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Thread: The last and final argument about reality.

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    The last and final argument about reality.

    I'm going to say one thing and then I will keep silent:

    What we perceive is the only way we have of perceiving reality. We have to use it as a basis for determining what's real because it's all we've got.

    This thread is intended as a lightning rod. Any and all further arguments about reality and mind should be directed here.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    I agree with both your opinion expressed and your reason for creating this thread, although I don't think it's the first.

    Some people like to argue about whether a broom is the same broom when it has had both its head and its handle replaced. I don't, because once you've got the idea, it becomes very boring.

    Similarly, some people like to argue about whether scientific models are approximations of some underlying reality. I find this boring too. I wouldn't mind other people doing it, but when they promote the idea that this somehow undermines science, it becomes irritating too.

    I don't expect to say much more in this thread. If I do, it will be because it has taken an unexpected turn.

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    "I reject your reality and substitute one of my own."
    Solfe, Dominus Maris Pavos.

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    I believe reality exists...and I mostly don't like it. Neither do lots of other people apparently, for all the popularity and prevalence of fiction.
    Dip me in ink and toss me to the Poets.

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    I agree both that (1) this topic is worthy of discussion by people that want to question the connection between sensory input and interpretation, (2) that this topic is too often applied as a distraction in other threads by people who want to nay-say by arguing on the 'you can't trust anything' line of reasoning. Thanks.
    Forming opinions as we speak

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    I agree with both your opinion expressed and your reason
    for creating this thread, although I don't think it's the first.
    My sentiments, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    Some people like to argue about whether a broom is the same
    broom when it has had both its head and its handle replaced.
    I don't, because once you've got the idea, it becomes very
    boring.
    This sort of thing should probably be argued about by everyone
    at some time in their lives. Once they've done so, THEN it is
    boring, I'm sure. But I missed such arguments (and this one
    in particular) early in life, so I'm seeing them now for the first
    time on the Internet.

    I'm curious as to whether anything non-boring has been said
    about the broom question, and if so, where I could read it.
    It is obvious to me that I am the same person I was when I
    was ten years old, and it is equally obvious to me that I am
    NOT the same person I was when I was ten years old. What
    else can be said about this peculiar situation?

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    http://www.FreeMars.org/jeff/

    "I find astronomy very interesting, but I wouldn't if I thought we
    were just going to sit here and look." -- "Van Rijn"

    "The other planets? Well, they just happen to be there, but the
    point of rockets is to explore them!" -- Kai Yeves

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buttercup View Post
    I believe reality exists...and I mostly don't like it. Neither do lots of other people apparently, for all the popularity and prevalence of fiction.
    Wait a minute. I like fiction, too, but not because I dislike reality. I appreciate good stories whether they're reality, fiction, or even embellished reality. I also like looking at real things as well as photographs and paintings. So I hope you don't take my fondness for fiction as evidence that I don't like reality. Admittedly, there are things about reality that I like and others that I dislike. I don't see how it could be otherwise.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Wait a minute. I like fiction, too, but not because I dislike reality. I appreciate good stories whether they're reality, fiction, or even embellished reality. I also like looking at real things as well as photographs and paintings. So I hope you don't take my fondness for fiction as evidence that I don't like reality. Admittedly, there are things about reality that I like and others that I dislike. I don't see how it could be otherwise.
    I didn't have you in mind at all.
    Dip me in ink and toss me to the Poets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buttercup View Post
    I believe reality exists...and I mostly don't like it. Neither do lots of other people apparently, for all the popularity and prevalence of fiction.
    For me, fiction is sometimes a holiday from reality, and sometimes it is another way of looking at reality.

    I also read fiction to find out what writers of fiction can get away with, because I want to know what I can get away with.

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    Happily, I only argue in existential matters when challenged by people who insist on hanging onto concepts that have been as far as I can see shown to be meaningless concerns in general, to all effective measure this world we live in effects us in such a way as to appear real, we are not in control of that therefore trying to say it is not real is somewhat perverse in my opinion, there is no grounding to even start questioning the reality of what we see in the first place.

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    I still enjoy examining the limits of knowledge, but do not enjoy anyone using that to dispute science.

    The track I've been on for some years now has consisted mostly of favoring observations over theory in most social sciences, and treating theory as useful but not complete in hard science. At the moment, popular science in neurology is bugging me a bit with unsupported speculations.

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    depends where the speculations are coming from, and if its based within reasonable theory from the known for me. I'm as guilty as the next person for wondering, but I'm not in the situation to test anything being a computer scientist these days.

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    If this is to be the final word on reality I will be really surprised! It was well rehearsed not so long ago but time goes by, at least so it seems, and the old chestnut will get dug up again, sprouting.

    I assume we are brain based organisms with emergent consciousness and we model reality in our minds. I cannot test that assumption but I find a lot of others seem to agree so we are all in the same boat. I believe we are the most conscious organisms in the known universe but I cannot prove it. I find the idea of evolving consciousness rather exciting. It means, to me, that we are not at the end of that road.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    I agree with Profloater -- reality is based on perception of the observer; therefore we all have our own reality based on our ability to perceive.

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    To an extent, this is true, we may all consciously perceive reality differently in some ways, but there is a huge difference between saying that our subjective realities may differ slightly to taking this further and saying that nothing outside of myself exists for instance, the first can be shown in many cases but doesn't matter, the objective reality our reality is based upon is consistent. In fact I would argue that in all likelyhood most of what we physically perceive is the same, its our rational interpretation that differs. This is the simplest explanation and can be shown, we take different meanings from things, however our physiologies are pretty much the same, so in all probability our physical perception is pretty much the same.

    most existential questions are built from the false claim, that what is not proven to be false is possible and thus unless you can prove one theory to be categorically right they are all equal. The fact is that they are not, For instance whilst I cannot say that my perception of purple is the same as yours, is there a good reason to say that its not? the simplest explanation is that we do see purple the same and without good reason to challenge this, this is by far the strongest and thus most likely solution.

    We can never definitively show absolute factualism to something, but we can prove beyond reasonable doubt. This stems from the fact above, you should only really doubt, that which you have reason to do so. Otherwise you end up in a Philosophical Hole, you can perversely doubt everything, but it is just that. However even if not proven beyond reasonable doubt, some theories are stronger than others and without good reason you are usually best served choosing the stronger one, experience tells us that this is right more often than not. We can always change our minds as and when reasonable evidence comes along that defies it.
    Last edited by malaidas; 2014-Sep-12 at 09:50 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by malaidas View Post
    We can never definitively show absolute factualism to something, but we can prove beyond reasonable doubt. This stems from the fact above, you should only really doubt, that which you have reason to do so. Otherwise you end up in a Philosophical Hole, you can perversely doubt everything, but it is just that. However even if not proven beyond reasonable doubt, some theories are stronger than others and without good reason you are usually best served choosing the stronger one, experience tells us that this is right more often than not. We can always change our minds as and when reasonable evidence comes along that defies it.
    I'm breaking my self-imposed silence already to say, I agree fully with this statement.

    There has to be a practical point at which we say, OK, we really are not ever going to agree if there are angels dancing on this pin let alone how many, now let's get to sewing. Science is the best way we have for processing information for accuracy, even with-- or especially with-- individual perceptive differences. It "evens out" the differences through repeated testing of observations.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Science is the best way we have for processing information for accuracy, even with-- or especially with-- individual perceptive differences. It "evens out" the differences through repeated testing of observations.


    Couldn't have said it better

    The Scientific Method has evolved to solve the problems and show as best as can ever be shown what is actually factual and what is fiction.

    There may be certain questions that will forever lie beyond our ability to prove beyond reasonable doubt, but the scientific method is at the moment the best known way to ensure that such a set of questions is as small as possible. At the end of the day though I would hold that such a set is likely consisting of questions solely of what lies beyond our ability to measure, that is they concern that which pertains to things beyond our universe in a material sense, if such can be said to exist. This would seem likely to be fundamentally beyond our ability to measure, although I'm not even going to state that for definite. There will always be questions, but such questions should be rooted in reason, how did the universe come into existence is a reasonable question, what came before, if there was a before is reasonable, even if we may never be able to know the answer, these are at least valid questions. However without evidence or at least showing that such is consistent with what we do know, no solution should even be accepted as more than idle musing. However within what we can study, the scientific method is the product of human thought through the ages, it represents an evolution of rational techniques in the natural selection of the academic world, it is the fittest method to investigate the world have been formed from the crucible of earlier problems.

    This is why it is SO important to study in accordance with it.


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    Quote Originally Posted by malaidas View Post
    [/COLOR]

    Couldn't have said it better

    The Scientific Method has evolved to solve the problems and show as best as can ever be shown what is actually factual and what is fiction.

    There may be certain questions that will forever lie beyond our ability to prove beyond reasonable doubt, but the scientific method is at the moment the best known way to ensure that such a set of questions is as small as possible. At the end of the day though I would hold that such a set is likely consisting of questions solely of what lies beyond our ability to measure, that is they concern that which pertains to things beyond our universe in a material sense, if such can be said to exist. This would seem likely to be fundamentally beyond our ability to measure, although I'm not even going to state that for definite. There will always be questions, but such questions should be rooted in reason, how did the universe come into existence is a reasonable question, what came before, if there was a before is reasonable, even if we may never be able to know the answer, these are at least valid questions. However without evidence or at least showing that such is consistent with what we do know, no solution should even be accepted as more than idle musing. However within what we can study, the scientific method is the product of human thought through the ages, it represents an evolution of rational techniques in the natural selection of the academic world, it is the fittest method to investigate the world have been formed from the crucible of earlier problems.

    This is why it is SO important to study in accordance with it.

    [/B]
    I do not propose to shout back because I agree with most of that. But, the reason it is worth remembering that we are making models is precisely within science. The century we have had to try to understand the quantum world should have demonstrated that actually all is not as it appears to be at the surface. The surface is full of space actually. And we model what we think must be going on at a scale we can never perceive directly. So rationale is good but keep in mind our model might turn out to need drastic overhaul.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    I agree, but also remember that the reason we came to know about quantum in the first place is because existing theory didn't fit the evidence, we had to change our minds about the very small becuase they didn;t fir the theories we had. The fact that the evidence didn't match was due reason to ask the questions, the same with when Einstein considered the problem of light and came up with relativity from the evidence, the evidence gave us the answers, much though I would have preferred it personally had something more easy to understand and every day as Newton's laws of motion had been the case, the evidence showed otherwise. This is the essense of the scientific method, what we think currently may be incorrect, but through correct study we will find that out.

    However whilst it is very easy to draw the conclusion that because it might be proven wrong in the future, we have no reason to believe anything we know now is correct, this is in itself erroneous and perverse, we have no reason to assume anything is not the ultimate answer until we have evidence to the contrary.

    To go somewhat allegorical for a second: Innocent until shown to be guilty. This works both ways here. With evidence we can show something to be correct, lack of evidence weakens the case. SO in context, evidence strengthens the case, a lack of evidence to the contrary weakens the case to the contrary.
    Last edited by malaidas; 2014-Sep-12 at 11:23 AM.

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    That specific point is something I had to really deal with when making the final transition from Deist to Agnostic/Atheist. Its rather easy to naively use perverse logic to show that because we know that in all probability one or more concepts in the current model will prove to be incorrect based upon historical evidence and because you don;t know which will be so, you should doubt everything and thus give an equal bias to all theories, allowing supernatural phenomena into the equation, to what extent such a term can ever have any meaning. This is erroneous. The likelihoods are not equal, their not even in the same ball park, in many cases not in the same galaxy. New fringe theories are much more likely to be proven wrong than the well proven theories closer to the centre. Sure any one of them could be proven wrong, but the more the evidence to support the increasingly less likely such becomes, to the point where you can say the likelihood is so negligible that its proven beyond reasonable doubt.

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    Coming back to models though. the reson for models, i.e. model determined reality is to remove inane questions from consideration, through axiomatic decisions, this agree with. The thing is they were fundamentally sensible axioms, that observation had shown to be true till now without violation, they have remained that way. For instance that reality consists of a set of immutable laws that can be understood.


    The Model is simply pragmatically choosing the fundamentally more likely, from the evidence and beause we cannot show it definitively to be universally true, we have, these are forming the axioms of the science model. hey are minimal and reasonable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by malaidas View Post
    That specific point is something I had to really deal with when making the final transition from Deist to Agnostic/Atheist. Its rather easy to naively use perverse logic to show that because we know that in all probability one or more concepts in the current model will prove to be incorrect based upon historical evidence and because you don;t know which will be so, you should doubt everything and thus give an equal bias to all theories, allowing supernatural phenomena into the equation, to what extent such a term can ever have any meaning. This is erroneous. The likelihoods are not equal, their not even in the same ball park, in many cases not in the same galaxy. New fringe theories are much more likely to be proven wrong than the well proven theories closer to the centre. Sure any one of them could be proven wrong, but the more the evidence to support the increasingly less likely such becomes, to the point where you can say the likelihood is so negligible that its proven beyond reasonable doubt.
    Yes there are strong tested theories and weak poorly tested theories, but that is not the central point here. The question of natural or supernatural causes underlying all the evidence, has no evidence. It is a question you cannot allocate probabilities to, you just make up your mind to believe one or the other. The fundamental issues of "how does it all work" remain unsolved and no matter how much we discover and refine our standard model or other models, that underlying agnostic, cannot know, situation remains. I do not doubt your introspection at all but I think it is worth pointing out that there remains that problem for us all. The deeper we go into the "weird" properties of the quantum world the more clear that problem becomes, I suggest.

    I will grant you from a personal perspective agnositicism is not a "don't know, can't know" place between two simple alternatives. It is not a binary switch between atheism and theism, there are an infinity of mid-way possibilities that we cannot know about.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Yes there are strong tested theories and weak poorly tested theories, but that is not the central point here. The question of natural or supernatural causes underlying all the evidence, has no evidence. It is a question you cannot allocate probabilities to, you just make up your mind to believe one or the other. The fundamental issues of "how does it all work" remain unsolved and no matter how much we discover and refine our standard model or other models, that underlying agnostic, cannot know, situation remains. I do not doubt your introspection at all but I think it is worth pointing out that there remains that problem for us all. The deeper we go into the "weird" properties of the quantum world the more clear that problem becomes, I suggest.

    I will grant you from a personal perspective agnositicism is not a "don't know, can't know" place between two simple alternatives. It is not a binary switch between atheism and theism, there are an infinity of mid-way possibilities that we cannot know about.
    I agree with all of this, but the safest answer to something we don't have evidence for is surely to simply admit we don't know rather than proposing answers as fact for which we have no way to verify. However so long as people proposing such maintain that its just a hypothesis, it might possibly true, but other possibilities could be true as well, I don;t have a true problem, its not claiming knowledge. However the problem comes for me at least when someone starts claiming to know that which they cannot demonstrate with evidence and show that it is the simplest and preferably only answer to fit the facts.

    Obviously here however the fact that evidence is of varying strength must also be taken into account, direct evidence is stronger than inferred evidence, is much stronger than rational extrapolation, is much much stronger than philosophical wondering.
    Last edited by malaidas; 2014-Sep-12 at 03:18 PM.

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    Taken to philosophical absurdity however, this can lead you to doubt everything, from the grounding of that we don;t know for certain we cannot be said to know, this however is a pointless position to take. We need only take a few meaningful steps as I've mentioned elsewhere to free ourselves from this and get on with meaningful investigation, from descarte, I must exist, from the fact I am not in control of the world I percieve something else must also exist and there is no reason to suggest that, that is not the world around me.

    At some point we may have to accept that we are unable to investigate the truth of something and thus its an unknown, but that is a different class of unknown, its a reasonable admission.

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    We seem to agree. One point of the agnostic stand, is indeed to be doubtful, but also to accept some evidence as possible. A true atheist must reject any hint of external agency in a dogmatic way. I think that is Dawkins' position. But it is not "reasonable"
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Perhaps, but Dawkins' theory does at least have the merit of matching the properties we observe in our particular universe, we do observe that simple comes first and that simple things then build complex things, this at least doesn't violate anything we do know. However I agree that it is dangerous to start arguing this as truth, to be honest we don't even know for certain that there is a question to answer about what is outside, except for the apparent problem of 'fine tuning' which could itself show to be a red herring, we don't even know that things could be other than they are, perhaps in nature that is the only value the constants can take.

    On the other hand, Dawkins' main drive here would seem to be sociological rather than philosophical, this however is not something to discuss further here.

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    I think the big problem with trying to understand anything about constants is that their existence can only be really inferred from the mathematics, do we even know what they really are or to put it another way what gives rise to them? Without knowing this we can never properly answer the question, is there a question to ask? The problem would seem that they probably aren't amenable to direct investigation by the very nature of them being constant in the first place. However in order to even say that there really is a fine tuning question to answer we surely first have to be able to say for definite that they could have been different but aren't. With respect to this I would say that at the current moment, any such serious debate is premature. one could try to argue here that what is not impossible is mandatory, but this is my point, we don;t know that its possible, we can;t know that unless we know what they actually are in the first place, if they actually exist in any sort of physical way at all and are not just an artifact of the laws being the way they are, which would simply move the question I guess, to could the laws have been different that how they are?

    {EDIT}

    In fact the more I think about this, the more I realise that iot would seem to make more sense that they cannot in fact be different, its all just conjecture but we have to ask the question why are the laws constant in the first place, why do they hold throughout space and time? The simplest answer is that they cannot change, and the simplest reason for why they cannot change is that there is nothing for them to change to. Otherwise we have to find a reason why they don't change, given that what is not impossible is mandatory and that to solve infinite regression with causality the only feasible answer is that at some point causality breaks down, (we see some evidence of this at the quantum level so its not just simply hand waving) there would have to be a deeper law to explain why they do not fluctuate at all. Again I add this is simply conjecture but it does I hope illustrate why any fine tuning argument is pointless at the moment, until the ebove can be shown to be incorrect.
    Last edited by malaidas; 2014-Sep-12 at 06:00 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    A true atheist must reject any hint of external agency in a dogmatic way. I think that is Dawkins' position. But it is not "reasonable"
    No, that is not accurate, or reasonable. That is adding a whole lot of extra baggage to a very simple term. Atheists, as in people, are as varied as any other category of people you could define, but to warrant being labeled an atheist requires only a lack of belief in deities. It most definitely does not require the rejection of any hint of external agency. As for actual atheist people, though I am sure some do actually fit the ancient stereotype you use here, that is not the norm. The norm is a person who tends to aportion their beliefs based on their understanding of the best evidence available, and who is leary of relying on preferences and feelings when considering the validity of beliefs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darrell View Post
    Atheists, as in people, are as varied as any other category of people you could define, but to warrant being labeled an atheist requires only a lack of belief in deities.
    Unfortunately, there are a small amount of vocal atheists giving atheists a bad name. They should probably be best called antitheists.

    I think Freethinker or Pastafarian is probably a better option. Pastafarianism is even officially recognized as a religion in Oklahoma.

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    Let's not get hung again on the difference between agnostism and atheism, people take slightly different meanings because 2 words are trying to represent a whole spectrum of belief systems. Neither of which would say they know a God exists so it's just a matter of to what extent you feel Certain you. Can definitively say that.

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