that it is merely an optional theatrical setting for human desires ---one would have to prove that the geologic and fossil record is complicit in this consensus. How could a non-human setting have anything to do with arranging an optionally-based human social consensus, in the way you have described? How could human sensory consciousness be applied retroactively to the sly arranging of the vast physical natural world ?
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Feb 14, 2014 - 01:13pm PT
Not fixed within Newtonian standards, but by the spectrum of experience the physical world we inhabit has evolutionarily calibrated in the form of Homo sapiens.


That's exactly right, Ward. But you are only approaching this as a concept. When you "get this" experientially, not merely as a discursive fact, it will completely alter your sense of reality for reasons having nothing to do with the people, places, things or phenomenon of the physical world.

You're concluding statements about geology miss the point that you made in the quote above. I'll try and make clear to you how this is so once I have a chance. What Mike was saying was not an opinion - as hard as that might be for you to believe from a discursive point of view.

JL
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Feb 14, 2014 - 01:30pm PT
But you are only approaching this as a concept.

How do you know that your experience, of whatever nature and provenance, is not "conceptual" ?

I reject the notion that so- called subjective experience escapes pre-conditioning or contamination by "concepts"---either prior to or doing the experience.

I'll talk to you later I gots some stuff to do also...
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Feb 14, 2014 - 01:34pm PT
"Beauty in math may touch same brain area as art, music"

Good one, Moose. Another beautiful result lies at the heart of many applications in the physical world and is revealed to first-year calculus students: The instantaneous change of a substance may be proportional to the amount of the substance at that time, or dQ/dt = CQ(t). This gives rise to another mathematics "magical" number, e ≈ 2.71828. In the world of finance, compound interest leads to this result if one allows the number of conversion periods over a year to tend to ∞. In population dynamics this model is also prevalent as it is in quantum mechanics, etc.

It also lies at the heart of those contours you see in the vector fields I've posted (the green things): under the right circumstances the solution to the equation dz/dt = Φ(z,t) describes the contours in concise, "closed" forms.

It may be as hard for the uninitiated to see this kind of "beauty" as it seems to be for some of us to see the revelations John L. points to in his meditations! You have to do the work.

;>)


When you "get this" experientially, not merely as a discursive fact, it will completely alter your sense of reality. . . (JL)

If you allow it to. There is still no guarantee what you "get" is anything more than illusory. But if it revs your engine so be it.
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Feb 14, 2014 - 05:48pm PT
Ward: For the physical world as objective reality to conform to the solipsistic notion that it is merely an optional theatrical setting for human desires ---one would have to prove that the geologic and fossil record is complicit in this consensus. How could a non-human setting have anything to do with arranging an optionally-based human social consensus, in the way you have described? How could human sensory consciousness be applied retroactively to the sly arranging of the vast physical natural world ?

My friend, you're using a fair amount of poetic license in casting your ideas. I've tried to pare down what you've written for a more succinct statement. Here's what I got:

Mike's editing of Ward's Words: For objective reality to conform to human desires ---one would have to [show] geolog[y] is consensu[al]. How could [geology] have anything to do with [a] consensus? How could consciousness arrange the physical world ?

Not really so incredible, is it?
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Feb 14, 2014 - 06:21pm PT
I reject the notion that so- called subjective experience escapes pre-conditioning or contamination by "concepts"---either prior to or doing the experience.


Of course you do, Ward, because you are "thinking" of "subjective experience" (there is no such thing as "objective experience") in terms of mental content, the "stuff" of consciousness. Once your awareness can break the enmeshment you have with stuff (thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, etc), you will no longer have to "reject the notion," which is itself a notion/belief based on lack of direct experience that would show you otherwise.

What do you think they mean by the phrase, "Get out of your head."

That much said, yes, our minds formulate the undifferentiated quantum "out there" into familiar, human friendly forms, so we are preconditioned to formulate the raw stuff of the physical world a certain way. But what happens when you don't conceptualize the qualia, and instead take it neat?

That's the practice.

JL
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Feb 14, 2014 - 06:28pm PT
John and I seized on the same quote, but for different reasons perhaps.

Ward: I reject the notion that so-called subjective experience escapes pre-conditioning or contamination by "concepts"---either prior to or doing the experience.

By what basis do you reject pre-conditioning? Is there conditioning, or isn't there?

This may be a crux move that we have been dancing around for a few thousand posts. It's good that you've brought it up.

You seem to have but a few options or alternatives logically.

1. What perception reveals is what truly is. There is no conditioning that can be the basis for any illusion.

2. What perception shows can be either true or not true. One cannot tell which it will be or is. (This could look like QM superposition.)

3. What perception shows cannot be true. Why? Because there is conditioning. No perception is true.

I understand that none of these may satisfy you. I think that's what one finally realizes, Ward. None of these are true. This might suggest what must be true goes beyond what is rational or logical.

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