Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mind Trip

For a bit of a mind trip, go here. It's a discussion on time, matter, energy, and the universe. The author attempts to disprove Aristotle's concept of an ultimate cause (often used as an argument for God's existence), although I'm not entirely sure he does it. He also asserts that time is illusory (a little bit of Parmenides?).


  1. Time IS illusory...change is not

    More on Wednesday, good luck on the "difficult" exam tomorrow morning.

  2. Meh. Article's not as deep as the author would have you believe. And in many ways, inconsistent with modern physics theories. I'm sure the guy is smarter than all of our scientific minds combined, and his opinion more valid than theirs.

    I recommend "The Fabric of the Cosmos" by Greene (at least I'm pretty sure that's the author's name) if you want to actually learn something about the nature of space & time, as well as a lot of theoretical physics (relativity, quantum physics, string theory, etc.) It sounds like a tough read, and in some spots it gets a bit hairy, but he uses a lot of analogies rather than math, and really gets into some deep thinking. Like, for reals.

    It's one of the few nonfiction titles I've actually enjoyed reading.

    I might make a post on this as well after my final this afternoon.

  3. Khorbin, thanks for yet another entry to my Amazon wish list; I haven't read anything "substantial" in this area since Hawking's A Brief History of Time. (BTW, it is Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos : Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, from Vintage (paperback).)

    For me, that wasn't one of LG's most interesting posts; veering off into theoretical physics was obviously ill-advised.

    Even though we don't (and probably never can) know why the Big Bang occurred, I see no valid reason to introduce spiritual entities into the explanation, either as initial or continuing influences.

  4. ibadairon.

    I see no reason for leaving spiritual entities out. How do you reasonably justify limiting a range of possibilities by an account that isn't based on reason, but on apriori disbelief?

  5. Moise, how do you reasonably justify admitting a range of possibilities by an account that isn't based on reason, but on apriori belief?

    You assume my disbelief to be a priori, when in fact it is a posteriori; an understandable mistake since you have via this medium only a limited representation of me as I am now. I grew up in the church and was a believer for many years. (Or did I merely believe I believed, in the end?) I fought the doubt when it began to form because I wanted to believe.

    But belief is not proof. Nor does it lead to the realization of what is believed. Disbelief is for me the only reasonable alternative given a lack of evidence for either viewpoint (Occam's razor). Belief is wishful thinking. If it comforts and makes you a better, happier person, knock yourself out.

  6. Wow, Kelly, Yuriy is going to inform you if he finds more porn.

    That's awesome.

  7. Yeah, but what are the odds that (s)he's actually going to find any more porn on the Internet, of all places. It's just not there!

    I have a question, Ibad. Take two opposite propositions, say + and -. There is insufficient evidence for either proposition to be proved. Why, then, pick - instead of +? Isn't that a bit pessimistic?

  8. You're going to have to do wee bit better than that, Kelly! Either keep it general or make it explicit: Take two opposite propositions, say A and B or Take two opposite propositions, say +God and -God. : )

    When there is insufficient evidence for deciding the truth of either A or B, accept as a tentative expedient whichever of the two requires the fewest additional (unconfirmed) entities or elements of explanation. This does not mean that the alternative chosen is true (the search for compelling evidence must continue insofar as possible) but neither does it mean that that alternative may not be used as a foundation for further reasoning, only that such logical extensions are themselves rendered tentative pending resolution of the original uncertainty over A and B.

    Optimism and pessimism have nothing to do with it, really. Unless of course you have some emotional investment in one of the alternatives.

  9. Well, it would seem I didn't really need to be specific. I knew that my meaning would be clear.

    I still think it's pessimistic, regardless of any emotional investment.

  10. Again you're referring only to this particular pair of opposites.

    Optimism and pessimism are subjective responses, based on a comparison of (apparent?) reality with some imagined alternative set of facts or conditions.

    You view my opinion on this specific issue (and its ramifications) as pessimistic because you consider your own, which is in direct opposition, as optimistic. I submit that it is neither.

  11. Ibadairon's comments on the tentative expedient as a means to breaking the impasse of insufficient information is interesting. In effect, when information is insufficient we often must choose between being too paralyzed to make a decision (or to take on a belief), or finding the means to move forward despite the shortage of info.

    His formula is essentially to apply Ockham's Razor. That is a very intelligent position to take, and I certainly do not suggest he should do otherwise. But it seems to me that all choices, including the application of Ockham's Razor, are arbitrary. The choice as to what to believe can be intelligently made on other bases than Ockham's Razor. The trick is to remember that any such device is an expedient, and what makes a good expedient is that it serve our purpose best. The important thing is to be clear in one's own mind about the reasons and limitations of the choice, and not to later misrepresent its truth value--especially to one's self.

    For example, I spend a lot of time troubleshooting technical issues. Frequently, there is either too little information, or I have apparently contradictory facts as my givens. One expedient is to select either "a" or "~a"(i.e.: "not a") as a working hypothesis--whichever seems like it will cause the least damage if I choose wrong. Another is to simply choose the easiest to work with, or the one that I can deal with the fastest. Obviously, there is a lot more to my work than that, but these are definitely techniques that are useful.

    On a different line of thinking, let's consider the case of G="God exists". (Thus, ~G="God does not exist".) There are many rational ways to come to a conclusion. I don't think I have to convince anybody that there is insufficient evidence to prove either G or ~G in this case. In such cases, some people who pride themselves on their scientific-mindedness criticize others for choosing G, but continue to try to prove ~G on the evidence. IMHO, if they were truly scientifically-minded, they would simply acknowledge that there is insufficient evidence for proof and stop wasting brain cells. More importantly, people of that ilk often would do well to acknowledge that others may be just as sane for having done what everybody has to do in the face of the question G or ~G--namely, choose an expedient. If somebody chooses to believe in God, while I choose the opposite, or vice versa, that in itself is no indication of brain damage on the part of either chooser.

    The next problem is to assume that everybody should necessarily choose Ockham's Razor as the basis for that expedient. It is useful, it is the best basis that I know for scientific matters, but it may not provide the best basis for all purposes.

    A person might choose to belief A because it fits their need for spiritual expression. That should be no problem as long as they do not insist that their theological cosmology be consistent with the cosmology of modern physics.

    The problems do not necessarily arise from the choice of expedient, as long as the basis for that choice, and its limitations, are well understood.

  12. Ptarmigan, extremely nicely put.

    (I asked you a question a while back on LG's blog...???)

  13. Ibadairon,

    I'm sorry I missed your question. Would you mind repeating it? (Is this is an appropriate venue?)

  14. Appropriate? Have I ever been?

    : )

    As long as Kelly doesn't mind, I suppose it is: Since you don't link to a blog or website via your signature, I was curious as to who you are. I found a "ptarmigan" associated with a wildlife studies group here in Japan and was wondering if it was you and if you're still on this side of the ole orb.

    Always curious about the people I encounter on the web, nothing more.

  15. Hi, Ibadairon. Sorry to say, I'm not associated with any wildlife organizations, nor am I in Japan.

    Not sure why I chose ptarmigan for my monicker. I guess because I like pronouncing the 'pt' sound. I was thinking of pterodactyl, but that seemed a bit outdated. Ptarmigan seemed more current.

  16. OK, gotcha. My bad! (ibad?)

    BTW, do you really say the "p"? I thought that went out with the Greeks. Well, and the Germans with their Pferde and Pfeiffers and such. : )

  17. I pronounce the 't', but I just like the way it feels in my mouth when I say it that way.

  18. Oops! I meant to say I pronounce the 'p'.

  19. "Even a monkey falls from the trees."

    Sorry. Japanese proverb (Saru mo ki kara ochiru). To wit, everybody makes mistakes!

    : )

  20. No doubt you are referring to one of my illustrious ancestors.

  21. Hmm? No, no more so to yours than to my own!

    (But yes, I do like it partly because of the possible "monkey down from tree" ~ evolution associations!)

    That's actually an interesting side topic, though, your ancestors and mine: how far back would we have to go before we found THE unique mating pair from which we (you and me or any two of us here) are both descended?

  22. Interesting question. Do you have a way to go back?

  23. I've got a ways to go back home tonight, still...but that's not what you're asking.

    Not me of course, but them crazy people who do the freaky with mitochondrial DNA, maybe?

    It's been a LONG day. Where I was going with that was that we're all umpteenth cousins umpteen times removed.

    I find it harder to hate people when I think about them (even the most annoying ones) as family.

    [N.B. Hating and annoying not applying to anyone here of course!]