PDA

View Full Version : What really are time, space and reality?



Pages : [1] 2

cosmocrazy
2010-Jul-27, 03:36 PM
Yes, to keep it germane to the OP, all I'm saying is that whether or not superluminal travel always leads to time travel, or whether it only leads to time travel in more complicated scenarios (relevant also to the discussion with undidly), depends on how seriously one takes the standard special-relativistic language on the topic of global simultaneity. The (u/c)*(v/c) > 1 requirement that came up in regard to time travel applies to the unambiguous (invariant) version of time travel (where you go back and meet your younger self), whereas only u/c > 1 is required to have time travel in the context of the Einstein global simultaneity convention.

So does this not lead us to ask the question of what time, space and reality really are? Or are we missing something in the theory, why other than causality there appears to be constraints to how and at what relative speed any information can be exchanged?

If its ok with the OP'er I would be interested in reading any continued discussion between KenG and Grant on this subject. :)

Swift
2010-Jul-27, 04:25 PM
This post and new thread were split off from the travel backwards in time thread (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?p=1768422&page=2#post1768422).

ShinAce
2010-Jul-27, 06:22 PM
The more I study physics, the less I understand the basics.

I used to think I knew what space and time really 'are', but now I have no clue. Nor do I know what mass, or energy, or quantum spin, or a photon, 'are'.

Best of luck on your quest!

Cougar
2010-Jul-27, 06:50 PM
So does this not lead us to ask the question of what time, space and reality really are?

Not exactly an easy question. Sean Carroll's 2010 book From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time looks to be quite good.

Then Penrose's The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe would probably get you a little closer to the answer... but only asymptotically. ;)

Ken G
2010-Jul-27, 11:16 PM
Yes I'd love to read both those books. Anyone who has, and can cherry pick relevant issues for this thread, would be welcome to do so!

Ken G
2010-Jul-27, 11:24 PM
So does this not lead us to ask the question of what time, space and reality really are?Absolutely-- in some sense, that's the ultimate payoff. After all, how many of us really need to know in our daily lives what happens when you exceed, or even approach, the speed of light? But if we can use this knowledge to get a better understanding of what space and time are, then we have something.


Or are we missing something in the theory, why other than causality there appears to be constraints to how and at what relative speed any information can be exchanged?
I'm not sure the problem is that we're missing something in the theory, I think the problem is that we added something that the theory is trying to tell us we need to get rid of. A key message of relativity is that reality is "something simpler" than we thought it was-- we thought that if you had two particles in empty space, then you had two velocities there, but relativity tells us you have only one velocity there. But there are also ways that reality is "something more complicated" than we thought it was-- we used to think that if you had two particles in empty space, you had only one time there, but now we know you have two (the proper times of each particle). And as for the concept of two distant events being "simultaneous", I think relativity is pretty clear that this concept has much "less" meaning than we thought-- all it really means is that neither event could be a cause of the other, and there is a whole class of events with that relationship, none of which are singled out as being "actually simultaneous" and none of which are even "simultaneous for a given observer." Those concepts are not physically real, they were always just make believe ideas that we imagined were incorporated into the reality but which reality has not admitted any connection to.

Ken G
2010-Jul-27, 11:25 PM
I used to think I knew what space and time really 'are', but now I have no clue.
Then the veil has lifted!

forrest noble
2010-Jul-29, 08:44 PM
cosmocrazy,


what time, space and reality really are? Or are we missing something in the theory, why other than causality there appears to be constraints to how and at what relative speed any information can be exchanged?

Of course there is no universally accepted answer(s) to this relatively simple question(s) but I'll go with what I think follows O'ccam's Razor ( the simplest answer............) For reality, I'll vote for matter in its various forms, including its relative motion which we call energy, and the ZPF with waves and entities contained within it, in whatever forms we eventually discover as its true nature. Also probably black holes of one sort or another having various sizes, and possibly other presently hypothetical entities. Reality also must include time and space. For space I'll go with the volume which matter occupies, and for time I'll go with "an interval of change in the condition of reality," which we presently measure concerning changes of atomic motions in atomic clocks.

AriAstronomer
2010-Jul-30, 12:45 PM
I'm not really sure how much faith I'd put in Occam's razor these days, and I think that there are plenty of valid explanations of events that are not simple, but here's my take on space, time, and reality. I think that space and time are nothing more than domains. They are the containers in which all the laws of physics we know can operate in. For instance, since the singularity of a black hole is outside of this domain, it is impossible to predict what goes on there, and whether any forces of nature even penetrate there.

As far as what reality is, I think that is something that can be argued about until the cows come home. How do you even know that 'reality' is the same for me as it is to you? Why is it that you are smart, and are able to grasp complex physics concepts while a snake for instance, no matter how hard you try to sit him down and teach him, will never learn QM? Obviously, you must be living in a different reality than the snake. He just...isnt on the same plane of existence as yourself. Reality, like special relativity, is relative. I don't think there is some universal reality, just the way how there is no universal time frame, there are only perspectives. I suppose one could argue that a possible true universal reality is if one could observe the universe through the eyes of the universe, or observing yourself observing an event, but that is a paradox in itself (what are the eyes of the universe?), and goes in the same realm as a universal 'god' frame of reference in which everything is moving relative to it.

cosmocrazy
2010-Jul-31, 04:21 PM
Thanks folks for the interesting takes on it I know the question can not yet really be answered but it certainly makes you wonder. :)

Nereid
2010-Jul-31, 07:12 PM
I'm not really sure how much faith I'd put in Occam's razor these days, and I think that there are plenty of valid explanations of events that are not simple, but here's my take on space, time, and reality. I think that space and time are nothing more than domains. They are the containers in which all the laws of physics we know can operate in. For instance, since the singularity of a black hole is outside of this domain, it is impossible to predict what goes on there, and whether any forces of nature even penetrate there.

As far as what reality is, I think that is something that can be argued about until the cows come home. How do you even know that 'reality' is the same for me as it is to you? Why is it that you are smart, and are able to grasp complex physics concepts while a snake for instance, no matter how hard you try to sit him down and teach him, will never learn QM? Obviously, you must be living in a different reality than the snake. He just...isnt on the same plane of existence as yourself. Reality, like special relativity, is relative. I don't think there is some universal reality, just the way how there is no universal time frame, there are only perspectives. I suppose one could argue that a possible true universal reality is if one could observe the universe through the eyes of the universe, or observing yourself observing an event, but that is a paradox in itself (what are the eyes of the universe?), and goes in the same realm as a universal 'god' frame of reference in which everything is moving relative to it.(bold added)

Extend this the other way ... is it possible that there is some intelligence, some sentient being - or whatever - for whom we are like the snake? Does such an entity have an understanding of reality, some analogue to our QM, that we *cannot* grasp, no matter how hard this entity tries to dumb it down and explain?

Ken G
2010-Jul-31, 10:35 PM
Extend this the other way ... is it possible that there is some intelligence, some sentient being - or whatever - for whom we are like the snake? Does such an entity have an understanding of reality, some analogue to our QM, that we *cannot* grasp, no matter how hard this entity tries to dumb it down and explain?I think it would be the most astonishing and profound thing I ever heard if this were not true. Our physics and astronomy is not built for "the universe", it is built for our ability to interact with and understand the universe. Perhaps you could even take that the next step, as AriAstronomer does, and say it is built for our universe.

EDG
2010-Jul-31, 10:59 PM
Maybe we need a new forum for philosophical questions...

Strange
2010-Jul-31, 11:13 PM
I'm not really sure how much faith I'd put in Occam's razor these days, and I think that there are plenty of valid explanations of events that are not simple

Occam's razor doesn't say that things should be simple just that they should not be any more complicated than necessary.

forrest noble
2010-Aug-01, 12:26 AM
AriAstronomer, Strange


Occam's razor doesn't say that things should be simple just that they should not be any more complicated than necessary.

Einstein had a funny and clever quote regarding this matter: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Ken G
2010-Aug-01, 12:28 AM
Maybe we need a new forum for philosophical questions...Or a new forum for those who can't tolerate them.

forrest noble
2010-Aug-01, 12:31 AM
EDG,


Maybe we need a new forum for philosophical questions
Like yourself, many believe such questions are philosophical in nature which is not a bad thing. If not today, I think some day the answers to these questions will have valid and maybe simple, generally accepted answers in Physics.

forrest noble
2010-Aug-01, 01:02 AM
Cosmocrazy,


why other than causality (does) there appear(s) to be constraints to how and at what relative speed (any) information can be exchanged?

parenthesis added

Of course this is not just relative speed, in present theory the speed of light is not relative but absolute for each time frame. To speculate why this speed is a constant would probably be dependent on the character of the ZPF that this EM radiation is traveling through. If the ZPF contains entities of some kind that could control wave speed then that would seemingly explain this limit based upon a uniform density of this entity(s). Known physical entities in this medium are electron neutrinos (and other maybe short lived neutrinos), photons galore, virtual particles, and a number of theorized entities such as the Higgs particle, dark matter, gravitons, "the texture of space," quantum froth, dark matter, dark energy, etc. Any of these or combinations thereof or undiscovered entities of some kind, might control the speed of EM radiation, or conduct it.

Len Moran
2010-Aug-01, 06:24 AM
Maybe we need a new forum for philosophical questions...

Hence, just as the philosopher who takes interest in the problem of reality may hardly ignore what the physicist has to say, similarly the physicist aiming at being more than a technician in physics nowadays can hardly escape having to cope with philosophical questions.

…..Bernard d’Espagnat (on Physics and Philosophy, 2006)

peterf
2010-Aug-01, 11:23 AM
Maybe we need a new forum for philosophical questions...

it certainly is not baut. i raised the issue of the importance of consciousness (as a prerequisite) in science in a thread (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/105908-Astronomy-what-can-we-know?p=1769316#post1769316) and i was told by a mod to stop bringing it up. it was made clear that baut was not the forum for it. the way he worded it, it is was not the decision of one mis-guided mod but one that was made "after moderator discussion". i could hardly believe it, but after what i have seen otherwise on baut i guess it shouldn't have come as a surprise...

EDG
2010-Aug-01, 08:20 PM
EDG,

Like yourself, many believe such questions are philosophical in nature which is not a bad thing. If not today, I think some day the answers to these questions will have valid and maybe simple, generally accepted answers in Physics.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I'm just saying the answers to these kinds of questions are more philosophical than scientific. We don't know what time, space, or reality are. We don't even know what space-time is. What is the fabric of the universe? Nobody knows. Someday we'll probably be able to directly observe and measure it, but right now we can't. Currently, this is all "New Scientist" fodder, full of fringe theories and untestable ideas. Yet these questions get asked here all the time.

Nereid
2010-Aug-01, 08:32 PM
it certainly is not baut. i raised the issue of the importance of consciousness (as a prerequisite) in science in a thread (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/105908-Astronomy-what-can-we-know?p=1769316#post1769316) and i was told by a mod to stop bringing it up. it was made clear that baut was not the forum for it. the way he worded it, it is was not the decision of one mis-guided mod but one that was made "after moderator discussion". i could hardly believe it, but after what i have seen otherwise on baut i guess it shouldn't have come as a surprise...
FWIW, consciousness is, arguably, well beyond the explicit scope of BAUT ... astronomy (astrophysics, cosmology) and space science (with planetary science thrown in for good measure).

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-02, 07:12 AM
Yes I'd love to read both those books. Anyone who has, and can cherry pick relevant issues for this thread, would be welcome to do so!

From Penrose's book, chapter 34.6:


..I do not believe that we have yet found the true "road to reality", despite the extraordinary progress that has been made over the two and one half millennia, particularly in the last few centuries. Some fundamentally new insights are certainly needed. Yet, some readers may well take the view that the road itself might be a mirage. True - so they might argue - we have been fortunate enough to stumble upon mathematical schemes that accord with Nature in remarkable ways, but the unity of Nature as a a whole with some mathematical scheme can be no more than a "pipe dream". Others might take the view that the very notion of a "physical reality" with a truly objective nature, independent of how we might choose to look at it, is itself a pipe dream.


Indeed, we may well ask: what is physical reality? This is a question that has been posed for thousands of years, and philosophers throughout the ages have attempted various types of answer. Today, we look back, from our vantage point of modern science, and claim to take a more sober position. Rather than attempting to answer the "what" question, most modern scientists would try to evade it. They would argue that the question has been wrongly posed: we should not try to ask what reality is; merely how does it behave.


Yet, many readers will no doubt feel that this is a somewhat disappointing answer - a "cop out", no less. To know how the contents of universe behave does not seem to tell us very much what it is that is doing the behaving. This "what?" question is intimately connected with another deep and ancient question, namely "why?". Why do things in our universe behave in the particular way that they do? But without knowing what these things are, it is hard to see why they should do one thing instead of another."

astromark
2010-Aug-02, 08:24 AM
Time.... the measure of interval between events. Any and all.

Space.... All of that above our atmosphere that is not matter.

Reality.... The fact of anything. Not fiction.

................mark. Watching a clear sky.

Cougar
2010-Aug-02, 01:17 PM
Time.... the measure of interval between events. Any and all.

Yes, but this leaves out the curious fact that we remember the past, but not the future. Time seems to have a direction....

Ken G
2010-Aug-02, 01:31 PM
From Penrose's book, chapter 34.6:
Nice quotes. Note that Penrose is a mathematician, who also knows an enormous amount of physics. Even the mathematicians can philosophize!

forrest noble
2010-Aug-02, 06:09 PM
I'm just saying the answers to these kinds of questions are more philosophical than scientific.

We don't even know what space-time is.

quote snippits

I am voting for this space-time explanation/ definition:

Motions of galaxies are relative one to the other therefore we can't, by using Cartesian coordinates alone, really define any point(s) in space as being an absolute position. Only if one develops a co-ordinate system adding the additional dimension of time can we really explain any position in space. Take a position is space halfway between two galaxies, for instance. These galaxies are moving, at least to some extent one relative to the other, and both relative to the background of galaxies. Relative to what could we continue to define this same point/ position in space in the future? The background of galaxies alone would be far too imprecise to define an exact position. If however we included vector changes concerning relative motions with nearby galaxies and the background of galaxies over a given time interval into a coordinate system, we could then have a fair idea (by calculation) of the location of an actual point in space at any particular point in time in the present, future, or past ( relative to these "nearby" galaxies) that would describe spacetime according to Minkowsky mathematics.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-02, 06:16 PM
Time.... the measure of interval between events. Any and all.

Space.... All of that above our atmosphere that is not matter.

Reality.... The fact of anything. Not fiction.

................mark. Watching a clear sky.

Not trying to be argumentative... but I think we have to recognize that space is not simply that which exists "above our atmosphere". If I hold my hands an arm's width apart, there is space between them, no? Likewise there is space between atoms, between nucleus and electrons, etc, etc.
Wiki has an interesting definition: "Space is the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction.[1] Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of the boundless four-dimensional continuum known as spacetime."

Elsewhere on this forum a member posited that space is what keep two simultaneous events from happening at the same place. ...interesting in it's simplicity, I think.

Interesting.... the interval between two events.... interesting that Websters defines "interval" as either an intervening period of time, OR as a space between things. Utilizing this definition I could substitute space or time into the definition and it still works.
space=the interval between two events
time=the interval between two events

*shudder* ... crazy place we live in, eh?

Shaula
2010-Aug-02, 08:03 PM
*shudder* ... crazy place we live in, eh?
That's why any creature advanced enough to start really thinking about the universe will automatically invent beer (or an analogue) in order to deal with it (Shaula's second law)

forrest noble
2010-Aug-02, 08:49 PM
BarTrip,


.........modern physicists usually consider(s) (space), with time, to be part of the boundless four-dimensional continuum known as spacetime.

parenthesis added

General Relativity considers space as bounded by a fourth physical dimensional warp created by the matter of the universe. This is why it is said that the universe has no center to it. Many other modern theories like many versions of the Big Bang, for instance, consider space as bounded by the confines of matter which accordingly is finite. When you quote some place like Wiki, you can't go wrong . You can just say, which you did, that according to Wiki's definition of space (or any XYZ link), space is a continuum.

Shaula,


........any creature advanced enough to start really thinking about the universe will automatically invent beer (or an analogue) in order to deal with it (Shaula's second law)

Thanks for putting that in my mind. Now I have to go to the store. Or I might just misspell BadTrip instead writing BarTrip.

Ken G
2010-Aug-02, 10:38 PM
space=the interval between two events
time=the interval between two events
That's why there's spacetime. The equation of relativity is spacetime = the interval between two events. (Or more accurately: the metric on spacetime = the interval between two events, and it is called proper time or proper distance.)

astromark
2010-Aug-02, 10:56 PM
It is my observation that this answer can be far more complex than is necessary. ,

but should not be simpler than facts dictate.. and thank you 'Albert.'

You mention the direction of time... No. That is a interpretation mistake. Perception is governed by relativity.

From the place you perceive... You have said this yourself.... often.

Clearly my perception of time space is as yours...

There is little if anything wrong with the points being made about what space is...

But I must note, that the future is not yet here. For the moment we get there it has become the present.

The future is always just beyond us...

and any further down this path gets me into philosophy. I am ill equipped to go there...

lostgalaxy
2010-Aug-03, 02:14 AM
Is it possible that they are interchangeable?

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-03, 06:41 AM
But I must note, that the future is not yet here. For the moment we get there it has become the present.

Yet what is the present? The border between past and present of 0 duration. Does the present even exist?

AriAstronomer
2010-Aug-03, 09:43 AM
To gzhpcu,
I have often thought about that many times, except, instead of asking does the present really exist, I have been asking do the past and future really exist? When you really think about it (or at least when I do), everything is always now. You have memories of the past, and predictions of the future, but the only thing you really have proof of is the now. You may think of the present as little discrete singularities of time, and one jumps from one to the next like a frog on lily pads, but I think it's more likely that the future and past are illusions, and there is only the present. Everything is always 'the now'.

Although unlikely, how do you really know for sure that you haven't been living for 5 seconds, and all your memories are nothing but illusions programmed into your mind (I didn't come up with this idea myself, I've heard it, maybe from a Hawking lecture, not 100% sure though)? Our memories trick us all the time, and there have been studies that show that many of your childhood memories have been fabricated or altered by your own mind when recalling them years later. I think it's more likely the present is the only thing that exists vs. the future/past.

Spoons
2010-Aug-03, 10:25 AM
That's kind of how I've naturally thought of it really, myself. Then time is pretty much just the ingredient needed to give life to the rules of the relationships between things.

Is the standard belief really much different from that and if so, how? I'd expect most difference of opinion to be just in perspective and emphasis, but if there's more to it than that I'd like to know.

astromark
2010-Aug-03, 10:39 AM
BadTrip... yes the space between your molecular structure, or your hands is space... but do you not think you are nit picking just a bit.

This is not a question about what fills the void between electrons and nuclei or my empty head.

Space to those of us that are the slightest bit interested in astronomy is all of that which for all intent is empty airless voids between things.

That it may never be as empty as we thought is a given. Photons and all asunder bits of electromagnetic particles zipping about...

astromark
2010-Aug-03, 10:48 AM
Yet what is the present? The border between past and present of 0 duration. Does the present even exist?

Yes it does... at the present time I am making a regular clicking sound...

That by the time you read this that which was this present time will be assigned to history.

The meaning of the word 'present' can mean a millennium or a moment... now I am being pedantic...

I understand you are talking of a planked length of time.

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-03, 11:51 AM
Spacetime is subject to the jitters of quantum uncertainty. Our image of spacetime emerges from an averaging process which presents a smooth picture of spacetime at our macro level. While we can arbitrarily subdivide spacetime, at the microlevel the violent fluctuations do not allow dissection into smaller pieces. So maybe there is a elemental constituent of spacetime.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-03, 01:40 PM
BadTrip... yes the space between your molecular structure, or your hands is space... but do you not think you are nit picking just a bit.

This is not a question about what fills the void between electrons and nuclei or my empty head.

Space to those of us that are the slightest bit interested in astronomy is all of that which for all intent is empty airless voids between things.

That it may never be as empty as we thought is a given. Photons and all asunder bits of electromagnetic particles zipping about...

Astromark,
It was not my intent to nitpick your statement sir. If it was offensive to you I apologize and didn't mean to come across as snippy, curt, or surly.
I was, however, attempting to broaden the discussion parameters a bit. Perhaps the OP did mean space in the terms you specified... to me there should be another, more specific term...maybe "outer space" or something along those lines, as opposed to "inner space"...or more appropriately I suppose, "quantum space".
What I really was trying to get to was this....is there inherently a difference in what's between two stars versus what's between two atomic nuclei?

BadTrip
2010-Aug-03, 01:44 PM
BadTrip... yes the space between your molecular structure, or your hands is space... but do you not think you are nit picking just a bit.

This is not a question about what fills the void between electrons and nuclei or my empty head.

Space to those of us that are the slightest bit interested in astronomy is all of that which for all intent is empty airless voids between things.

That it may never be as empty as we thought is a given. Photons and all asunder bits of electromagnetic particles zipping about...

Sorry Astromark, I meant to include this is my previous post... you speak of the definition of space as it applies, or as it is relevant to, those users who are interested in astronomy. I would not argue with that point at all. I suppsoe we are discussing this in the space and astronomy forum, eh?
Again, no intent to be abrasive.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-03, 01:46 PM
Is it possible that they are interchangeable?

That is what's being discussed in another thread on this forum.
http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/106433-Cosmological-Models-with-No-Big-Bang-is-this-a-valid-model-being-considered

Quite interesting discussion .... from my frame of reference anyway. :)

BadTrip
2010-Aug-03, 01:52 PM
Yes it does... at the present time I am making a regular clicking sound...

That by the time you read this that which was this present time will be assigned to history.

The meaning of the word 'present' can mean a millennium or a moment... now I am being pedantic...

I understand you are talking of a planked length of time.

Do you imply then, that there is a universal/global "present"?

BadTrip
2010-Aug-03, 02:03 PM
Spacetime is subject to the jitters of quantum uncertainty. Our image of spacetime emerges from an averaging process which presents a smooth picture of spacetime at our macro level. While we can arbitrarily subdivide spacetime, at the microlevel the violent fluctuations do not allow dissection into smaller pieces. So maybe there is a elemental constituent of spacetime.

You're implying that time does not "flow"...that it is not "analog" so to speak... but digital... that time moves in discrete packets/quanta for want of a proper term. yes?

forrest noble
2010-Aug-03, 02:42 PM
gzhpcu,


Yet what is the present? The border between past and present of 0 duration. Does the present even exist?

Of course the present is a time frame related to the definition of time, but not time itself. As to the concept and definition of time I voted for this one: Time is "an interval of change" in the condition of reality. There are two emphases here. The words charge and the word interval. We presently define time in classical physics as measured changes which occur within an atom such as an atomic clock which appears to be very accurate. The second word is interval. One needs two time frames and a standard (a clock of some kind) to measure the changes in the interval between time frames compared to a standard, to determine the quantity of time that has elapsed.

A time frame is a point within time but not time itself, just like a point within space is not space itself (which can be equated to a volume or distance). The present is a concept involving a point in time between two time intervals, the past and the future, of zero duration concerning changes. The past can be simply defined as everything that has happened, all changes, before the present. And the future can be defined as a continuum of changes that will proceed the present. The future is not time either. One might call it the vector extensions of changes being perpetuated in the time interval which includes the present as its ending point.

Since time could be equated to change, the "present" could be equated to a snapshot that immediately precedes the interval of time of changes that we define/ describe as the past.

Nereid
2010-Aug-03, 02:52 PM
gzhpcu,



Of course the present is a time frame related to the definition of time, but not time itself. As to the concept and definition of time I voted for this one: Time is "an interval of change" in the condition of reality. There are two emphases here. The words charge and the word interval. We presently define time in classical physics as measured changes which occur within an atom such as an atomic clock which appears to be very accurate. The second word is interval. One needs two time frames and a standard (a clock of some kind) to measure the changes in the interval between time frames compared to a standard, to determine the quantity of time that has elapsed.

A time frame is a point within time but not time itself, just like a point within space is not space itself (which can be equated to a volume or distance). The present is a concept involving a point in time between two time intervals, the past and the future, of zero duration concerning changes. The past can be simply defined as everything that has happened, all changes, before the present. And the future can be defined as a continuum of changes that will proceed the present. The future is not time either. One might call it the vector extensions of changes being perpetuated in the time interval which includes the present as its ending point.

Since time could be equated to change, the "present" could be equated to a snapshot that immediately precedes the interval of time of changes that we define/ describe as the past.
Does this mean that if no change is observed, no time has elapsed?

Also, how does this concept deal with quantum indeterminacy?

forrest noble
2010-Aug-03, 03:29 PM
Hi Nereid,


Does this mean that if no change is observed, no time has elapsed?

According to the definition of time which I voted for, changes can occur whether they can be observed or not. But one could say that time does not elapse/ pass if no changes of any kind occur. Accordingly there would be no time/ change interval involved.


quantum indeterminacy?

As you know, quantum indeterminacy is an important concept of Quantum Theory. Time is measured by a standard, a clock of some kind, which determines its passing. Whether or not we could determine changes which occurred within specific atoms, or otherwise, during a measured interval using a standard (atomic clock), we could still say that during that interval, whereby we could not determine specific changes, that exactly X amount of time had passed according to our standard measuring tool, the atomic clock. As to any time frame that we are observing and its relative motion to us, time could have a different standard and rate of its passing concerning an atomic clock (or atomic changes of some kind) within that time frame, as explained by Special Relativity.

WaxRubiks
2010-Aug-03, 04:54 PM
I think Douglas Adams was onto something with his idea about the Earth being a giant organic computer that was supposed to work out the answer to life the Universe and everything, except this whole Universe, and the whole of reality is working on this problem...The whole, of time and space and dimensions, and things that are beyond our present understanding, or comprehensions, are all working on the problem...any problem, all problems...and it has been going on for eternity, even outside time......time and space are just the tools of the job...the more answers reality finds the more questions there are to answer..the more there is to reality....perhaps the real answer is just to hang the sense of it and just enjoy yourself...



Slartibartfast: Science has achieved some wonderful things, I know, but I'd far rather be happy than right any day.
Arthur Dent: And are you?
Slartibartfast: No. That's where it all falls down, of course.
Arthur Dent: Pity, it sounded like rather a good lifestyle otherwise.

Ken G
2010-Aug-03, 05:22 PM
I think Douglas Adams was onto something with his idea about the Earth being a giant organic computer that was supposed to work out the answer to life the Universe and everything, except this whole Universe, and the whole of reality is working on this problem...I think you've actually managed to do Douglas Adams one better: some multi-dimensional beings started relying heavily on computers, so they decided to try and figure out what computers are really doing. However, each time they made a computer that could figure out what some other computer was doing, they ended up with a more sophisticated computer that they then had to figure out, spawning yet another even more sophisticated computer. At some point the computers became so sophisticated that they began to present with semi-autonomous pre-sentient sub-processes, which became an even greater mystery for the multi-dimensional beings to try and understand. The unresolvable paradoxes of trying to build an intelligence that could understand intelligence caused the creators to ultimately to go insane with frustration, and wander off mumbling into the higher dimensions, leaving behind their final effort: the computer we now affectionately refer to as our own universe.

Swift
2010-Aug-03, 06:58 PM
This was from the beginning a rather philosophic topic for Q&A. I've moved the whole thing to Astronomy.

If someone has a better idea for location... well, you know the drill.

astromark
2010-Aug-03, 08:06 PM
You are right 'Swift'... It might have started as a simple question.. 'What really are time, space, and reality ?

But has become a little self indulgent.. Naval gazing... but still true to the question.

I too think Douglas Adams was right. ... Yes 'BadTrip' at the present time..I agree with you., and enjoy the debate.

We seem to have a perception of what time is.. It comes, it goes, it flows... relentlessly, regardless or in spite of our reasoning.

That space is both a quantum fact and a reality.

Now what is a reality ? I will offer a fact of science or theroum as supported as factual. Not fiction.

Boratssister
2010-Aug-03, 09:02 PM
Well here's my stab at it- space time and reality is everything and there is no such thing as nothing.-hence my signature. In the future I believe science will prove that life after death is inevitable as nothing can not exist . This is because if nothing existed then they would be nothing here!
Why is everything -space, time, reality like it is?
Because its the only way it can be........ Any other way just won't work.......

caveman1917
2010-Aug-03, 09:20 PM
So maybe there is a elemental constituent of spacetime.

In this (http://arxiv.org/abs/0911.5004) paper (in the very first pages of it) an argument is put forwards that spacetime can be heated. In the sense that accelerating through flat spacetime will create an horizon, which will then be given a temperature T=k/2pi (with k being the acceleration). Another way would be to arrange for matter to collapse to a black hole, and that horizon will also be ascribed a temperature. It then goes on to claim microstructure of spacetime in the same manner as Boltzman's argument that if a macroscopic entity can be heated, it must have microscopic degrees of freedom to account for that.


Although unlikely, how do you really know for sure that you haven't been living for 5 seconds, and all your memories are nothing but illusions programmed into your mind (I didn't come up with this idea myself, I've heard it, maybe from a Hawking lecture, not 100% sure though)?

Last Thursdayism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Thursdayism#Other_formulations)? :)

Ken G
2010-Aug-04, 12:04 AM
Well here's my stab at it- space time and reality is everything and there is no such thing as nothing.-hence my signature. In the future I believe science will prove that life after death is inevitable as nothing can not exist . This is because if nothing existed then they would be nothing here!You should look up the philosophy of Parmenides, as he believed more or less the same thing. I would point out that even if he was right all this time, we might still have a problem telling what things are "something" that we think can become nothing but actually cannot, and what things are actually "nothing" that we think have become something but have not.

Spoons
2010-Aug-04, 12:47 AM
Just to preserve Boratssister's current signature (which I quite like) for the sake of history (whether it really exists or not, if not, to preserve it for future present moments, AKA Now and Laters), in case it's changed to something like "So, a Pole walks into a bar...", which would then make his post nonsensical (unless you really try, in which case it could be the most profound post ever), here is the current signature:
"Which is more strange?
existing after not existing?or not existing after you existed?"

AriAstronomer
2010-Aug-04, 10:00 AM
Sorry I appologize that my quoting function doesnt work on this stupid computer for some reason...
To Nereid who said:
Does this mean that if no change is observed, no time has elapsed?

Intuition would say that time has elapsed, but when you really think about it, I think if NOTHING was changing, then one could argue time has stopped. Imagine that as far as you can tell from all the senses that make you human that you are frozen in time, aka the stars have stopped moving, everything is staying the same temperature, you are unable to move, your heart is not beating (but somehow you are still conscious to observe the event), then wouldn't you think that time had stopped moving? I think it is impossible to envision a world where something is not changing, but if that were possible, I think one could argue that time had stopped, or at least be fooled into thinking so.

If time were to stop, I wonder what the fate of the photon would be? If I understand it correctly, time doesnt exist for it anyways, and once it hits a source it is instantly absorbed. If time were to stop from our perspective, would we see a beam of light suspended in thin air, or would the world go black?

Ken G
2010-Aug-04, 02:50 PM
If time were to stop from our perspective, would we see a beam of light suspended in thin air, or would the world go black?
If time really stopped for us, then our brain would also stop, so we could not perceive anything. Indeed, we have no way of knowing if time stops for an hour every hour on the hour, or indeed if time speeds up or slows down-- as long as it does so uniformly. So there is no such thing as a demonstrable "rate of flow of time"-- the rate of time is always 1 second per second, by definition. Ergo, time cannot stop uniformly, we have no way to describe, measure, or perceive such a thing. Time is not just change, it is a comparison of change against an arbitrary standard of change.

Can it stop for some objects but not others, so that we could perceive a "stopped" photon by comparing it to "unstopped" ones? I have no idea, but certainly that would require a whole new set of physical laws. You may as well ask what would happen if magicians really could pull rabbits from hats!

BadTrip
2010-Aug-04, 04:08 PM
If time really stopped for us, then our brain would also stop, so we could not perceive anything. Indeed, we have no way of knowing if time stops for an hour every hour on the hour, or indeed if time speeds up or slows down-- as long as it does so uniformly. So there is no such thing as a demonstrable "rate of flow of time"-- the rate of time is always 1 second per second, by definition. Ergo, time cannot stop uniformly, we have no way to describe, measure, or perceive such a thing. Time is not just change, it is a comparison of change against an arbitrary standard of change.

Can it stop for some objects but not others, so that we could perceive a "stopped" photon by comparing it to "unstopped" ones? I have no idea, but certainly that would require a whole new set of physical laws. You may as well ask what would happen if magicians really could pull rabbits from hats!

Wait....... Ken G ............are you implying, sir,...that magicians cannot pull rabbits from their hats?? Are you prepared to defend this theorem of yours? Mods... should this be moved to the ATM forum?

:)

BadTrip
2010-Aug-04, 04:23 PM
...So there is no such thing as a demonstrable "rate of flow of time"-- the rate of time is always 1 second per second, by definition. Ergo, time cannot stop uniformly, we have no way to describe, measure, or perceive such a thing. Time is not just change, it is a comparison of change against an arbitrary standard of change.


Ok ok... all seriousness aside.... Ken G... two questions for you sir...


...Can it stop for some objects but not others, so that we could perceive a "stopped" photon by comparing it to "unstopped" ones? ... .......do we not know, as closely as we can "know" something, that the answer to this question must be a resounding yes? I have read a number of times that you yourself have stated that there is no universal/global "clock"....which I interpret to mean there is no universal/global "time"...or "flow of time". have I misunderstood you each and every time? Time does not pass for a photon, eh? Therefore we already understand that time "stops" for some objects but not for others. ? eh? my head hurts.... but I welcome your comments, observations, and sharing of knowledge on this matter.

And the second question... related to the earlier portion of your statement..."So there is no such thing as a demonstrable "rate of flow of time"-- " .... doesn't the observer define that rate?

Thank you in advance, yet again, for your insight.

Ken G
2010-Aug-04, 04:46 PM
Wait....... Ken G ............are you implying, sir,...that magicians cannot pull rabbits from their hats?? Are you prepared to defend this theorem of yours?
I guess I'm spilling the beans, but if you must know, they really do pull rabbits out of hats, but have joined a magician's conspiracy to pretend that it is all a kind of trick. That way, they can amaze people, without being burned at the stake.
I have read a number of times that you yourself have stated that there is no universal/global "clock"....which I interpret to mean there is no universal/global "time"...or "flow of time". have I misunderstood you each and every time?What I'm saying is that there is no meaningful rate at which time "flows", because a rate is per time. We only have how much time elapsed-- to try and say how long it took to elapse is tautological. "How many apples are there in apple" is the same question, so time cannot stop, any more than an apple could not be an apple (time could stop being time, as an apple could stop being an apple, but then time hasn't stopped, it has stopped being time). We can coordinatize an elapsed time using some other time coordinate, but that's not a rate that time is flowing either, it's just a choice of how to coordinatize it-- we are deciding the rate arbitrarily, like saying there are 60 seconds in a minute. The universe cannot have any insight into what a rate of time is, it's not saying anything.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-04, 05:35 PM
So there is a universal flow of time....but no universal way to measure the rate at which it flows..?

I really am this dense, yes..

Ken G
2010-Aug-04, 05:51 PM
So there is a universal flow of time....but no universal way to measure the rate at which it flows..?

I really am this dense, yes..You're not dense, these are very subtle issues. Any answer here would depend on the theory being used. If we are using relativity, which may be our best idea of how time works at the macroscopic level of human science, then I would say time doesn't "flow" at all. Time is the denominator we use to talk about the rate of other things that flow. The idea that time flows is a kind of illusion created by the way we perceive our experiences (those experiences being the "other things" that flow), but the theory of relativity has no place in it for any concept of flowing time. Time is a lot like distance in relativity-- it is a way to establish a metric (a measurement of progress along a path) for the separation between two events that occur at the same place (by which I mean, that the observer measuring the time is at both events). This is actually called proper time, and is an invariant (something "nature itself" appears to know)-- there is also coordinate time, which is much more arbitrary and is calculated using some chosen chain of observers (often chosen to have no relative motion between them), by accumulating their proper times to connect two events for which none of those observers are at both events.

The metric also extends to events that no single observer could even be at, and then it is called a proper distance instead of a proper time, yet is still invariant. There is also coordinate distance, accumulated by laying rulers end to end rather than using a single observers' ruler, and coordinate distance, like coordinate time, just depends on how you choose those observers (often with no relative motion, again).

Given all this, time is a kind of separation between events, but it does not "flow", nor does it have a "rate". It is a continuously increasing metric along a path, so the fact that it increases steadily allows us to interpret it as a flow, but distance does the same thing-- and can also be interpreted as a flow if we are moving at constant speed, but in that case the speed isn't unity like it is with the "flow of time", it is v/c. What I'm saying is that if we choose to interpret time as flowing, we have no choice but to say it flows at "speed 1"-- 1 second per second. If you use distance units instead of time units, you could say time flows at "speed c", but that's just a unit convention. In relativity, time doesn't flow at all, it just is.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-04, 06:05 PM
"In relativity, time doesn't flow at all, it just is. "

So, based on this perspective, or rendering, of time... would it be agreeable to treat it as simply another coordinate axis? Nothing more or less.
If one could step outside of the system in which we exist, i.e.; where time has no meaning or relevance, it simply becomes one of multiple means by which to reference an event?

Also, you specify that your response is within the theory of relativity. Can you expound upon how one or more different theories would adress these same questions? QM would respond in a different manner?

Ken G
2010-Aug-04, 06:16 PM
"In relativity, time doesn't flow at all, it just is. "

So, based on this perspective, or rendering, of time... would it be agreeable to treat it as simply another coordinate axis? Nothing more or less.Yes, pretty much. It is a little different from the spatial coordinate axes, because it is the axis that the "light cone" centers around, and it is the axis that determines causality-- something "earlier" on the axis can cause something "later." Spatial axes don't have an "arrow" like that. I tend to think of the time axis as being the path through spacetime that observers take, also called "world lines." So there's something special about them, but there's no need to "flow along" them to do the calculations of relativity. Relativity gives the impression that everywhen and everywhere are just parts of a large spacetime "manifold", that we explore sequentially in our own perception, but which the deterministic equations of relativity treat as if they just are. When we do relativity, we are watching the ant crawling on the apple-- the ant might think each part of the apple it encounters is happening for the first time, but from our perspective, the apple was already there. This doesn't mean time is really like that, it's just our best theory for treating the time that we experience as macroscopic creatures.
If one could step outside of the system in which we exist, i.e.; where time has no meaning or relevance, it simply becomes one of multiple means by which to reference an event?


Also, you specify that your response is within the theory of relativity. Can you expound upon how one or more different theories would adress these same questions? QM would respond in a different manner?Yes, QM treats time as a parameter, not an observable. It's a lot different.

Boratssister
2010-Aug-04, 09:19 PM
You should look up the philosophy of Parmenides, as he believed more or less the same thing. I would point out that even if he was right all this time, we might still have a problem telling what things are "something" that we think can become nothing but actually cannot, and what things are actually "nothing" that we think have become something but have not.

can you give some examples ken? And Thankyou for the advice on parmenides-I will take it..

Boratssister
2010-Aug-04, 09:21 PM
Just to preserve Boratssister's current signature (which I quite like) for the sake of history (whether it really exists or not, if not, to preserve it for future present moments, AKA Now and Laters), in case it's changed to something like "So, a Pole walks into a bar...", which would then make his post nonsensical (unless you really try, in which case it could be the most profound post ever), here is the current signature:
"Which is more strange?
existing after not existing?or not existing after you existed?"

I like your signature too!!!!!
It could apply to the whole human race, which is much more profound than mine.

Boratssister
2010-Aug-04, 09:25 PM
If time really stopped for us, then our brain would also stop, so we could not perceive anything. Indeed, we have no way of knowing if time stops for an hour every hour on the hour, or indeed if time speeds up or slows down-- as long as it does so uniformly. So there is no such thing as a demonstrable "rate of flow of time"-- the rate of time is always 1 second per second, by definition. Ergo, time cannot stop uniformly, we have no way to describe, measure, or perceive such a thing. Time is not just change, it is a comparison of change against an arbitrary standard of change.

Can it stop for some objects but not others, so that we could perceive a "stopped" photon by comparing it to "unstopped" ones? I have no idea, but certainly that would require a whole new set of physical laws. You may as well ask what would happen if magicians really could pull rabbits from hats!

So does that mean that time stops when the temperature is absolute zero?

Ken G
2010-Aug-05, 05:05 AM
can you give some examples ken? Parmenides argued on what he felt was purely logical grounds (his contributions came so early that he was partially involved in inventing logic and exploring its limitations) that it is impossible for something to become nothing, and vice versa, and by extension, it was not even possible for something to become something fundamentally different. In short, change is logically impossible, so all examples where change appears to happen must be an illusion of the senses or an error in interpretation. The flip side of this philosophy is that the illusion may come not when something is perceived as changing, but rather, when it was perceived initially as something different from what it would become. In particular, when something appears to end, it may not be the appearance of the end that is an illusion, but rather the idea that the something was ever there in the first place.

In particular, I was applying this principle to your suggestion that life must not end at death. Taking your statement on logical grounds, a la Parmenides (not religious grounds, which is out of bounds), one must allow that if we perceive the existence of an individual, followed by the absence of that individual, and we take Parmenides' thinking as accurate, then we actually have two possibilities: that life continues after death because it is impossible for a person to exist and then not exist, or that the appearance of their death and subsequent lack of existence makes it impossible that the person ever really existed in the first place. What the latter would mean is that their existence would have to be a kind of illusion, exposed upon death. Since there is no reason not to extend that concept to ourselves, we would then allow that our own existence is a kind of illusion.

Now, taking Descartes point to home that "we think therefore we are", it is hard to conclude that we do not indeed exist, but there actually is a simple way that it could be true: it could be the personal part of our existence, our identity, that is an illusion. If you watch a current of water, you may see a swirl in it, that seems to have an identity of its own, like an entity within the water. But when the swirl dissipates, you can say it must be just an illusion that it dissipated, because it existed so cannot un-exist, but you can also say when you notice that upon dissipating it was always just water, that the swirl never actually existed as a separate entity in the first place. In other words, if a swirl is something that water does, not something that water is, then Parmenides' argument applies only to the water, not to the swirl.

Similarly, the atoms in our body might exist, but "we" might not-- "we" might just be a kind of fantasy those atoms are inclined to believe about themself when they enter into a particularly exalted configuration that is capable of believing things. I don't say I necessarily ascribe to this view, I say it is a view that must logically be included, even within a prescription like that of Parmenides, and can serve as a logical refutation of Descartes.

Spoons
2010-Aug-05, 05:35 AM
If time really stopped for us, then our brain would also stop, so we could not perceive anything. Indeed, we have no way of knowing if time stops for an hour every hour on the hour, or indeed if time speeds up or slows down-- as long as it does so uniformly. So there is no such thing as a demonstrable "rate of flow of time"-- the rate of time is always 1 second per second, by definition. Ergo, time cannot stop uniformly, we have no way to describe, measure, or perceive such a thing. Time is not just change, it is a comparison of change against an arbitrary standard of change.

Can it stop for some objects but not others, so that we could perceive a "stopped" photon by comparing it to "unstopped" ones? I have no idea, but certainly that would require a whole new set of physical laws. You may as well ask what would happen if magicians really could pull rabbits from hats!

Ken G - If time stopped in the hypothetical fashion you've mentioned above, people in different rates of motion would experience slightly different stops and starts, due to the warping of the time dimension, right? Which would then allow us to notice this stopping and starting in people or items which are in different degrees of motion. Is my reasoning consistent there? It would end up creating a situation like when you record a tv screen and the refresh rates are different between the screen and recording device.

In this way, that sort of thing could be ruled out (or in, somewhat - though it's possible there'd be other explanations, and would be a matter of finding the one which is consistent with our other observations).

I know you brought this up as a hypothetical to make a point, but I wanted to test whether my reasoning there is sound.

Regarding the rabbits - why aren't we sending magicians about these places with world hunger initiatives?


So does that mean that time stops when the temperature is absolute zero?
I didn't think absolute zero can actually be reached. Is that correct? Any takers?

Ken G
2010-Aug-05, 05:58 AM
Ken G - If time stopped in the hypothetical fashion you've mentioned above, people in different rates of motion would experience slightly different stops and starts, due to the warping of the time dimension, right? That depends on how the stopping worked. If we make it respect relativity, such that all that matters is the proper time along every path in spacetime, what difference would it make if some of those world lines were said to "pause" for a spell, with no proper time elapsing during those pauses? You couldn't tell the difference. For example, we could offer as a "solution" to the twin "paradox" that time slows for the traveling twin, and slowing time is no different from letting it stop in extremely short segments. I never like the "time goes slow for the traveling twin" pedagogy, but it is used effectively, and is basically a picture that involves stopping time. But since other approaches are possible without any "slowed time" (just say the time elapsed depends on the path), it supports the point that stoppages of time are not detectable or demonstrable, they are just one way you can choose to think about what is happening.

Incidentally, the same holds for reversals of time, as long as all the same things un-happen and then happen again. We could all have lived today a million times, just by reversing at the end it-- unremembering and undoing everything that happened, only to remember and do it all over again. How could we test that? It's unknowable, so the idea is considered incoherent, but then so is stopping time along a world line. The term used in physics for this is "ignorable"-- the flow of time along a world line, whether it slows, stops, or reverses, is igorable-- it has no observable consequences, and so is not viewed as fitting into the language of science.

Which would then allow us to notice this stopping and starting in people or items which are in different degrees of motion. Is my reasoning consistent there?There could be ways it happens that we would notice, but there are also ways where we would not (for example, if all the machinery of relativity worked, which means, if all the physics depends only on the metric along the paths, and nothing more. The distance from New York to Los Angeles does not change if you pause for a spell in Chicago.



In this way, that sort of thing could be ruled out (or in, somewhat - though it's possible there'd be other explanations, and would be a matter of finding the one which is consistent with our other observations).Not in relativity. In that theory, all observable dynamics can be predicted knowing only the metric (proper time and proper distance-- I wonder if all you need is proper time) along all spacetime paths (I wonder if all you need is all causal spacetime paths). You only need to know the time that elapses on a clock following each path-- you don't care if the clock stops moving along the path as long as the clock also stops recording time.


Regarding the rabbits - why aren't we sending magicians about these places with world hunger initiatives?
It's one of those non-interference directives-- they don't want the Illuminati to find out about them.


I didn't think absolute zero can actually be reached. Is that correct? Any takers?Perhaps not, but time wouldn't end at absolute zero anyway-- there remains "zero point energy", which means the quantum systems would still have advancing phases, and expectation values of observations could still change. Absolute zero just means you cannot remove any more energy from the system by putting it into thermal contact with something else that's even colder, it doesn't mean the system has no energy.

Spoons
2010-Aug-05, 08:36 AM
Interesting, about the Illuminati Rabbit Magicians I mean (or should that be magickian, with a k? :)). Thanks Ken!

WaxRubiks
2010-Aug-05, 08:39 AM
it's the rabbits that are in control....those hats are portals to the illuminati dimension.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-05, 12:00 PM
*sigh*......... why, oh why, didn't I just take the BLUE pill??!?

Boratssister
2010-Aug-05, 02:29 PM
Parmenides argued on what he felt was purely logical grounds (his contributions came so early that he was partially involved in inventing logic and exploring its limitations) that it is impossible for something to become nothing, and vice versa, and by extension, it was not even possible for something to become something fundamentally different. In short, change is logically impossible, so all examples where change appears to happen must be an illusion of the senses or an error in interpretation. The flip side of this philosophy is that the illusion may come not when something is perceived as changing, but rather, when it was perceived initially as something different from what it would become. In particular, when something appears to end, it may not be the appearance of the end that is an illusion, but rather the idea that the something was ever there in the first place.

In particular, I was applying this principle to your suggestion that life must not end at death. Taking your statement on logical grounds, a la Parmenides (not religious grounds, which is out of bounds), one must allow that if we perceive the existence of an individual, followed by the absence of that individual, and we take Parmenides' thinking as accurate, then we actually have two possibilities: that life continues after death because it is impossible for a person to exist and then not exist, or that the appearance of their death and subsequent lack of existence makes it impossible that the person ever really existed in the first place. What the latter would mean is that their existence would have to be a kind of illusion, exposed upon death. Since there is no reason not to extend that concept to ourselves, we would then allow that our own existence is a kind of illusion.

Now, taking Descartes point to home that "we think therefore we are", it is hard to conclude that we do not indeed exist, but there actually is a simple way that it could be true: it could be the personal part of our existence, our identity, that is an illusion. If you watch a current of water, you may see a swirl in it, that seems to have an identity of its own, like an entity within the water. But when the swirl dissipates, you can say it must be just an illusion that it dissipated, because it existed so cannot un-exist, but you can also say when you notice that upon dissipating it was always just water, that the swirl never actually existed as a separate entity in the first place. In other words, if a swirl is something that water does, not something that water is, then Parmenides' argument applies only to the water, not to the swirl.

Similarly, the atoms in our body might exist, but "we" might not-- "we" might just be a kind of fantasy those atoms are inclined to believe about themself when they enter into a particularly exalted configuration that is capable of believing things. I don't say I necessarily ascribe to this view, I say it is a view that must logically be included, even within a prescription like that of Parmenides, and can serve as a logical refutation of Descartes.

Thankyou very much ken. I suppose the main difference I have with Parmenides, is that in my oppinion ''nothing'' can not exist literally. Something is a part of everything and everything is everything. I am a part of everything , I can never be nothing. You can't create something from nothing as the nothing does not exist........ Forgive me.

The swirls in the water could be compared to our brains existing in the everything , where as when our brain dies alike the swirl disapates.
If I remember rightly ken you say time is entangled with intelligence/observer. So without an observer then may be no time? which would mean nothing happened ,which is impossible as ''nothing''can not exist, because there is ''something '' here.
Again thanks ken and I appologise if my confusion confuses.

Spoons
2010-Aug-05, 09:42 PM
Yes, confusion is like an asexual rabbit. Whoops, I'm in the wrong thread.

Ken G
2010-Aug-05, 09:50 PM
it's the rabbits that are in control....those hats are portals to the illuminati dimension.The black helicopters will be arriving for you shortly.

Ken G
2010-Aug-05, 09:58 PM
If I remember rightly ken you say time is entangled with intelligence/observer. So without an observer then may be no time? Time is a word, which comes with a definition, which is provided by intelligence, in a way that requires an observer. So yes, no observer, no time. However, this does not mean that the concept cannot be applied to that which is not directly observed, it just means we have to have observations for the concept to mean something, and then that meaning can be extrapolated. Such extrapolation is a common tool of science, and we just never really know for sure when it will work, but it seems to work often.


which would mean nothing happened ,which is impossible as ''nothing''can not exist, because there is ''something '' here. Time is a concept we use to understand what it means for something to happen, but it does not follow that in the absence of that understanding, nothing could happen. When the Earth was a molten forming rock, no part of it had any idea what "time" was, yet now, looking back, we can fruitfully apply that concept. So things can happen without the concept of time being present, and later on, intelligent beings can apply the concept retroactively-- none of which implies that the happenings themselves required any such retroactive conceptualization.

Boratssister
2010-Aug-05, 10:29 PM
Time is a word, which comes with a definition, which is provided by intelligence, in a way that requires an observer. So yes, no observer, no time. However, this does not mean that the concept cannot be applied to that which is not directly observed, it just means we have to have observations for the concept to mean something, and then that meaning can be extrapolated. Such extrapolation is a common tool of science, and we just never really know for sure when it will work, but it seems to work often.

Time is a concept we use to understand what it means for something to happen, but it does not follow that in the absence of that understanding, nothing could happen. When the Earth was a molten forming rock, no part of it had any idea what "time" was, yet now, looking back, we can fruitfully apply that concept. So things can happen without the concept of time being present, and later on, intelligent beings can apply the concept retroactively-- none of which implies that the happenings themselves required any such retroactive conceptualization.

Its the ''if nothing lived would the universe still exist'' riddle. Thanks for your input ken. I enjoy reading your posts.

Ken G
2010-Aug-05, 10:50 PM
Its the ''if nothing lived would the universe still exist'' riddle. Exactly-- one that has been pondered for millennia, and no solution is yet in sight! Indeed, it has taken on new relevance, as there are mathematical physicists who like to think in terms of a "multiverse" of universes, the vast majority of which are exactly like those in your question. All it does is add a new layer to the question, does a universe need there to be intelligence in some other universe to exist? What does it mean for a "multiverse" to exist anyway?

AriAstronomer
2010-Aug-06, 12:08 PM
I think that the universe does not require intelligence to exist, or even something living to exist.
quoted from boratssister Its the ''if nothing lived would the universe still exist'' riddle..

What about in this universe in the first 10 billion years before life existed? We know from constant observation of the heavens that the universe existed then, yet nothing was alive (to the best of our knowledge unless you count undiscovered aliens), unless you make the argument that the universe *knew* that it was going to create life, which is getting into untestable religious topics. I think as Ken has said, the definition of time requires human intelligence to define it, but without life, I think the concept of change would still happen nonetheless in a lonely dead universe.

WaxRubiks
2010-Aug-06, 12:20 PM
what is existence anyway....if we are part of a system, then it is real to us...

Do all the games of chess that can be played, under the rules, exist, even though most of them haven't been played?

AriAstronomer
2010-Aug-06, 12:38 PM
It depends what you mean by exist. If you mean are possible, then yes. If you mean, existing in the sense that it's somewhere out there in the ether, I would say no. They are domains of the game, but they are not executed. Saying all the possible games of chess exist is like saying the entire universe is nothing but a giant rock, since nothing restricts a chunk of rock from existing at some point in the space-time co-ordinate system.

Ken G
2010-Aug-06, 01:16 PM
What about in this universe in the first 10 billion years before life existed?You can't use this universe to address the question of whether or not a universe can exist without intelligent life, because this universe does have intelligent life. You say, what about before the intelligent life, but in relativity, before and after are just causal connections, there is not a kind of spatial hyperplane that is sweeping along, with existence winking in and out as it passes (because different observers won't even agree on what the hyperplane is). Instead, there are world lines, and the time along those world lines is just different clock readings along them. If life exists on a world line, then it's on that world line, and if it exists in a universe, then every past light cone including that intelligence (i.e., our Hubble sphere) includes world lines that include that intelligence.

Put differently, the "existence" of the first 10 billion years of which you speak is testified by what? By you and the rest of us, by our intelligence. You cannot say, "my intelligence can present the following argument for why intelligence is not needed." You'd have to present an argument that doesn't involve intelligence, to count as such an argument.

Another way to think of this point is that the word "existence" is a word conceived and defined by our intelligence. You cannot even define the word without invoking intelligence in some way, and a very different intelligence might have no idea what your intelligence means by "exist". So when you say something "existed in the first 10 billion years", you have already invoked your own intelligence-- it makes no difference that your intelligence wasn't on the scene in the first 10 billion years, it's on the scene now, and it is providing the meaning of "first", "ten billion", "years", and "exists."

I think as Ken has said, the definition of time requires human intelligence to define it, but without life, I think the concept of change would still happen nonetheless in a lonely dead universe.
Look at your own words here, and consider where a "concept" happens.

forrest noble
2010-Aug-06, 07:37 PM
Its the ''if nothing lived would the universe still exist'' riddle.

Although many questions in philosophy may be true quandaries, I think this one like many other questions regarding semantics, is not difficult to answer. Just give me a strict, unambiguous, single definition of the word "exist" / existence and I should be able to give you you a clear, unambiguous answer to your question according to your definition of the word, no Rocket science or mystery involved. If the definition changes, maybe the answer will change. If the definition contains ambiguities, I also should be able to point them out.

kevin1981
2010-Aug-07, 11:56 AM
Really interesting thread this. Recently, the more i have learnt about the nature of reality the more bizzaire i find it. The fact that there is something rather than nothing and we are talking about these issues, completely baffles me. I am really glad i have joined this forum as it has expanded the way i look at things, but it has also introduced me to philosophy, which is something i knew nothing about, i knew the word, but thats about it. I am still very green on the subject but i have always wondered about questions like why are we here, how did we get here ect etc. Now i understand that observer dependence is a massive obstacle in trying to answer these questions because we are part of whatever "this" is. (This, being reality)

I have now realized that, to truly be able to answer such deep fundamental questions we would need to step outside of our own reality and look at it objectively. Which AFAIK is impossible. Thus, these deep fundamental questions we ask ourselves can not truly be answered, all we can do is, ponder about them.

On a serious note, have many people actually acquired mental illnesses or even gone completely mad trying to comprehend these sort of questions.

I am going for a cuppa tea and a well earned break :)

caveman1917
2010-Aug-08, 09:39 PM
On a serious note, have many people actually acquired mental illnesses or even gone completely mad trying to comprehend these sort of questions.

More than you would think so - if you don't go insane at the end, you never were a real philosopher ;)

For example here (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5122859998068380459#) is a good BBC documentary called 'dangerous knowledge' about this.

kevin1981
2010-Aug-09, 12:56 AM
Cheers caveman1917, I enjoyed watching that, it was very interesting. I will watch some of the other ones too, in the week

AriAstronomer
2010-Aug-09, 10:31 AM
Sorry I don't have the quote option working. As Ken G said:

Originally Posted by AriAstronomer
What about in this universe in the first 10 billion years before life existed?

You can't use this universe to address the question of whether or not a universe can exist without intelligent life, because this universe does have intelligent life. You say, what about before the intelligent life, but in relativity, before and after are just causal connections, there is not a kind of spatial hyperplane that is sweeping along, with existence winking in and out as it passes (because different observers won't even agree on what the hyperplane is). Instead, there are world lines, and the time along those world lines is just different clock readings along them. If life exists on a world line, then it's on that world line, and if it exists in a universe, then every past light cone including that intelligence (i.e., our Hubble sphere) includes world lines that include that intelligence.

Put differently, the "existence" of the first 10 billion years of which you speak is testified by what? By you and the rest of us, by our intelligence. You cannot say, "my intelligence can present the following argument for why intelligence is not needed." You'd have to present an argument that doesn't involve intelligence, to count as such an argument.

Another way to think of this point is that the word "existence" is a word conceived and defined by our intelligence. You cannot even define the word without invoking intelligence in some way, and a very different intelligence might have no idea what your intelligence means by "exist". So when you say something "existed in the first 10 billion years", you have already invoked your own intelligence-- it makes no difference that your intelligence wasn't on the scene in the first 10 billion years, it's on the scene now, and it is providing the meaning of "first", "ten billion", "years", and "exists."

Originally Posted by AriAstronomer: I think as Ken has said, the definition of time requires human intelligence to define it, but without life, I think the concept of change would still happen nonetheless in a lonely dead universe.

Look at your own words here, and consider where a "concept" happens.

I see your point. Making an argument for the prerequisites of intelligence, when in fact I'm using intelligence to define it, includes a bias that may or may not be accurate, and to be completely confident in the definition, one would have to make this definition outside of an intelligent mind, which makes no sense.
Intuitively, however, I still just get locked up in the same argument, and have a hard time accepting your answer. I understand that before and after are just causal connections once the event has taken place, but I still have a hard time swallowing it. The past and future is not the same as before and after, and I don't think from the moment the universe was created it was already fated to create intelligence. Maybe there was a probability of it, but the future is never certain. Now I know you can rebuke that we are saying the big bang happened at some ancient time in the past based on our (sentient) measurements which adds bias, but I still don't think it completely nullifies the argument.

Furthermore, as far as time/change goes in the absence of intelligence, I think change has to have happened before we were here, and although you can't ever PROVE it completely since you weren't there (and if you were then there would be intelligence present nullifying the argument of can change happen without intelligence), if you accept the Big Bang theory, and if you accept that the Big Bang happened at some time in the past, then there has to have been change before we were here, and therefore time.

I'm not trying to come off as snippy if it is interpreted that way, just trying to discuss this in a bit more detail. Some forms of abstraction resonates with me well, but this one is just clashing with my natural frequency!

Spoons
2010-Aug-09, 10:52 AM
Sorry I don't have the quote option working. As Ken G said:

If you are having trouble with the quoting button, you can always type [ quote ] to start your quote and [ / quote ] to end the quoted section. (Just remove the spaces that are in there)

astromark
2010-Aug-09, 11:11 AM
Would the men in the black helicopter bring me one of the blue pills please...Yes, the riddle is a non starter..

Regardless of humanities existence the Universe is doing whatever its doing.

Naa, cancel the pills. I'm not the one whom needs them. Lol :)

These conversations of time and the Universe need to be reminded that the universe does not keep time.

It does not, as we do. Have a limited amount of it.

The scale we attach to time is man made. Regardless of us. The Universe unfolds, expands and gets bigger, older.

Ken G
2010-Aug-09, 04:38 PM
I see your point. Making an argument for the prerequisites of intelligence, when in fact I'm using intelligence to define it, includes a bias that may or may not be accurate, and to be completely confident in the definition, one would have to make this definition outside of an intelligent mind, which makes no sense. Exactly, so we are left to either give up and say that this is a question we cannot formulate suitably well to ever answer, or we can continue to try new formulations that somehow mitigate the problem. I don't really know which is the best course, it's just up to the individual.


Intuitively, however, I still just get locked up in the same argument, and have a hard time accepting your answer. I understand that before and after are just causal connections once the event has taken place, but I still have a hard time swallowing it. The past and future is not the same as before and after, and I don't think from the moment the universe was created it was already fated to create intelligence.I think there can be a kind of middle ground here. We can adopt a stance known as "realism", which says that there is "something out there" that would be there even if we weren't. But we also recognize that everything we do to talk about that something is going to leave "our fingerprints on it."

We are like detectives at a crime scene, but we cannot put yellow tape around it and wear those CSI gloves as we photograph everything, leaving it all undisturbed. Not at the quantum level, anyway. Instead, we always have to try and "back out" the way we disturbed the scene, to tell the story of what happened in a way that does not directly involve us. And we get away with that a lot, but we have found, to our surprise, that this is fundamentally impossible-- at some point, the investigation of the "crime" becomes an investigation of our own relationship with the criminal. We become like the amnesiac detective who gradually compiles evidence that leads ultimately to the conclusion that we ourselves are the guilty party (a cute idea for a story, if it hasn't been done, which is unlikely!).


Maybe there was a probability of it, but the future is never certain. Now I know you can rebuke that we are saying the big bang happened at some ancient time in the past based on our (sentient) measurements which adds bias, but I still don't think it completely nullifies the argument.
I don't think that it was necessary to have later intelligence to have a Big Bang, except that it is the later intelligence that says what "the Big Bang" even means. I suspect the universe itself, absent of such intelligence, would have no idea what the intelligence was on about. Expansion? Space? Hot and dense? What is all this gibberish? The universe doesn't talk about what it's doing, it just does it. The whole idea that there is a "story" there which needs to "make sense" is all about the fingerprints of intelligence. Intelligence that is, of course, just another thing that our universe "does," or "is."


Furthermore, as far as time/change goes in the absence of intelligence, I think change has to have happened before we were here, and although you can't ever PROVE it completely since you weren't there (and if you were then there would be intelligence present nullifying the argument of can change happen without intelligence), if you accept the Big Bang theory, and if you accept that the Big Bang happened at some time in the past, then there has to have been change before we were here, and therefore time. It seems likely to me that "change" itself is one of the fingerprints of our minds. Parmenides, ironically, felt he had used logic (a function of intelligence) to argue that all change had to be an illusion (of intelligence). Logic was in its infancy, and his arguments would probably not be considered rigorous today, but it certainly is an interesting possibility that all things maintain a constant unchanging character that we only mistakenly interpret as change. Indeed, there's a certain resonance with the concept of "unitariness" in quantum mechanics. There's also the "Heisenberg representation" in which the state of a system stays the same, but the operators that represent the measurements we do to them are the things that change with time. In that view, change is something we incur when we want the answers to certain questions-- the physics is in the participation of the physicist. There's a certain closure in that perspective-- how could we ever learn about anything but our own interactions with the universe?

BadTrip
2010-Aug-09, 07:24 PM
....Regardless of humanities existence the Universe is doing whatever its doing.
These conversations of time and the Universe need to be reminded that the universe does not keep time.
The scale we attach to time is man made. Regardless of us. The Universe unfolds, expands and gets bigger, older.

Finally a voice of reason amidst the chaos!! LOL
So Astromark throws down the gauntlets and gets right to the point that I think a number of us have been struggling with... why must there be an observer for change to happen?
It seems to me that this is so similar to the questions of "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it really make a noise?" Of course it makes a noise, regardless if someone is there to hear it, no? The act of observation is not relevant to the noise being made. eh?

Educate me gentlemen.. I'm open to instruction.

Ken G - you stated the following: "I don't think that it was necessary to have later intelligence to have a Big Bang, except that it is the later intelligence that says what "the Big Bang" even means."

I'm not trying to be abrasive, but that simply sounds absurd. If we use the same analogy of the tree falling in the woods....but we call the tree an arbol, an árvore, a baum, or any other word that our intelligence has contrived for us to communicate the object in question to another intelligent being who speaks the same language we do.... it is still a tree.
I understand, at least I think I do (ha!), that at the QM level the act of observation can influence the object being observed, but we're not trying to infer that the object's history prior to the observation didn't exist..... right?

..... oh boy.... black rabbits in helicopters...... ...wait.... that didn't come out right..

astromark
2010-Aug-09, 07:32 PM
Ummm... Our inability to articulate the knowledge of time. How to express in a manor that avoids misunderstanding. Time.

What is meant by the use of the term. Is it just a method or understanding implied of the progression of the universe.

That we often couple Space Time as a explanation of distance and time and space requires a understanding of what space is.

Time, Space time. and calculations of distance over time resultant velocities and there relationship with time are all part of knowledge.

and, the final component of this understanding ? Is the reality of it. Its real and not in your mind. Mark, looking up.

Len Moran
2010-Aug-10, 12:20 AM
I understand, at least I think I do (ha!), that at the QM level the act of observation can influence the object being observed, but we're not trying to infer that the object's history prior to the observation didn't exist..... right?


I would say we do infer that, and more.

The scientific method demands an objective separation of subject and object. The problem is, science cannot establish the degree of separation (if any), thus it is a philosophical notion. Within macroscopic reality we make use of the counterfactual notion as part of that philosophical stance in that we carry out the following reasoning:

“By performing such and such an operation (for example, going and seeing) I found that such and such a quantity has such and such a value. I consider that this quantity would have this value, even if I had not performed the operation in question.”

At the quantum level this notion of counterfactuality breaks down, objectivity turns into a weaker version that is referenced to the observer. But there is still a consistency to all observers, it is called intersubjective agreement. Within that notion, we can superficially establish the separation between subject and object, and hence the scientific method holds. But it only holds in the absence of expecting that method to lead to ontological explanations. We can still have such explanations, but they are philosophical in nature, not scientific.

So choose your version of realism, they are all philosophical. Objectivist realists consider that the separation between subject and object is absolute - that would seem to fit your intuition. The problem is that many fail to realise that this lofty goal of establishing the nature of reality independently of our involvement is a philosophical stance. Myself, I consider weak objectivity to be present throughout our macroscopic reality. I deduce that from considering the model of quantum mechanics to be universally applicable to all of nature with our notion of locality emerging through decoherence, which essentially uses the formalism of quantum mechanics. But you can apply philosophical reasoning to our macroscopic reality that invokes the observer at all times - nothing ever happens without that observer presence. What you have to decide is how we can scientifically measure the degree of that involvement.

So whether you like it or not, science cannot mitigate for observer involvement, so we simply cannot know through science what lay outside of that involvement. So as I said – choose your version of realism. I go the whole hog which is open realism, for me this is a philosophically sensible route to take; it says that we can never know scientifically the nature of the reality that exists outside of mind, consciousness, and everything that we perceive as our reality. I think there are clues within quantum mechanics (non seperability) that renders this “something” as existing outside of space (and hence time), at any rate we cannot impart any familiar notions to this “something”, other than I would consider that there is some kind of “connection” between our reality and this “something” – nature is not entirely in our heads. I would say that mind, empirical reality, consciousness, all emerge from this “something”, but that is not a scientific statement, it is a philosophical one.

From this stance, there is no macroscopic reality outside of our involvement, that is a construct of our minds, but not entirely so. The “something” that gives rise to it is just as applicable a million years ago, so we are free to extrapolate back in familiar terms of time and imagine that if we were there at this time, we would indeed see the universe on a macroscopic time line, but that doesn’t imply it actually happened in that familiar form, we just apply the macroscopic laws (and all of our familiar notions) that are all part of our reality and use those laws to construct the universe as it would appear a million years ago if we were there. We do exactly that on a day to day basis, our present arises from “something” that we have no access to. So, it’s not that mind determines whether the big bang happened (or any other event); it is simply a case of extrapolating backwards the concept of our macroscopic reality that in turn arises from a timeless “something”. That “something” cannot be assumed to have the familiar properties we would intuitively like it to have such as an historical time line, so from this perspective, “a million years ago” is a statement referenced to our macroscopic reality, the “something” that is reality outside of mind etc. cannot be expected to conform to that notion at all.

The above is a philosophical stance that makes a lot of sense to me, you have to decide what your version of realism is going to be, but remember, whatever you choose, you cannot use that stance to scientifically separate the observer from the observed in any kind of absolute manner - if you wish to adopt that position, then it can only be classed as a philosophical stance. (Actually, I believe that some refer to this kind of realism as naive realism.)

Ken G
2010-Aug-10, 06:49 AM
So Astromark throws down the gauntlets and gets right to the point that I think a number of us have been struggling with... why must there be an observer for change to happen?There needs to be an observer with intelligence to say what change is, and to note that it happened. If you say that changes happened in the first billion years of our universe when there was no intelligence present, then you just used your intelligence to make that claim, and to support it with argument. So the change required your intelligence to be labeled as such. I know what you are saying, you are saying that if our universe had not given rise to any intelligent life, everything else that happened to it could have happened more or less exactly the same. But on what basis would you claim that such a universe undergoes change? Only on the basis of applying your intelligence from our universe, which did spawn intelligence, to that other universe, which did not. If no universe spawned intelligence, on what basis are you saying any of them would undergo change? How do you take your own intelligence out of that assertion?

I'm saying change is a relationship between your intelligence and the universe, it is language that has emerged from that conversation. There's no such thing as change without that conversation, because that's where the meaning of "change" came from.


It seems to me that this is so similar to the questions of "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it really make a noise?" It's not the same question-- that's the question of whether there is any meaning to a hypothetical observer. If a tree falls where there is one intelligent observer to say it makes a noise, then that same intelligence might choose to assert any number of trees falling in any number of other places where that intelligence is not present should still perform similarly, absent of any reason to imagine a difference (like, no air or something). The question we are asking here is, if there was no such thing as intelligence anywhere, does a tree make noise when it falls? To me, there are only two sensible answers to that, and they are similar in effect:
1) No, because noise is a construct of intelligence, so complete absence of intelligence precludes the claim that noise occurs. The meaning of noise emerges from the interaction of intelligence with nature, so if noise has no meaning, a tree cannot produce it.
2) The question cannot be answered because it does not make sense, we have no way to give meaning to the setup of the question: no such thing as intelligence. You may as well ask if there were no such thing as triangles, would their angles still add up to 180 degrees?

If we use the same analogy of the tree falling in the woods....but we call the tree an arbol, an árvore, a baum, or any other word that our intelligence has contrived for us to communicate the object in question to another intelligent being who speaks the same language we do.... it is still a tree.It makes no difference what the intelligence uses to label a tree, only how it defines a tree. Does Nature know what a tree is? What should Nature care about these distinctions we find it useful to draw? Isn't a tree nothing but a set of atoms to Nature, and not even the same ones from moment to moment? And is it atoms, or fields, or neither, to Nature? I would say that Nature is just Nature-- no atoms, no trees, no time, no change, just Nature. All those other things come from our intelligence, which is part of Nature too-- it's what happens when Nature acquires a capacity to ponder itself, to map itself. But the "map is not the territory."


I understand, at least I think I do (ha!), that at the QM level the act of observation can influence the object being observed, but we're not trying to infer that the object's history prior to the observation didn't exist..... right?Let's look at a single photon that we detect as part of the CMB, for example. We are talking about a photon emitted by gas that is now some 50 billion light years away from us. That light was emitted in some atomic interactions in that gas, but those interactions could have emitted that photon in any direction-- so there might be an alien telescope some 100 billion light years away from us also vying to detect that photon. When was it determined whether we would get that photon, or they would? According to quantum mechanics, it was determined yesterday-- when we detected it. So whether that photon would show up here, or 100 billion light years away, was determined yesterday. So yes, we certainly are talking about the history of that photon existing when we detect it, when we actualize it. And note it didn't have to be us, it could have missed our antenna and been absorbed in the crust of the Earth-- the observer can be hypothetical, but the "observation" was still actualized yesterday, and the observation of a photon is still language that relies on our intelligence for its meaning.

AriAstronomer
2010-Aug-10, 08:47 AM
As said by Ken G:
It's not the same question-- that's the question of whether there is any meaning to a hypothetical observer. If a tree falls where there is one intelligent observer to say it makes a noise, then that same intelligence might choose to assert any number of trees falling in any number of other places where that intelligence is not present should still perform similarly, absent of any reason to imagine a difference (like, no air or something). The question we are asking here is, if there was no such thing as intelligence anywhere, does a tree make noise when it falls? To me, there are only two sensible answers to that, and they are similar in effect:
1) No, because noise is a construct of intelligence, so complete absence of intelligence precludes the claim that noise occurs. The meaning of noise emerges from the interaction of intelligence with nature, so if noise has no meaning, a tree cannot produce it.
2) The question cannot be answered because it does not make sense, we have no way to give meaning to the setup of the question: no such thing as intelligence. You may as well ask if there were no such thing as triangles, would their angles still add up to 180 degrees?

I agree with this completely, and was going to say this if Ken G hadn't. I think this last post by Ken G resonated well with me, and I see now exactly what you were trying to say in all those other posts (thanks for the patience!). It is the humans who make distinctions of any and all kinds. I think a good analogy, is if you were to ask someone, "Would you say that killing babies is wrong?" A human would say yes, but morality isn't some universal constant that echoes through the universe, it is a human invention, and an alien race might disagree (or even some other animals!). If you now take this one step further, objects, change, time, consciousness, noise, taste, smell, all of it, are also just human inventions. The 'thoughts' of the universe are just ".....", and the universe probably doesn't even know it 'exists'. It requires a human to define the universe, and therefore the concept of a universe would not exist without a human. The universe and humans are one. Checkmate. Thanks Ken G.

caveman1917
2010-Aug-10, 09:34 AM
I think i'm with BadTrip on this one.


There needs to be an observer with intelligence to say what change is, and to note that it happened. If you say that changes happened in the first billion years of our universe when there was no intelligence present, then you just used your intelligence to make that claim, and to support it with argument. So the change required your intelligence to be labeled as such. I know what you are saying, you are saying that if our universe had not given rise to any intelligent life, everything else that happened to it could have happened more or less exactly the same. But on what basis would you claim that such a universe undergoes change? Only on the basis of applying your intelligence from our universe, which did spawn intelligence, to that other universe, which did not. If no universe spawned intelligence, on what basis are you saying any of them would undergo change? How do you take your own intelligence out of that assertion?

I'm saying change is a relationship between your intelligence and the universe, it is language that has emerged from that conversation. There's no such thing as change without that conversation, because that's where the meaning of "change" came from.

But by that reasoning there's also no such thing as a 'universe' without that conversation.
It is only our intelligence that gives rise to the meaning of the concept of a universe.


You may as well ask if there were no such thing as triangles, would their angles still add up to 180 degrees?

Or no such thing as geometry, or mathematics, or physics - all constructs from intelligence.
But that also means no spacetime, no particles - nothing at all. No universe.

This is equivalent to the claim that a universe must give rise to intelligence. (!intelligence => !universe) => (universe => intelligence)


I would say that Nature is just Nature-- no atoms, no trees, no time, no change, just Nature. All those other things come from our intelligence, which is part of Nature too-- it's what happens when Nature acquires a capacity to ponder itself, to map itself. But the "map is not the territory."
(my bold)

By the same reasoning, so too is the concept of Nature itself reducible to our intelligence. Nature thus being part of our intelligence, not the other way round.
But then, if intelligence is all that exists, how is the map not the territory?

What other parts could Nature possibly have that are not reducible to our intelligence?

BadTrip
2010-Aug-10, 02:14 PM
First off, thank you for the responses Ken G and Len Moran. I am enjoying this discourse and appreciate your even tone and patience with respect to the ongoing dialogue.


There needs to be an observer with intelligence to say what change is, and to note that it happened.

This appears to be a fundamental disagreement between us. I'm not claiming I'm right and you're wrong...you are surely more studied in these things than I... however; it seems that you are implying that change is only change as it applies to the intelligence that has observed it. Is that an accurate statement according to your stance? (just trying to make sure I do understand your stance properly)

I understand change in a different way. As an example, for convenience; the wind that eroded rock formations on Mars... those rock formations have been changed over the years from the form in which they existed 5000 years ago. That change happened and was ongoing prior to us observing it, and regardless of what yardstick we may choose to apply regarding the rate of change.
And, from my position/stance, it is not related in any way to what we define as change. Whether we choose to apply the "ruler" of minutes, years, epochs, centimeters, inches, meters...whatever yardstick we use, there has still been change. How much change may be related to the yardstick, and it's our yardstick, I do recognize that.....but that is simply due to definitions that we are applying to comprehend how this change has occurred over time. We are defining change, but we are not responsible for it. That is, we did not produce the change; rather, we quantified it into terms that make sense to us.

Now you come along and say that nature does not know change...so without an intelligence to define change, then change doesn't exist. To me that sounds like utter nonsense. heh... I must be quite the blissful individual, you must be saying! :o LOL

The things that happen in the universe happen. Object A is reduced to object B via process 1 through natural processes that we had nothing to do with. Nature does not need us to define and label the objects and the process in order for it to happen. Rather, we have a need to define and label in order to note that they occurred, and in order that we might reference them to others and/or in the future.


If you say that changes happened in the first billion years of our universe when there was no intelligence present, then you just used your intelligence to make that claim, and to support it with argument. So the change required your intelligence to be labeled as such.

bold and italics added by me for emphasis-BadTrip

If I read and comprehend your stance on this.... aren't you painting yourself into the corner then?... you cannot deny that from t=0 to t=1Byears there was no change...can you? Because that seems like a logical fallacy. If there was no change, then there could have been no Big Bang without intelligence present...and you're now treading on grounds of creationism or some such voodoo. I understand that discussions along these lines are unacceptable in this environment and I'm not trying to lead the discussion there...but I'm confused by the apparent contradiction.



I'm saying change is a relationship between your intelligence and the universe, it is language that has emerged from that conversation. There's no such thing as change without that conversation, because that's where the meaning of "change" came from.

The things that happen in the universe happen. Object A is reduced to object B via process 1 through natural processes that we had nothing to do with. Nature does not need us to define and label the objects and the process in order for it to happen. Rather, we have a need to define and label in order to note that they occurred, and in order that we might reference them to others and/or in the future.


It's not the same question-- that's the question of whether there is any meaning to a hypothetical observer. If a tree falls where there is one intelligent observer to say it makes a noise, then that same intelligence might choose to assert any number of trees falling in any number of other places where that intelligence is not present should still perform similarly, absent of any reason to imagine a difference (like, no air or something). The question we are asking here is, if there was no such thing as intelligence anywhere, does a tree make noise when it falls? To me, there are only two sensible answers to that, and they are similar in effect:
1) No, because noise is a construct of intelligence, so complete absence of intelligence precludes the claim that noise occurs. The meaning of noise emerges from the interaction of intelligence with nature, so if noise has no meaning, a tree cannot produce it.
2) The question cannot be answered because it does not make sense, we have no way to give meaning to the setup of the question: no such thing as intelligence. You may as well ask if there were no such thing as triangles, would their angles still add up to 180 degrees?
It makes no difference what the intelligence uses to label a tree, only how it defines a tree.
Don't trees falling make noise because of the nature of the event? Wood fibers cracking, twigs snapping, leaves whistling through the air, the heft of the tree trunk impacting the earth... the noises are made due to the vibrations created in the air, no? Those vibrations care not one whit as to whether any intelligence is observing/listening to them of for them. That's simply how nature works and we have come to understand some of this mechanism and provided labels and assigned values to aid us in communicating the events of nature.


Does Nature know what a tree is? What should Nature care about these distinctions we find it useful to draw? Isn't a tree nothing but a set of atoms to Nature, and not even the same ones from moment to moment? And is it atoms, or fields, or neither, to Nature? I would say that Nature is just Nature-- no atoms, no trees, no time, no change, just Nature. All those other things come from our intelligence, which is part of Nature too-- it's what happens when Nature acquires a capacity to ponder itself, to map itself. But the "map is not the territory."

I would respond that no, Nature doesn't know what a tree is, nor does it care. It also does not know what intelligence is, nor does it care. Nature is just Nature--atoms, trees, time, change, just Nature. Intelligence is a part of Nature too. However, it seems as if you're implying that Nature wouldn't exist without intelligence to define it. I certainly do not agree with idea.


Let's look at a single photon that we detect as part of the CMB, for example. We are talking about a photon emitted by gas that is now some 50 billion light years away from us. That light was emitted in some atomic interactions in that gas, but those interactions could have emitted that photon in any direction-- but they didn't emit the photon in any direction, they emitted the photon in a specific direction. We didn't know what that direction was until we observed it.


...so there might be an alien telescope some 100 billion light years away from us also vying to detect that photon. When was it determined whether we would get that photon, or they would? According to quantum mechanics, it was determined yesterday-- when we detected it. So whether that photon would show up here, or 100 billion light years away, was determined yesterday. So yes, we certainly are talking about the history of that photon existing when we detect it, when we actualize it. And note it didn't have to be us, it could have missed our antenna and been absorbed in the crust of the Earth-- the observer can be hypothetical, but the "observation" was still actualized yesterday, and the observation of a photon is still language that relies on our intelligence for its meaning.

Ok... so I don't like quantum mechanics any more. :silenced: LOL! :lol:
I cannot refute your argument here in any way. I don't possess the technical knowledge to mount an honest response that would based in QM, therefore I won't huff and puff as if I possessed knowledge which I don't.

Len Moran has had much to say along the lines of this in stating that I can choose whichever version of realism I desire...it's all philosophical in nature anyway. I think he's classified me as a Naivealist. :o

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-10, 04:48 PM
Reading this thread, I am now convinced that BAUT is but a figment of my imagination...:D

BadTrip
2010-Aug-10, 05:00 PM
Reading this thread, I am now convinced that BAUT is but a figment of my imagination...:D

........................... are you an intelligence? If so please observe me in some manner... I want to exist!!! :clap: ................wait.... you already replied to the thread...... therefore.... I'm a wave!!!!...no, I'm a particle.... NO! I'm a WAVE!!!! ....NOOO!! I'M A PARTICLE!!!!!

......Where'd those slits go, anyway?:razz: .....'cuz we all know... when you've run out of slits..... ?...... ok, one newbie google for whoever finishes it first.

Ken G
2010-Aug-10, 05:56 PM
I think a good analogy, is if you were to ask someone, "Would you say that killing babies is wrong?" A human would say yes, but morality isn't some universal constant that echoes through the universe, it is a human invention, and an alien race might disagree (or even some other animals!). If you now take this one step further, objects, change, time, consciousness, noise, taste, smell, all of it, are also just human inventions. Right, we should not try so hard to escape the fact that we start out the whole process inside our own heads, we should embrace that truth, and allow everything we are doing to be consistent with that undeniable fact. When we do that, many of the mysteries of quantum mechanics, or why time has an arrow, or many other paradoxes that appear when we try to divorce how we think from how we think about the universe, don't seem so mysterious.

It requires a human to define the universe, and therefore the concept of a universe would not exist without a human. The universe and humans are one. Checkmate.We are in complete agreement.

Ken G
2010-Aug-10, 06:02 PM
But by that reasoning there's also no such thing as a 'universe' without that conversation.There's no such thing as a definition of "the universe" without that conversation. You can imagine there would still be a universe, if your intelligence chooses to do so, but you cannot give it any properties or attributes without exercising that intelligence. And as soon as you so exercise, you are obtaining a product of your own intelligence, not something that is independent of your intelligence.

It is only our intelligence that gives rise to the meaning of the concept of a universe.Quite so-- if we want there to be meaning and concepts, we must accept the participation of intelligence, with all its strengths and limitations.



By the same reasoning, so too is the concept of Nature itself reducible to our intelligence. Nature thus being part of our intelligence, not the other way round.
But then, if intelligence is all that exists, how is the map not the territory?The territory gave rise to the map of itself, but the map is still not the territory. Had the territory not given rise to the map, it would be a mapless territory, which is a territory that we can say nothing intelligible about. The failure is ours, not its-- we reach an end to what we can say, our words are no use to us.


What other parts could Nature possibly have that are not reducible to our intelligence?A question that cannot be answered with words rendered useless.

Ken G
2010-Aug-10, 06:05 PM
however; it seems that you are implying that change is only change as it applies to the intelligence that has observed it. Is that an accurate statement according to your stance?Yes, the concept of "change" is something that intelligence owns.

As an example, for convenience; the wind that eroded rock formations on Mars... those rock formations have been changed over the years from the form in which they existed 5000 years ago. That change happened and was ongoing prior to us observing it, and regardless of what yardstick we may choose to apply regarding the rate of change.My intelligence agrees with yours.

More in a bit.

kevin1981
2010-Aug-10, 06:31 PM
At the end of the day, why is there 'something', rather than nothing :/

Great post Len, i always enjoy what you have to say on this issue.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-10, 06:40 PM
I would say we do infer that, and more.


Do we really infer that there was no history behind??... or we say it's indeterminate/undefined?

Also, could you elaborate upon those "clues" from QM that seem to point to a "something" residing outside of space/time?... and how/where those "connections" are?

Interesting stuff that.

And thank you for your response(s).

BadTrip
2010-Aug-10, 06:44 PM
At the end of the day, why is there 'something', rather than nothing :/

Great post Len, i always enjoy what you have to say on this issue.

Hola Kevin! say.... you're not going to tell me that since we can see a painting, we can deduce that there was a painter, eh?
I have my blue pills handy.... don't force me.... I'm telling you, I'll take one!!

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-10, 07:33 PM
Nope, you didn't get it... you are nothing but a figment of my imagination....:D

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-10, 07:54 PM
My apologies to Ken and Len, but these philosophical arguments, while erudite and logically correct, just do not convince me. The universe is most certainly out there, independent of any intelligence observing it. It has many characteristics, and maybe some additional ones of which we are not aware due to the limitations of our sensorial makeup.Our understanding of the universe is probably incomplete, but it is still valid if only in a limited sense.

It is physical, it is undergoing change and evolution. Our understanding of the microworld is currently limited to our mathematical model which we call quantum mechanics. It works very well, except for extreme conditions, where it comes in conflict with General Relativity, but, as we have often discussed it models how things work and not what they are.

That "change" is not real, but just a product of our intelligence, does not make any sense to me.

kevin1981
2010-Aug-10, 07:57 PM
you're not going to tell me that since we can see a painting, we can deduce that there was a painter, eh?

If there was not a painter, then how did the picture get painted in the first place ! The same answer goes for my question too, We don't know !!

I just thought i would put the question out there :)

BadTrip
2010-Aug-10, 09:12 PM
Nope, you didn't get it... you are nothing but a figment of my imagination....:D

Sorry... I had a Homer moment.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-10, 09:14 PM
My apologies to Ken and Len, but these philosophical arguments, while erudite and logically correct, just do not convince me. The universe is most certainly out there, independent of any intelligence observing it. It has many characteristics, and maybe some additional ones of which we are not aware due to the limitations of our sensorial makeup.Our understanding of the universe is probably incomplete, but it is still valid if only in a limited sense.

It is physical, it is undergoing change and evolution. Our understanding of the microworld is currently limited to our mathematical model which we call quantum mechanics. It works very well, except for extreme conditions, where it comes in conflict with General Relativity, but, as we have often discussed it models how things work and not what they are.

That "change" is not real, but just a product of our intelligence, does not make any sense to me.

......................that's what I said. LMAO!

astromark
2010-Aug-10, 11:34 PM
If there was not a painter, then how did the picture get painted in the first place ! The same answer goes for my question too, We don't know !!

I just thought i would put the question out there :)

Wow, we have gotten a long way from the OP.... but this just needs to be answered.

We can with applied science learn a great deal from a painting. The method of application, the type of paint, pigment construct... and so on.

A painting can not be said to have just happened. It must have been painted and proof of fact can be presented.

and... to intelligent understanding. It does not require a doctorate in physics to understand reality.

It could in fact cripple your mind from the cold hard truth. I have witnessed this.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-11, 12:33 AM
Wow, we have gotten a long way from the OP.... but this just needs to be answered.

We can with applied science learn a great deal from a painting. The method of application, the type of paint, pigment construct... and so on.

A painting can not be said to have just happened. It must have been painted and proof of fact can be presented.

and... to intelligent understanding. It does not require a doctorate in physics to understand reality.

It could in fact cripple your mind from the cold hard truth. I have witnessed this.

Actually Astromark, I think we're pretty much right on topic with the OP:

Cosmocrazy said:"So does this not lead us to ask the question of what time, space and reality really are? Or are we missing something in the theory, why other than causality there appears to be constraints to how and at what relative speed any information can be exchanged?

If its ok with the OP'er I would be interested in reading any continued discussion between KenG and Grant on this subject. "

What I was bringing up in previous posts is my belief that the answer to Cosmo's question, in my opinion, which is founded within the newly established theory of Naivealism, is that yes, absolutely, we are missing something in our current theory(ies).

We've simply dispensed with the space/time portions of the question because they, by necessity and, dare I say it?..definition, are based upon the reality within which we exist. So we've reduced the debate strictly to the reality question. ...................... I think. :)

Now, as to your answer of the question above... I really appreciate your answer, and I happen to agree with your conclusion. But I must admit, that it makes things difficult for me to debate within certain circles.

I appreciate your input and responses. Thank you

Len Moran
2010-Aug-11, 01:32 AM
Do we really infer that there was no history behind??... or we say it's indeterminate/undefined?

Also, could you elaborate upon those "clues" from QM that seem to point to a "something" residing outside of space/time?... and how/where those "connections" are?

Interesting stuff that.

And thank you for your response(s).

To the best of my understanding, at the quantum level, there is no assumption of a particle being localised prior to a measurement. The quantum formalism predicts observations, and those observations can only ever take place at the sink (or detector), there is nothing in the superposition of states that can be measured without that superposition resolving itself into an improper mixture. The wavefunction provides the means for predicting the outcomes, but that is a mathematical entity, it is not something physical travelling from the source to sink, ready to physically “collapse” upon measurement. There is no justification to imply that anything of “substance” exists between the source and sink, the only substance is the empirical measurement and the initial conditions at the source.

Thus counterfactuality breaks down at the quantum level – our cherished use of this notion at the macroscopic level goes unnoticed – a property of an object is assumed to be intrinsic to that object with or without the measurement – the object has an historical time line in terms of familiar properties. But at the quantum level, a superposition of states does not involve a historical time line of familiar macroscopic properties, we only get to observe familiar notions when we do the measurement. What sort of macroscopic history can be given to a superposition of states? - what actually is a quantum state A+B in terms of macroscopic reality?

The clues that point to a “something” as existing outside of space and time involve correlation at a distance and Bell’s theorem. Bell’s theorem is theory independent and it proves that knowledge at the source of an entangled system is not sufficient to account for the correlation we observe. We either accept this non locality as somehow existing (making use of very inappropriate language such as “cause and effect”) within our macroscopic reality, or we consider that human independent reality (the “something”) is not embedded within a structured space existing independently of ourselves.

The “connection” is required to make the distinction between open realism and radical idealism. The latter makes no reference something existing outside of us, but open realism says there is “something”, but that the scientific method can never access it because we can never separate mind from that “something” which gives rise to the mind and hence empirical reality. Why should there be a “something” constituting human independent reality rather than everything being in our head? Well, one way of looking at this is that there seems to be a link between a tiny fraction of mathematical structures and external reality. If the structure of our sense data were only a process internal to our mind, there would be no reason that just the concepts composing this tiny fraction should have been chosen. Hence it cannot be claimed that the precise structure of our mathematical description of the great physical laws is entirely given to us through the structure of our own mind – it is reasonable to assume that the choice of mathematical description by which we describe observational predictions is, partly at least governed by some reality external to our selves – the “something”. But I don’t think of this “connection” as some kind of data highway between the “something” and our reality - that implies a kind of dualism. There is only one reality going on, and I think of it as a holistic “whole”. Human independent reality (my “something”) gives rise to mind, conciousness and empirical reality, but everything comes together to constitute this “whole”, which is our reality. Clearly to separate the “something” from the mind would be impossible because we would not be left with a mind in which to observe that separation.

Within this philosophical stance, (and remember physical or objectivist realism is also a philosophical stance), science is successfully practiced because our sense of locality enables us to construct a dualism of subject and object within the “whole”. It works exceedingly well, but what it does not do is to provide any means by which the “whole” can be investigated in an objective manner. But we can philosophically enquire as to the nature of this “whole” and philosophically speculate that perhaps, space and time – the bed rock of our reality - is a construct of this “whole” rather than existing as such within human independent reality (my "something").

Ken G
2010-Aug-11, 01:33 AM
And, from my position/stance, it is not related in any way to what we define as change. Whether we choose to apply the "ruler" of minutes, years, epochs, centimeters, inches, meters...whatever yardstick we use, there has still been change.There are two different concepts there, "what changed" and "how long it took." Saying those two things are different is certainly correct, but saying that they are not products of intelligence because they are different does not follow-- instead, they are just two different concepts formed by intelligence. We use our intelligence because it can form concepts, and we find the concepts work well for us. Why does anyone feel a need to say more? And where comes the need to subtract the intelligence from a process that was clearly initiated by intelligence, a process that simply never happens unless there is intelligence?

We are defining change, but we are not responsible for it. That is, we did not produce the change; rather, we quantified it into terms that make sense to us.Let me clarify what stance I am taking, versus what I am not saying. We can make sense of something that happens to a rock, that a rock cannot make sense of for itself. So it is not necessary that something make sense to a rock to happen to a rock. By the same token, it is not necessary for us to make sense of something that is happening to us-- it happens anyway. But when we do make sense of it, and use language or mathematics to talk about what makes sense to us, then the "fingerprints" or our intelligence are inescapably going to be all over what emerges. That does not in any way deny realism-- instead, it merely notices what is actually going on. Our intelligence owns whatever conclusions it reaches, how could it be otherwise?


Now you come along and say that nature does not know change...so without an intelligence to define change, then change doesn't exist. To me that sounds like utter nonsense.Note the first two words of that last sentence, which I might replace with "To my intelligence..." You are saying that once your intelligence has processed what nature is doing and made sense of it, it makes no sense to say that nature isn't doing what you just made sense of. But I am not denying you have made sense of nature, I am merely noticing that you have made sense of nature. You are a part of what you have done, there's no "back door" to sneak out and pretend you were never there when you were making sense of nature.

It is not going out on a limb to state that any time you make sense of anything, what you are actually making sense of is your relationship with that thing, not the thing independently of how you are relating to it. I haven't said you are in a dream world of your own imagination, as that would be denying the value of the viewpoint of realism. Instead, I've said you are in a world that your intelligence is making sense of, and therefore what it is making sense of is the way your intelligence relates to whatever is real. Therefore, any success you achieve, as judged by you, is there because of you, and could never be there without you, or intelligences like yours.

Now, at one level what I am saying is undeniable, it is simply the truth, but that's not really good enough-- we must also notice if there is any value in recognizing this truth. There are many truths we choose to ignore because we find more value in ignoring it than embracing it. So what is the value in embracing the truth of the participation of our intelligence in the mission of physics and astronomy? Don't we gain more value by "ignoring the middleman", and just thinking in terms of the reality beyond our intelligence? Yes, quite frankly, most of the time it is inconvenient not to ignore that truth, and there's no problem in ignoring it. But sometimes, it is important not to ignore it, because otherwise the ways we normally make sense of the universe don't work any more, and we think some big paradox is happening, when in fact we just lost track of what we were doing from the outset.

Object A is reduced to object B via process 1 through natural processes that we had nothing to do with.Ah, but now you insist on talking about what happened, you introduced words like "object" and "processes". You couldn't bring yourself to leave nature alone, you had to bring in your intelligence, even in the same breath that you deny the role of your intelligence!


Nature does not need us to define and label the objects and the process in order for it to happen.So why did you feel the need to insert the words "objects" and "processes", instead of just letting nature be nature?

Rather, we have a need to define and label in order to note that they occurred, and in order that we might reference them to others and/or in the future.Exactly, that's why you felt that need, it is the nature of intelligence to feel that need. We need to think about nature, we cannot just let it be. It was never the point of the exercise to let nature be nature, it was always the point to understand it, to impose our intelligence upon it. So why do we feel the need to pretend we are not doing that?



you cannot deny that from t=0 to t=1Byears there was no change...can you?Our intelligence, today, analyzes the history, 10 billion years ago, and decides there was change. I have no difficulty asserting that, it is just exactly what we are doing. I couldn't even imagine saying that anything else is happening here.


Don't trees falling make noise because of the nature of the event?Certainly not. The nature of the event is just the nature of the event, as we said above-- it doesn't need us to say that "noise" was "made", or that a "tree fell." That's all us, we need to do that.

I would respond that no, Nature doesn't know what a tree is, nor does it care.Exactly. So why did you say that a tree fell in the nature itself, if nature has no idea what a tree is? We know what a tree is, it's our intelligence at work there. We don't own the tree, but we do own the concept of a tree, and need to take responsibility for what is ours.

Ok... so I don't like quantum mechanics any more.
The 20th century was really, above all, when physics had to come to terms with the importance of the observer, in both quantum mechanics and relativity.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-11, 02:02 AM
Excellent post Len. You have given me much food for thought. Thank you.

Ken G - you also have given me much to ruminate upon. I'll respond tomorrow when I'm a bit more alert. You guys make my head hurt.

caveman1917
2010-Aug-11, 02:50 AM
You can imagine there would still be a universe, if your intelligence chooses to do so, but you cannot give it any properties or attributes without exercising that intelligence.

I don't think you can, given your logic of subjective reducibility.
What else is a universe than the set of its properties?
You cannot still imagine there would be a universe because


as soon as you so exercise, you are obtaining a product of your own intelligence, not something that is independent of your intelligence.



Yes, the concept of "change" is something that intelligence owns.

But so is "staticness". Your claim goes further than only the concept of "change". Taking this reducibility to its logical conclusion, everything is 'owned' by intelligence.
Unless there is a compelling difference between "change" and other concepts.

We cannot imagine a universe without intelligence. Your logic thus seems to conclude that a universe must give rise to intelligence.

This is not a position i am defending, i just mean that your logic inevitably leads to this proposition. One cannot apply it only to "change".

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-11, 08:24 AM
There are two different concepts there, "what changed" and "how long it took." Saying those two things are different is certainly correct, but saying that they are not products of intelligence because they are different does not follow-- instead, they are just two different concepts formed by intelligence. We use our intelligence because it can form concepts, and we find the concepts work well for us. Why does anyone feel a need to say more? And where comes the need to subtract the intelligence from a process that was clearly initiated by intelligence, a process that simply never happens unless there is intelligence?
I really don't follow at all: just because our senses can recognize and detect change does not mean that "change" is created by our intelligence. Primitive man without any math or language certainly was aware of change. Are you saying that anything our brain thinks about does not exist if we were not here?

Let me clarify what stance I am taking, versus what I am not saying. We can make sense of something that happens to a rock, that a rock cannot make sense of for itself. So it is not necessary that something make sense to a rock to happen to a rock. By the same token, it is not necessary for us to make sense of something that is happening to us-- it happens anyway. But when we do make sense of it, and use language or mathematics to talk about what makes sense to us, then the "fingerprints" or our intelligence are inescapably going to be all over what emerges. That does not in any way deny realism-- instead, it merely notices what is actually going on. Our intelligence owns whatever conclusions it reaches, how could it be otherwise?
And why shouldn't our intelligence be able to come to a conclusion? Why must the conclusion only belong to our intelligence and not be in concordance with the universe? Why shouldn't a mental construct be in concordance with nature?


Note the first two words of that last sentence, which I might replace with "To my intelligence..." You are saying that once your intelligence has processed what nature is doing and made sense of it, it makes no sense to say that nature isn't doing what you just made sense of. But I am not denying you have made sense of nature, I am merely noticing that you have made sense of nature. You are a part of what you have done, there's no "back door" to sneak out and pretend you were never there when you were making sense of nature.
Our senses observe and our brain interprets. We are part of nature. Yes, our concepts belong to us, and yes our concepts are rudimentary. Yet some of our rudimentary concepts, like that of change are valid. Change exists and the universe is undergoing change.


It is not going out on a limb to state that any time you make sense of anything, what you are actually making sense of is your relationship with that thing, not the thing independently of how you are relating to it. I haven't said you are in a dream world of your own imagination, as that would be denying the value of the viewpoint of realism. Instead, I've said you are in a world that your intelligence is making sense of, and therefore what it is making sense of is the way your intelligence relates to whatever is real. Therefore, any success you achieve, as judged by you, is there because of you, and could never be there without you, or intelligences like yours.
Why should it only be there because I observe it and interpret it? I observe change, change is there whether or not I observe it. You are jumping to a conclusion. I see a car speeding towards me as a pedestrian, my senses detect it, that it is changing its position and I feel the pain as it hits me. If I had turned my back and not seen it, it would never have been there?


Now, at one level what I am saying is undeniable, it is simply the truth, but that's not really good enough-- we must also notice if there is any value in recognizing this truth. There are many truths we choose to ignore because we find more value in ignoring it than embracing it. So what is the value in embracing the truth of the participation of our intelligence in the mission of physics and astronomy? Don't we gain more value by "ignoring the middleman", and just thinking in terms of the reality beyond our intelligence? Yes, quite frankly, most of the time it is inconvenient not to ignore that truth, and there's no problem in ignoring it. But sometimes, it is important not to ignore it, because otherwise the ways we normally make sense of the universe don't work any more, and we think some big paradox is happening, when in fact we just lost track of what we were doing from the outset.
Ah, but now you insist on talking about what happened, you introduced words like "object" and "processes". You couldn't bring yourself to leave nature alone, you had to bring in your intelligence, even in the same breath that you deny the role of your intelligence!.
This might be valid for some esoteric interpretations in the realm of quantum mechanics, but not for major events like the Big Bang and the evolution of the universe.

So why did you feel the need to insert the words "objects" and "processes", instead of just letting nature be nature?Exactly, that's why you felt that need, it is the nature of intelligence to feel that need. We need to think about nature, we cannot just let it be. It was never the point of the exercise to let nature be nature, it was always the point to understand it, to impose our intelligence upon it. So why do we feel the need to pretend we are not doing that?
We are not imposing our intelligence on nature. We are trying to understand it. We are making sense of it, categorizing it. Our intelligence interprets our sensorial input.



Our intelligence, today, analyzes the history, 10 billion years ago, and decides there was change. I have no difficulty asserting that, it is just exactly what we are doing. I couldn't even imagine saying that anything else is happening here.
Certainly not. The nature of the event is just the nature of the event, as we said above-- it doesn't need us to say that "noise" was "made", or that a "tree fell." That's all us, we need to do that.Exactly. So why did you say that a tree fell in the nature itself, if nature has no idea what a tree is? We know what a tree is, it's our intelligence at work there. We don't own the tree, but we do own the concept of a tree, and need to take responsibility for what is ours.
The 20th century was really, above all, when physics had to come to terms with the importance of the observer, in both quantum mechanics and relativity.
Yet an object did fall, whether or not nature knows what it is. It also resulted in sound waves at impact. We call it a tree and say it made a sound (if we hear it). The sound only exists if we hear it, the sound waves exist in any case.

Strange
2010-Aug-11, 11:14 AM
My apologies to Ken and Len, but these philosophical arguments, while erudite and logically correct, just do not convince me. The universe is most certainly out there, independent of any intelligence observing it. It has many characteristics, and maybe some additional ones of which we are not aware due to the limitations of our sensorial makeup.Our understanding of the universe is probably incomplete, but it is still valid if only in a limited sense.

I used to share this very literal "concretist" viewpoint. I have shifted (slighty), partly due to the arguments of Ken and others.

Yes, I would agree the universe is "out there" independent of any intelligence. But exactly what is out there can only be interpreted by an intelligence. So, we think the sky is blue. But "blue" is just a name we give to an internal mental effect that is caused by photons of a certain energy striking receptors in our eyes. I think the same must be true of any characteristic of the universe that we are aware of.

In other words, I don't think intelligence creates the universe, but it does create what we think of as the universe.

However, I do wonder sometimes if that distinction is so subtle as to be of little real value.... Except just as a reminder that we do need to keep in mind our part in creating our conception of the universe.

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-11, 11:29 AM
Yes, I would agree the universe is "out there" independent of any intelligence. But exactly what is out there can only be interpreted by an intelligence. So, we think the sky is blue. But "blue" is just a name we give to an internal mental effect that is caused by photons of a certain energy striking receptors in our eyes. I think the same must be true of any characteristic of the universe that we are aware of.

In other words, I don't think intelligence creates the universe, but it does create what we think of as the universe.

However, I do wonder sometimes if that distinction is so subtle as to be of little real value.... Except just as a reminder that we do need to keep in mind our part in creating our conception of the universe.
I agree that our senses might limit how we perceive the universe and that we build an image, yet, even if imperfectly perceived and interpreted, it is still out there.

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-11, 11:55 AM
Yes, I would agree the universe is "out there" independent of any intelligence. But exactly what is out there can only be interpreted by an intelligence. So, we think the sky is blue. But "blue" is just a name we give to an internal mental effect that is caused by photons of a certain energy striking receptors in our eyes. I think the same must be true of any characteristic of the universe that we are aware of.

In this particular instance, we have attached a tag to a particular hue perceived by our physical makeup and term it "blue". This is valid only for us and has been up by us. Change is not in the same class. It is not something perceived only by us due to our bodily senses.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-11, 12:53 PM
I used to share this very literal "concretist" viewpoint. I have shifted (slighty), partly due to the arguments of Ken and others.

Yes, I would agree the universe is "out there" independent of any intelligence. But exactly what is out there can only be interpreted by an intelligence. So, we think the sky is blue. But "blue" is just a name we give to an internal mental effect that is caused by photons of a certain energy striking receptors in our eyes. I think the same must be true of any characteristic of the universe that we are aware of.

In other words, I don't think intelligence creates the universe, but it does create what we think of as the universe.

However, I do wonder sometimes if that distinction is so subtle as to be of little real value.... Except just as a reminder that we do need to keep in mind our part in creating our conception of the universe.

Splendidly summarized!! :dance:

Your conclusions seem logical. Indeed, I don't think I'd feel any need to debate things with the way you have stated them. Our conception of the universe, in my opinion, is all that we can possibly own. Otherwise, it would seem necessary that we adopt a belief that we create reality. I don't believe that we create our own reality, rather we conceive of, or interpret, or define our own reality in terms that we can make sense of in accordance with our sensory input.

We understand that what we are seeing involves the scattering of light through our atmostphere, etc, etc, and the resulting sensory input that we receive certain wavelengths of that light in larger quantities than other wavelengths.
The fact that some humans are incapable of perceiving the apparent "blueness" of the sky does not give rise to alternative debates on whether the sky really is blue, since we understand that it is a matter perception. We have used various labels and definitions of our own making and formulation in order to communicate ideas to our comrades. But we have not created blue.

I believe Ken would say that we have created the concept of blue, and I would not argue with that. We must conceptualize a thing before we can attempt to communicate it. Where I fail to agree with Ken, at least at this time, is in his apparent idea that in conceptualizing "blue" we have somehow created it.....that "blue" didn't exist before our intelligence constructed the concept of blue.(These are, of course, my own words...I do not presume to speak for Ken, as he does a much better job than I of communcating his own ideas than I could ever do.) I would argue that blue has been present since the first photon was created, as it is a portion of light. Blue existed long before there was a cone to distinguish those various wavelengths of light.
Nature doesn't know what "blue" is, nor does it care. We are part of nature. We care what blue is and therefore have assigned descriptive terms to it. I don't follow how that means we have impacted nature by doing so.

Naivealism in action. ;) ....hmm....maybe I'll coin a new term... Blissfulism.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-11, 01:16 PM
I agree that our senses might limit how we perceive the universe and that we build an image, yet, even if imperfectly perceived and interpreted, it is still out there.

Agreed. ....... it is still out there.

Len Moran
2010-Aug-11, 06:09 PM
My apologies to Ken and Len, but these philosophical arguments, while erudite and logically correct, just do not convince me. The universe is most certainly out there, independent of any intelligence observing it. It has many characteristics, and maybe some additional ones of which we are not aware due to the limitations of our sensorial makeup.Our understanding of the universe is probably incomplete, but it is still valid if only in a limited sense.



My philosophical stance of open realism offers independent reality; it just states that we cannot access it through science. No where have I ever said that our understanding of the universe through the scientific method is invalid, I simply say that our understanding of nature is at all times referenced (in part) to sentient beings in a manner that cannot be scientifically defined and hence mitigated for. The degree (if any) of observer dependence is a philosophical question. It can start from a simple assumption that our senses give an incomplete picture of the object, all the way to saying that the object, in terms of independent reality is not of the same familiar form as we perceive it to be and may not even exist within space and time. At the one end of the philosophical scale is the objectivist realist, at the other, the open realist. We all consider there to be a mind independent reality in tandem with a mental construct, but each of us has to make an individual choice as to where we stand on the scale. And that is my real point in all of these discussions – I object to science proclaiming that objectivist realism is the “default” scientific position that best represents mind independent reality and as such is entirely different from mere "philosophical" positions such as open realism (and I'm not suggesting that you are proclaiming this to be a default position) – there is no default position that can be established through science, the question can only be discussed through philosophical discourse, and I am not at all sure that such a discourse would provide any satisfactory consensus.

Personally, I find confusing notions (like for example, the "finite" duration of the “present”, infinite space between localised objects, and macroscopic trajectories) that arise within our macroscopic reality to be very much more palatable when viewed as being part of us, rather than existing in those terms, independently of us.

At any rate, would you at least allow me to state that your version of realism, (which I would say is that of objectivist realism) suggesting as it does that space and time exist within independent reality, along with other familiar notions, such that what we perceive is pretty much what is “out there” independent of any reference to sentient beings, is just as much a philosophical stance as my philosophical stance of open realism?

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-11, 07:07 PM
At any rate, would you at least allow me to state that your version of realism, (which I would say is that of objectivist realism) suggesting as it does that space and time exist within independent reality, along with other familiar notions, such that what we perceive is pretty much what is “out there” independent of any reference to sentient beings, is just as much a philosophical stance as my philosophical stance of open realism?
Yes, but a more realistic philosophical stance....:D

astromark
2010-Aug-11, 08:48 PM
There is no argument here... and I wonder why this navel gazing is even worth the discussion..but it is.

Not a single voice of disagreement.

Its all good. I see an awareness of self. Intelligence. That we are aware of the unfolding universe and have explanations of understanding.

That we can see and understand what we see is important. That we have a method of communication so we can carry this information forward.

Our ability to educate.. Is the key. We do we can., but not always so well :eh:

Len Moran
2010-Aug-11, 10:36 PM
Yes, but a more realistic philosophical stance....:D

Well a grudging acceptance of objectivist realism as being a philosophical stance is at least a step in the right direction!

Len Moran
2010-Aug-12, 07:51 AM
Can the term “change” can only be associated within the notion of locality?
What happens to the familiar use of this word within quantum entanglement and non locality?

Ken G
2010-Aug-12, 08:14 AM
What else is a universe than the set of its properties?You mean, how else can intelligence regard a universe? In no other way, intelligence must break a universe into a set of properties, that's what intelligence does. A map will guide a journey, that is what it does, but the journey so guided is still a journey and not a map.

Remove the intelligence, and the question instead becomes, how can a universe be a set of properties recognized by an intelligence? The point of intelligence is to replace the universe with a set of properties that make it easier to navigate, like the purpose of a map of the sea route through some rocks is to find one's way through the rocks, not to be the rocks.


But so is "staticness". Your claim goes further than only the concept of "change".That's true. Without intelligence, we cannot say there would be change, nor can we say there would not be change. We have no idea what "change" is without intelligence-- intelligence owns both change, and staticness, and any other word or concept you can name. A universe, devoid of intelligence, has no idea what those rudimentary concepts are attempting to convey-- it just is. And yes, such a universe could be very similar to the universe we are now in, which does contain intelligence, but which also just is.


Taking this reducibility to its logical conclusion, everything is 'owned' by intelligence.No, concepts are owned by intelligence, not everything. If you define "everything that is" by "all use of language to talk about what is", then your statement follows. But then you have no realism, you have idealism-- everything is a concept, everything comes from us. My reasoning is the one that allows for realism because it allows for things to be considered separately from our language about things-- yours does not.


We cannot imagine a universe without intelligence.Yes, imagination is also a product of intelligence. Again, realism requires that we allow for things that we cannot imagine. Your reasoning allows no room for realism. That's fine, but scientific thinking seems to benefit from realist perspectives, we must be able to imagine that there can exist things we cannot imagine, and our goal as scientists is to make what sense we can of those things, by going ahead and imagining what we can imagine. The alternative you present is that our imagination is everything that can exist-- the universe is then in our heads. That's basically the idealism of Berkeley, which presents a problem for scientific thinking because it weakens the meaning of objectivity (objectivity becomes likemindedness and nothing more).

Your logic thus seems to conclude that a universe must give rise to intelligence.
A universe that can talk about itself, and simplify and predict itself, requires intelligence. Not a universe that just is, like what we would call a rock.

Ken G
2010-Aug-12, 08:49 AM
I really don't follow at all: just because our senses can recognize and detect change does not mean that "change" is created by our intelligence.Our senses do not detect change. That is a label you have hung on what our senses are actually detecting, based on the application of your intelligence. All you have to do is keep track of what your intelligence is doing, and not let it slip into a kind of invisible background.


Primitive man without any math or language certainly was aware of change.Primitive man had intelligence. To whatever extent she was aware of change, is the extent to which she had intelligence. A single-celled creature can sense water temperature and swim in the right direction-- does that make it "aware of change"? Can you reframe your position without the word "aware" in it? What does that tell you? Let's say you said "a single-celled creature can respond to changes in its environment." But is that what the single-celled creature is doing, or is that how you would describe what it was doing? It's your intelligence that makes that claim, the single-celled creature has no idea what you are talking about.


Are you saying that anything our brain thinks about does not exist if we were not here?No, I have not said that. I've said that concepts are owned by brains, so when we talk about what exists, we are finding out about the relationship our brain has with whatever actually exists.


And why shouldn't our intelligence be able to come to a conclusion? It can, and does. But it can also notice that it has done that. It doesn't need to pretend to be invisible, even though it doesn't always have to include itself in everything it does. Ignoring our own brains is a shortcut we've all learned to do, but should not fail to notice we have learned that skill, or else certain elements of how we talk about reality get quite paradoxical-- especially in the last 100 years of physics.


Why must the conclusion only belong to our intelligence and not be in concordance with the universe? Why shouldn't a mental construct be in concordance with nature?
That depends a whole lot on what you mean by "in concordance." Clearly our concepts are in some kind of concordance, or we wouldn't bother with applying intelligence. Clearly maps are helpful in navigating rocks. Yet a map is a product of our intelligence, and it is not the rocks-- instead it represents a particular relationship we have chosen to have with rocks (to avoid them).


Our senses observe and our brain interprets. We are part of nature. Yes, our concepts belong to us, and yes our concepts are rudimentary.I agree.

Yet some of our rudimentary concepts, like that of change are valid. Change exists and the universe is undergoing change. Whoa, how did you get from change being a "valid concept", to change "existing", in the space of a single period? That's quite a leap. We can certainly say that the concept of change exists, it exists in our heads, and we can say that it is a "valid" concept, in that we judge it successful to its purpose. None of that adds up to change existing independently of any intelligence that can formulate the concept and judge its validity.


I observe change, change is there whether or not I observe it.I never said you had to observe change for change to be there, I said you had to judge that change is there. Getting back to the tree in the woods: our brain forms the concept of a tree falling in the woods based on experience with trees falling in the woods. That experience is how our brains formed every concept I just used. Our brains then judge that such a tree could fall in such a woods even if we weren't there. That's all fine, there's nothing wrong with that reasoning, nor am I denying that reasoning. Instead, I am pointing out that it is reasoning. None of those concepts can be invoked without intelligence, and a very different intelligence might invoke very different concepts to talk about that same reality. This is how we can have a concept of realism, and even talk about "the same reality" even when the concepts invoked are completely different-- otherwise, we cannot. Many people seem to hear me as denying realism, when in fact I am navigating the path that allows for realism. Especially in light of how difficult we have found realism to be, in the last 100 years or so.


[quote]
This might be valid for some esoteric interpretations in the realm of quantum mechanics, but not for major events like the Big Bang and the evolution of the universe.
But we know that the Big Bang, and the evolution of the universe, connect with quantum mechanics. So these connections are inescapable, it's all the same reality, and a realism that works in one place has to work across the board. That's why I mentioned the CMB photons, and how we have no idea where a particular photon in the CMB will go until we detect it. That's quantum reasoning, but it applies over billions of years of time and billions of light years of space. It's all connected-- we either have a way to do realism, or we don't, but it's no solution to ignore whatever is not easy to accept.

Ken G
2010-Aug-12, 08:55 AM
In other words, I don't think intelligence creates the universe, but it does create what we think of as the universe.
That is also my own stance, and Len's-- one could call it "open realism", to distinguish it from idealism, which asserts the existence of nothing outside our perceptions and how we make sense of them, and from naive realism, which asserts that our intelligence correctly interprets what is "out there" without anything "lost in translation."

However, I do wonder sometimes if that distinction is so subtle as to be of little real value.... Except just as a reminder that we do need to keep in mind our part in creating our conception of the universe.What "value" that has depends on the context. Certainly, there is no need to make this point every time you turn around-- we will all take the shortcut of ignoring the role of our intelligence, it streamlines our day. But when we need to be able to understand what we are really doing when we do physics, and when we try to understand our reality, that's when we need to bear this in mind-- or we run into paradoxes like thinking that entanglement imposes "instant changes" onto distant objects (instead of instant changes in how we think about those distant objects as pieces of a larger whole), or wondering how two observers can each live in a reality where the other's clock is running slow (instead of realizing this is just a difference in how the two are thinking about their combined reality).

Strange
2010-Aug-12, 09:27 AM
That is also my own stance, and Len's

I get the impression that Len's postion is slightly further away from the objectivist end of the spectrum than yours. But I may well be wrong; I have to say I find Len's posts incredibly difficult to read. (Sorry Len, my fault not yours!)


"What "value" that has depends on the context. Certainly, there is no need to make this point every time you turn around-- we will all take the shortcut of ignoring the role of our intelligence, it streamlines our day. But when we need to be able to understand what we are really doing when we do physics, and when we try to understand our reality, that's when we need to bear this in mind-- or we run into paradoxes like thinking that entanglement imposes "instant changes" onto distant objects (instead of instant changes in how we think about those distant objects as pieces of a larger whole), or wondering how two observers can each live in a reality where the other's clock is running slow (instead of realizing this is just a difference in how the two are thinking about their combined reality).

Good examples (that is exactly the sort of area I was thinking of, in my usual vague way).

I read yet another (old) post today where someone was pointing out that relativity was just trivially and obviously wrong (and no one else has spotted it, odd that...). I was trying to understand where that POV comes from. It is obviously not just ignorance of the theory in question, because this sort of person never accepts any attempt to explain it.

But I think you have put you finger on it: they think we see the world as it really is: a concrete immutable "thing". They really need to understand how much more of [our perceptionof] the universe is created by the application of our intelligence. Maybe they should start teaching this stuff at kindergarten so people get used to it early on.

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-12, 01:45 PM
Our senses do not detect change. That is a label you have hung on what our senses are actually detecting, based on the application of your intelligence. All you have to do is keep track of what your intelligence is doing, and not let it slip into a kind of invisible background.
Our senses see water in a kettle, it then sees the water boiling. It does not need much application of intelligence to denote change. You seem to me to be discarding anything our senses detect and is recognized by our intelligence. A camera can see the same images, but lacking intelligence can not conclude anything.


Primitive man had intelligence. To whatever extent she was aware of change, is the extent to which she had intelligence. A single-celled creature can sense water temperature and swim in the right direction-- does that make it "aware of change"? Can you reframe your position without the word "aware" in it? What does that tell you? Let's say you said "a single-celled creature can respond to changes in its environment." But is that what the single-celled creature is doing, or is that how you would describe what it was doing? It's your intelligence that makes that claim, the single-celled creature has no idea what you are talking about.
The one-celled creature is incapable of cognitive thought, but it instinctively reacts to changes in its environment. We observe it and say it is doing just that. Why should our cognitive process invalidate the reality of what is happening, of change? Why should our cognitive process be disqualified from doing so, especially when it is so simple a situation to evaluate?


No, I have not said that. I've said that concepts are owned by brains, so when we talk about what exists, we are finding out about the relationship our brain has with whatever actually exists.
It can, and does. But it can also notice that it has done that. It doesn't need to pretend to be invisible, even though it doesn't always have to include itself in everything it does. Ignoring our own brains is a shortcut we've all learned to do, but should not fail to notice we have learned that skill, or else certain elements of how we talk about reality get quite paradoxical-- especially in the last 100 years of physics.
That depends a whole lot on what you mean by "in concordance." Clearly our concepts are in some kind of concordance, or we wouldn't bother with applying intelligence. Clearly maps are helpful in navigating rocks. Yet a map is a product of our intelligence, and it is not the rocks-- instead it represents a particular relationship we have chosen to have with rocks (to avoid them).
I agree.

When we are in the realm of the microworld, and we need to apply quantum mechanics to predict what is going on, I agree that these concepts, which are based on abstract mathematical models, are certainly the product of our brains. However, when I am in my everyday world, where I am able to directly observe phenomena, as opposed to attempting to make observations using exotic scientific equipment, I disagree that seeing a flower bloom is a concept of brain. It is a demonstration of change.


Whoa, how did you get from change being a "valid concept", to change "existing", in the space of a single period? That's quite a leap. We can certainly say that the concept of change exists, it exists in our heads, and we can say that it is a "valid" concept, in that we judge it successful to its purpose. None of that adds up to change existing independently of any intelligence that can formulate the concept and judge its validity.
A flower will bloom whether or not someone is there to observe it. For it to do so, it must go through change.


I never said you had to observe change for change to be there, I said you had to judge that change is there. Getting back to the tree in the woods: our brain forms the concept of a tree falling in the woods based on experience with trees falling in the woods. That experience is how our brains formed every concept I just used. Our brains then judge that such a tree could fall in such a woods even if we weren't there. That's all fine, there's nothing wrong with that reasoning, nor am I denying that reasoning. Instead, I am pointing out that it is reasoning. None of those concepts can be invoked without intelligence, and a very different intelligence might invoke very different concepts to talk about that same reality. This is how we can have a concept of realism, and even talk about "the same reality" even when the concepts invoked are completely different-- otherwise, we cannot. Many people seem to hear me as denying realism, when in fact I am navigating the path that allows for realism. Especially in light of how difficult we have found realism to be, in the last 100 years or so.

But you invalidate thinking a priori. You claim that what is seen and analysed is the product of the brain which did it. Another intelligence might have different semantical definitions to describe the tree falling, but it does not change the fact that the result is the same: the tree is falling.
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet": What matters is what something is, not what it is called.


But we know that the Big Bang, and the evolution of the universe, connect with quantum mechanics. So these connections are inescapable, it's all the same reality, and a realism that works in one place has to work across the board. That's why I mentioned the CMB photons, and how we have no idea where a particular photon in the CMB will go until we detect it. That's quantum reasoning, but it applies over billions of years of time and billions of light years of space. It's all connected-- we either have a way to do realism, or we don't, but it's no solution to ignore whatever is not easy to accept.
Yet we also know that quantum mechanics and General Relativity are in conflict, so that this abstract model can be used up to a certain point to predict how things work on the quantum, yet is questionable in literally using it as a model for what the universe is.

TheUFOPilot
2010-Aug-12, 02:18 PM
Time is a gravitational effect...or should i say, the effects of mass or the restriction on sub atomic/fermion particle momentum.

Space is a neutral matter composite without energy or mass creating the electromagnetically attracted particles like fermions once they gain electromagnetic energy from other existing matter. When 2 or more compatible particles gain the needed energy frequency and join in the form of attraction by the electromagnetic frequencies withing them to create mass which is then seen as the sub atomic particles we can detect etc.

Reality is what you make it, within the rules of life we live and die in. but maybe our own eyes and brains are not quite tuned into everything we think is out there or can see and detect. We onlt detect things, even with our eyes by the use of electromagnetic frequencies, hitting the brain, even through electromagnetic detectors we only look in one way, and we know everything ?lol.. Well we dont realy know that much tbh....thats what i think anyway lol :)

AriAstronomer
2010-Aug-12, 02:55 PM
Wow, a lot has taken place in just a day or two.
After reading everything, I see what everyone is saying (against Ken G), and I used to agree with you. I still stand by good ol' Ken G, however. Saying the universe exists without intelligence just doesn't make sense to me anymore. Does light exist without a human to see it? I don't think so. An alien race might interpret light as something completely different, and seeing the colour blue they instead see the colour "sdifiuhsduifhs". Expanding this, without our intelligence to view the universe, a different intelligence might see the universe in a completely different manner. Everything....EVERYTHING in the universe is completely up for interpretation depending on who is viewing it, how, when, etc. So if no one is interpreting the universe, what do you have? Whose point of view does the universe choose? It's like the absolute reference frame. It doesn't exist. It's possible there may just be potential, I'm not really sure, but from the way I now understand it, one thing you wouldn't have are spinning galaxies, fusion reactions, black holes, etc. Just "waiting". Just "......"

But to keep arguing, or to try and re-iterate my reasons for supporting this view would only make me sound like a broken record. All the information to make your own conclusion has been posted.

nokton
2010-Aug-12, 03:54 PM
So does this not lead us to ask the question of what time, space and reality really are? Or are we missing something in the theory, why other than causality there appears to be constraints to how and at what relative speed any information can be exchanged?

If its ok with the OP'er I would be interested in reading any continued discussion between KenG and Grant on this subject. :)

Hi cosmo, would refer you to an article in New Scientist No 2772, 'the end of spacetime' and Petr Horova's interesting new theories.
Nokton

nokton
2010-Aug-12, 04:24 PM
Hi astro, once again you bring reason and logic to the discourse on this site, thankyou.
So much here is conjecture and wishful thinking, so much so, that the baby is thrown
out with the bathwater, know you will understand my meaning.
Nokton.

nokton
2010-Aug-12, 05:01 PM
Ken G, your concept about the noise of a falling tree is flawed, you link the interpretation of the noise to intelligence,
would your interpretation of intelligence include any primitive animal with a sense of hearing? Lets take the bat Ken,
it's sophisticated use of sound is well documented, so by your definition a bat is intelligent?
A tree falling in a forest would be heard by any lifeform having an auditory sense, intelligent or otherwise,
or am I missing something here?
Nokton.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-12, 06:26 PM
For the record, I would like to state that I don’t stand “against” Ken G. ..I admit that I do not agree with him in this case, but there is room, in my opinion, for debate and discourse without any feelings of individuals or groups aligning themselves on “sides” in opposition to “the other side”.
Ken has offered refutations and opinions and definitions and explanations, and has done so with respect and courtesy and I appreciate that. The same goes for Len, and Strange, et al. Thanks gents!:clap:

Ok…now that the pleasantries are out of the way..….

….. Saying the universe exists without intelligence just doesn't make sense to me anymore. Does light exist without a human to see it? I don't think so.
Ari, this is quite confusing to me. According to what I’ve read and how I understand the proposed timeline of events after the big bang, photons appeared in the universe somewhere around 10 seconds after the initial event. Do I understand you correctly to be claiming that photons didn’t actually exist?.... not until some intelligence received them and gave them their “essence”, so to speak?
I’m sorry, it sounds as if I’m trying to mock or bait you into something… I’m not. I just don’t understand the statement that light doesn’t exist without a human to see it. I’m not even going to take up the argument regarding all the other organisms that respond to light, and the definition of “intelligence”.
I mean….if you take that stance how can you possibly stand upon the shoulders of evolution? How did the mammalian eye develop from a light sensitive patch if the light being responded to didn’t exist until it was perceived, conceptualized, labeled, or defined by some “intelligence”. Conversely, perhaps you do not attempt to stand on the shoulders of evolution….I don't mean ot put words in your mouth or anything of that nature.

Now I might agree if the argument was that the “concept” of what light is/was is what we were debating. But that’s not what we’re discussing, right?
Light existed before there was a concept/definition of light… unless of course, you’re willing to step into the realm of there having been some intelligence at the time of it’s creation.


An alien race might interpret light as something completely different, and seeing the colour blue they instead see the colour "sdifiuhsduifhs".
I agree… why is this a problem? So what if the alien race sees light as “sadiojfgbseriugb”, or “%@$#)*&*KUJHgiygeiy”, or “#”… these examples are all based on varying interpretations of reality…based on perceptions…based on sensory input and it’s analysis and conclusions by an intelligence. But this in no way means that the light would not be there if it was called something else.


Expanding this, without our intelligence to view the universe, a different intelligence might see the universe in a completely different manner.
Again…. I concur fundamentally….. but argue that viewing the universe differently does not change the universe. It would change the observer’s perception and understanding of the universe, but we cannot change the universe simply by viewing it differently. You and I cannot perceive gamma rays, or x-rays….does that mean they don’t exist? Did they only begin to exist when they were “discovered”?


Everything....EVERYTHING in the universe is completely up for interpretation depending on who is viewing it, how, when, etc. So if no one is interpreting the universe, what do you have? Whose point of view does the universe choose?
So then the logical conclusion of your statement would be that before there were sentient beings (intelligence) in the universe, the universe didn’t exist. …..right? I’m not trying to be abrasive, just trying to run through the logic of it… and I’m failing miserably I suppose. Whose point of view does the universe choose? Why would the universe choose any particular view? The universe does what it does regardless of how we perceive it….nay even if those goings on are imperceptible to us. I dare say that the universe probably does a good many things that we are, as of yet, unaware. But that certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t happen.

Perhaps this is simply all beyond me. That may very well be the case. I thank you gentlemen, once again, for interesting and thought provoking discussion and debate.

Ken G
2010-Aug-12, 07:47 PM
But I think you have put you finger on it: they think we see the world as it really is: a concrete immutable "thing". They really need to understand how much more of [our perceptionof] the universe is created by the application of our intelligence.Yes, I think you are right about that-- when we make certain unfounded assumptions about how things "have to" be, based on failing to recognize the "middleman" role played by our own intelligences, we naturally reject the last 100 years of physics.

Maybe they should start teaching this stuff at kindergarten so people get used to it early on.It would be interesting if we took the approach of only educating that which did not need to be de-educated later! But most people never get to the point of needing the de-education, so I think that's why the idea has not caught on.

AriAstronomer
2010-Aug-13, 12:04 AM
For the record, I would like to state that I don’t stand “against” Ken G. ..I admit that I do not agree with him in this case, but there is room, in my opinion, for debate and discourse without any feelings of individuals or groups aligning themselves on “sides” in opposition to “the other side”.
Ken has offered refutations and opinions and definitions and explanations, and has done so with respect and courtesy and I appreciate that. The same goes for Len, and Strange, et al. Thanks gents!:clap:

Ok…now that the pleasantries are out of the way..….

Ari, this is quite confusing to me. According to what I’ve read and how I understand the proposed timeline of events after the big bang, photons appeared in the universe somewhere around 10 seconds after the initial event. Do I understand you correctly to be claiming that photons didn’t actually exist?.... not until some intelligence received them and gave them their “essence”, so to speak?
I’m sorry, it sounds as if I’m trying to mock or bait you into something… I’m not. I just don’t understand the statement that light doesn’t exist without a human to see it. I’m not even going to take up the argument regarding all the other organisms that respond to light, and the definition of “intelligence”.
I mean….if you take that stance how can you possibly stand upon the shoulders of evolution? How did the mammalian eye develop from a light sensitive patch if the light being responded to didn’t exist until it was perceived, conceptualized, labeled, or defined by some “intelligence”. Conversely, perhaps you do not attempt to stand on the shoulders of evolution….I don't mean ot put words in your mouth or anything of that nature.

Now I might agree if the argument was that the “concept” of what light is/was is what we were debating. But that’s not what we’re discussing, right?
Light existed before there was a concept/definition of light… unless of course, you’re willing to step into the realm of there having been some intelligence at the time of it’s creation.


I agree… why is this a problem? So what if the alien race sees light as “sadiojfgbseriugb”, or “%@$#)*&*KUJHgiygeiy”, or “#”… these examples are all based on varying interpretations of reality…based on perceptions…based on sensory input and it’s analysis and conclusions by an intelligence. But this in no way means that the light would not be there if it was called something else.


Again…. I concur fundamentally….. but argue that viewing the universe differently does not change the universe. It would change the observer’s perception and understanding of the universe, but we cannot change the universe simply by viewing it differently. You and I cannot perceive gamma rays, or x-rays….does that mean they don’t exist? Did they only begin to exist when they were “discovered”?


So then the logical conclusion of your statement would be that before there were sentient beings (intelligence) in the universe, the universe didn’t exist. …..right? I’m not trying to be abrasive, just trying to run through the logic of it… and I’m failing miserably I suppose. Whose point of view does the universe choose? Why would the universe choose any particular view? The universe does what it does regardless of how we perceive it….nay even if those goings on are imperceptible to us. I dare say that the universe probably does a good many things that we are, as of yet, unaware. But that certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t happen.

Perhaps this is simply all beyond me. That may very well be the case. I thank you gentlemen, once again, for interesting and thought provoking discussion and debate.

Don't worry. Firstly you're being polite and reasonable, I'm not taking offence, and it was wrong to say Ken G vs. the rest. (Now with the pleasantries out of the way).
I see you're point, and saying that the universe doesn't exist at all without humans may be taking it to an extreme stance. My meaning though, is if there is no thing to interpret the universe, than what form does it take? The universe requires a sentient being to take any kind of structure, and without one, although yes, I suppose there is something still there, there aren't galaxies spinning. Galaxies only spin when humans see them. Without humans, there is nothing but ....(I don't know what).

astromark
2010-Aug-13, 01:35 AM
I am witnessing naive arrogance. That is NOT to say I am seeing naive people behaving arrogantly... Its not the same thing.

I will not be name calling. To even make the point that a educated or intelligent person or being needs to know of something to name it.

Yes we can except that. But it hardly does not happen if we do not know of it. The fact of the event is not changed by the witnessing of it.

and as has been well said. Our naming of it changes only our understanding not the fact.

What really are time space and reality if we do not witness it. They are the same thing.

Humanity and all of its combined knowledge amounts to almost nothing on a galactic scale.

As uncomfortable as it is we are little more than a parasite clinging to life on the surface of this planet Earth..

I do not like that overly simplistic view., and do not require councilling... but see it as a truth. Can I find a tolerance of understanding.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-13, 03:01 AM
Don't worry. Firstly you're being polite and reasonable, I'm not taking offence, and it was wrong to say Ken G vs. the rest. (Now with the pleasantries out of the way).
I see you're point, and saying that the universe doesn't exist at all without humans may be taking it to an extreme stance. My meaning though, is if there is no thing to interpret the universe, than what form does it take?
That's where I fail to understand your stance. The universe takes it's form..... period. That's it.

If there's an alien race of sentient beings living in the Andromeda galaxy...and these sentient beings are silica-based life forms who live for extremely long periods (according to our expectations of lifespans),....and these sentient beings...oh heck, let's call them Hortas... so these Hortas are equipped with sensory apparatus that allows them to sense gamma rays, x-rays, and UV light, but they are unable to perceive the wavelengths of what we define as the visible spectrum of light... does the visible spectrum of light exist? Of course it does. It's part of the universe. When we look at light we see a particular spectrum, while they see a different spectrum. There's no great re-defining of the universe's laws and properties.
I mean.... how did they possibly survive prior to our "discovery" of gamma, x, and UV? Poor creatures had no way to use the sensory apparatus they'd developed over eons and eons of evolution.
...........sorry....... I'm sounding a bit dramatic. It just seems to be such plain sense to me. Again, perhaps that is my problem...simply not understanding enough about QM and it's implications.


The universe requires a sentient being to take any kind of structure, and without one, although yes, I suppose there is something still there, there aren't galaxies spinning. Galaxies only spin when humans see them. Without humans, there is nothing but ....(I don't know what).
Ok... listen to how this reads.... (loose translation) "The universe requires an intelligence to take any sort of structure....but without them there's still something there."
Does that make sense? What's still there? and what relationship would it have with intelligence IF it were there?
Galaxies only spin when humans see them? soooooo....galaxies don't spin when we aren't looking?

It sounds much more logical to say....we only see galaxies spin when we look at them.

Thank you for your response Ari... and I am not attempting to be abrasive or snippy. This is a wonderful discourse and I am thankful to you all for responding with candor and respect.

astromark
2010-Aug-13, 03:53 AM
Do not be so hard on yourself 'BadTrip' you are right. I do not see what all this 'only if we see it' is all about.

The universe does not care for humanities looking. The universe has simply provided the environment for those DNA molecules to flourish...

Ken G
2010-Aug-13, 05:26 AM
I think a big problem here is that much of what is being said is not being correctly interpreted. No one has said the universe requires humans to exist, or even intelligence. Pretty much everyone on this thread has adopted the stance of "realism", as I've often repeated, which is the stance that the universe exists independently of our perceptions and concepts that relate to it. Indeed, it is quite standard for scientists to adopt a realist stance, as anything else is extremely inconvenient in science, and would generally be seen as weakening the treasured importance of objectivity. However, the problem appears when people take the next step of mistaking realism, the idea that the universe exists without us, with naive realism, which is the stance that the universe exists in the form that we perceive and conceptualize, independently of our perceptions and conceptualizations. Read that as many times as it takes to see the logical fallacy involved in naive realism.

The point is that we do not just want the universe to exist, we also want to understand it, to talk about it. And we do both, and we find great success at both. Nevertheless, we must at this point drop the pretense that our understanding and language about the universe are somehow not owned by our senses and our intelligence, because it is indeed a pretense. It is perfectly clear that science is a conversation with the universe that includes our perceptions and intelligence, all that is required to notice that is to keep track of what we are doing.

Now, so far what I've said is just plain true in any realist perspective, it requires no leap of intuition or logic. Where the leap comes in is rather when we choose to make the assumption, purely for convenience, that the universe is pretty much the same thing as how we perceive and conceptualize it. This is extremely convenient, and also quite false. It is the same kind of false convenience when we imagine that the body we wake up with in the morning is the same one we took to bed (countless cells have been replaced, and atoms swapped in and out), or that our memories of yesterday are really what happened yesterday (false memories are quite easy to study, as are people's confidence in memories, even the false ones). We see things that didn't happen, hear words never spoken, and make assumptions and inferences that are fallacious-- all these things we do completely routinely, and are at some level aware that we do so routinely, yet simply for convenience and expediency we generally ignore these facts. But in some contexts we are called on to recognize them-- in a court of law, we might say "to the best of my recollection" to cover ourselves, but in an argument with a spouse we might say "I know I never did that." We make the leap of leaving out the "middleman", the "ghost in the machine" if you will, based on context, convenience, and expediency.

And we do that in physics too-- except we get burned when we do so improperly, in contexts that are not so forgiving. We don't understand how two slits affect a diffraction pattern if we think the photon went through a slit independently of how which-slit knowledge could be conveyed to our perception and intelligence. We don't understand why two relativistically moving observers could perceive different lengths for rigid objects if we think the length of an object should be independent of our perception and intelligence, titrated through our reference frame. We don't understand how a photon that has been traveling in deep space for 13.7 billion years can "know" not to be detected by a distant alien if it is getting detected by us, even though it cannot know whether we or the alien would detect it right up until it actually happens, if we think that the way we conceptualize photons is not involved in that outcome. And we don't understand how entangled particles defeat the Bell inequality if we think the universe is the same thing as the individual pieces that our intelligence separates it into. Bottom line: naive realism doesn't work in general, but it does work fine in our daily lives. It is wrong, but it is convenient-- like a very many concepts we use all the time. There's nothing wrong with using a concept that is wrong but convenient, there is only something wrong with the leap that says any concepts that works must be the truth-- despite volumes of historical and scientific evidence to the contrary.

Let me give one final example to see what I am really saying here. A naive realist in the year 1800 would have sworn on a stack of religious texts of their choosing that gravity was a force. It was clearly a force, the universe knew it was a force long before Newton did, and it was a force whether or not any intelligence was around to label it as such or not. Now ask again in 2000-- oops, gravity isn't really a force any more, and the universe never thought it was, it was never hoodwinked by the success of Newton's approach. In 2100, maybe it will be back to being a force again. Now, the question is, does the universe really keep changing how it does gravity every few centuries? Or would it be more accurate to simply say that the way our intelligence chooses to talk about gravity is what is changing? Realism requires not that gravity be a force, it requires that gravity be whatever it is, which is by necessity (to have realism) something different from how we talk about it. The irony is, those who think they are the realists here, those who'd swear that "yes the tree falls", are actually not being true to a realist stance at all. They say the universe is made of atoms, gravity is a force, space and time are real, etc. etc., completely unaware of the likelihood that physics a thousand years from now will see all those concepts as convenient fabrications. Hence, the actual realist is the one who must cultivate an ability to disentangle what the universe is doing from how we talk about it.

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-13, 06:45 AM
I am mostly in agreement with what you have just formulated Ken, with some exceptions. For example, your gravity example. We detect the attraction between masses, the apple falling from the tree, and term it "gravity". We then have used several mathematical models to attempt to describe it from Newton's "force" to Einstein's spatial distortion. But I find important that we detected an attraction between masses, and how we model it is less relevant, because we are just looking for a black box formulation. The formulation may change, but the attraction between masses exists, independently of our models. Our intelligence has detected the attraction between masses.
The examples you gave about elementary particles is something different. Here we can only use abstract formulations, ranging from 0 dimensional points to 1 dimensional strings, etc, but they are just mathematical simplifications and simplifications of something much more complex.
Getting back to "change" in the universe. Seems to me that this is similar to gravity. We have detected it, how we describe it is less important. Both gravity and change exist. The terms are just labels for observed phenomena, which is independent of an intelligence observing it, IMHO.

astromark
2010-Aug-13, 07:47 AM
how we talk about it[/I]. The irony is, those who think they are the realists here, those who'd swear that "yes the tree falls", are actually not being true to a realist stance at all. They say the universe is made of atoms, gravity is a force, space and time are real, etc. etc., completely unaware of the likelihood that physics a thousand years from now will see all those concepts as convenient fabrications. Hence, the actual realist is the one who must cultivate an ability to disentangle what the universe is doing from how we talk about it.

Ken. I can not agree with your stance here. I feel that the question is not being well represented. I would like to be thought of as scientific.

A realist and a little naive maybe... Lol, But. I do not think gravity is a force. Its a effect.

" how we talk about it " suggests that we still have questions as yet not clear... and thats fine. We have much to learn.

The choice of words used and the culture you are familiar with. As my case with, ' The sky is blue '

The Sky is not blue. Blue is the correct description of the hugh we see.

That white light is refracted and that blue is the frequency that prevails.

Might be correct.

On planet Earth the human eye perceives the sky to be blue. It is not wrong to say so.

So with that on board... I can say Gravity is a force. As wrong as we know it to be. Its right.

Your attempt to disentangle the mire is correct for the culture and education you have...

For some, it is confusing the simple with the complex. Can we be too right for our own good ?

Len Moran
2010-Aug-13, 08:42 AM
I think a big problem here is that much of what is being said is not being correctly interpreted. No one has said the universe requires humans to exist, or even intelligence. Pretty much everyone on this thread has adopted the stance of "realism", as I've often repeated, which is the stance that the universe exists independently of our perceptions and concepts that relate to it. Indeed, it is quite standard for scientists to adopt a realist stance, as anything else is extremely inconvenient in science, and would generally be seen as weakening the treasured importance of objectivity. However, the problem appears when people take the next step of mistaking realism, the idea that the universe exists without us, with naive realism, which is the stance that the universe exists in the form that we perceive and conceptualize, independently of our perceptions and conceptualizations. Read that as many times as it takes to see the logical fallacy involved in naive realism.

Thank you for that post, I was hankering to say something similar myself, but you have made a much better job of it than I could have.

Sometimes it is easy to loose sight of the reasons why some may wish to pursue these deeper questions; it seems to appear to many that we are trying to address a problem that doesn’t exist. But I didn’t become interested in these problems from a philosophical starting point, I didn’t say to myself; let’s see what philosophy can say about science and reality. I just increasingly looked more closely at what it seemed scientists were telling us about nature, and the more I looked, the more something didn’t seem to be quite right in the way science talked about nature in such absolute terms of it’s separation from the observer. The method and purpose of science seemed quite clear to me once upon a time – in principle, we just keep on drilling down, getting closer and closer to nature at it’s most fundamental level, always having this picture of us as detached observers able to eventually place nature inside a glass case, place it in a museum and say “here we can show you all the workings of nature”, just like an exhibit next to it that says, “here is how a steam engine works”. I have had to considerably “de educate” myself in recent years.

I have come to realise, that many scientists don’t directly think about the problems of observer dependence, instead (professionally at least) they prefer to ignore the problems. After all, the scientific method is able to perform extremely well because there is appears to be strong objectivity present within the physical world. The mistake is to think that, by default, this strong objectivity is an intrinsic feature. It may be, but it may also be in appearance only. QM gives a hint (well actually, quite a large hint) that it is only in appearance. The model of QM has been shown, (and is still being shown) as being universal in applicability, so it’s not so easy (as some do) to compartmentalise QM as being some kind of aberration of macroscopic reality – the universality only works in one direction, from micro to macro. Decoherence can model the emergence of macroscopic locality, but it also predicts other outcomes that are not localised, so it is not the case that decoherence provides a model that establishes a macroscopic reality that is not referenced to sentient beings. Nonseparability and Bell’s theorem hint at structures outside of our familiar notions of space and time. I can’t see how any one can talk in such certain terms (as some on this thread have) of space and time being intrinsic properties of independent reality when those very notions come under scrutiny as a result of experiment.

But even at the classical level, if you dig a little deeper, as Ken often does, confusing problems arise – observer separation is not nearly as clear cut as it seems. Infinite space between localised objects seems bizarre to me. A “finite” moment of macroscopic reality, existing as our “present” also seems bizarre to me - almost as if the brain, passively looking at reality, clicks its internal shutter as macroscopic reality plays itself out. I wonder who is controlling the projector? It seems more logical to me that mind creates the appearance of the present in terms arising in part from mind independent reality. Ken has sometimes mentioned the problem of trajectories, they imply that a thrown ball copies it’s own structure an infinite number of times, each copy being produced within a different location of space and time. What does it mean to say that our reality of the ball being thrown is of the same form within independent reality? What does independent reality think of the term "infinite" I wonder?

My point is the same as Ken’s - you don’t have to start from a philosophical perspective, just start with science and ask the question – upon what basis, and to what degree, do we consider scientific knowledge (and hence our macroscopic reality) to be a true indication of mind independent reality? Note that the question does not impact at all on the scientific method – it has no relevance to it, but what it does impact on enormously is the legitimacy of science to answer questions that are related to mind independent reality.

captain swoop
2010-Aug-13, 11:32 AM
Time is a gravitational effect...or should i say, the effects of mass or the restriction on sub atomic/fermion particle momentum.

Space is a neutral matter composite without energy or mass creating the electromagnetically attracted particles like fermions once they gain electromagnetic energy from other existing matter. When 2 or more compatible particles gain the needed energy frequency and join in the form of attraction by the electromagnetic frequencies withing them to create mass which is then seen as the sub atomic particles we can detect etc.

Reality is what you make it, within the rules of life we live and die in. but maybe our own eyes and brains are not quite tuned into everything we think is out there or can see and detect. We onlt detect things, even with our eyes by the use of electromagnetic frequencies, hitting the brain, even through electromagnetic detectors we only look in one way, and we know everything ?lol.. Well we dont realy know that much tbh....thats what i think anyway lol :)

TheUFOPilot
This post is not appropriate for this forum. Any claims or ideas that are against the Mainstream of science should be confined to the ATM Forum. Please take some time to read the rules for posting to the Board, they are linked at the bottom of this post. Thank You

To the Thread in General I see a number of posters and posts here that are straying into ATM land. Please consider what you are posting

BadTrip
2010-Aug-13, 12:32 PM
I think a big problem here is that much of what is being said is not being correctly interpreted. No one has said the universe requires humans to exist, or even intelligence.

If that's the case, then yes, I have misinterpreted what's been said. My apologies gentlemen. This pretty much sums up the whole issue that had my knickers bunched up.


However, the problem appears when people take the next step of mistaking realism, the idea that the universe exists without us, with naive realism, which is the stance that the universe exists in the form that we perceive and conceptualize, independently of our perceptions and conceptualizations. Read that as many times as it takes to see the logical fallacy involved in naive realism.
Thank you for stating things in this manner. Would you be agreeable to me adding one word in there?... perhaps if I added the word "exclusively"...like this: .... naive realism, which is the stance that the universe exists exclusively in the form that we perceive and conceptualize, independently of our perceptions and conceptualizations.
For me that renders a bit different meaning, and I am curious as to whether it agrees with what you were saying.


The point is that we do not just want the universe to exist, we also want to understand it, to talk about it. And we do both, and we find great success at both. Nevertheless, we must at this point drop the pretense that our understanding and language about the universe are somehow not owned by our senses and our intelligence, because it is indeed a pretense. It is perfectly clear that science is a conversation with the universe that includes our perceptions and intelligence, all that is required to notice that is to keep track of what we are doing.
Perfect. Agreed.



And we do that in physics too-- except we get burned when we do so improperly, in contexts that are not so forgiving. We don't understand how two slits affect a diffraction pattern if we think the photon went through a slit independently of how which-slit knowledge could be conveyed to our perception and intelligence. We don't understand why two relativistically moving observers could perceive different lengths for rigid objects if we think the length of an object should be independent of our perception and intelligence, titrated through our reference frame. We don't understand how a photon that has been traveling in deep space for 13.7 billion years can "know" not to be detected by a distant alien if it is getting detected by us, even though it cannot know whether we or the alien would detect it right up until it actually happens, if we think that the way we conceptualize photons is not involved in that outcome. And we don't understand how entangled particles defeat the Bell inequality if we think the universe is the same thing as the individual pieces that our intelligence separates it into. Bottom line: naive realism doesn't work in general, but it does work fine in our daily lives. It is wrong, but it is convenient-- like a very many concepts we use all the time. There's nothing wrong with using a concept that is wrong but convenient, there is only something wrong with the leap that says any concepts that works must be the truth-- despite volumes of historical and scientific evidence to the contrary.
And do you think that the truth behind the examples you have given amounts to more than simply not having the math/theory perfected yet? I'm not arguing it either way... just asking your opinion regarding the examples you mentioned....that we clearly don't undertand the observational results we record.

Let me give one final example to see what I am really saying here. A naive realist in the year 1800 would have sworn on a stack of religious texts of their choosing that gravity was a force. It was clearly a force, the universe knew it was a force long before Newton did, and it was a force whether or not any intelligence was around to label it as such or not. Now ask again in 2000-- oops, gravity isn't really a force any more, and the universe never thought it was, it was never hoodwinked by the success of Newton's approach. In 2100, maybe it will be back to being a force again. Now, the question is, does the universe really keep changing how it does gravity every few centuries? [/quote]
I believe the answer is clearly no... the universe doesn't change how it "does" gravity every few centuries. hehe :lol:

Or would it be more accurate to simply say that the way our intelligence chooses to talk about gravity is what is changing? Realism requires not that gravity be a force, it requires that gravity be whatever it is, which is by necessity (to have realism) something different from how we talk about it.
Agreed.


The irony is, those who think they are the realists here, those who'd swear that "yes the tree falls", are actually not being true to a realist stance at all. They say the universe is made of atoms, gravity is a force, space and time are real, etc. etc., completely unaware of the likelihood that physics a thousand years from now will see all those concepts as convenient fabrications. Hence, the actual realist is the one who must cultivate an ability to disentangle what the universe is doing from how we talk about it.
Arrrgg!!... pierced through!!!:exclaim: I would still say the tree falls........ as far as I know.

I need to study more on these issues. I thank you Ken G et al for the discussion and debate, and for your patience.

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-13, 12:37 PM
Wow! well its been a few days since I last read this thread and I'm amazed how much debate and discussion has arose from a question I was just basically asking myself, thinking out loud as such, during a discussion on another thread.

Thanks folks for all your input! I do apologise but I have not had the time or mental fitness to read through and try and understand all the posts so far. But it appears to me that some feel that what we perceive as reality is mainly down to individual interpretation.

So I ask, If you came across a rock, just a simple piece of granite lets say. You invited E.T to examine this rock, her method of observation is totally alien to anything we have witnessed from any species we know of here on Earth. What conclusion would you expect would result from E.T's examination?

Would the rock be considered a reality by both parties? If she decide to pick it up and whack you on the head with it would that be a reality or down to an observer's interpretation? lol

The universe created the rock, it took time to form and it will eventually erode. This is our observation and interpretation of what its reality is, are we not one of the universe's way of knowing, measuring and recording its self?

BadTrip
2010-Aug-13, 12:55 PM
Decoherence can model the emergence of macroscopic locality, but it also predicts other outcomes that are not localised, so it is not the case that decoherence provides a model that establishes a macroscopic reality that is not referenced to sentient beings.
Could you elaborate Len? I'm a sponge. ......very old and not terribly evolved. :)


Nonseparability and Bell’s theorem hint at structures outside of our familiar notions of space and time. I can’t see how any one can talk in such certain terms (as some on this thread have) of space and time being intrinsic properties of independent reality when those very notions come under scrutiny as a result of experiment.
Expound upon this please?


Infinite space between localised objects seems bizarre to me. A “finite” moment of macroscopic reality, existing as our “present” also seems bizarre to me - almost as if the brain, passively looking at reality, clicks its internal shutter as macroscopic reality plays itself out.
Indeed.... quite bizarre. How confident are we that we have the math correct?


I wonder who is controlling the projector?
.......intriguing....... I'd apprecaite hearing your belief on this answer.


It seems more logical to me that mind creates the appearance of the present in terms arising in part from mind independent reality. Ken has sometimes mentioned the problem of trajectories, they imply that a thrown ball copies it’s own structure an infinite number of times, each copy being produced within a different location of space and time. What does it mean to say that our reality of the ball being thrown is of the same form within independent reality? What does independent reality think of the term "infinite" I wonder?
Could you reference a thread? I'd enjoy reading that discussion.

Thanks Len!

BadTrip
2010-Aug-13, 12:57 PM
To the Thread in General I see a number of posters and posts here that are straying into ATM land. Please consider what you are posting


Hi Catain Swoop sir! Could you point out some of the instances where this thread has strayed? Not arguing... I just want to understand, so if it's me that's done the swaying I'll recognize it and not do so in the future.
Thanks for all your work on the forum!!

Ken G
2010-Aug-13, 02:39 PM
We detect the attraction between masses, the apple falling from the tree, and term it "gravity". And when we "detect" attraction, if you analyze the process, you will see where our intelligence comes in in several places, and where our unique set of perceptions come into play in several other places. Ultimately, we invoke language, and call it gravity. We are now deeply into our own ownership of the concept, and very different ways of thinking about the process might bear little resemblance.

But I find important that we detected an attraction between masses, and how we model it is less relevant, because we are just looking for a black box formulation. You are saying that detection of "attraction" between "masses" is not a model, but forces and spacetime curvature are. But in fact, they are all models, that is a whole sentence full of models-- all that changes is the increasing sophistication and complexity of the model. Each intelligence can follow that series of increasing complexity farther and farther-- a dog might have a vague concept of "mass" and "attraction" (but no language for it), a child might put language with more precise meanings to those but not "force leading to acceleration", which took Newton, then Einstein got "curvature of spacetime", Witten got "graviton exchange between strings" (or whatever he gets), some alien superintelligence might get "temporal cross correlations along creases in the dodecahedral hypermanifold" or who knows what. Models every one-- why do we draw some arbitrary line and say "this is a simple non-quantitative model, it must be the reality, and here are more complicated and predictive models, they are physical theories." We make models, if they work, we keep them. That's it, the process is clear enough, it is simply carried to different lengths.


The formulation may change, but the attraction between masses exists, independently of our models.No, our models are not independent of our models.

Our intelligence has detected the attraction between masses.That is simply not a precise description of the process, it is a giant shortcut that is quite convenient and we get away with a lot, but is not really correct. A more precise description of that process is that our particularly ability to "do intelligence" has organized our particular perceptions in a way that has generated simple models that we choose to deem as successful enough to accept as true, recognizing that "what is true" in science depends on the context of our goals in any particular situation-- all of which is judged and mediated by our own intelligence. A long way of saying "detect", but the distinctions are important, because they involve far less pretense on our part.

Both gravity and change exist. The terms are just labels for observed phenomena, which is independent of an intelligence observing it, IMHO.It's fine for anyone to choose a philosophical stance and have an opinion, but it must be logically consistent with the reasons it is being adopted. You can assert that gravity and change exist, in your opinion, but you cannot then say they are labels for observed phenomena independently of intelligence, because that is inconsistent. If gravity and change exist independently of the intelligence observing them, then they are not "observed phenomena." If they are observed phenomena (which is the stance I take), then they are not independent of the act of observation, and the intelligence required to give meaning to what an act of observation is. You cannot have it both ways, you must choose-- that is the purpose of philosophy, to unearth the choices you must make in order to hold a logically self-consistent position.

Ken G
2010-Aug-13, 02:51 PM
Ken. I can not agree with your stance here. I feel that the question is not being well represented. I would like to be thought of as scientific.

A realist and a little naive maybe... Lol, But. I do not think gravity is a force. Its a effect.That's fine, that is a perfectly valid way to talk about gravity. I do not see any disagreement yet.

I can say Gravity is a force. As wrong as we know it to be. Its right.
I think I even know what you mean by the "wrong is right" reference here-- you are saying that we have various valid ways to talk about gravity, so even if they are not what gravity really is, we find value in using them. That's perfectly true, and completely consistent with what I'm saying here, still no disagreement. In fact, it makes my point-- given that our models are different in different contexts and when we have different goals in mind, that makes it perfectly clear what the role of intelligence is here.


For some, it is confusing the simple with the complex. Can we be too right for our own good ?That is a very different question, and one that I have no answer to, except that I think it is never dangerous to know what we are doing. I agree with you that when we find a simple way to think about something, and we are happy with it, it is annoying to have flaws pointed out. But is that not also true about creationists, or those who follow astrology? Is it not our goal to see the truth?

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-13, 03:27 PM
Ok, if space under GR is a co-ordinate system, mathematically constructed, how does relate into physical effect which can be observed and felt? i.e gravity....

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-13, 03:58 PM
And when we "detect" attraction, if you analyze the process, you will see where our intelligence comes in in several places, and where our unique set of perceptions come into play in several other places. Ultimately, we invoke language, and call it gravity. We are now deeply into our own ownership of the concept, and very different ways of thinking about the process might bear little resemblance.
Am probably being dense here, but why should we own the concept of gravity, when we are applying a verbalization of a visible and evident phenomena of the universe? Any other type of intelligence in the universe would be aware of it, even if termed differently. We might be the owner of the concept when we attempt to describe it using abstract formulas, but not when we recognize its effects.

You are saying that detection of "attraction" between "masses" is not a model, but forces and spacetime curvature are. But in fact, they are all models, that is a whole sentence full of models-- all that changes is the increasing sophistication and complexity of the model.
Are you saying everything which can be verbally described is a model?


Each intelligence can follow that series of increasing complexity farther and farther-- a dog might have a vague concept of "mass" and "attraction" (but no language for it), a child might put language with more precise meanings to those but not "force leading to acceleration", which took Newton, then Einstein got "curvature of spacetime", Witten got "graviton exchange between strings" (or whatever he gets), some alien superintelligence might get "temporal cross correlations along creases in the dodecahedral hypermanifold" or who knows what. Models every one-- why do we draw some arbitrary line and say "this is a simple non-quantitative model, it must be the reality, and here are more complicated and predictive models, they are physical theories." We make models, if they work, we keep them. That's it, the process is clear enough, it is simply carried to different lengths.
To give a label to the phenomena is not a model of itself. Call it what you will, it exists.



That is simply not a precise description of the process, it is a giant shortcut that is quite convenient and we get away with a lot, but is not really correct. A more precise description of that process is that our particularly ability to "do intelligence" has organized our particular perceptions in a way that has generated simple models that we choose to deem as successful enough to accept as true, recognizing that "what is true" in science depends on the context of our goals in any particular situation-- all of which is judged and mediated by our own intelligence. A long way of saying "detect", but the distinctions are important, because they involve far less pretense on our part.
It's fine for anyone to choose a philosophical stance and have an opinion, but it must be logically consistent with the reasons it is being adopted. You can assert that gravity and change exist, in your opinion, but you cannot then say they are labels for observed phenomena independently of intelligence, because that is inconsistent. If gravity and change exist independently of the intelligence observing them, then they are not "observed phenomena." If they are observed phenomena (which is the stance I take), then they are not independent of the act of observation, and the intelligence required to give meaning to what an act of observation is. You cannot have it both ways, you must choose-- that is the purpose of philosophy, to unearth the choices you must make in order to hold a logically self-consistent position.
But gravity and change exist independently of the intelligence observing them. Just because an intelligence is able to observe and detect it, why should the conclusion be that they are dependent on it? As we seem to be going around in circles, sorry, then maybe I should ask you if you mean to say that observed phenomena does not exist outside of the intelligence observing it? It is impossible to discuss anything without using language. Try jumping out the window and denying the existence of change and gravity.

Ken G
2010-Aug-13, 04:43 PM
So I ask, If you came across a rock, just a simple piece of granite lets say. You invited E.T to examine this rock, her method of observation is totally alien to anything we have witnessed from any species we know of here on Earth. What conclusion would you expect would result from E.T's examination?

Would the rock be considered a reality by both parties?The point is, our concept of a rock might be quite different from theirs. What if there are not just five senses, but ten, and they have the other five? What if the particles in the rock are high dimensional strings, and the alien lives on a scale inside that of the curled up dimensions of the strings-- would they still perceive "a rock"? What if the rock is a projection of a higher dimensional strand that connects Earth to a location in those other dimensions, but we have no way to perceive that? These are purely hypothetical possibilities, but that's the problem with being "stuck" within our own framework of perception and intelligence, we have no idea what we are missing, we only find hints of our own limitations at the edges of quantum mechanics and relativity and modern ideas like string theory.


If she decide to pick it up and whack you on the head with it would that be a reality or down to an observer's interpretation?I presume it would be my interpretation that I just got whacked in the head. To the alien, perhaps they enjoy things whacking them, and are quite anatomically different, and she is trying to turn me on.

Len Moran
2010-Aug-13, 05:04 PM
Could you elaborate Len?


Decoherence theory is quite an involved topic, the mathematics of which are beyond me. So the description I give you here needs to be referenced to my source which is “On Physics and Philosophy” by Bernard d’Espagnat. It is he, along with Erich Joos(1987) who first drew attention to this aspect of decoherence theory. For a more detailed understanding of decoherence theory, there are probably others here who could give you a better introduction to it than I can.

Once a system in some initial state (S) has interacted with another system (T), S is not in any well defined quantum state. It is in an entangled state and cannot be described by a wavefunction, only the composite system can be described as such. However on an ensemble of systems identical to S, it is possible to write down a mathematical representation of the ensemble called a reduced state. Now due to some mathematical properties of matrices the reduced state of the composite systems adequately represent not just one but an infinite number of possible proper mixtures of pure quantum states that are in no way localised. Clearly such a result would undermine any interpretation of the reduced state as constituting empirical reality, but it is actually the case that one of the mixtures is explicitly localised at various places.

Now I should say that I am not entirely clear on the interpretation of this, but from my perspective, the model is predicting many mixtures, only one of which is explicitly localised, and thus it follows that we are selecting from that model a mixture that corresponds to the very structure of locality that defines our existence. Thus decoherence theory is referenced to us in that we make a selection from all the possible mixtures in order to represent that which we actually perceive.

I previously mentioned correlation at a distance and how Bell’s theorem (which is theory independent) proves that the correlation cannot be predicted from properties at the source of the particles. Essentially, two particles in opposite states are shown to have a correlation with each other at the point of measurement and that correlation is non local, in other words, an outcome at one particle detector can be correlated to that of the outcome at the other detector with no concept of time or space between the correlations. There is much spoken about faster than light “effects” in this experiment, but I think such macroscopic language is inappropriate, and in any event no signalling as such is possible. I don’t think at all in terms of one particle “affecting” the other, but I do take note of the absence of any reference in this experiment to space or time, thus I consider (well actually, it is d’Espagnat that considers it, but I am happy to follow him) that this very aspect of non locality (and remember it is theory independent) is suggestive of a mind independent reality that does not exist in terms of space (and hence time). I’m not sure how speculative such a leap is, I am still studying d’Espagnat, and there is a lot to take on board, but just from a purely common sense perspective, we have in this experiment a macroscopic system and a microscopic “bit in between”. The former is local and familiar, the later is non local and very unfamiliar invoking correlations not involving space, even though the macroscopic system is embedded in space (and in fact the distance between detectors can be any measure you like). What a contrast! Is it so outlandish to make an assumption that somewhere along the way, within nature, space is not “space” as we define it?

As far as my “projector” was concerned, I did not intend it to be an inference for anything; I kind of just imagined the scenario of reality being projected and our brains taking a movie of it, each frame representing the “present”. It just seemed a suitable manner in which to express my puzzlement over how we think of the “present”. It just seems more logical to me to think of the flow of time as being a construct within our minds, rather than there being some “instant” of reality external to us. What is external to us is independent reality, and I don’t consider that reality to exist within our familiar notions of space and time. I have no thoughts on what kind of structure that would be – it is really outside of thoughts, but whatever it is I think it gives rise to the flow of time we perceive.

The discussions regarding trajectories I don’t think ever came up as individual threads – they were side topics from threads involving similar issues to those being discussed here. There was one recent thread started by Ken G concerning Zeno’s paradox which was very interesting and basically involved the problems of infinity. I will try and find it, but you may be able to get to it through the search facility.

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-13, 05:40 PM
The point is, our concept of a rock might be quite different from theirs. What if there are not just five senses, but ten, and they have the other five? What if the particles in the rock are high dimensional strings, and the alien lives on a scale inside that of the curled up dimensions of the strings-- would they still perceive "a rock"? What if the rock is a projection of a higher dimensional strand that connects Earth to a location in those other dimensions, but we have no way to perceive that? These are purely hypothetical possibilities, but that's the problem with being "stuck" within our own framework of perception and intelligence, we have no idea what we are missing, we only find hints of our own limitations at the edges of quantum mechanics and relativity and modern ideas like string theory.
I presume it would be my interpretation that I just got whacked in the head. To the alien, perhaps they enjoy things whacking them, and are quite anatomically different, and she is trying to turn me on.
This is really fantasizing Ken. In any case, what is relevant for us is what is detectable by us. Besides which, there is no proof of other dimensions, curled up or otherwise. To repeat again, there are certainly aspects of our environment which we can not directly detect, and therefore we come up with, for example, extra dimensions and one dimensional strings and n-branes, as theoretical models. But to call change a model, I find is overdoing it.

Ken G
2010-Aug-13, 06:34 PM
Am probably being dense here, but why should we own the concept of gravity, when we are applying a verbalization of a visible and evident phenomena of the universe?Just look at the words you chose: concept, visible. Is our concept of a rock the same as a beetle's? Is a rock as visible to a blind person as to you?


Any other type of intelligence in the universe would be aware of it, even if termed differently.The term is irrelevant. The definition of the term, and the perceptions and concepts it invokes, is what I am talking about.



Are you saying everything which can be verbally described is a model? The term "model" is somewhat more specific than simply a "verbal description", because a model relates to the issues of predicting action. But it is indeed the similarities that matter here-- both verbal descriptions, and models, invoke perceptions and concepts, based on experience and intelligence, and we own them both.


To give a label to the phenomena is not a model of itself. Call it what you will, it exists.Realism says that something exists which we attach a label to-- but the attributes that allow us to talk about it, and to understand and predict it, must invoke our perceptions and concepts. That's the part we own. We also own the judgements around how well the predictions have worked for us. That's all us. For example, we teach that in the absence of air resistance, all objects fall the same, but to a flying squirrel, it is how air resistance changes that which is all that really matters.


But gravity and change exist independently of the intelligence observing them. No, what exists independently of intelligence, if we adopt realism, is whatever we have chosen to describe, by invoking our own perseptions and intelligence, as gravity and change. But gravity and change are words, and they have definitions, and someone whose perceptions and intelligence does not intersect with our own, could never have the slightest idea what you are talking about when you refer to either gravity or change.

Try jumping out the window and denying the existence of change and gravity.That's quite irrelevant to the issue of gravity or change, you are conflating an actual event with the significance and reasons that your intelligence attaches to the event.

mugaliens
2010-Aug-13, 08:27 PM
If we make it respect relativity, such that all that matters is the proper time along every path in spacetime, what difference would it make if some of those world lines were said to "pause" for a spell, with no proper time elapsing during those pauses? You couldn't tell the difference.

Much like last night, when I thought I set my alarm for 10 am and wound up setting it for 2 pm...

I do think we'd notice, though, as certain things would fail to sequence with others. Unless, of course, all world lines stopped. But if just some stopped? Yes, we'd notice.

astromark
2010-Aug-13, 08:54 PM
Thank you Ken, after post #155 I can agree with your view...

and as for that rock ? How could we possibly comprehend the intelligence of understanding of an alien regarding the discovery of a granite rock...

and the 'Prime Directive' was always going to be just a excuse for moral high ground... grandstanding... and nonsense.

Under the heading of 'What is time Space and reality' I think as long as we remember that its 'our reality'

and might be conceived as different from the view of a alien species. We will be fine... Relatively., Relativity. @ 39deg.South Mark.

Ken G
2010-Aug-13, 10:39 PM
I do think we'd notice, though, as certain things would fail to sequence with others. Unless, of course, all world lines stopped. But if just some stopped? Yes, we'd notice.As long as the proper time along the path stayed the same, there would be nothing to notice. That's what I'm saying-- there is no "rate of time", there is only the elapsed time along a path. It can "stop", "start", "go fast or slow", all it wants-- as long as it adds up to the correct elapsed time, nothing gets "out of sequence."

Ken G
2010-Aug-14, 12:36 AM
In any case, what is relevant for us is what is detectable by us. Besides which, there is no proof of other dimensions, curled up or otherwise.Which is very much a part of my argument. We care only about what matters to our perception, and our intelligence. That's the point-- we own what we care about, as does a lion in the wild. But it is obvious to us that the lion in the wild does not care about everything that is there (much of our science has gone well beyond what a lion can conceive of). So why do we imagine something different for ourselves? I find that remarkable, how trapped inside our own narrow views we can become. And don't argue that it is scientific to get so trapped-- the history of science is a history of breaking away from what we used to imagine was all there was.

Ken G
2010-Aug-14, 01:19 AM
But I didn’t become interested in these problems from a philosophical starting point, I didn’t say to myself; let’s see what philosophy can say about science and reality. I just increasingly looked more closely at what it seemed scientists were telling us about nature, and the more I looked, the more something didn’t seem to be quite right in the way science talked about nature in such absolute terms of it’s separation from the observer. I agree, it is science itself that forces us to address these questions. Amazingly, issues that ancient philosophers worried about keep returning, and are relevant to the very newest theories we now have. There is even something called the "Quantum Zeno paradox", for example.



I have come to realise, that many scientists don’t directly think about the problems of observer dependence, instead (professionally at least) they prefer to ignore the problemsQuite true, it rarely comes up in everyday science, which is normally quite incremental in nature. But even incremental scientists want to know what the latest big discoveries are, and what they say about our ongoing conversation with nature.


The mistake is to think that, by default, this strong objectivity is an intrinsic feature.It certainly may be a kind of selection effect-- science works on what science works on, and so tends to concentrate on what it works on, so tends to seem to work on everything. The more valuable is the concept of objectivity, the more "tunnel vision" we get about applying it. The danger is never the model that succeeds too badly, we know just what to do with those-- it is the one that succeeds too well that leaves us vulnerable to be victimized by our own hubris.
Nonseparability and Bell’s theorem hint at structures outside of our familiar notions of space and time. I can’t see how any one can talk in such certain terms (as some on this thread have) of space and time being intrinsic properties of independent reality when those very notions come under scrutiny as a result of experiment.It certainly hints that the reality we manufacture in our minds is very much an effective version of the real thing-- a version that relates most closely to what we care about for survival, but leaves behind most completely what we do not. Given that, it amazes me that we can do things, and often the things with the highest accuracy, that are the farthest removed from anything that directly connected with our own survival and evolution. There must be something about intelligence that can find successful patterns in reality that transcends the process that allowed intelligence to appear. That's another reason why sooner or later, scientific progress is going to require a better understanding of what intelligence is, and how it filters scientific reality, to make further progress into that reality.

Ken G
2010-Aug-14, 01:30 AM
Would you be agreeable to me adding one word in there?... perhaps if I added the word "exclusively"...like this: .... naive realism, which is the stance that the universe exists exclusively in the form that we perceive and conceptualize, independently of our perceptions and conceptualizations.
For me that renders a bit different meaning, and I am curious as to whether it agrees with what you were saying.
I would agree that if the word "exclusively" is in there, it's naive realism. If it isn't, one needs to probe deeper into what is meant by "exists." To me, the core of the naivete is the denial that what we get from nature is filtered by our perceptions and intelligence. Denying that filter is a lot like saying that nature is there just for us.


And do you think that the truth behind the examples you have given amounts to more than simply not having the math/theory perfected yet? No, the limitations I'm talking about are fundamental, and cannot be escaped by better theories. Instead, our theories seem paradoxical if we don't understand those limitations.

I would still say the tree falls........ as far as I know. I agree, we are both realists. I'm just probing what realism means-- it does not mean we understand reality as it is, it means we understand what aspects of reality we can understand, yet what is "real" is something different from our understanding of it.

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-14, 07:37 AM
No, what exists independently of intelligence, if we adopt realism, is whatever we have chosen to describe, by invoking our own perseptions and intelligence, as gravity and change. But gravity and change are words, and they have definitions, and someone whose perceptions and intelligence does not intersect with our own, could never have the slightest idea what you are talking about when you refer to either gravity or change.

Really do not agree here. I maintain that gravity and change are universal. Independent of any intelligence observing it, and therefore appears the same to any type of intelligence in the universe detecting it.

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-14, 09:37 AM
The point is, our concept of a rock might be quite different from theirs. What if there are not just five senses, but ten, and they have the other five? What if the particles in the rock are high dimensional strings, and the alien lives on a scale inside that of the curled up dimensions of the strings-- would they still perceive "a rock"? What if the rock is a projection of a higher dimensional strand that connects Earth to a location in those other dimensions, but we have no way to perceive that? These are purely hypothetical possibilities, but that's the problem with being "stuck" within our own framework of perception and intelligence, we have no idea what we are missing, we only find hints of our own limitations at the edges of quantum mechanics and relativity and modern ideas like string theory..

This is my thinking also, but digging deeper the reality is the rock exists which ever way we or an alien may choose to interpret it. Heck the universe we exist in may well be interpreted as a solid rock to an alien whose universe is immensely larger, she could be whacking her fella with it right now as we speak.


I presume it would be my interpretation that I just got whacked in the head. To the alien, perhaps they enjoy things whacking them, and are quite anatomically different, and she is trying to turn me on..

Lol, I've had human woman do much worse on dates, but thats another story not for this forum.

Ken G
2010-Aug-14, 01:37 PM
Really do not agree here. I maintain that gravity and change are universal. Independent of any intelligence observing it, and therefore appears the same to any type of intelligence in the universe detecting it.
They could be universal to intelligence-- perhaps there is some sense to the claim that intelligence involves the ability to conceptualize the meaning of change. But Parmenides was intelligent, and he felt change was an illusion of the senses.

Ken G
2010-Aug-14, 01:38 PM
This is my thinking also, but digging deeper the reality is the rock exists which ever way we or an alien may choose to interpret it. Heck the universe we exist in may well be interpreted as a solid rock to an alien whose universe is immensely larger, she could be whacking her fella with it right now as we speak.
Good point!

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-14, 02:37 PM
They could be universal to intelligence-- perhaps there is some sense to the claim that intelligence involves the ability to conceptualize the meaning of change. But Parmenides was intelligent, and he felt change was an illusion of the senses.
But he was a philosophisizer carrying logic to far IMHO. He claimed that change and movement are apearances of a static, eternal reality. This is also reflected in Block Time theory, stating that past, present and future are all here.

caveman1917
2010-Aug-14, 03:54 PM
But Parmenides was intelligent

But so was Heraclitus.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-15, 02:20 AM
But so was Heraclitus.

As was Democritus.

Laughing or weeping......the universe marches on.... trees fall. ...........and rabbits in black helicopters still try to hide from us the meaning of meaning.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-15, 02:32 AM
I would agree that if the word "exclusively" is in there, it's naive realism. If it isn't, one needs to probe deeper into what is meant by "exists." To me, the core of the naivete is the denial that what we get from nature is filtered by our perceptions and intelligence. Denying that filter is a lot like saying that nature is there just for us.
I would not argue with that at all. Have I been such a poor communicator that I have given the impression to a reader that I agreed with the above stance?.... that I felt that what we get from nature is somehow NOT filtered by our perceptions and intelligence?


I agree, we are both realists. I'm just probing what realism means-- it does not mean we understand reality as it is, it means we understand what aspects of reality we can understand, yet what is "real" is something different from our understanding of it.
I suspect we believe reality is what we believe it to be, yes. ...not that reality IS what we believe it to be. ....at least not in whole... perhaps in part. The truth of reality is probably much deeper.... much more complex than what we understand at this time.

AriAstronomer
2010-Aug-15, 03:30 AM
As Badtrip quoted
I suspect we believe reality is what we believe it to be, yes. ...not that reality IS what we believe it to be. ....at least not in whole... perhaps in part. The truth of reality is probably much deeper.... much more complex than what we understand at this time.
I suppose I'm not very good at explaining myself, and is something I hope will come with time. After reading your post above though, I feel like we are in agreement. What I meant by:

My meaning though, is if there is no thing to interpret the universe, than what form does it take? The universe requires a sentient being to take any kind of structure, and without one, although yes, I suppose there is something still there, there aren't galaxies spinning. Galaxies only spin when humans see them. Without humans, there is nothing but ....(I don't know what).
Is that, the true reality of the universe, although exists, is not in any kind of form that we can imagine. We interpret the universe the best we can, but when we come up with a theory of gravity for example, and talk about the curvature of space and whatnot, most likely what we describe is nothing like what the universe is actually doing, but describes the process well enough (within error) that we adopt it. When people start to take this as reality though, and forget that everything we know is simply an approximation for something that could be infinitely more complex, you can run into problems. We, as humans, invent and interpret the universe in a very specific and unique way, when really the ultimate reality is probably something which cannot be seen by anything intelligent. So in that sense, since the true 'view' of the universe cannot (probably) be seen by anything intelligent, every view of the universe by every intelligent being can be thought of as simply a frame of reference, and the true 'view' is un-see able. As far as the tree making a noise goes, I might agree that 'something' fell, and created a 'disturbance', but I don't think anything more specific can be said about it. Without humans, there is no tree, there is no 'noise', simply a disturbance which is interpreted according to the observer. I hope I've made myself a bit more clear. Or maybe I don't make any sense at all?

Ken G
2010-Aug-15, 05:53 AM
But so was Heraclitus.Indeed. Intelligence forms many opinions, that is quite consistent with my point-- I am arguing against "innate" aspects of reality that we can talk about independently of our intelligence. To me, the position that requires the least intelligence to support is that intelligence is required.

Ken G
2010-Aug-15, 06:15 AM
I would not argue with that at all. Have I been such a poor communicator that I have given the impression to a reader that I agreed with the above stance?.... that I felt that what we get from nature is somehow NOT filtered by our perceptions and intelligence? It seemed you were arguing with my claim, which has been just that-- that science attempts to understand reality subject to and after passing that filter, not reality independent of or prior to that filter. The distinction is important-- it means we have to understand how much are "our own fingerprints" on our own science.



I suspect we believe reality is what we believe it to be, yes. ...not that reality IS what we believe it to be.Have you not just stated both that you believe reality is what you believe it to be, and that you do not think reality is what you believe it to be? To escape that quandary, simply allow yourself to believe that reality is whatever it is, and not any of the concepts or quantities we attribute to it. That's what I keep returning to-- there is no need whatsoever to take seriously our own models of reality, nothing in science requires that we regard them as anything other than what they are, and some elements of scientific progress require that we recognize what they are.

The truth of reality is probably much deeper.... much more complex than what we understand at this time.I was right with you until you said "at this time." Why would that be different at any time? Are we suddenly not going to have to filter the complexities of reality to achieve understanding? Perhaps at some point we will understand better what intelligence is, and how it shapes science, and then we will understand better why science asks the questions it does and why it gets useful answers, but even that will only further the process of replacing superficial mysteries with more profound ones. I simply have no idea why people tend to imagine that this process reaches a conclusion or arrives at a final destination at some point-- it merely goes as far as it goes. Perhaps understanding the process better will help it go farther.

Ken G
2010-Aug-15, 06:17 AM
We interpret the universe the best we can, but when we come up with a theory of gravity for example, and talk about the curvature of space and whatnot, most likely what we describe is nothing like what the universe is actually doing, but describes the process well enough (within error) that we adopt it. When people start to take this as reality though, and forget that everything we know is simply an approximation for something that could be infinitely more complex, you can run into problems.And that is pretty much all I am saying as well. The overarching objective is not to reject realism (the idea that there is a universe "out there" that we are muddling along trying to understand the best we can), instead, it is to resuscitate realism-- given the body blow it took in the last century of physics.

Incidentally, the "body blows" to naive (observer-independent) realism that I refer to are the experiments that led to relativity and quantum mechanics. Einstein's relativity is itself a way to preserve realism by identifying "invariants" from among all the seemingly conflicting observations, but I personally think that counting invariants as "observer independent" quantities is rather missing their point-- an invariant is simply a measurement that includes the measurer. So it's not observer-independent, it's observer-conscious. It's true that relativity allows us to take observations in one frame and convert them to what a different observer would get, but that's still not observer independent-- it's instructions for translating between what is owned by the various observers.

Quantum mechanics is even more clearly observer-conscious, what with the "Heisenberg gap" between the macro intelligence and the micro process. All change at the quantum level is seen to "seep through the cracks" of the uncertainty that a macro intelligence has about the micro process. That presents a rather fundamental challenge to those who would maintain that both the reality, and the change in the reality, are innate entities independent of our intelligence-- quantum mechanics tells us that both cannot be innate, because a state of complete certainty is only achieved when the state is what is known as "stationary" (unchanging). That is elementary quantum mechanics, but oh what a surprise it came to those who did not expect observer dependence in realism (they did not expect that the questions the observer is putting to the reality affects what the reality becomes-- we are not studying the reality, we are studying the conversation).

kevin1981
2010-Aug-15, 11:24 AM
Hello all, i have been reading this thread from the start and it is pretty interesting. AriAstronomer's last post makes a lot of sense to me. But what i have realized is that the question of, 'why is there "something" rather than "nothing", can not be answered. And it's not because of the simple answer of we don't know, though that does apply too.

But, also, the words and meaning of, "something" and "nothing" are human made names that we have given to those "concepts". So my conclusion now, to the question of why there is something rather than nothing is simply, Reality just "is".

Does that make sense to anyone?

Ken G
2010-Aug-15, 02:39 PM
Does that make sense to anyone?
Makes perfect sense to me.

nokton
2010-Aug-15, 03:57 PM
Reading this thread, I am now convinced that BAUT is but a figment of my imagination...:D

Hi gzhpcu, ' In the search for truth, language is suspect', Bertrand Russel.
Nokton.

nokton
2010-Aug-15, 05:04 PM
My apologies to Ken and Len, but these philosophical arguments, while erudite and logically correct, just do not convince me. The universe is most certainly out there, independent of any intelligence observing it. It has many characteristics, and maybe some additional ones of which we are not aware due to the limitations of our sensorial makeup.Our understanding of the universe is probably incomplete, but it is still valid if only in a limited sense.

It is physical, it is undergoing change and evolution. Our understanding of the microworld is currently limited to our mathematical model which we call quantum mechanics. It works very well, except for extreme conditions, where it comes in conflict with General Relativity, but, as we have often discussed it models how things work and not what they are.

That "change" is not real, but just a product of our intelligence, does not make any sense to me.
Nor me, we take mathematics for granted, and apply the knowledge and value we deduce from them as sacrosanct.
Reality is often discussed on this site, or rather our concept of it. We are driven to make conclusions on a belief system.
The human mind has a predilection for subscribing to that comfortable system of thinking, and anything that challenges
that is anathema. To me, true science is above proscribed thought.
Is anyone here familiar with the work of Jeff Paris and Leo Harrington, and arithmetical incompleteness, and Ramseys
theorem, and the colour of numbers?
Nokton

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-16, 08:53 AM
So lets look at the laws that govern the universe. We use maths to predict and measure observational outcome, by observational I also include change and effect. It appears the laws we have discovered using the data acquired and the math to predict them appear to stand true throughout the universe we have observed so far. So what does this mean? Well my thoughts would be that true reality regardless of the observers interpretation must hold or the laws which govern such would be meaningless. Now are these laws universal? if so then they will apply to all intelligence throughout the universe. How well each intelligence understands them and how well they can manipulate them to their use is down to each individual's capability's and knowledge, which also includes their interpretation. So do we ask, is true reality universal and governed by laws or is reality just an interpretation of each observers current understanding and capability?

BadTrip
2010-Aug-16, 12:32 PM
As Badtrip quoted
I suppose I'm not very good at explaining myself, and is something I hope will come with time. After reading your post above though, I feel like we are in agreement.
Ari, I haven't done a very good job explaining my stance on things either. I appreciate your patience and respectful attitude. I think we are probably also in agreement with respect to at least 90% of the discussion and many of the portions that I would dispute can probably be attributed to semantics issues.


What I meant by:

Is that, the true reality of the universe, although exists, is not in any kind of form that we can imagine. We interpret the universe the best we can, but when we come up with a theory of gravity for example, and talk about the curvature of space and whatnot, most likely what we describe is nothing like what the universe is actually doing, but describes the process well enough (within error) that we adopt it. When people start to take this as reality though, and forget that everything we know is simply an approximation for something that could be infinitely more complex, you can run into problems. We, as humans, invent and interpret the universe in a very specific and unique way, when really the ultimate reality is probably something which cannot be seen by anything intelligent.
I would agree with everything you wrote here with the exception of this: "We, as humans, invent and interpret the universe..."
I would not agree that we "invent" the universe. I understand "invent" as being defined thusly: to originate or create as a product of one's own ingenuity, experimentation, or contrivance. So, if we are in agreement on the definition of the term "invent", then I would disagree with a statement that we invent the universe. I would agree that we invent our own understanding of the universe, but I don't think the universe is in any way limited to that which we can contrive, design, or conceive. Do you see the difference that I am trying to point out? .....you don't have to agree... I'm just wondering if I'm communicating at a satisfactory level.


So in that sense, since the true 'view' of the universe cannot (probably) be seen by anything intelligent, every view of the universe by every intelligent being can be thought of as simply a frame of reference, and the true 'view' is un-see able.
Interesting concepts. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I understand your words of "the true 'view'", to be meaning the full scope of the universe, in all its complexities....a full and complete understanding. If I've understood you correctly then I would answer that 1) I think anything that would have a full and complete understanding of the universe would be immensely intelligent, and 2) that I think this would demand that this entity be capable of existing outside of the universe....and we quickly approach discussions that I believe the mods would take issue with on this forum.....discussions that would be clearly philosophical in nature.


.....as far as the tree making a noise goes, I might agree that 'something' fell, and created a 'disturbance', but I don't think anything more specific can be said about it. Without humans, there is no tree, there is no 'noise', simply a disturbance which is interpreted according to the observer. I hope I've made myself a bit more clear. Or maybe I don't make any sense at all?

Here I would respectfully disagree with you. I don't perceive this to be simply an issue of semantics.... you say you might agree that "something" fell....but you say that without humans there is no tree. I assume you're not simply arguing that to some other intelligence the thing that fell might be called a "shrubbery"....or a "*". We're talking the physical photosynthetic organism that we use the word "tree" to refer to. From my stance, that tree exists prior to it's being observed by us. Should it fall, it will have interactions with other physical manifestations...things we use words to describe....such as other trees, dirt, rocks, air.... and there will be a set of vibrations created by these various interactions of physical manifestations... those vibrations are what we would call sound...or noise... and I think they would be produced regardless of whether there is an intelligence there to observe those phenomena. It's not about there being some intelligence present to assign terms and labels and descriptions to what's occurred.... it's about the fact of the occurrence itself.
You said, "Without humans, there is no tree, there is no 'noise', simply a disturbance which is interpreted according to the observer." .........what's the disturbance then if there's no human there to interpret? Does the rabbit that flees the disturbance possess the intelligence to qualify it as "sound"? ....Does the cricket that ceases his chirping when he perceives those vibrations in the air posses the necessary intelligence to qualify the event as a "noise producing event"?

I appreciate your views Ari and respect your willingness to engage in polite, lively debate. Thank you sir.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-16, 01:48 PM
It seemed you were arguing with my claim, which has been just that-- that science attempts to understand reality subject to and after passing that filter, not reality independent of or prior to that filter. The distinction is important-- it means we have to understand how much are "our own fingerprints" on our own science.
I must have misunderstood your stance. I thought you were stating that science creates reality upon observation of nature.
I do not argue that we can only observe within our capacity for observation....which is where the filter comes in to play. I agree, it would be preferable to understand how much our vision is clouded by the facts of how our vision works, so to speak.
That seems very different than claiming that without an intelligence to observe it, nothing exists....which is what I thought you were stating. I have apparently misunderstood you and been making arguments where none were needed.

BadTrip said: "I suspect we believe reality is what we believe it to be, yes. ...not that reality IS what we believe it to be."



Have you not just stated both that you believe reality is what you believe it to be, and that you do not think reality is what you believe it to be? To escape that quandary, simply allow yourself to believe that reality is whatever it is, and not any of the concepts or quantities we attribute to it. That's what I keep returning to-- there is no need whatsoever to take seriously our own models of reality, nothing in science requires that we regard them as anything other than what they are, and some elements of scientific progress require that we recognize what they are.
Yes, that was poor wording on my part. Point taken. I meant to be conveying the idea that I believe a true universal understanding of the whole of reality escapes us, even when we think we have a good handle on many pieces and parts of that whole. I agree with you...reality is what it is.


I was right with you until you said "at this time." Why would that be different at any time? Are we suddenly not going to have to filter the complexities of reality to achieve understanding? Perhaps at some point we will understand better what intelligence is, and how it shapes science, and then we will understand better why science asks the questions it does and why it gets useful answers, but even that will only further the process of replacing superficial mysteries with more profound ones. I simply have no idea why people tend to imagine that this process reaches a conclusion or arrives at a final destination at some point-- it merely goes as far as it goes. Perhaps understanding the process better will help it go farther.
Ok, so reality is deeper than we can understand... period. I can agree with that. Do you agree with that?

BadTrip
2010-Aug-16, 01:51 PM
I just wanted to take a moment to post my appreciation to all the folks who've posted on this thread. Each and every response has been polite and courteous, regardless of agreement or disagreement. It's really enjoyable to have these conversations with people who remain polite, not letting things degenerate into unpleasantries.
To each and everyone of you, I say THANK YOU!!:clap:

Ken G
2010-Aug-16, 02:13 PM
So lets look at the laws that govern the universe.Laws don't govern the universe, that anthropomorphization is pure metaphor. A useful metaphor to be sure, and there's nothing wrong with using it, as long as it is recognized as a metaphor.

It appears the laws we have discovered using the data acquired and the math to predict them appear to stand true throughout the universe we have observed so far.Name one law that "stands true" throughout the universe we have observed so far. Rather, they have domains of applicability, and by trial and error we think we know when we can get away with using any particular one.


Well my thoughts would be that true reality regardless of the observers interpretation must hold or the laws which govern such would be meaningless.I'd say the question of why our laws have meaning is a tough one to answer whether one adopts realism or not. If we say there is a separate reality, why should it obey laws, and why should our limited intelligence be so successful in deriving them? And if there is no separate reality, if it is all just a kind of illusion of our own intelligence, then it actually makes more sense that we would interpret it as having laws-- but we cannot explain why they are the same for everyone (who is sane), without entering into seemingly unconstructive avenues like imagining that our own intelligence is all there is, and everything we experience is a kind of dream. My main point is that we adopt realism, not because we know it to be true, but simply because it is useful for us to imagine it is true (that's pretty much what intelligence is, a useful exercise in imagination). But I don't think nature would have any idea what our intelligence identifies as "laws"-- we are like people watching a game of Australian rules football, trying to figure out what the rules are without ever seeing the rulebook, and even, without knowing for sure that there is any rulebook (an issue I sometimes wonder about that game-- just kidding).


Now are these laws universal? if so then they will apply to all intelligence throughout the universe.There does appear to be some universality in how laws apply (and not apply), but whether a law applies in any given situation is reliant on that intelligence to say, because it depends on their goals. Galileo found a "law of gravity" that said all objects fall the same in the absence of air resistance, but a flying squirrel has no interest in such a "law."


How well each intelligence understands them and how well they can manipulate them to their use is down to each individual's capability's and knowledge, which also includes their interpretation. So do we ask, is true reality universal and governed by laws or is reality just an interpretation of each observers current understanding and capability?Right, that's the key question to ask. I take the stance that realism is a useful picture for science to use, so I would say that there is an objectively true "reality" outside of our ability to understand it, but that is never what we are talking about when we discuss "laws"-- those are applied by us and are subject to our current understanding and capability. What's more, and this is the real point of the philosophical inquiry, it becomes important for us to recognize the limitations in our capabilities to really even understand our own physics.

AriAstronomer
2010-Aug-16, 02:20 PM
To BadTrip who said
I would agree that we invent our own understanding of the universe, but I don't think the universe is in any way limited to that which we can contrive, design, or conceive.
Yes, I agree with you. Everything is already there in the universe, but we as humans choose which things to bring out of the background to notice, and which things to leave invisible to us.


If I've understood you correctly then I would answer that 1) I think anything that would have a full and complete understanding of the universe would be immensely intelligent, and 2) that I think this would demand that this entity be capable of existing outside of the universe....
I think to say they would have to be immensely intelligent may be a step in the wrong direction. I think I see what you mean, but I disagree that intelligence has to be a part of this. If we become infinitely intelligent as the years go on, there are still many aspects of the universe that are invisible to us, and will always be invisible to us, no matter how intelligent we become. I think it's a hardware problem, and not a software. We are not designed to see everything, and as you stated in point 2), we would most likely have to be outside this universe, but also outside any kind of filter (a human body, living form of existence), since any filter instantly produces a bias.


Quote Originally Posted by AriAstronomer View Post
.....as far as the tree making a noise goes, I might agree that 'something' fell, and created a 'disturbance', but I don't think anything more specific can be said about it. Without humans, there is no tree, there is no 'noise', simply a disturbance which is interpreted according to the observer. I hope I've made myself a bit more clear. Or maybe I don't make any sense at all?

Here I would respectfully disagree with you. I don't perceive this to be simply an issue of semantics.... you say you might agree that "something" fell....but you say that without humans there is no tree. I assume you're not simply arguing that to some other intelligence the thing that fell might be called a "shrubbery"....or a "*". We're talking the physical photosynthetic organism that we use the word "tree" to refer to. From my stance, that tree exists prior to it's being observed by us. Should it fall, it will have interactions with other physical manifestations...things we use words to describe....such as other trees, dirt, rocks, air.... and there will be a set of vibrations created by these various interactions of physical manifestations... those vibrations are what we would call sound...or noise... and I think they would be produced regardless of whether there is an intelligence there to observe those phenomena. It's not about there being some intelligence present to assign terms and labels and descriptions to what's occurred.... it's about the fact of the occurrence itself.
You said, "Without humans, there is no tree, there is no 'noise', simply a disturbance which is interpreted according to the observer." .........what's the disturbance then if there's no human there to interpret? Does the rabbit that flees the disturbance possess the intelligence to qualify it as "sound"? ....Does the cricket that ceases his chirping when he perceives those vibrations in the air posses the necessary intelligence to qualify the event as a "noise producing event"?
Here you were all describing things that also interpret a wave disturbance as 'noise'. Those are all organisms on earth, that produce and interpret a wave disturbance as noise. Noise, in my mind, is a 'life on earth' invention. Maybe when a tree falls and the wave-disturbance reaches an alien, it causes him to see the color red instead? Maybe the alien feels a very warm feeling inside, who knows? If you do not have the hardware to interpret the wave-disturbance as noise, you will not hear noise. We are like computers.
As far as the tree goes, my interpretation is that we see a tree based on the hardware at hand to sense it. But I think there are more interactions going on between the tree and the universe than we can possibly know, and if we were to ever view a tree in it's entirety (without any form of bias), I do not think it would be anything we would recognize. This is all speculation of course.


I appreciate your views Ari and respect your willingness to engage in polite, lively debate. Thank you sir.
Me too! I love learning, and although most times I may be wrong, but the more input I get, and more discussions I partake in, the closer I can come to finding truth.

Ken G
2010-Aug-16, 03:25 PM
I thought you were stating that science creates reality upon observation of nature. Indeed that is not my position, my goal is to find a way to have realism yet be consistent with the physics of the last century. Realism means that science does not create reality, the reality was already there-- but a brand of realism that survives modern physics must be one that recognizes that any effort we make to talk about, picture, or understand reality represents something we have created upon observation, and contemplation, of nature. If you can unearth my comments on the "tree falling in the woods" scenario, you'll see that's what I was saying: we give the meaning to those very words based on our experience, titrated by our intelligence, so the words cannot mean anything had there never been intelligence. The reality itself doesn't require intelligence (if one is a realist), but the reality is not "a tree falling in the woods"-- that is an intelligence-dependent description of reality. So is the rest of science-- science is itself a creation of intelligence, and a universe without intelligence has no need for science or its laws and descriptions. It would still "know what to do", but how, I cannot begin to imagine-- without applying intelligence and science.

I agree, it would be preferable to understand how much our vision is clouded by the facts of how our vision works, so to speak.
That seems very different than claiming that without an intelligence to observe it, nothing exists....which is what I thought you were stating.I think that is now much more clear.
I meant to be conveying the idea that I believe a true universal understanding of the whole of reality escapes us, even when we think we have a good handle on many pieces and parts of that whole. I agree with you...reality is what it is.Yes, I think we are in broad agreement, it may just be the words we are choosing to express it that show some variance. Not surprising, we barely even have the language to address the issue.



Ok, so reality is deeper than we can understand... period. I can agree with that. Do you agree with that?Yes, this is the core issue-- it is common for scientists to become used to imagining that "laws govern the universe" and that our goal is to find those laws. This is a kind of streamlining of the goal, for simplicity's sake, but a more precise description of the goal is to derive laws that succeed in conveying accuracy and understandability, to whatever imperfect degree we seek in any given context, but the laws, and their judged degree of success, are owned by our intelligence. That is not at all the same thing as finding the laws the universe obeys-- I don't even think that phrase can be given a sensible meaning that isn't just a shorthand for the more precise version.

It may be humbling to recognize the limits that our intelligence places on our philosophy, but the reason it is important, when addressing issues like "what is space and time really", is that we can never be happy with our own theories until we recognize what a theory actually is and what is its true purpose.

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-16, 03:35 PM
Laws don't govern the universe, that anthropomorphization is pure metaphor. A useful metaphor to be sure, and there's nothing wrong with using it, as long as it is recognized as a metaphor.
Name one law that "stands true" throughout the universe we have observed so far. Rather, they have domains of applicability, and by trial and error we think we know when we can get away with using any particular one.
How about the law of gravity, for example? Isn't this a universal law?


I'd say the question of why our laws have meaning is a tough one to answer whether one adopts realism or not. If we say there is a separate reality, why should it obey laws, and why should our limited intelligence be so successful in deriving them?
But I can just as well as ask why shouldn't it obey laws and why shouldn't our limited intelligence be so successful in deriving them? :confused:

And if there is no separate reality, if it is all just a kind of illusion of our own intelligence, then it actually makes more sense that we would interpret it as having laws-- but we cannot explain why they are the same for everyone (who is sane), without entering into seemingly unconstructive avenues like imagining that our own intelligence is all there is, and everything we experience is a kind of dream.
This sounds very unlikely, it sounds like the Matrix.


My main point is that we adopt realism, not because we know it to be true, but simply because it is useful for us to imagine it is true (that's pretty much what intelligence is, a useful exercise in imagination). But I don't think nature would have any idea what our intelligence identifies as "laws"-- we are like people watching a game of Australian rules football, trying to figure out what the rules are without ever seeing the rulebook, and even, without knowing for sure that there is any rulebook (an issue I sometimes wonder about that game-- just kidding).
The universe (excluding intelligent beings) is not sentient, so why should it have any ideas at all? It just is. Identifying "laws" posits an intelligent observer.

There does appear to be some universality in how laws apply (and not apply), but whether a law applies in any given situation is reliant on that intelligence to say, because it depends on their goals. Galileo found a "law of gravity" that said all objects fall the same in the absence of air resistance, but a flying squirrel has no interest in such a "law."
Yet the law holds, whether or nota flying squirrel has any interest in it or not.


Right, that's the key question to ask. I take the stance that realism is a useful picture for science to use, so I would say that there is an objectively true "reality" outside of our ability to understand it, but that is never what we are talking about when we discuss "laws"-- those are applied by us and are subject to our current understanding and capability. What's more, and this is the real point of the philosophical inquiry, it becomes important for us to recognize the limitations in our capabilities to really even understand our own physics.
I respectfully disagree. We are creating a fuzzy picture and as time progresses the picture becomes less fuzzy. The only question is whether or not we will ever have a truly sharp image - probably not, but we are making progress...

Ken G
2010-Aug-16, 03:45 PM
How about the law of gravity, for example? Isn't this a universal law?Which law of gravity do you mean?


But I can just as well as ask why shouldn't it obey laws and why shouldn't our limited intelligence be so successful in deriving them? The problem with asking that is, it forces us to always place our own personal intelligence at the uncomfortable spot of being just what is needed to understand the laws of nature. Retarded humans are not intelligent enough, and even some with perfectly normal intelligence still cannot master the mathematical tools necessary to understand the laws of nature. I don't understand what Ed Witten understands. So which of us is understanding the actual laws of nature? It reminds me of how relativity makes all observers stationary, or cosmology places all comoving observers at the center of the universe. When we see these "special placements", we should infer they are functions of our intelligence and perception, not functions of the universe itself. A clever chimpanzee thinks it understands nature, simply because it does not know anything about what it does not understand.


This sounds very unlikely, it sounds like the Matrix.
Yes, there's little value in taking that road, without a good reason.


The universe (excluding intelligent beings) is not sentient, so why should it have any ideas at all? It just is. Identifying "laws" posits an intelligent observer.
I agree completely.

Yet the law holds, whether or nota flying squirrel has any interest in it or not.
Whether or not the law holds is a judgement call. No laws "hold" in some absolute kind of way.

We are creating a fuzzy picture and as time progresses the picture becomes less fuzzy. The only question is whether or not we will ever have a truly sharp image - probably not, but we are making progress...None of that disagrees with anything I've said-- I'm merely talking about what the fuzzy picture is a fuzzy picture of-- it is a fuzzy picture of how our intelligence and perceptions relate to whatever is the actual reality.

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-16, 04:42 PM
Ken, when we start delving into M-theory, then not too many follow Ed Witten, nor even Quantum Mechanics, as Feynman said. But I am really referring to simpler things, like "change". And yes, "gravity" (on the simple level of attraction, without evoking Newton or Einstein).

Ken G
2010-Aug-16, 06:20 PM
Ken, when we start delving into M-theory, then not too many follow Ed Witten, nor even Quantum Mechanics, as Feynman said. But I am really referring to simpler things, like "change". And yes, "gravity" (on the simple level of attraction, without evoking Newton or Einstein).And I'm saying this is all a continuum, from how a chimpanzee sees the world, to how a child might, through how a trained physicist, right up to the Einsteins and Wittens of the world, and even to how we might hypothetically imagine superior intelligences might do it. There's no point in that continuum where you can draw a line and say this is "the simple reality" whereas this other is "a more complex theory." To a chimp, our concept of "gravity makes things go down" might be a stretch, in terms of the concept there, or maybe they get the concept of "down" but they don't get the concept of "toward the center" of a giant Earth. Whereas to a superior intelligence, M theory might seem like children learning to count. If it is intelligence applied to reality at one point in that continuum, then that's what it is everywhere in the continuum.

Part of recognizing the "fingerprints" of our own intelligence on our scientific theories includes resisting the tendency to imagine that what our own intelligence finds easy must be true, and what it finds hard must be approximate, because our own intelligence is at a completely arbitrary place in that continuum-- just like it looks like Earth is at the center of the Hubble flow, but we know that this is an arbitrary location. Any intelligent being, no matter how great or little that intelligence, will think the universe is barely accessible to their intelligence, it will always seem, amazingly, like their intelligence is either "just barely enough" or "just out of reach" of everything they want to understand. And they will always be able to look down condescendingly at a lesser intelligence and say "I can see how you might think that, given your limitations, but we the more advanced species see that the actual truth is X, Y and Z." And so on, all the way up to the supreme intelligences of science fiction.

astromark
2010-Aug-17, 03:18 AM
Mark thinks you can get help for this sort of 'thinking'...:eh:Heh... but that it probably is the truth is disconcerting...

Looking around the room to see that no elephant is standing in the corner or that a 'supreme intelligence' is not sitting here...

Whats that over there... ?

That we may only come up to nearly understanding is something I can except. I see that as fact.

That some of what we think we know... we do not.

Ken G
2010-Aug-17, 03:56 AM
That some of what we think we know... we do not.Yes, that's the more troubling conclusion, isn't it. But I can't see how anything else could possibly be true-- if the history of science is clear on one point, it is that one.

gzhpcu
2010-Aug-17, 06:59 AM
And I'm saying this is all a continuum, from how a chimpanzee sees the world, to how a child might, through how a trained physicist, right up to the Einsteins and Wittens of the world, and even to how we might hypothetically imagine superior intelligences might do it. There's no point in that continuum where you can draw a line and say this is "the simple reality" whereas this other is "a more complex theory." To a chimp, our concept of "gravity makes things go down" might be a stretch, in terms of the concept there, or maybe they get the concept of "down" but they don't get the concept of "toward the center" of a giant Earth. Whereas to a superior intelligence, M theory might seem like children learning to count. If it is intelligence applied to reality at one point in that continuum, then that's what it is everywhere in the continuum.

Part of recognizing the "fingerprints" of our own intelligence on our scientific theories includes resisting the tendency to imagine that what our own intelligence finds easy must be true, and what it finds hard must be approximate, because our own intelligence is at a completely arbitrary place in that continuum-- just like it looks like Earth is at the center of the Hubble flow, but we know that this is an arbitrary location. Any intelligent being, no matter how great or little that intelligence, will think the universe is barely accessible to their intelligence, it will always seem, amazingly, like their intelligence is either "just barely enough" or "just out of reach" of everything they want to understand. And they will always be able to look down condescendingly at a lesser intelligence and say "I can see how you might think that, given your limitations, but we the more advanced species see that the actual truth is X, Y and Z." And so on, all the way up to the supreme intelligences of science fiction.
I agree with most of what you say. I did say that we are creating a fuzzy picture, and, here, in disagreement with you, I maintain the fuzzy picture is progressively getting us a more accurate (though still very incomplete) understanding of how the universe works.
As far as temporal "change" in the universe is concerned, I still maintain it is independent of the intelligent observer.

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-17, 09:16 AM
Which law of gravity do you mean?
The problem with asking that is, it forces us to always place our own personal intelligence at the uncomfortable spot of being just what is needed to understand the laws of nature. Retarded humans are not intelligent enough, and even some with perfectly normal intelligence still cannot master the mathematical tools necessary to understand the laws of nature. I don't understand what Ed Witten understands. So which of us is understanding the actual laws of nature? It reminds me of how relativity makes all observers stationary, or cosmology places all co moving observers at the center of the universe. When we see these "special placements", we should infer they are functions of our intelligence and perception, not functions of the universe itself. A clever chimpanzee thinks it understands nature, simply because it does not know anything about what it does not understand..

Yes absolutely, but although we may be unable to understand the "true" reality of things have to ask - can there be, should there be and is it necessary that it is?


.Whether or not the law holds is a judgement call. No laws "hold" in some absolute kind of way..

I'm not sure I agree 100%. Can the universe function fundamentally without an absolute way?


None of that disagrees with anything I've said-- I'm merely talking about what the fuzzy picture is a fuzzy picture of-- it is a fuzzy picture of how our intelligence and perceptions relate to whatever is the actual reality.

But is perception and interpretation not dependent on the observer rather than what actually occurs regardless? Each individual can form an opinion of what they believe the "true" reality is but that does not necessarily follow what physically happens. Fundamentally can there be a base line where things are just "it"?

BadTrip
2010-Aug-17, 12:16 PM
Yes, that's the more troubling conclusion, isn't it. But I can't see how anything else could possibly be true-- if the history of science is clear on one point, it is that one.

Which is what I was alluding to with my utilization of the term "at this time" in my earlier post Ken.

While I would not attempt to state that at some time in the future (time?...future?...oh dear, here we go again! LOL) we will understand "everything" (because we won't ever IMHO), I would also expect that quite a few of the concepts in which we believe today will be revealed to be imprecise, inaccurate, or simply misguided, misinformed, and/or ignorant. So that as we increase our knowledge and are better able to test the theories that are on the cutting edge of scientific frontiers today, we should expect some realizations that some of those current theories, perhaps many of them, do not stand up to the rigors of scientific analysis and must be revised or disproved altogether.
..............and I agree that our fingerprints will still be on our observations... :lol:
..............but that our intelligence does not in any way create nature.

BadTrip
2010-Aug-17, 12:52 PM
Name one law that "stands true" throughout the universe we have observed so far. Rather, they have domains of applicability, and by trial and error we think we know when we can get away with using any particular one.

Not that I'm arguing... simply asking the questions....what about the law of conservation of energy?

Ken G
2010-Aug-17, 12:56 PM
Can the universe function fundamentally without an absolute way?
That's an important question. Most scientists approach scientific theory as if it was an effort to understand the rules nature actually uses. Then we get language like "laws that govern" nature. But that stance was always problematic, even before you notice that never in the history of science has it ever actually worked. What is problematic about it is that it casts nature as a kind of gigantic computer-- nature must track the attributes ("wave functions" if you will) of at least some 1080 particles, and that's just the part we know about. Then there's also all the virtual particles to track, which cannot be enumerated because you have to treat them with clever mathematical tricks for there not to be an infinity of them. Then you have to include the fact that many of these particles are identical, so do not have individual wave functions, but rather joint wave functions that are antisymmetric to particle exchange (so you have to take 1080 and raise it to 1080 to count the terms you'd need). Then, these "wave functions" must take values at every point in a (as far as we know) continuous spacetime. Even if you treat the wave functions in phase space and consider Fermions, which coarse grains the phase space into little h-bar cells, and even if you treat the bosons as if they were course-grained on Planck-length cells, you still have a heck of a lot of information to track there. Then you have to also track the state of all the fields, which are affected by all these particles both real and virtual, and then you have to track all the initial conditions that start the "calculation" off. To me, that sounds like a crazy way for nature to work-- it just sounds so clearly like ourselves projecting how we think about nature onto nature herself.

Thus, it makes more sense to me to imagine that the laws of physics are not "the way nature functions", but are instead the way we analyze how nature functions. Our goal was never to figure out how nature itself functions, as that would require that a piece of nature could describe the whole of nature (and if the universe tracks all the particles and fields, plus all the laws they obey, then what is tracking the laws? Where is that information stored, how can the laws be treated as internal to the universe if they are tacked on externally?). Instead, the goal of physics was always to replace the universe with a kind of simulacrum which functioned in a way that was much simpler yet acted to a close enough approximation like the "real thing." Physics is not nature, it is a "mini me" of nature, and that's not a bug, it's a feature (we already have nature-- why would we need two?).



But is perception and interpretation not dependent on the observer rather than what actually occurs regardless? Each individual can form an opinion of what they believe the "true" reality is but that does not necessarily follow what physically happens. Fundamentally can there be a base line where things are just "it"?It sounds like you are raising the question "why does a concept of objective reality work at all?" That's a very tough question!

BadTrip
2010-Aug-17, 01:15 PM
For those of us who a bit ignorant... like me.
simulacrum: a slight, unreal, or superficial likeness or semblance.; an effigy, image, or representation:

BadTrip
2010-Aug-17, 01:20 PM
Physics is not nature, it is a "mini me" of nature, and that's not a bug, it's a feature...


So...where can I download the open-source version? LOL.... you sound like you must be located in Redmond, WA.

Byte
2010-Aug-25, 07:43 PM
So basically the philosopher can deny the existence of the physicist... But can the physicist measure away the philosopher?

This has been a great thread. I need to lurk here more often. Thanks for the discussion.

Byte

Boratssister
2010-Aug-26, 01:21 PM
........................... are you an intelligence? If so please observe me in some manner... I want to exist!!! :clap: ................wait.... you already replied to the thread...... therefore.... I'm a wave!!!!...no, I'm a particle.... NO! I'm a WAVE!!!! ....NOOO!! I'M A PARTICLE!!!!!

......Where'd those slits go, anyway?:razz: .....'cuz we all know... when you've run out of slits..... ?...... ok, one newbie google for whoever finishes it first.

Lol your a part of everything and isn't everything great. Iv been on holiday which explains my good mood. Talking on moods , do moods and emotions need intelligence?

Right here's my conclusions.
To have ''nothing'' exist you need ''something'' to define it against. Soon as 'something' exists then the 'nothing' can't exist.
'Something' can not exist without intelligence . No life in the universe then no universe, what would be the point? And I wouldn't be surprised if all energy/matter turned out to be intelligent!-imagine how much intelligence/concentration would be needed to keep every particle and wave exactly how it should be, in order to enable our universe to exist.
'Everything' is 'intelligence', trying to understand what 'intelligence' is. Humans are just a part of the universes toolbox to understand and create it self. - yep that's the reality I choose- far out maaaan. I don't mind if you out there disagree , good on ya.independent thought is the universes best invention.

Boratssister
2010-Aug-26, 02:57 PM
Could someone link to some optical illusions ,Especialy the one with the rainbow. These give a good understanding how our brains sees what it wants to see. I will try to link to some youtube videos.
Reality is whatever our brains trick us into believing.

Ken G
2010-Aug-26, 05:02 PM
Reality is whatever our brains trick us into believing.
I think there's a lot to that, and there are also some pitfalls. It sounds a lot like the "idealism" of Berkeley. I don't say there's anything wrong with it, I'll just note these two pitfalls to watch out for:
1) the position is associated with both solipsim and sophistry. Sophists were once considered valid philosophers, but sophistry has lately come to mean naught but word trickery with no useful content. Solipsism is the stance that all truth is fundamentally personal, so if many people have perceptions similar to yours, it doesn't mean there is an objective reality, it just means that your personal truth includes that people should agree with many of your perceptions. It is an ancient philosophical stance, used as a form of skepticism. Ironically, skepticism is widely valued in science, but solipsism is often seen as taking a good thing too far. I'd say there are dangers in taking it too far, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.
2) If the actual reality is whatever our brains trick us into thinking, then we are still getting the actual reality from our brains-- so why is that a trick? I don't dispute the word "trick", I kind of like it, I'm just saying that when a trick is the meaning of truth, then the word trick no longer carries its usual connotations.

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-27, 10:05 AM
I think there's a lot to that, and there are also some pitfalls. It sounds a lot like the "idealism" of Berkeley. I don't say there's anything wrong with it, I'll just note these two pitfalls to watch out for:
1) the position is associated with both solipsim and sophistry. Sophists were once considered valid philosophers, but sophistry has lately come to mean naught but word trickery with no useful content. Solipsism is the stance that all truth is fundamentally personal, so if many people have perceptions similar to yours, it doesn't mean there is an objective reality, it just means that your personal truth includes that people should agree with many of your perceptions. It is an ancient philosophical stance, used as a form of skepticism. Ironically, skepticism is widely valued in science, but solipsism is often seen as taking a good thing too far. I'd say there are dangers in taking it too far, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.
2) If the actual reality is whatever our brains trick us into thinking, then we are still getting the actual reality from our brains-- so why is that a trick? I don't dispute the word "trick", I kind of like it, I'm just saying that when a trick is the meaning of truth, then the word trick no longer carries its usual connotations.

I Just don't get how true reality can ever be considered a trick of the mind? Yes an individual's perception or interpretation may differ from the next, but regardless if reality was nothing more than how it is perceived then we would have the power to change reality. This is not so, in fact things happen and we actually observe them happening after the event took place due to the lapse in time of receiving the information then processing it.
Also how can we rule out a fact/event if it is observed by millions and agreed upon as a whole? Do we all get a warped sense of reality simultaneously? I don't believe in QM theory of uncertainty, I don't believe that the state of something physical is decided only when it is observed or measured. I think its just a result of our limited capability of observing and measuring the fundamentals of the universe. It may even be an inbuilt protection mechanism preventing us from tampering with our own existence and ultimately the universe's.

astromark
2010-Aug-27, 10:53 AM
This most recent trend of discussion regarding the reality of fact by the understanding of it... Is completely wrong.

The opposite might better be the fact. That our understanding does not change reality. Just our perception of it.

The constant and repetitious error of understanding each other is testament to our inability to articulate our thoughts...

and I am amongst the best at jumping when I should have crawled... It is NOT easy to say what we know will be understood.

I in fact doubt that 'Reality of fact by the understanding of it... ' Will be ( or can be. ) understood.

We do not need to concern ourselves with responsibility of tampering with the universe.. It knows nothing of us... and never will or can.

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-27, 01:33 PM
This most recent trend of discussion regarding the reality of fact by the understanding of it... Is completely wrong.

The opposite might better be the fact. That our understanding does not change reality. Just our perception of it..

This is quite true, and my point is, is reality "set" once a cause and effect takes place over time, or is it open to suggestion regardless of an observer's perception or interpretation?



We do not need to concern ourselves with responsibility of tampering with the universe.. It knows nothing of us... and never will or can.

I don't agree, we are part of, born from and will always have a connection with the universe however minute in comparison we stand. We are the universe knowing its self.

Ken G
2010-Aug-27, 04:17 PM
I Just don't get how true reality can ever be considered a trick of the mind?Someone who does not adopt realism might easily respond, how could it be anything else? To me, realism is an attractive stance, especially for a scientist, but that's all it is. I adopt it personally, just by choice-- not by any claim to know it must be true. Yes, if I didn't adopt it I'd have to have some explanation for why you and I can both be perceiving this forum right now, but that's not particularly difficult. One possibility is that you are a figment of my imagination, which might work for me, even though you can falsify it. Another possibility is more subtle and more interesting: maybe we share a reality, but it is still a reality of pure perception. In other words, we do not adopt the model that perceptions are the manifestations of physical objects, we maintain that physical objects are manifestations of shared perception-- the object is the model, the perception justifies the model. Everything comes from perception, not the other way around-- but we still cannot avoid sharing perceptions unless we are simply deceiving ourselves as to what we are perceiving. In other words, one can hold that everything we call a "bus" stems from our perceptions of buses, without claiming that if I close my eyes and ears, it won't run me over. Getting run over is, after all, just another perception.


Yes an individual's perception or interpretation may differ from the next, but regardless if reality was nothing more than how it is perceived then we would have the power to change reality.Not necessarily. We can choose not to perceive, or we can filter our perceptions, without changing the reality. You can look at the back of an elephant, or the front of it, and those are different perceptions but the same elephant-- all the same, we could still hold that the elephant is nought but the sum of all these perceptions. The key stance here is not that the elephant disappears when I am not looking at it, it is that there is nothing about an elephant that I can talk about unless I connect it to some perception. Ergo, the perceptions comprise the reality, not the other way around. There is a kind of thin line between rejecting realism, and simply adopting a completely empiricist approach to realism.


This is not so, in fact things happen and we actually observe them happening after the event took place due to the lapse in time of receiving the information then processing it. And note the importance of the key word in your sentence: "observe". How do we do that without using our mind? If someone says that any observation is a trick of the mind, just a trick that it is natural for human sensory experience to fall for, then you have not refuted that stance with your remark.


Also how can we rule out a fact/event if it is observed by millions and agreed upon as a whole?That's no problem. A magician can trick a million people with no difficulty-- there's no "safety in numbers" when it comes to falling for a trick. Those millions are all humans, with similar sensory apparatus and similar intelligence. It's completely natural they should all respond similarly.

Do we all get a warped sense of reality simultaneously? Certainly, that seems almost inescapable regardless of what stance we adopt. And in fact we sometimes quite demonstrably can get quite different warped senses of reality-- consider two people seeing a comet for the first time, one who has never been to school and never heard of such a thing, a second who is an astronomy student. Would not the astronomy student, seeing the panic in the other, not conclude they had a "warped sense of reality"? And how does the astronomy student not know that there isn't some alien species that would see the astronomer's view of that reality as warped in some other way?


I don't believe in QM theory of uncertainty, I don't believe that the state of something physical is decided only when it is observed or measured. I think its just a result of our limited capability of observing and measuring the fundamentals of the universe. It may even be an inbuilt protection mechanism preventing us from tampering with our own existence and ultimately the universe's.Then you are definitely not taking the empiricist perspective. Reality must be what you expect it to be, regardless of what your perceptions about it tell you. That was popular with certain Greek schools, and is not dead even today, but it often sits rather uneasy with science. For example, I would point out that this is what some creationists do-- they assert the reality must be as their religion stipulates, so if it appears otherwise, it has to be a mistake in perception.

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-28, 04:09 PM
Someone who does not adopt realism might easily respond, how could it be anything else? To me, realism is an attractive stance, especially for a scientist, but that's all it is. I adopt it personally, just by choice-- not by any claim to know it must be true. Yes, if I didn't adopt it I'd have to have some explanation for why you and I can both be perceiving this forum right now, but that's not particularly difficult. One possibility is that you are a figment of my imagination, which might work for me, even though you can falsify it. Another possibility is more subtle and more interesting: maybe we share a reality, but it is still a reality of pure perception. In other words, we do not adopt the model that perceptions are the manifestations of physical objects, we maintain that physical objects are manifestations of shared perception-- the object is the model, the perception justifies the model. Everything comes from perception, not the other way around-- but we still cannot avoid sharing perceptions unless we are simply deceiving ourselves as to what we are perceiving. In other words, one can hold that everything we call a "bus" stems from our perceptions of buses, without claiming that if I close my eyes and ears, it won't run me over. Getting run over is, after all, just another perception..

Firstly Ken I'd just like to say that I enjoy reading your posts and your knowledge and insight helps me learn and sometimes put a new perspective on things, so I thank you for that.

This thing about perception I understand exactly where you are coming from but find it hard to get my head around. Yes we as living human beings might well be limited to what our brain can perceive but does that change the fundamental reality of how things are and unfold in the universe? Its hard for me to present any example because it can always be turned on its head and be defined as a figment of our imagination or conscious if you like. But Lets say that bus was about to run down a blind & deaf person, who was never explained to what a bus is, completely unaware and has no perception of what is about to kill him. He would still be run down and possibly killed, this would be reality anyway you look at it, no?



Not necessarily. We can choose not to perceive, or we can filter our perceptions, without changing the reality. You can look at the back of an elephant, or the front of it, and those are different perceptions but the same elephant-- all the same, we could still hold that the elephant is nought but the sum of all these perceptions. The key stance here is not that the elephant disappears when I am not looking at it, it is that there is nothing about an elephant that I can talk about unless I connect it to some perception. Ergo, the perceptions comprise the reality, not the other way around. There is a kind of thin line between rejecting realism, and simply adopting a completely empiricist approach to realism.
And note the importance of the key word in your sentence: "observe". How do we do that without using our mind? If someone says that any observation is a trick of the mind, just a trick that it is natural for human sensory experience to fall for, then you have not refuted that stance with your remark.
That's no problem. A magician can trick a million people with no difficulty-- there's no "safety in numbers" when it comes to falling for a trick. Those millions are all humans, with similar sensory apparatus and similar intelligence. It's completely natural they should all respond similarly.
Certainly, that seems almost inescapable regardless of what stance we adopt. And in fact we sometimes quite demonstrably can get quite different warped senses of reality-- consider two people seeing a comet for the first time, one who has never been to school and never heard of such a thing, a second who is an astronomy student. Would not the astronomy student, seeing the panic in the other, not conclude they had a "warped sense of reality"? And how does the astronomy student not know that there isn't some alien species that would see the astronomer's view of that reality as warped in some other way?.

Reading through this again I see your point, but perception can come from not just observation but from any sensory input. We as most living species with brains take this information and then process it to form a picture or make a judgement or react accordingly. This I agree with, somehow i'm trying to understand whether reality is a state which is defined by the universe and just perceived in what ever way a species decides to accept.


Then you are definitely not taking the empiricist perspective. Reality must be what you expect it to be, regardless of what your perceptions about it tell you. That was popular with certain Greek schools, and is not dead even today, but it often sits rather uneasy with science. For example, I would point out that this is what some creationists do-- they assert the reality must be as their religion stipulates, so if it appears otherwise, it has to be a mistake in perception.

I'm not sure I agree. I thought that the empirical view was based on observation and experiment rather than theory? If I'm presented with an observation thats backed up with hard evidence from experiment then I feel obliged to accept the results I'm shown but keeping an open mind that errors are always possible. But if someone presents me with a theory that just appears to fit what is observed without any means of experiment to back up that observation then I'm afraid I have to sit on the fence until it is shown to me otherwise. Has the Uncertainty Principle been observed by experiment? or is it a theory based on a mathematical model that fits what is observed or not observed which ever case may suit?

Ken G
2010-Aug-28, 05:31 PM
This thing about perception I understand exactly where you are coming from but find it hard to get my head around. Yes we as living human beings might well be limited to what our brain can perceive but does that change the fundamental reality of how things are and unfold in the universe? Its hard for me to present any example because it can always be turned on its head and be defined as a figment of our imagination or conscious if you like.You are loathe to give up the concept of realism, which is the concept that there is really something "truly out there", that is independent of how we perceive it. I'm loathe to give that up too, it's a very useful construct and I'm just fine with it. But I will give the strict empiricists one thing-- if there is something like that out there, we know nothing about it whatsoever, because all we know about is our perceptions of it, which is something different. So we simply choose to imagine the "true reality" is out there, as it simplifies our thinking about it. That's what I do too. So what I'm saying is, asking about the "true reality" outside our perception is a bit like asking "what happened before the Big Bang"-- strict empiricists say "it makes no sense to ask that, there is no such thing that we can give any meaning to", whereas those who prefer to imagine that the Big Bang is just a model based on our perceptions, not the reality itself, might say that whatever existed "before the Big Bang" is separated from us by a gulf of not being able to observe it-- but they may choose to believe that something did not come from nothing, all the same. So it is with realism.

Note, in saying that, I must point out that the strictly empiricist view is not like saying that reality is a "figment of our imagination", because that phrase suggests that we create reality by imagining it, and no empiricist could hold that. They are just saying that we are locked into the reality that we perceive so completely that the reality we perceive is the only kind of reality that there is, the only kind that makes any sense to talk about, the only kind that is coherent. I agree that is true, but choose to imagine a "true reality" even so. The place we can agree is that perception is our interface with that "true reality", and further, that our intelligence is our tool for making sense of it. How we navigate that landscape is where the different viewpoints diverge.

Ken G
2010-Aug-29, 07:30 AM
But Lets say that bus was about to run down a blind & deaf person, who was never explained to what a bus is, completely unaware and has no perception of what is about to kill him. He would still be run down and possibly killed, this would be reality anyway you look at it, no?
More on this, because it's important. Some scientifically inspired philosophies might maintain that it is only our own perception that has that person get run down (some versions of quantum many-worlds theory, for example), but I won't go there, because I find those to be pretty far fetched. But there are much simpler ways to say that the reality is the perception and nothing more-- the only way we say the blind/deaf person is dead is our perception, and his perception, which may be constrained to agree by the nature of perception without needing any other reason. It's just the algebra of perception, if you will. In other words, we can say that there are shared perceptions, and we seem to encounter those all the times, while still stating that reality is perception. All we do is say that reality is the sum total of all the perceptions, including who is doing the perceiving, and it never was anything else. If an insane person perceives that the room is on fire, and no one else has that perception, then they can still perceive that the insane person thinks it's on fire, and that is still part of the reality in that room-- that one person thinks it's on fire, and that it makes no sense logically that it really is.

Now, if many of the perceptions are shared does not refute the idea that all the reality in that room is pure perception, it just becomes an additional fact about perceptions-- they tend to be shared (but not always) by people who are not insane, and they tend to not be shared by people who are. The realist has a simple reason for why that is, yet the strict empiricist can still allow any reason they like-- without adopting realism. They don't have to say the reason is that there is a reality outside of perception, they just say that reality is what is perceived, and who perceives it, and these tend to be shared simply because perception has that property. Period. It's still pure perception-- realism is adding something that can never be proved or even argued for, it's just adopted out of choice, out of convenience. But it's quite convenient for scientific language, so science generally adopts realism.


Reading through this again I see your point, but perception can come from not just observation but from any sensory input. We as most living species with brains take this information and then process it to form a picture or make a judgement or react accordingly. This I agree with, somehow i'm trying to understand whether reality is a state which is defined by the universe and just perceived in what ever way a species decides to accept.
I agree that perception is more than the senses-- it has to have a component of intelligent processing too. Our experience is not just what we sense, but also what we make of what we sense, how it impacts us, and how we interpret it. But that's an even more central role for perception, not less central-- because now it even includes our conscious processing, so it now includes everything we do with our perceptions. So it's a generalized form of perception, which brings in a new camp: rationalism. The rationalists say that perception is secondary to conceptualization, because the essence of things is abstract, and the concreteness of perception is an illusion. We think of a circle as a concrete entity, but in fact all concrete examples of a circle are no circle at all-- the "real" circle is just a concept. That's Plato's view. His pupil, Aristotle, disagreed-- he felt that what was real was all those imperfect circles, that we group together and idealize the concept of a "perfect" circle. In short, Aristotle said there is no such thing as a real perfect circle, and Plato said that the only kind of circle that is real is a perfect one. Modern science is seemingly closer to Aristotle's more empirical view, but not necessarily-- when string theorists say that particles are "really" strings, they are talking about perfect versions of strings, not imperfect ones. Their view returns us to a "perfect" nature at the fundamental level, whereas our own level of experience is a generalization into the imperfect combinations and conglomerations of these perfect fundamental pieces. So here we are almost 2500 years later, and still that wheel keeps turning.


I thought that the empirical view was based on observation and experiment rather than theory?Correct-- but you said that you don't believe the state of something physical is decided when it is observed. That's what observations do tell us though-- so to disbelieve that, you must hold that the observations are misleading us, that a more reliable rendition of the reality is how we think it should work, rather than how the observations work.


If I'm presented with an observation thats backed up with hard evidence from experiment then I feel obliged to accept the results I'm shown but keeping an open mind that errors are always possible.There are many types of observations that show that the state of the system cannot be decided prior to its observation, if you take the empirical evidence at face value. A simple example is polarization-- let's say you pass light through a linear polarizer, so you now know its polarization is 0 degrees, and then you place a second polarizer at 45 degrees. There's a 50% chance the light will get through the second polarizer. Is it possible that whether it will get through or not is decided before it encounters the second polarizer? No, because then you could take the 50% that are going to get through, and say their polarization is 45 degrees. But if you place a third polarizer at a 90 degree angle to the first and in between the 0 degree and 45 degree polarizer, and if 50% of the light is at 45 degrees (because it is in a state that is about to get through the last polarizer) and 50% is at 135 degrees (because it isn't going to get through), then half of that light should get through the 90 degree polarizer. But no, the experiment shows that none gets through the 90 degree polarizer-- so it cannot have been established, before reaching the 45 degree polarizer, whether or not it would get through the 45 degree polarizer. For the reality to "know" that it is going to get through, that's the same thing as saying the polarization is known to be 45 degrees, but such polarization has a chance of getting through a 90 degree polarizer, but none will.

Has the Uncertainty Principle been observed by experiment? or is it a theory based on a mathematical model that fits what is observed or not observed which ever case may suit?That's a tough question-- certainly the UP is a theory that explains the observations. Perhaps there is some deeper theory that only looks like the UP on the surface. But most quantum physicists feel that even if there is a deeper theory, no experiment could reveal it-- experiments always seem to end up giving what the UP says they'll give. So again, the empiricist says that if all experiments are consistent with the UP, then the UP is defined to be "truth", whereas there are more rationalist types who take a perspective, like that of the Bohm interpretation of quantum mechanics, that there is indeed a deeper reality there, but we simply do not have access to it with our experiments. Any statement like that is anathema to an empiricist, they do a "spit take" upon so much as hearing it.

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-29, 12:12 PM
Thanks Ken,

Reading through your last 2 posts has given me some food for thought and in a way I probably really take a similar stance to what you have suggested so far.

I just really like to ponder the deeper questions about the universe we are part of trying to get some understanding of what is the mechanism behind it all. I guess we are all striving to know - "why?"

Ken G
2010-Aug-29, 02:51 PM
Right, and somehow we benefit or progress in the process of asking-- but there are always more questions than answers.

kevin1981
2010-Aug-29, 03:00 PM
I guess we are all striving to know - "why?"

I think the simple answer to this, even though it is unsatisfying, is we don't know.

Also, have a look at my post at 180. It's only simple, but it makes sense to me.

Ken G
2010-Aug-29, 03:36 PM
It certainly raises another, possibly even deeper, question, which is-- how far can we really expect to get using logic anyway? We ask "why is there something instead of nothing"-- does something make more sense somehow than nothing? Could we find some logical argument that makes sense of the idea that there "has to be" something, perhaps on the grounds that nothingness is a concept too, so cannot exist without something to conceptualize it, so it is impossible for nothing to exist (whenever you have nothing, you have two things there-- the nothing, and the something that gives meaning to the nothing). Maybe nothing and something are two halves of the same coin, and neither means anything without the other. If so, we are logically concluding that the universe must have something in it, but there's always the alternative that logic doesn't work on questions like this. If we cannot take on faith that reason and logic are valid modes of approach to these questions, where does that leave us? "Gut" feelings? Why not.

kevin1981
2010-Aug-29, 03:52 PM
Why not.

I was actually thinking about writing just that in my post Ken :)

(though it still leaves us scratching our heads!)

Len Moran
2010-Aug-29, 04:33 PM
Ken

Some clarification could be useful for me here. I entirely support the notion of intersubjective agreement, but from my perspective, that agreement has to “originate” from “something”. Otherwise we proclaim to follow radical idealism – the “thing in itself” notion is rejected entirely. I can’t conceive of how intersubjective agreement could arise within radical idealism other than suggesting that we are part of a holistic entity that simply consists of minds, and everything that emanates through intersubjective agreement within those minds would constitute our reality.

But I would reject radical idealism because not everything that stems from our minds corresponds to nature. For example, there are many concepts and theorems of mathematics that are not applicable to nature, but some are. Surely that distinction suggests a kind of “substance” to realism – if there were not some “structure” pertaining to mind independent reality, then all of mathematics would fit, but mathematical physics makes use of only a small fraction of what mathematicians provide us with.

I’m not at all suggesting that you advocate radical idealism, but there are a couple of sentences here that do give me pause for thought.



They don't have to say the reason is that there is a reality outside of perception, they just say that reality is what is perceived, and who perceives it, and these tend to be shared simply because perception has that property. Period. It's still pure perception-- realism is adding something that can never be proved or even argued for, it's just adopted out of choice, out of convenience. But it's quite convenient for scientific language, so science generally adopts realism.


Within that paragraph radical idealism and realism seem to be converging together, whereas I think there are arguments (such as I have given above) available to separate the two that rise above “convenience” and are perhaps important to take on board before making a choice between radical idealism and realism.

The less radical versions of idealism consider that our raw sense data is likely to deceive us, to a greater or lesser degree, thus all we can say about the “thing in itself” is that it gives rise to our perceptions, collectively, but nothing more than that. The form that this “something” would take can in no way be assumed to consist of macroscopic notions, the question of what it is is entirely philosophical in nature, and always will be since the only means with which we can examine the role of the senses and mind is via those very senses and mind.

Of course there are various flavours of realism, but essentially the term is a philosophical description that combines the “thing in itself” as existing independently of our means of knowing along with the hypothesis that we do have access to it in “some” manner. The position one takes on the sliding scale in terms of my of my sentence “access to it in some manner” is of course entirely philosophical in nature, but any point on that spectrum I think deliberately invokes a notion of realism that is not just about convenience.

I adopt the stance of open realism that says the “thing in itself” does not hinge on thought. But that doesn’t mean to say I see no means in which to qualify the “existence” of “something” that represents our reality which can be properly distinguished from the denial of realism. It could be argued that such an “open” position with regards to realism is tantamount to accepting radical idealism – in detail it may be, but in the context of our place within in nature, I think it is quite an important distinction to make – and I wouldn’t wish to make it purely in terms of convenience.

I really don’t think I am saying anything that differs in substance to what you say, but there are some subtle points within your post that, from my perspective, are quite important to me and concern the reasons for adopting a stance of radical idealism or realism - reasons that you perhaps equate only with convenience, but I may well be taking this aspect of your post out of context, hence clarification and/or expansion would be appreciated.

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-29, 05:12 PM
It certainly raises another, possibly even deeper, question, which is-- how far can we really expect to get using logic anyway? We ask "why is there something instead of nothing"-- does something make more sense somehow than nothing? Could we find some logical argument that makes sense of the idea that there "has to be" something, perhaps on the grounds that nothingness is a concept too, so cannot exist without something to conceptualise it, so it is impossible for nothing to exist (whenever you have nothing, you have two things there-- the nothing, and the something that gives meaning to the nothing). Maybe nothing and something are two halves of the same coin, and neither means anything without the other. If so, we are logically concluding that the universe must have something in it, but there's always the alternative that logic doesn't work on questions like this. If we cannot take on faith that reason and logic are valid modes of approach to these questions, where does that leave us? "Gut" feelings? Why not.

I'm not sure I agree entirely. (high lighted above) Logic would have you believe this but would it necessarily be so? We have to conceptualise nothing to be something solely because we are unable to do so any other way. We are incapable of visualising true nothingness. By this I mean we make the nothingness something just by trying to define it. When in fact true nothingness is its own definition - it simply can't be defined. I think the failure is in in the inability of the language rather than the true logic. Rather than say you can't have one without the other - something & nothing, I'd stand to say you can't have one with the other.

Ken G
2010-Aug-30, 03:08 AM
I entirely support the notion of intersubjective agreement, but from my perspective, that agreement has to “originate” from “something”. Otherwise we proclaim to follow radical idealism – the “thing in itself” notion is rejected entirely.Yes, that's pretty much what I was talking about, radical idealism. But it really isn't that radical to science, as there is now that very fine line between simply rejecting realism (rejecting the "out there" justification for intersubjective agreement) and simply adopting a strictly empirical stance that requires all statements about reality be couched in observable terms. Is there really any important difference for science between the following three stances in regard to anything that cannot be directly observed:
1) it doesn't exist
2) it exists but we can't say anything about it that we can test or support in any way, so becomes a kind of article of faith that gives us a "warm fuzzy feeling" that we are making sense of something that we are not in fact making sense of at all
3) it may exist, or it may not exist, and we don't need to form an opinion to do science.
Note the very clear parallels with atheism, theism, and agnosticism-- which are quite important distinctions for religion, but might actually be quite irrelevant to science. In my view, science is a mode of thinking that takes a kind of projection of everything you might care about onto what you can actually test and answer questions about, and when you take that projection, any distinction among the above three stances vanishes. So if we are only interested in how philosophy interfaces with science, we simply don't care about the differences between idealism, realism, and sophism, they all map into the same science. I might still argue that realism has pedagogical advantages, and is almost always used in science as a result, but I'm just pointing out that this is simply a choice that is often made, it has no claim to a higher truth or greater self-consistency. It is essentially aesthetic.


I can’t conceive of how intersubjective agreement could arise within radical idealism other than suggesting that we are part of a holistic entity that simply consists of minds, and everything that emanates through intersubjective agreement within those minds would constitute our reality.
I think the key to doing it, which resonates with relativity and quantum mechanics actually, is to simply include as part of the reality that we are talking about, the mind that is having the perception. So we say "the reality is that these 9 minds are having perception A, and this one mind is having perception B", rather than saying "the reality is A." Yes, if the one mind is insane, or misinformed in some way, it is easy to correctly conclude that intersubjective agreement in the future will follow the path of A and not B, but that's something different from saying the reality is A. If a river branches, and almost all the water goes way A, and a trickle goes way B, and that trickle eventually dies out and is no longer a stream at all, we do not say that the only "real" path for the water was A, whereas B was "unreal", we just say that B is going to die out, and A is going to continue to be a river-- and both are equally real.


But I would reject radical idealism because not everything that stems from our minds corresponds to nature.But they do-- everything that anyone has in their mind is part of nature, because their mind is part of nature. Even if we are a psychiatrist analyzing a schizophrenic brain, we must allow that the schizophrenic brain is part of nature, and its perceptions are real-- for that brain. I know that's not what you are saying, you are saying that if that brain thinks the TV is telling it to kill someone, we all know the TV is not "really" doing that, but the idealist could respond that all this means is that we are aware of the path that will achieve intersubjective agreement going forward-- we know which branch the "river" is taking, and which branch is not going to persist, but all the same, the water that takes the second branch is still "real water." All that is real is still perception, and all perceptions are real perceptions.


For example, there are many concepts and theorems of mathematics that are not applicable to nature, but some are. Surely that distinction suggests a kind of “substance” to realism – if there were not some “structure” pertaining to mind independent reality, then all of mathematics would fit, but mathematical physics makes use of only a small fraction of what mathematicians provide us with.The realist says that this is because "what is out there" obeys only a subset of mathematics, but the idealist counters that many forms of mathematics were invented before we knew they had any connection to what the realist calls what is "out there"-- so what if every mathematical theorem could have some connection to what we perceive, we just don't know it yet? That would be saying that there is a kind of innate "logic of perception" which is the same as the "logic of mathematics"-- the two are one in the same, we just have perceptions that we haven't worked out the math for, and math that we haven't encountered the perceptions for. They might say that human reality is a function of the human mind, expressly because it is an invention of the human mind-- and everything we invent becomes part of that reality, because we are really inventing it. What fraction of that will be "blessed" by intersubjection agreement can only be determined after the fact by carrying out the test, even though we can gain expertise in correctly predicting that with excellent reliability. That's like saying the reality has not determined where the photon shows up, even if it has high probability of showing up in one place and not another.


I’m not at all suggesting that you advocate radical idealism, but there are a couple of sentences here that do give me pause for thought.
I don't advocate it only because I don't think it is well streamlined for science, not because I think there's anything wrong with it. It actually gibes better with quantum mechanics and relativity than does naive realism, and a more versatile realism, like open realism, might achieve its versatility essentially by borrowing so heavily from idealism that the distinctions begin to blur-- or at least, the distinctions begin to have projection zero onto scientific reasoning.


The less radical versions of idealism consider that our raw sense data is likely to deceive us, to a greater or lesser degree, thus all we can say about the “thing in itself” is that it gives rise to our perceptions, collectively, but nothing more than that. I really don't like the idea that sensory information can "deceive us"-- once you open that door, it all deceives us, just some deceives us less than others. Where do we draw the line and say one image is "true" and another is "mirage"? When we see a mirage, we are really seeing light, there is nothing unreal about it. The deception is nothing the perception is doing, it is something our interpretation is doing. So our interpretations can deceive us, what else is new? Don't blame the perception. Even someone seeing a pure hallucination is having a real perception-- there really are things happening in their brain that form that hallucination. Once we say some things that happen in the brain "don't correspond to reality", then immediately nothing in our brains correspond to the reality, it's just that some things have a wider disconnect than others-- and again we are forced to draw an artificial line.

Instead, I would say that every perception our brains have is what we are using to construct our view of what reality is, and we have learned from experience, and intersubjective agreement, to be more suspicious of the value of some of those perceptions. All the same, a mathematician might prove a theorem inspired by a hallucination, and that theorem might ultimately help unify quantum mechanics and GR. We cannot escape our prison-- reality is as we perceive it, period. Realism is a kind of pretty lie-- but pretty lies have their place, and that's the reason I choose to adopt a realist perspective on science. It really is just convenience, I don't think there's any fundamental "truth" to it that survives the projection onto scientific thinking.


The form that this “something” would take can in no way be assumed to consist of macroscopic notions, the question of what it is is entirely philosophical in nature, and always will be since the only means with which we can examine the role of the senses and mind is via those very senses and mind.Right, it's purely philosophical, but what's more, it's philosophy that really doesn't have any demonstrable projection onto scientific thinking-- that's the main point I'm making. Science can resuscitate realism only by making it indistinguishable, when projected onto scientific thinking and what science can demonstrate, from the form of idealism I've described (I don't say that's Berkeley's idealism, he didn't have access to modern science). Once we see that, then we say it is not only a philosophical distinction, we can say it is a purely philosophical distinction-- which is something much more restrictive, because it no longer has any necessary place in science.


Of course there are various flavours of realism, but essentially the term is a philosophical description that combines the “thing in itself” as existing independently of our means of knowing along with the hypothesis that we do have access to it in “some” manner. The position one takes on the sliding scale in terms of my of my sentence “access to it in some manner” is of course entirely philosophical in nature, but any point on that spectrum I think deliberately invokes a notion of realism that is not just about convenience.
The "convenience" I refer to is purely in regard to scientific language, to our choices about how we explain what science is doing and what conclusions it has reached. I view the role of philosophy in science (not for other things) as being to inform such scientific language, but once the projection onto that language is found to be null, we are left with pure convention, pure convenience-- realism as being like choosing the perspective of the northern hemisphere when talking about the rotation of the Earth (with apologies to the southern hemisphere, or here to the idealists).

It could be argued that such an “open” position with regards to realism is tantamount to accepting radical idealism – in detail it may be, but in the context of our place within in nature, I think it is quite an important distinction to make – and I wouldn’t wish to make it purely in terms of convenience.I don't say it's tantamount to accepting radical idealism, I say it doesn't matter whether one adopts open realism or radical idealism, because either one done right, i.e., done consistently with science, ends up with a science that not only makes all the same predictions, but actually means the same things. It will be like in relativity, where two observers will use different coordinates to describe the reality, but we can see that it is the same reality nevertheless. The observers are still defined and influenced by these different coordinates, but the difference is really just a kind of subjective bias, nothing that matters terribly. Now, it may matter a great deal to you to be an open realist and not an idealist, but that's normal for subjective bias-- our own choices matter a great deal to us, but still can be unified with superficially contradictory choices, all using the same core description of scientific reality.

Ken G
2010-Aug-30, 03:30 AM
Logic would have you believe this but would it necessarily be so?I don't know, that's one of the things I'm questioning-- just how far we can trust logic. The problem is, when logic is no longer a reliable guide, we don't have much else to go on, other than "believe what you like, or what you want." I actually think there is plenty of room for doing that, because logic can also tell you when logic is silent.

We are incapable of visualising true nothingness. By this I mean we make the nothingness something just by trying to define it.This gets into my exchange with Len Moran-- if we are incapable of understanding something, then to what extent can we say that it exists? Do things exist first, and then we understand them or we don't, or do they exist when we understand them, because what actually "exists" there is precisely our understanding? This relates to the question, was matter made of atoms before we understood that matter was made of atoms? I would say no, on the simple grounds that matter isn't made of atoms, but rather, our understanding of matter is that it is made of atoms, and that was not our understanding before it was our understanding. A rock, on the other hand (choosing the convenience of realist language), has no idea what an atom is, yet can still be a perfectly adequate rock all the same.

Now, to be clear, I am not saying that rocks behaved any differently before we understood them to be made of atoms. They were just rocks before that understanding, and they were just rocks after that understanding-- all that changed is how we understand rocks, and that is also where "atoms" come from.

I think the concept of nothingness has significant metaphysical problems-- it is an incoherent notion, except in relief against the concept of thingness. If a rock flies past, we say it was here one minute, gone the next-- the nothing and the something gain their meaning in concert with each other, yet neither exists as anything but a way of thinking about that reality.


I think the failure is in in the inability of the language rather than the true logic. Rather than say you can't have one without the other - something & nothing, I'd stand to say you can't have one with the other.And I, feeling that neither something nor nothing mean anything by themselves, would say that when the language fails, the logic has no chance.

kevin1981
2010-Aug-30, 11:19 AM
This is a question i asked Ken G in a pm, as i was not sure where to post it at the time.

But this thread is where i should of posted it, as other people can read and discuss it if they want.


Simply, i think the answer to this question is yes. But i will ask you as i am interested in your answers.

We perceive reality the way it is because that is the way we have evolved. Dogs see the same things as we do, but do not have language or our intelligence to be able to communicate as well as us humans. Depending on intelligence and communication it varies for all types of conscious beings.

We humans perceive reality as it is and try to understand what is going on. But we are entwined in whatever the 'real' reality is, so we can never fully understand because we are part of it. The only way to truly understand what 'reality' is, is to step outside of it and look objectively, which we can not do.

So what i am getting at is this, i don't like the word infinite, but what do you think about there being many many ways to interpret what 'reality' 'is' and the way we interpret it, is just one of them?

The great big universe, stars, flowers and everything we 'see' is just one interpretation of billions upon billions of possibility's ?


Yes, I think the answer is indeed "yes."-- You brought up evolution, and that's really a 1000-pound elephant in the living room that no one who is doing physics is talking about, because we cannot tell how evolution may have controlled our minds to create physics the way we do. But I do think that if our minds were very different, the reality we perceive might be very different too. Some people think a beehive has a kind of "mind", where the bees themselves are more like the neurons than like autonomous creatures, so what does reality look like to the "mind" of a beehive? What is the "intelligence" or "sentience" of a beehive, is it on par with a chicken perhaps? Or is it an orthogonal kind of intelligence that we just don't understand at all and have no language to even talk about? But I think your comment about many different realities all kind of co-existing by virtue of all these different interpretations, and the potential role of evolution in distinguishing them, is very much what Wittgenstein might have meant when he said "if a lion could talk, we wouldn't understand him."

xylophobe
2010-Aug-30, 03:42 PM
Golly, Ken G, isn't logic and critical thinking a part of philosophy?

Ken G
2010-Aug-30, 03:53 PM
Sure, but does that imply that philosophy cannot ask the question "what are the limits of logic?" Godel asked that question about mathematics-- another bastion of logic and critical thinking-- and it resulted in the Godel "incompleteness" theorem.

xylophobe
2010-Aug-30, 05:36 PM
Extend this the other way ... is it possible that there is some intelligence, some sentient being - or whatever - for whom we are like the snake? Does such an entity have an understanding of reality, some analogue to our QM, that we *cannot* grasp, no matter how hard this entity tries to dumb it down and explain?

This is a highly controversial subject. According to current astronomical thought there are millions of other "earths" that are obviously at different stages of evolution and so the possibility exists that there is a race of space aliens that are millions of years more advanced than homo sapien. With this advancement are possibly intergalactic space travel, telepathy, and other god-like capabilities. So why do we discount the possibility of a "god" when evolution practically insists that one can be?

xylophobe
2010-Aug-30, 05:54 PM
Is time quantized?

If time is defined as the interval between events and events are defined by quantum bodies then, "yes", time is quantized.

Using atomic clocks means that we are using a quantum event to define time.

If time is a quantum phenomenon then what is the smallest increment of time - the basic unit from which all other time intervals are assembled?

cosmocrazy
2010-Aug-30, 07:39 PM
Sure, but does that imply that philosophy cannot ask the question "what are the limits of logic?" Godel asked that question about mathematics-- another bastion of logic and critical thinking-- and it resulted in the Godel "incompleteness" theorem.

I would say that the limits are dependent on the capability to understand them. IF and that's a big if the universe has some fundamental mechanism underlining all existence then logic and math should be able to take us to that point whether we get there and become capable of understanding this point is another story.

Ken G
2010-Aug-30, 08:45 PM
Using atomic clocks means that we are using a quantum event to define time.
But that simply isn't what "quantization of time" means. For example, quantum mechanics does not quantize time.


If time is a quantum phenomenon then what is the smallest increment of time - the basic unit from which all other time intervals are assembled?No one knows, but the "Planck time" is a favorite to consider, because it is the timescale where we know physics breaks down-- making it an attractive place to imagine the breakdown of continuous time.

Ken G
2010-Aug-30, 08:51 PM
I would say that the limits are dependent on the capability to understand them. IF and that's a big if the universe has some fundamental mechanism underlining all existence then logic and math should be able to take us to that point whether we get there and become capable of understanding this point is another story.That's certainly possible, but why "should" it be true? Can we not imagine an unlimited intelligence, an intelligence that can prove anything that logic is capable of proving, yet still not get to the "fundamental underlining mechanism" (if it exists), if that mechanism is not actually governed by logic? The question is not completely in left field-- just ask yourself this: what determines if an arithmetic statement is true or not, given that there are true arithmetic statements that cannot be proven to be true in any system that is fundamentally different from simply stating everything that is true? I think this is telling us that even if there is some fundamental truth, logic can't be the path to it, so either there is no such truth but logic is as close as you can get, or else there is such truth and logic isn't as close as you can get.

Len Moran
2010-Aug-31, 09:22 AM
Now, it may matter a great deal to you to be an open realist and not an idealist, but that's normal for subjective bias-- our own choices matter a great deal to us, but still can be unified with superficially contradictory choices, all using the same core description of scientific reality.

There are some interesting points you raise. Firstly however, I should say there is no question of any disagreement with the premise that the scientific method is not part of realism. I agree entirely that any philosophical stance has no bearing on what maps out as science – science does not require realism or idealism or any other “ism” to “work”. I can now readily understand what you mean by realism being a convenience to science – that the scientific process lends itself to “imagining” that the physical entities actually exist in some form. I do still consider however that the use of realism can take on a proper “existence”, not in any scientific sense of course, but simply as a means of properly distinguishing between radical idealism and independent reality in terms of "something" other than within our heads is (in part) responsible for our reality. I do think there are philosophical arguments that can be used to properly distinguish radical idealism from realism that render the choice as being something that has properly thought out rather than adopting one or the other as purely a subjective choice governed by personal preference. I readily admit to having a personal preference for realism, not in its naive sense at all, rather in the sense that there is “something” external to our minds that in part determines our perceptions. But I have no wish to adopt that stance in the absence of some kind of philosophical justification. It is such a justification that d’Espagnat uses throughout his writings.

Now the only way that I can “visualise” radical idealism is to think purely of collective minds and nothing else making up that “whole”. I don’t know if that is a bit extreme, but for me it resembles “dream like states”. Dreams seem to be associated entirely with our minds, and within those dreams there is a lack of structure that clearly distinguishes them from our reality. So rather simplistically perhaps, I think of our reality as existing of minds but referenced to “something” solid. Intersubjective agreement stems from that “something”, nature is not only what is in our heads – it makes use of the “something”.

This is not at all saying that a “rock” in a different form is a source for intersubjective agreement in perceiving that rock – I have no idea what the common source for the rock would be within in mind independent reality, but I don’t think of the rock as being object “X” within mind independent reality transforming to “object “Y” via our perceptions. It is more a case of mind independent reality giving rise to the mechanism by which we can infer such a thing as a rock - it gives rise to mind and hence empirical reality, to space and time and hence locality.

So I can envisage a reality that (say) consists of entirely random interactions of the most irreducible elements (whatever they may be), from which mind, consciousness, and locality emerge (perhaps even in that order). Intersubjective agreement is then part of this “whole”, but is referenced to the most irreducible interactions that we care to imagine, but cannot know anything about. So I wouldn’t call this radical idealism because, whilst the “thing in itself” notion is rejected, there is always reference to “something” (even if it only refers to those most irreducible elements) and that to me is realism.

D’Espagnat takes this further (though he only provides a cursory definition of radical idealism, so the above is purely my interpretation) in that he considers that there is a kind of extended causality from mind independent reality, strengthening the relationship between our reality and independent reality. In a sense he sees these two realities as existing together, but not in the sense of both running together - mind independent reality just “exists” as a kind of “substance” from which our minds (and hence) reality arises.

So for me, the relevant question concerns the issue of whether there are sufficient arguments to suggest (philosophically) that reality is not just about what is in our heads –that it seems to depend in part on something else, and that something else can be conveniently termed as mind independent reality – “something” that is external to the mind. Certainly the status of the arguments can only be philosophical, and I will list a few that d’Espagnat uses. I’m not going to be able to defend these arguments because I haven’t read enough (and understood enough) of his writings in which he substantiates them in detail, but if nothing else it perhaps indicates an interesting divergence that I see between you and d’Espagnat as occurring at the very bottom of the chain so to speak. He certainly considers mind independent reality to be a part of realism, but a very “open” part. And he does consider that some of our “great” laws can be linked to independent reality, not in any sense of the manner in which we perceive them, more a case of the structure that allows such laws to be established arise from the “something”. You I think consider that everything in nature has been selected by our minds, and that selective process requires no underlying source (as per d’Espagnat’s mind independent reality), where as d’Espagnat considers mind independent reality to be a kind of “source”, but not embedded in space and time. He calls this reality “Veiled Reality” – it is a reality that we cannot scientifically say anything about, but nevertheless allows some “glimpses” to occur through the use of science and philosophy.

In essence these points are the basis in which d’Espagnat argues against radical idealism. They should not at all be taken as any kind of refutation on my part of your position with regards to radical idealism because I cannot properly back them up with detail, thus you can ignore them all if you wish! But as I have said, I think I have included them more as an indicator of how I see the divergence of you and d’Espagnat with regards to this very last element within the chain that leads down from observer dependence.

1. Laws are not invented, they are discovered. Humans certainly impart to them a certain form that could be different to what the form actually is, but it cannot be arbitrarily different. There is something that tempers the imaginative impulses of our creativity. In electromagnetism, equations would be simpler if the electric field were a scalar instead of a vector, but objectively this is not the case. Making such a substitution “by fiat” would ruin the agreement between theory and experiment. In other words the physical laws do not totally depend on us, which means they also depend on something else.

2. One of the difficulties of radical idealism that makes “awareness” primary has to cope with the plurality of minds. This difficulty (called “the arithmetical paradox” by Schrödinger (1958)) essentially consists in that, within the idealism in question, it is hard to discern what accounts for the intersubjective agreement between all these I’s (short of introducing the ad hoc notion of some “universal I” having in fact nothing but the name in common with what the pronoun “I” refers to).

3. We sometimes build up quite beautifully rational theories that experiments falsify. Something says no. This something cannot just be “us”. There must therefore be something else than just “us”.

4. Radical idealism openly makes the concepts of knowledge and experience logically prior to the concept of existence. However it seems quite impossible to impart any meaning to the very word “knowledge” without at least implicitly postulating the existence of somebody or something, or what not, who knows. In other words, the logical ordering postulated in this approach does not seem to be compatible with normal requirements concerning meaningfulness.

5. Intersubjective agreement seems hardly explainable without some reference to something existing outside of us.

6. If mathematics is a construct of the mind (which Dr Rocket has previously insisted it is), then within radical idealism every single aspect of mathematics should also be a construct of reality -a perfect abstract circle should exist in the physical world (this last point about a perfect circle is of my own making, not d'espagnat's). There should not be a need of any “selection” procedure on the part of mathematical physicists - from the point of view of the mathematician, the “selected”concepts and theorems have no special features. If the structuring of our sense data were but a process internal to our mind there would be no reason that just the concepts composing the tiny fraction that are actually available through mathematics should have been chosen. Hence it cannot be claimed that the precise structure of our mathematical description of the great physical laws is a priori entirely given to us by the very structure of our own minds. This “selection” process, at least, is not. Consequently, not only is it not possible, but it even looks reasonable to assume that the choice of the mathematical formulas by which we describe observational prediction, is, partly at least, governed by some Reality external to ourselves.

(I appreciate that you have in part countered this argument in your last reply, but I include it again for completeness. I agree that we cannot say what will or will not be used by mathematical physicists in the future, but even so, do you subscribe to the notion that every possible aspect of mathematics will definitely be found to be applicable to the physical world at some point in the future?)

To reiterate what I said at the start, none of this impacts science and empirical reality in the slightest – and I’m sure many will wonder what the fuss is about. There is no fuss really, realism is a philosophical concept, idealism is a philosophical concept, science does what it does with no regards to either of them, adopting realism, as you say, as a matter of convenience. But, for whatever reason, I cling to the concept of an underlying reality that transcends scientific reasoning, but can be thought of as pertaining to our reality. I don’t choose that position for any kind of convenience (although it is possible that I do perhaps “conveniently” equate the concept of realism with some higher external order, not in the sense of a God, just “something”), but rather it just doesn’t quite fit with me to suggest that our reality comes only from within our heads. All I say is that scientific and philosophical knowledge can maybe point to some arguments that can elevate that subjective personal conviction of mine to something a little more “concrete”. I would say that this is certainly the aim of d’Espagnat’s writings.

caveman1917
2010-Aug-31, 11:38 AM
1. Laws are not invented, they are discovered. Humans certainly impart to them a certain form that could be different to what the form actually is, but it cannot be arbitrarily different. There is something that tempers the imaginative impulses of our creativity. In electromagnetism, equations would be simpler if the electric field were a scalar instead of a vector, but objectively this is not the case. Making such a substitution “by fiat” would ruin the agreement between theory and experiment. In other words the physical laws do not totally depend on us, which means they also depend on something else.

An idealist might say that the fact that one can consistently dream of objects that obey the 'difficult' law means it is not precluded as a product of the mind. It does not need to be simple to be a projection.


2. One of the difficulties of radical idealism that makes “awareness” primary has to cope with the plurality of minds. This difficulty (called “the arithmetical paradox” by Schrödinger (1958)) essentially consists in that, within the idealism in question, it is hard to discern what accounts for the intersubjective agreement between all these I’s (short of introducing the ad hoc notion of some “universal I” having in fact nothing but the name in common with what the pronoun “I” refers to).

To which a sollipsist might reply that the ad hoc notion of "other minds" is the difficulty facing realism. See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_zombie


3. We sometimes build up quite beautifully rational theories that experiments falsify. Something says no. This something cannot just be “us”. There must therefore be something else than just “us”.

To an idealist there is nothing to suggest that something cannot be "us/me". Suppose in a dream you think about running through a wall, but you just bump into it when you try - you have just been falsified by your own mind.


4. Radical idealism openly makes the concepts of knowledge and experience logically prior to the concept of existence. However it seems quite impossible to impart any meaning to the very word “knowledge” without at least implicitly postulating the existence of somebody or something, or what not, who knows. In other words, the logical ordering postulated in this approach does not seem to be compatible with normal requirements concerning meaningfulness.

But the requirement of knowledge to be 'objectively meaningful' in that sense rests only in the realist camp - unless it is the knowledge of one's own mind, but then the ordering is correct.


5. Intersubjective agreement seems hardly explainable without some reference to something existing outside of us.

It works for mass hysteria.


6. If mathematics is a construct of the mind (which Dr Rocket has previously insisted it is), then within radical idealism every single aspect of mathematics should also be a construct of reality -a perfect abstract circle should exist in the physical world. There should not be a need of any “selection” procedure on the part of mathematical physicists - from the point of view of the mathematician, the “selected”concepts and theorems have no special features. If the structuring of our sense data were but a process internal to our mind there would be no reason that just the concepts composing the tiny fraction that are actually available through mathematics should have been chosen. Hence it cannot be claimed that the precise structure of our mathematical description of the great physical laws is a priori entirely given to us by the very structure of our own minds. This “selection” process, at least, is not. Consequently, not only is it not possible, but it even looks reasonable to assume that the choice of the mathematical formulas by which we describe observational prediction, is, partly at least, governed by some Reality external to ourselves.

There is no need for perfect circles to be floating around in a dream world to make it a projected reality.



To reiterate what I said at the start, none of this impacts science and empirical reality in the slightest – and I’m sure many will wonder what the fuss is about. There is no fuss really, realism is a philosophical concept, idealism is a philosophical concept, science does what it does with no regards to either of them, adopting realism, as you say, as a matter of convenience. But, for whatever reason, I cling to the concept of an underlying reality that transcends scientific reasoning, but can be thought of as pertaining to our reality. I don’t choose that position for any kind of convenience (although it is possible that I do perhaps “conveniently” equate the concept of realism with some higher external order, not in the sense of a God, just “something”), but rather it just doesn’t quite fit with me to suggest that our reality comes only from within our heads. All I say is that scientific and philosophical knowledge can maybe point to some arguments that can elevate that subjective personal conviction of mine to something a little more “concrete”. I would say that this is certainly the aim of d’Espagnat’s writings.

Realism is indeed a convenient stance, but since science doesn't differentiate between the two (3?) the question rests outside anything science can teach us.
It tells us only how 'reality' works, not where it comes from.

Len Moran
2010-Aug-31, 03:06 PM
Realism is indeed a convenient stance, but since science doesn't differentiate between the two (3?) the question rests outside anything science can teach us.
It tells us only how 'reality' works, not where it comes from.


I am under no illusion whatsoever that science can tell us where mind independent reality comes from or what form it takes, in fact science doesn't even give us access to how mind independent reality "works" - it provides a "working" account only of empirical reality, which by definition involves the observer, which, also by definition, involves sentient beings. But within science there are useful pointers that can inform philosophical speculation. This is the tack that Bernard d'Espagnat takes within his writings "Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Mechanics", "Veiled Reality", and "On Physics and Philosophy". Within that framework he adopts a philosophical stance of open realism that pertains to what he calls a veiled reality - a reality that is unknowable through science, but none the less can be philosophically "glimpsed" at indirectly via several disciplines, including science. The only question I asked, which I never intended to be taken as being able to be answered through the scientific method, involved the philosophical distinction between realism and radical idealism. The points I gave, which you have responded to, can only ever be philosophical in nature. They are the bare bones of arguments that d'Espagnat uses to (philosophically) reject radical idealism, but he expands greatly on them in a manner that I have yet to take on board, thus my qualification that I provided the list as an indicator of the differences I perceive bewteen Ken G and d'Espagnat rather than any proper attempt on my part to refute Ken's position. However your comments are very useful to me, I shall take them on board along with d'Espagnat's expansion once I get to read (and understand) it all.

xylophobe
2010-Aug-31, 04:47 PM
...

4. ... However it seems quite impossible to impart any meaning to the very word “knowledge” without at least implicitly postulating the existence of somebody or something, or what not, who knows. ...



This is a peculiar statement.

By knowledge can we assume that an atom's reaction to the approach of another atom is the result of the first atom receiving "knowledge" of the approaching atom?

Are not all physical reactions in the universe the result of the exchange of "knowledge" between the interacting substances?

The orbit of the earth around the sun is the result of gravitational/mass knowledge transmitted between these two bodies.

I would tend to believe that "knowledge" is a property of the universe and, specifically of matter, that is irrespective of any object's sentience.

Possibly you anticipated my thoughts by your wording at the end when you included:
...or something, or what not, who knows. ...

Ken G
2010-Aug-31, 09:31 PM
Let me give you my take on realism and science, in response to the issues you've raised. I think we agree that as a purely philosophical stance,, realism is up to the individual whether to adopt or not, and it comes with a suite of handy properties that we make like, or that we may take objection to. But this forum is primarily interested in science, so we have to look at the interplay between realism and science. There I think we find yet two more layers worth distinguishing-- one is how can we make realism consistent with science if we wish to adopt that stance, and the other is whether or not realist language is convenient to use with scientific language.

I hold that the latter is basically correct, and that's why so many scientists use realist language, but my main point is that by the time we make realism consistent with science, we end up with something that looks a heck of a lot like what you get by a different path-- by the path of adopting a more idealist, or strictly empirical, stance. In a sense, I'm arguing that science is the place where realism and idealism meet-- to the extent that any distinctions between them are largely semantic, and have more to do with which language seems more streamlined and more convenient, than any significant differences of outlook. Granted, those differences of outlook reappear when we step back from science and generalize to wider philosophical questions, but that's a bit outside the focus here.

Now, you do not seem to agree that idealism and realism produce the same projection onto scientific thinking (although we do agree that science cannot adjudicate between them, and the same scientific theories can be expressed in either language). I think that is because you are using a less than workable version of idealism-- such as equating it with dreamlike states. Even a strict empiricist, who feels that perception is "all there is" that is coherently real, must recognize that our perceptions while dreaming are notably different, and far less consistent and reliable, than those we have when awake. That does not invalidate idealism, because all we have to do is allow that a dreaming person is really dreaming! Their perceptions while dreaming are the reality of a person who is dreaming, and their perceptions while awake are the reality of an awake person. Science is known to work only on the latter, but that doesn't mean that a dream isn't real, as a real dream, it just means that science can't be used to predict what happens in dreams like it can when awake, because dreams are perceptions that do not exhibit intersubjective agreement. So there is something different about a dreaming reality than an awake reality-- and nothing more can be said that is not making undemonstrable, and possibly meaningless, claims.

In other words, the different perspectives are essentially:

realist: intersubjective agreement is a requirement for what we should call reality, so only perceptions that exhibit this property should be considered perceptions of reality. Thus, observations taken by an insane person should not be counted in scientific studies, because they do not correspond to reality.

idealist: perceptions are always what is real, and all perceptions are real perceptions, but the subclass that exhibit intersubjective agreement is the subclass of what is real that we can use science to function better in. Thus, observations taken by an insane person should not be counted in scientific studies, because they are not expected to fit into the intersubjective milieu that science is intended to work on.

See how the scientific projection is identical? One language or the other may seem unwieldy, or may not fit with a more general philosophical stance, but not only is the resulting science the same, but even way we would frame what science is doing is the same-- science is trying to map the intersubjective agreement, it makes no difference at all to the science what we hang the label "reality" on.

To show that idealists have no difficulty with insanity or mirages or any kind of mistaken perceptions, simply note that the idealist says an insane person cannot benefit from trying to apply science to their insane perceptions, but all the same, their perceptions are their reality-- a sentient being is having that perception, so it "counts" as a real happening. This view also gibes with how an insane person feels, and perhaps even certain ethical issues around how we should relate to their feelings, even insane feelings. A psychiatrist does not say "I don't need to deal with this person's perception that the TV is telling them to kill someone because it obviously isn't really doing that", they say, "I do need to deal with that perception because it is part of their reality." The psychiatrist might try to get them to see that the talking TV is not something that fits into the matrix of intersubjective agreement, so it is a delusion, but that only helps the person deal with the reality that they are having a delusion, it doesn't necessarily make the delusion go away, or even make it seem less real, it just helps them cope with it to properly place it.

Let's take another example of how the two views are really the same when it comes to science. You pointed out:

D’Espagnat takes this further (though he only provides a cursory definition of radical idealism, so the above is purely my interpretation) in that he considers that there is a kind of extended causality from mind independent reality, strengthening the relationship between our reality and independent reality. In a sense he sees these two realities as existing together, but not in the sense of both running together - mind independent reality just “exists” as a kind of “substance” from which our minds (and hence) reality arises.
What I would point out is that d'Espagnat is using mind-independent reality here as a kind of invisible prop, that explains why the perceived reality is the way it is-- it's like if you see something hovering in midair, you can imagine there is an invisible string holding it up. But the string is not only invisible to our eyes, it is also invisible to our science-- so all the idealist is doing is taking away the string, and saying that the hovering is simply a property of the object itself-- perceptions don't need a mind-independent reality to explain why there is intersubjective agreement, we simply assert that agreement as a property of a certain (fairly wide) class of perceptions. If you want a string, put it in, if you don't, don't, but science not only works the same both ways, it is the same both ways. Science sits comfortably in the intersection between realism and idealism, when both are made consistent with science.

In regard to how I may be diverging from d'Espagnat:

You I think consider that everything in nature has been selected by our minds, and that selective process requires no underlying source (as per d’Espagnat’s mind independent reality), where as d’Espagnat considers mind independent reality to be a kind of “source”, but not embedded in space and time. He calls this reality “Veiled Reality” – it is a reality that we cannot scientifically say anything about, but nevertheless allows some “glimpses” to occur through the use of science and philosophy.What I'm saying is that whether or not we attribute a "source" to our perceptions, or just take them at face value, effects little more than how streamlined our language is, and how convenient it is to talk about. If we are happy talking about a version of reality that we can say nothing else about other than that it is some kind of source of intersubjective agreement, then we view that as streamlined language. If we are troubled that such a concept is ultimately incoherent, because it is a source without any properties of its own, we may find more streamlined a language that simply dispenses with it, and says that science is the study of certain sourceless correlations between our perceptions.

Given this, my point is that I don't think that the science is any different either way, not just in terms of its predictions, but also in terms of the basic concepts we are invoking to arrive at those predictions. That's because no one ever actually uses an ontology of mind-independent reality when doing science-- instead, what is used is the ontology of naive realism, with care taken to the situations where that ontology is known to break down-- and in those situations, a wide array of totally different ontologies are used, from many worlds to simply punting and preferring no ontology at all to one that is "spooky."

I think this clarifies my position, but I can address more directly those points of argument that you are summarizing from d'Espagnat if it would help further.

Len Moran
2010-Sep-01, 08:35 AM
Thanks for that very useful and lucid clarification, there is a lot packed into that response.

What does immediately strike me is that you have quite strongly picked up on an inference within my post that I was quite unaware of. You say:



Now, you do not seem to agree that idealism and realism produce the same projection onto scientific thinking


As I say, I didn’t intend to convey that inference at all, so there is possibly some confusion on my part in how I relate these terms to science.

I agree that we don’t need to adopt realism or idealism in which to practice science - science makes use of intersubjective agreement and we don’t need realism or idealism in which to make use of that intersubjective agreement. But somewhere along the line, I seem to be giving the impression that distinguishing between realism and idealism in terms of intersubjective agreement impacts on the way we practice science and I’m not sure why I might be doing that.

Taking the extremes of both - realism and idealism, then objectivist realism asserts that intersubjective agreement can be directly attributed to the “rock”. The "rock" has intrinsic properties and those properties are pretty much the same as our perception of them. The “source” of intersubjective agreement here is quite clearly the “rock” and its properties. Radical idealism asserts that the "rock" has no intrinsic properties, the intersubjective agreement is entirely between minds, the "rock" is not a “thing in it’s self” at all, it doesn’t actually “exist”. The “existence” is purely down to intersubjective agreement that gives everyone “knowledge” of a “rock”, independent of any prior existence of that “rock”. If you like, knowledge has come before existence.

Perhaps my confusion stems from looking at these extremes. As a philosophical position I find objectivist realism untenable, but that is a choice on my part, although I think there are strong philosophical arguments that weigh heavily against the stance. Likewise I find radical idealism untenable (which again is a choice on my part), and I also think there are strong philosophical arguments that weigh heavily against that stance. Now it is possible that I am taking these extremes and inadvertently mixing them in with how I see a “picture” of nature emerging through science. I didn’t think I ever did this directly, but, certainly you seem to be picking up on something along these lines.

However, I can see exactly what you mean when you say science may be the meeting place between objectivist realism and radical realism – they both kind of merge at some point along their sliding scales. This "meeting place" gives rise to the inference of “a rock” as existing independently of our perception, yet all we can ever actually know about that “rock” is contained within our perception of "it". I must admit that I have never quite looked at things like that before.

I don’t think this really resolves the particular philosophical objections I have to radical idealism, but at this stage I don’t think anything would be gained from looking closely at the points I raised within my last post (and caveman1917 has already made some comment on them) – in any event I really do need to get to grips properly with the arguments that d’Espagnat uses to philosophically reject that stance. But interestingly, within my recently obtained book by d’Espagnat entitled “Veiled Reality” (it is within that book that he goes into some detail in terms of his rejection of radical idealism), the term that he introduces as being a suitable representation of the notion “Veiled Reality” is idealism – so not so very far perhaps from what you have been saying all along! Clearly though (at least I think this is the case), he is wishing to make a quite clear distinction between idealism and radical idealism in terms of his postulate of a “Veiled reality” as “existing” independently of us. It is the context of all this that is important, and whether I have been (inadvertently) viewing what we can expect from science against a backdrop of the two extremes of realism and idealism.

Ken G
2010-Sep-01, 03:56 PM
I agree that we don’t need to adopt realism or idealism in which to practice science - science makes use of intersubjective agreement and we don’t need realism or idealism in which to make use of that intersubjective agreement. But somewhere along the line, I seem to be giving the impression that distinguishing between realism and idealism in terms of intersubjective agreement impacts on the way we practice science and I’m not sure why I might be doing that.Neither of us are talking about the practice of science, that's all laid out in the scientific method. But then, neither does empiricism or rationalism affect that practice-- those are philosophical stances often adopted by scientists to varying degrees, with no difficulty in the combined "practice" of science. What I'm talking about is the framing of science, the way we think about the practice. Empiricism and rationalism are two very different ways of framing the basic purpose of science-- the first says science uses "laws" to understand observations, and the second says science uses observations to understand the laws that "govern" reality. These are two different ways of imagining our access to reality, but note that either can work fine if we think of reality as something that is "out there" but mind-independent, or if we think of reality as the sum of the perceptions of mind, where the subclass where intersubjective agreement reigns is the domain of science. I don't see the distinctions between rationalism and empiricism as moot in scientific thinking, even though they don't change the basic practice (the confrontation of theory and observation), because they do inform our interpretations-- Copenhagen (empiricist) vs. many-worlds (rationalist) being a notable example. But an ontology including mind-independent reality, vs. idealism, does not even adjudicate our interpretations, expressly because we cannot say anything about mind-independent reality. That which we can say nothing about does not affect our scientific thinking in any way, we can do away with it and still frame science the same way, still favor the same interpretations, etc. It is only when we ask questions that science is not concerned with that we begin to find a distinction there.

However, I think I understand what you are saying-- you are saying that on non-scientific philosophical grounds, you prefer a realist approach, and so you are interested in how that can be done in a way that is consistent with science. You don't care if another stance, like idealism, can also be made consistent with science, and you don't care if the result of doing that comes out the same either way, because you already prefer realism for other reasons. I was just saying that idealism, done right, does not encounter any problems with science-- for example, it does not need to be bothered by the fact that science doesn't work in dreamland, expressly because science wasn't built to work in dreamland.
If you like, knowledge has come before existence.Exactly-- realism says that existence gives rise to knowledge of what exists, whereas idealism says that knowledge of existence is exactly what existence means, being a word on the lips of a knowledgeable thinker. The realist imagines they can escape the prison of their own mind, the idealist accepts that prison. The realist would accuse the idealist of lacking imagination, the idealist would accuse the realist of being given to childish fantasies!

Likewise I find radical idealism untenable (which again is a choice on my part), and I also think there are strong philosophical arguments that weigh heavily against that stance.That I think is our fundamental point of divergence-- looking at the list of d'Espagnat's points, I do not see any as particularly damning of idealism. My view on idealism is that it is more or less logically undeniable, but we may still choose to adopt realism anyway-- but for no better reason than we prefer the language it allows us to use. In essence, it allows us to fall into more imprecise, but much simpler, language, a practice that we adopt quite routinely in any number of human endeavors. If one uses naive and objectivist realism, one takes that to its extreme-- very simple, very imprecise. If we adopt a more open realism, depending on how open we go, we avoid the contradictions at the cost of getting more and more vague and less and less realist. In the extreme where realism is "mind-independent", we are now at the destination where we can say nothing at all about the "true" reality-- and by then, we are just one baby step away from idealism.

It's like two people born in a prison cell with no windows, living their whole lives in that prison cell, never seeing anyone from "outside." Food appears in a corner each morning, with no evidence of how it got there. One prisoner says it came from "outside", a whole world out there that they can say nothing about because they've never seen it, but it has to be there or else where does the food come from? The other says, no, there is no "out there", it is just a property of the cell that food appears in the corner every day. In a real scenario like that, we can imagine them staying awake one night to see how the food got there, but in our science scenario, "staying awake" would require doing something that isn't science. That's all I mean by the distinction being moot to science-- not only is the practice of science the same either way, but even our understanding of that "food in the corner" is the same either way. As soon as we find an approach that allows our minds to say something about mind-independent reality, we have violated its mind-independence.

However, I can see exactly what you mean when you say science may be the meeting place between objectivist realism and radical realism – they both kind of merge at some point along their sliding scales. This "meeting place" gives rise to the inference of “a rock” as existing independently of our perception, yet all we can ever actually know about that “rock” is contained within our perception of "it". I must admit that I have never quite looked at things like that before.Yes that is all I'm really saying here. Science is so stuck inside our own minds, it really doesn't make much difference to science, how we achieve its outputs or even how we frame its outputs, if we fight that or just accept it. Idealism is often regarded as too radical to be of much use, but in many ways I view it as the most honest possible stance, even though I certainly do imagine a reality "out there."

gzhpcu
2010-Sep-16, 12:01 PM
Just got and started reading Stephen Hawking's latest book "The Grand Design". He has a chapter "What is reality?", bringing up many of the arguments in this thread. He is a proponent of a "model-dependent" reality, where it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only if it agrees with observations.
He writes that a model is a good model if
1) is elegant
2) agrees with all existing observations
3) contains few arbitraty or adjustable elements
4) makes detailed predictions about future observatsion that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.

Ken G
2010-Sep-16, 02:00 PM
Yeah, that doesn't surprise me, it is the "ultra-scientific" version of reality. Seems backward to me, frankly-- it says we create reality in the image of science, rather than viewing science as an effective way to model a version or fraction or projection of reality. It certainly leaves out a whole lot of human experience, and what most rank-and-file humans consider important. Kinda reminds me of the take of Weinberg and Dawkins-- prophets of a version of reality that only one person in a thousand has a chance of appreciating even to a tiny extent, popular books notwithstanding.

gzhpcu
2010-Sep-16, 04:59 PM
But Ken, he says that we never "know" reality, just the model, and that there can be multiple, equivalent models. Is this so far from your position?

nokton
2010-Sep-16, 07:47 PM
Just got and started reading Stephen Hawking's latest book "The Grand Design". He has a chapter "What is reality?", bringing up many of the arguments in this thread. He is a proponent of a "model-dependent" reality, where it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only if it agrees with observations.
He writes that a model is a good model if
1) is elegant
2) agrees with all existing observations
3) contains few arbitraty or adjustable elements
4) makes detailed predictions about future observatsion that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.

GZ, the human mind is far from an expression of reasoned logic, we think only in the terms of our learning.
Our learning determines the way we think, unless one is a maverick, and challenges all ideology.
Hawking is a very learned man, his book on the arrow of time, very well written,
but, it begs the question, is the thought behind it based upon original thinking, or rather an adherence
to the laws of physics as he was taught to understand.
Your reference to Mark Twain is relevent, as is your Chinese proverb, but consider this, who is the real
fool, the fool, or the one who follows the fool.
Nokton.

Ken G
2010-Sep-16, 10:41 PM
But Ken, he says that we never "know" reality, just the model, and that there can be multiple, equivalent models. Is this so far from your position?
Yes-- I feel that most people are rather clear on the point that they can "know" reality without modeling it at all. A theoretical physicist takes a very particular view of what knowing reality is, and can be so taken with the fascination and power of that view, they may forget everything else.

gzhpcu
2010-Sep-17, 06:49 AM
GZ, the human mind is far from an expression of reasoned logic, we think only in the terms of our learning.
Our learning determines the way we think, unless one is a maverick, and challenges all ideology.
Hawking is a very learned man, his book on the arrow of time, very well written,
but, it begs the question, is the thought behind it based upon original thinking, or rather an adherence
to the laws of physics as he was taught to understand.
Your reference to Mark Twain is relevent, as is your Chinese proverb, but consider this, who is the real
fool, the fool, or the one who follows the fool.
Nokton.
Yes. For that matter, all of our thinking is based on aggregated thinking, the thinking of not one person, that of mankind. A single person could never manage to work things out alone.

Len Moran
2010-Sep-17, 07:23 AM
Just got and started reading Stephen Hawking's latest book "The Grand Design". He has a chapter "What is reality?", bringing up many of the arguments in this thread. He is a proponent of a "model-dependent" reality, where it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only if it agrees with observations.
He writes that a model is a good model if
1) is elegant
2) agrees with all existing observations
3) contains few arbitraty or adjustable elements
4) makes detailed predictions about future observatsion that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.

I haven’t looked at the book, but this is an interesting extract you provide. I have been puzzling over the apparent philosophical position that Hawking seemed to be taking in terms of realism, given his philosophical stance admitted to in the book “The large, the small and the Human Mind” by Roger Penrose, Abner Shimony, Nancy Cartwright and Stephen Hawking (1999)). This is what Hawking says (in a response to Roger Penrose):




Basically, he’s (Penrose) a Platonist believing that there’s a unique world of (mathematical) ideas that describe a unique physical reality. I, on the other hand, am a positivist who believes that physical theories are just mathematical models we construct, and that it is meaningless to ask if they correspond to reality, just whether they predict observations.

(my inserts in brackets)

The above quote from Hawking concerning his stance as a positivist, for me, is the pure scientific method – there is no mixing of ontology with the science and it is the bedrock of scientific investigation. Once we get outside of that narrow remit and start to extend the method to ontological questions then philosophical stances become important to define in relation to those ontological questions. Very few scientists do what Hawkin does above, they skirt the issues, with the result that those philosophical stances become blurred and reduced to levels that imply irrelevance. By the time it all filters out to the world at large, philosophical considerations relating to ontology might just as well not exist, thus we have this gulf between what the public see as science “facts” relating to the nature of physical reality and the actual status of that correspondence between the scientific method and physical reality as it "exists" outside of empirical reality. I don’t know whether Hawking makes his philosophical stance as clear in his new book – if he does, and it is clear to the public what he means by his definition of reality then that is no bad thing.

It does actually seem to me that Hawking is extending greatly his positivist stance; he seems to be introducing the “reality” of observed existence as being dependent on the model. It’s pushing everything completely back into our heads – and this is what I think of as radical idealism – there is no philosophical assumption at all that there exists some “reference” to a reality that I label as mind independent reality (even though we can say nothing scientific about that reality). Far from Hawking being a realist (as I thought his book was implying, based on extracts in another thread), from your quotes it seems that he couldn’t be getting further way from realism. This to me renders his whole theme as self referential – he uses our brains to establish that nothing else (other than our brains) is required in which to determine the nature of our reality, which in turn is a construct of our brains. The whole thing is just circular and is one of the aspects that I dislike about radical idealism. Open realism allows for the possibility that there is “something” in which to reference our reality even though we cannot access it directly. Admittedly this may seem like a subjective choice on my part, but I do think there are strong philosophical arguments for this kind of open realism, but I’m still struggling with those.

So purely from my perspective, Hawking is telling us nothing about reality outside of sentient beings, he is rather telling us that we need to adopt radical idealism as philosophical stance and thus remove any notion of an underlying mind independent reality, and from that stance we can establish the unification of physics. Nothing new there, he is just in a roundabout way acknowledging the impossibility of removing the human observer except that he doesn’t feel any need in which to think of “something” outside of the observation. If I am right in this interpretation it would be interesting to know if it comes across in this manner in the book - I shall have to read it.

Ken G
2010-Sep-17, 06:59 PM
In my view, Hawking is simply adopting the positivist stance that the scientific method is the only valid route to any type of knowledge. The scientific method is predicated on the ability to interpret objective observations, so by requiring that any statement about reality be addressible using this method, one is automatically requiring that the statement involve an objective observable that admits to analysis by human intelligence. So it's not idealism as a conclusion, it is idealism as a starting point-- and it's not even full-on idealism, which accepts as real the perceptions of any individual, it is a restricted brand of idealism that includes as real only objectively shared perceptions, discarding all else as illusion or delusion. He is saying that to a scientist, it makes no difference if there is a broader reality or not, because the only thing that any scientist will ever be able to speak about, with the authority of observation behind him/her, is going to involve a model that successfully predicts an objective observation, and nothing else. In my mind, this stance is nothing more than passing reality through the filter that is science, indeed the current version of scientific understanding, and then calling what comes out the other end "reality." It's completely unresponsive to modes of interaction with reality that do not directly involve science, whether undertaken by Plato or a busy Mom hurrying along the sidewalk, and it also appears to be blind to how completely differently science may view the universe in another thousand years.

In a nutshell, I hear him saying loud and clear that "reality is what science makes of it." This is what he seems to mean by "model-dependent reality"-- our intelligence makes models of reality, and these models are reality to us, they're all we ever get of reality, all that ever matters. So if he can make a model of reality that "explains itself", he doesn't need to be troubled with questions like how did it get here. Others who cannot understand his models might still have that question, and might be led to understand its answer in other ways. He doesn't seem to be claiming "my way or the highway", unlike some more strident positivists like Weinberg or Dawkins, but then when he says "philosophy is dead" he does seem to be claiming that there's no point in any other philosophical stance, his is the only one that is "still alive" in his view. I would reframe his entire stance as "I personally no longer see any need for philosophy, because as far as I'm concerned, all the questions it asks have either been satisfactorily answered by my scientific world view, or have been relegated to the status of unimportant or meaningless questions." It is very much the position of a closed mind, but perhaps also a mind at peace. Shall we accept that peace, even rejoice that the scientific approach can produce it, or be dissatisfied by such a "magic bullet" kind of approach? That same question gets asked in non-scientific contexts as well, which is somewhat ironic here.

cosmocrazy
2010-Sep-18, 01:50 PM
This frame of mind that you are describing Ken is really not much different than a devout religious point of view. It concludes that once you get down to the nitty gritty, the fundamental questions, science appears unable to satisfactorily answer with any sort of meaningful model. My understanding would be that Hawking is basically saying that at some point things just "are" and that only from this point forward are we able to satisfactorily model whats going on using science and knowledge. This would appear no different than taking the stance that God created everything, or should I say God created the fundamental laws and from these laws "our reality" arose.

nokton
2010-Sep-18, 04:39 PM
This frame of mind that you are describing Ken is really not much different than a devout religious point of view. It concludes that once you get down to the nitty gritty, the fundamental questions, science appears unable to satisfactorily answer with any sort of meaningful model. My understanding would be that Hawking is basically saying that at some point things just "are" and that only from this point forward are we able to satisfactorily model whats going on using science and knowledge. This would appear no different than taking the stance that God created everything, or should I say God created the fundamental laws and from these laws "our reality" arose.
Hi cosmo, your term 'frame of mind' is the heart of the question. Have you ever considered cosmo, that our understanding of what we call science
is limited by our current intellect? Is it not better to presume that ones intelligence is limited more by ones belief system of thinking,
than pure objective observation and analysis?
Nokton.

kevin1981
2010-Sep-18, 07:19 PM
Hi, i have just been thinking, literally for a couple of minutes about this question.

Has the universe always existed in it's present state of 3 dimensions of space and one of time- or is it like it is because of conscious observers like us see it this way?

Is reality in a superposition of all possible states until conscious observers collapse the 'wavefunctions' or does decoherence happen naturally and space/time was already there to be 'discovered' ?

I am trying to get my head around 'mind independent reality'. I think that there is "something" without consciousness but we can't tap into it. But without consciousness, is the "something" in a cohered state or decohered state ?

Thanks

Ken G
2010-Sep-18, 10:41 PM
My understanding would be that Hawking is basically saying that at some point things just "are" and that only from this point forward are we able to satisfactorily model whats going on using science and knowledge. This would appear no different than taking the stance that God created everything, or should I say God created the fundamental laws and from these laws "our reality" arose.I believe that is why Hawking says nothing about any kind of god, only that he doesn't need one to have his world view.