"Turn him loose as a theorist..."

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"Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Tiny genius » Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:52 am

Here we let our minds run free, with our ideas unbound by ridicule or preset notions and ideas in our chosen fields. Challenge your own assumptions and put the results here.

As this thread is intended to be about philosophy as well as physics, I ask whether, like the four forces of the universe combining into one at high energies, do good and evil merge so that they are one in extreme situations? In these situations will following one or the other of them lead to the same action in the end? While I'm at it, are good and evil the only two categories on there own level or are there more? Does each motive have to fall under one or the other of them or a subcategory thereof?

Maybe they aren't categories but opposite ends of one spectrum.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby neo-dragon » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:38 am

How do you define "good" and "evil"?
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Wind Swept » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:45 am

I came in here to say that Good an Evil are all a matter of perspective. Before posting, I thought I'd do some Googling, so I typed "objective evil" into the search bar. The first result was an article written by a homeschooled 15 year old girl called Contraception: An Objective Evil...

Evil is a matter of perspective.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Eaquae Legit » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:55 am

"Objective evil" does not necessarily mean "objectively the worst thing ever". We can all agree that killing is an evil, but I think (and correct me if I'm wrong) we can also all agree that some instances of killing (e.g., in self-defence, in war) are less evil than other instances of killing (e.g., premeditated homocide), and indeed may even be non-culpable. The killing itself is an evil, but the agent is not.

I promise you don't know what my views are re: the Catholic Church and birth control, but before we get into all rolling our eyes at the Church, I did want to point out that the language used in the Catechism and encyclicals is very specialist especially at its most inflammatory-sounding. The words have slightly different connotations than our common usage. Yes, this is a problem. Yes, this makes the Church look incredibly stupid at times. But yes, there is almost always a bit more to it.

Also note that I'm not defending the, um, interpretation given to doctrine by a 15-year-old homeschooled kid.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby elfprince13 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:59 am

Evil is a matter of perspective.
Our perspectives on evil are a matter of perspective ;)
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Dr. Mobius » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:05 am

Our perspectives on perspective is a matter of perspective.


Also, I misread the title and thought it said terrorist. I was a bit confused as to why anyone would release a barfing terrorist into the public. For all we know that's a superplague he just spewed on my shirt!
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby neo-dragon » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:52 am

We can all agree that killing is an evil, but I think (and correct me if I'm wrong) we can also all agree that some instances of killing (e.g., in self-defence, in war) are less evil than other instances of killing (e.g., premeditated homocide), and indeed may even be non-culpable. The killing itself is an evil, but the agent is not.
So, do you mean to say that any act of ending a human life willingly is evil, but some instances are more evil than others, and the person who commits the act is not necessarily evil at all?

If we take self-defense as an example, I agree with the killer not being evil, but I'm not sure that I would define the act itself as any degree of evil either. Undesirable? Regrettable? Unfortunate? Of course. But I don't see "evil" in that.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Syphon the Sun » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:27 am

If we take self-defense as an example, I agree with the killer not being evil, but I'm not sure that I would define the act itself as any degree of evil either. Undesirable? Regrettable? Unfortunate? Of course. But I don't see "evil" in that.
Pretty much exactly what I was thinking, though I'm not sure she specifies willingly ending the life of another.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby elfprince13 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:40 pm

Our perspectives on perspective is a matter of perspective.
I actually meant mine as an amendment to the original sentiment, rather than just trying to get all meta ;) I think the nature of evil is very much objective, even if our understanding of it is (at least partially) subject to our own experiences.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby neo-dragon » Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:01 pm

How is the nature of evil objective? What does the "nature of evil" even mean?
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby elfprince13 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:28 pm

How is the nature of evil objective? What does the "nature of evil" even mean?
I'll answer the second question first, and then get back to the first one - What I mean by "the nature of evil" is what if we consider evil (or evilness) to be a "thing", it must have defining characteristics (by which we identify it) that cause it to be that thing rather than some other thing. Those defining characteristics of a thing (in this case, evil) are what I mean by "the nature of [that thing]". As to how the nature of evil is objective, you would first have to ask me why I believe in an objective reality at all (and possibly also why I believe in an also-objective spiritual reality existing alongside the physical universe). If you're willing to accept both of those things axiomatically, than if evil is a thing which can be defined in terms of those spiritual (and/or physical) realities, than it should follow pretty immediately that evil is objectively defined. If you're willing to accept the former, than we would need evil to be definable in purely physical terms or to delve into the question of whether or not our physical universe is also accompanied by a spiritual one; and if you're not willing to accept either I would probably question why you're willing to sit in a chair, or how someone in China can build a computer that doesn't cease working when it arrives in the US. Depending on your response to those questions, there's a distinct possibility I would simply exit the conversation and leave you to enjoy a world where gravity is a social construct and watered down sperm is a good way to get pregnant <- these are both links, but don't show up well against the text.

If you mean to ask me how I would characterize evil in order to describe its nature, that's a slightly different question.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby neo-dragon » Wed Apr 11, 2012 2:00 pm

I believe in an also-objective spiritual reality existing alongside the physical universe
As soon as you say that your basis for an objective nature of evil is a belief in a non-observable spiritual reality, the objective part sorta goes out the window, doesn't it?
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Rei » Wed Apr 11, 2012 3:40 pm

This seems like a good place to begin when discussing the nature of evil. Afterall, what would any discussion of the matter be without the Summa coming up?
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:49 pm

I'm starting to understand where you're coming from, Elfprince.

1) Are you non-committal about the existence of an objective physical reality?

2) You seem to almost be MORE committal about the "existence" of an "objective spiritual reality" than you are about an objective physical reality.


Please explain what you mean by the existence of an "objective spiritual reality"


Personally, I do not believe that "evil" exists as a thing (other than as a adjective, describing another thing: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/evil" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ; definitions 1 through 5 only), just as "slow" does not exist as a separate entity, just as "chairness" does not exist as a separate entity. Similarly, I do not believe that "good" exists as a separate object, except as an adjective.....etc.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby elfprince13 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:23 pm

in a non-observable spiritual reality, the objective part sorta goes out the window, doesn't it?
This depends both on what you mean by observable and on what you mean by objective. Do angels (or God, or your spirit, take your pick) have some associated Hilbert space to which we can apply a Hermitian operator and expect a real-valued result? I don't think so. But at least under the usual assumptions of science, the universe cannot be deterministic, which closes the door entirely on strong causal closure, and allows for a universe which is subject to outside (in this case, spiritual) influences. While the spiritual reality may not be directly observable, we could certainly observe the results of any spiritual influence on the physical universe if we were set up to make observations in the right place and at the right did. So the point at which theology diverges from science is not on the problem of observability, but on the problem of repeatability.

As to what is meant by objective reality, the direction in which I take my response depends on how whether or not you would agree with the statement that science aims to model objective reality through successive approximation and experimentation (collecting empirical data) - or to put a specific point on it, a description of your take on the relationship between, say, General Relativity and objective reality.

I'm starting to understand where you're coming from, Elfprince.
If you're actually seeing where I'm coming from this early in the conversation, I'm slightly surprised and a little bit impressed. :) It doesn't often happen until I've worked through the various stereotypes from which I'm not coming. But just to get it all out in the open ahead of time, I'm an Argumentative (in the mathematical sense) Evangelical (in the missional sense) Baptist subscribing to a view of Open Theism which includes aspects of both Bivalentist Omniscience and Voluntary Nescience (the result of taking omnipotence into the picture), a Theistic-Evolution view of Creation, and to an inaugurated eschatology. I'm also a pro-life libertarian on the agrarian/localist spectrum, and most often frame philosophical arguments in terms of my background in mathematics, computer science and physics. ;)
1) Are you non-committal about the existence of an objective physical reality?
I'm not at all non-committal about that, but I'm used to dealing with people who are, which is why my previous response was conditioned on whether or not I was talking to someone with whom I could share the presupposition that the contents of the physical universe are objectively defined (particularly given that this is a literature forum rather than a science forum, and discussing these sorts of things with post-modernists is an entirely different beast than discussing them with scientists).
2) You seem to almost be MORE committal about the "existence" of an "objective spiritual reality" than you are about an objective physical reality.
I think you're misreading my post - the existence of objective spiritual reality is for most people a more difficult assumption to make than the existence of an objective physical reality. The length of my response is, once again, conditioned on the set of presuppositions that can be shared with my conversational partner.

Please explain what you mean by the existence of an "objective spiritual reality"
I think my answer to neo more or less covers this - let me know if I missed something.
Personally, I do not believe that "evil" exists as a thing (other than as a adjective, describing another thing: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/evil" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ; definitions 1 through 5 only) ... except as an adjective.....etc.
Do you disagree that adjectives define a set of traits applied to a thing?


[edit]

Rei: a little Aquinas is never a bad thing :)
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:58 pm

I do wish there was a place on the Internet where I could take "where it is I think you're going," and put it in a sealed envelope, only to be opened once we've all seen where you've been headed all along with this line of "reasoning."
It doesn't often happen until I've worked through the various stereotypes from which I'm not coming.
This tells me that the stereotypes I've got floating in my head about you are more than likely correct. You've probably just convinced yourself that they can't really be true (for a given value of "true"). We shall see.
...the universe cannot be deterministic, which closes the door entirely on strong causal closure
I'm reading through your reference to "Bell's theorem," so perhaps I may have to edit this later, but I'm going to disagree with you for now:

If I push a chair off the edge of a cliff, it will fall off the edge of the cliff. Unless "Strong causal closure" means something more (or less) than that, I think that's "strong causal closure" A direct cause and effect relationship.

However, if some asteroid comes and smashes the chair, or of someone else comes along and steals the chair before I have a chance to push it, then there goes your determinacy. However, both those unexpected causes have their expected effects on the chair, supporting causality in a world where you cannot necessarily determine every input to a given situation.

You still have not defined or described what you mean by "objective spiritual reality." Until you do that, how can you say that things are subject to its influences?

I can claim that there is a grammelated fremostat that can affect the core material of the chair I am sitting on, and since *I* cannot directly affect the core material of the chair, it therefore allows for a universe subject to grammelated fremostat influences. Except that the premise is bad (for any grammelated fremostat), and the content is meaningless. As is your claim. So far.
While the spiritual reality may not be directly observable, we could certainly observe the results of any spiritual influence on the physical universe if we were set up to make observations in the right place and at the right did. So the point at which theology diverges from science is not on the problem of observability, but on the problem of repeatability.
So far, my stereotypes of you are fully intact. Please continue. By the time you are done, you will have made my original point, re. why I enjoy Bertrand Russel's quote so much (even though I may not know as much about how he was supposedly spanked by the raging madman Godel as you do)

Oh, and re. Bell's Theory: (from Wikipedia) "None of the tests of the theorem performed to date has fulfilled all of the requisite conditions implicit in the theorem, and the conditions Bell imposes on local hidden variable theories have been criticized as overly restrictive. Accordingly, experimental results to date cannot be regarded as conclusive proof of non-locality." Oh, and I think it's meaningless to have to appeal to the laws of quantum physics when discussing a MACRO reality (chairs, people, mysterious undefined spirit entities that can actually push chairs off cliffs, etc.)
Last edited by Boothby on Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:59 pm

Oh, and I agree: "adjectives define a set of traits applied to a thing" (though I think I may have a slight preference for the word "describe," instead of "define")
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:52 pm

If you're actually seeing where I'm coming from this early in the conversation, I'm slightly surprised and a little bit impressed. It doesn't often happen until I've worked through the various stereotypes from which I'm not coming. But just to get it all out in the open ahead of time, I'm an Argumentative (in the mathematical sense) Evangelical (in the missional sense) Baptist subscribing to a view of Open Theism which includes aspects of both Bivalentist Omniscience and Voluntary Nescience (the result of taking omnipotence into the picture), a Theistic-Evolution view of Creation, and to an inaugurated eschatology. I'm also a pro-life libertarian on the agrarian/localist spectrum, and most often frame philosophical arguments in terms of my background in mathematics, computer science and physics.
Yep. Exactly what I thought. :roll:

However, I don't think that this: "Baptist subscribing to a view of Open Theism which includes aspects of both Bivalentist Omniscience and Voluntary Nescience" really means anything (that's the beauty of it, as they say). Care to explain, or is this an example of your hard-to-understand humor?
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby elfprince13 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:35 pm

Unless "Strong causal closure" means something more (or less) than that, I think that's "strong causal closure" A direct cause and effect relationship.
In a philosophical context it does not. Strong causal closure means nothing happens without a physical cause. Weak causal closure means nothing happens due to a non-physical cause. The former requires physical determinism, the latter allows physical events without cause (non-determinism) but forbids spiritual (or grammelated fremostat) causes for physical events. From a scientific perspective, there's no possible test to distinguish between weak causal closure and no causal closure at all (this gets back to the observable/repeatable distinction); so it becomes a matter for theologians and philosophers.
If I push a chair off the edge of a cliff, it will fall off the edge of the cliff. ...However, if some asteroid comes and smashes the chair, or of someone else comes along and steals the chair before I have a chance to push it, then there goes your determinacy. However, both those unexpected causes have their expected effects on the chair, supporting causality in a world where you cannot necessarily determine every input to a given situation.
You appear to be confusing chaotic behaviors and random behaviors. Quantum mechanics requires randomness unless you're willing to discard either Locality or Counterfactual Definiteness. Of course your asteroid analogy here is an macro-scale analogy for local hidden variable theories, and while fine at the macro-scale, happens to be what Bell's Theorem is expressly forbidding at the quantum scale.

You still have not defined or described what you mean by "objective spiritual reality." Until you do that, how can you say that things are subject to its influences?
I'll define a spiritual realm to be a subset of the universe of discourse on god(s), angels, demons, souls, and whatever it is that may constitute the non-brain portion of the mind/brain distinction in philosophy of consciousness. A spiritual reality is spiritual realm constituting whatever subset of that universe of discourse can be said to exist. We can contrast this with a physical realm being a universe of discourse whose elements have associated Hilbert spaces that return real-valued results when acted on by a Hermitian operator, and a physical reality being a physical realm which actually exists (as far as mathematicians are concerned, there can be lots of these with varying and interesting propeties; as far as science and everyone else is concerned, there may be more, but they're irrelevant). I'll also define reality as a whole to be whatever union of these two realities may actually happen to exist.
I can claim that there is a grammelated fremostat that can affect the core material of the chair I am sitting on, and since *I* cannot directly affect the core material of the chair, it therefore allows for a universe subject to grammelated fremostat influences. Except that the premise is bad (for any grammelated fremostat), and the content is meaningless. As is your claim. So far.
I think I know where you wanted this paragraph to go, but I can also tell you that the implications of your word choice are not where I think you want it to go. Specifically the second clause of your first sentence is logically irrelevant - i.e. you're saying (p & q) -> r, when in fact, p -> r on it's own. Can you state it again, verifying that is properly constructed, so that I don't respond to the wrong idea?
even though I may not know as much about how he was supposedly spanked by the raging madman Godel as you do
I'm getting strong echoes of "Don't need naw fancy heddication to know I'm raht, and dont like what yer sayin", which I don't think is what you want to be giving out in this conversation and provides yet another instance of dramatic irony involving that quote.
Oh, and re. Bell's Theory: (from Wikipedia) "None of the tests of the theorem performed to date has fulfilled all of the requisite conditions implicit in the theorem, and the conditions Bell imposes on local hidden variable theories have been criticized as overly restrictive. Accordingly, experimental results to date cannot be regarded as conclusive proof of non-locality." Oh, and I think it's meaningless to have to appeal to the laws of quantum physics when discussing a MACRO reality (chairs, people, mysterious undefined spirit entities that can actually push chairs off cliffs, etc.)
We can't appeal to causal closure to uphold a "scientific worldview" if science doesn't support it ;) What do you think macro reality is if not the average of a mind-bogglingly large number of quantum behaviors? We can (in principle) calculate specific and mind-bogglingly small (but still finite and non-zero) probabilities of particular events occurring under purely quantum mechanical effects (assuming weak causal closure); and an accumulation of such events would begin to justify throwing out causal closure all together. But since we can't observe a non-physical cause (no way to apply those pesky Hermitian operators to observe something nonphysical), we have no way of formulating repeatable experiments concerning them. And as I said earlier, this is the point at which theology and science diverge.

Yep. Exactly what I thought. :roll:
;)
However, I don't think that this: "Baptist subscribing to a view of Open Theism which includes aspects of both Bivalentist Omniscience and Voluntary Nescience" really means anything (that's the beauty of it, as they say). Care to explain, or is this an example of your hard-to-understand humor?
That was an example of something which was both a meaningful description and contextually humorous. :D Open Theism is a view which resolves both the philosophical problem of pain and the omniscience/free-will paradox within classical Christian theology by replacing the classical definition of omniscience with one which is conscious of causal structure. Voluntary Nescience is the position that God voluntarily chooses not to know the future. Bivalentist Omniscience (within the context of Open Theism) says that God knows everything up through present, as well as that the future is undetermined, but that his omniscience extends to knowing all possible futures. The "Bivalentist" part just means that though the future is undetermined, statements about the future are still boolean valued (based on whether or not they use "might" or "will" in their phrasing). My position is that taken together with omnipotence, these are in fact the same position, since the future is undetermined, but God may choose to exercise his omnipotence and his full knowledge of possible events to constrain the set of possible of futures; and it is only through his voluntary withholding of this omnipotence (in the general case) that we are granted free will.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:45 pm

Does anyone but you actually "know" what you're talking about?
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:06 pm

But seriously, in the REAL world, assuming you live here as much as the rest of us do...do you live your life in accordance with quantum uncertainty and Bell's conjecture? Or do you recognize that quantum mechanics and relativistic paradoxes apply only in very specific ways that are typically not applicable to day to day living?

When was the last time you were affected by--or, even better, relied upon and were subsequently rewarded by your reliance on--a quantum fluctuation, or counterfactual definiteness?
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Tiny genius » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:19 pm

[quoite="elfprince13"]Do angels (or God, or your spirit, take your pick) have some associated Hilbert space to which we can apply a Hermitian operator and expect a real-valued result? I don't think so. But at least under the usual assumptions of science, the universe cannot be deterministic[/quote]

Are we not to assume then that the spiritual world can be extrapolated by measuring the bending of space-time and the occurance of quantum effects? May these effects be a result of "spirits" that we cannot observe mucking about with our universe. My view on spirits is that they should take the view "I think and ONLY therefore I am" so that their own thought is their only existence or the only definition thereof.

As for existence, "I perceive it and so it exists and it exists so I perceive it". The moment that absolutely NO effects of something can be felt in any way by anyone, it ceases ever to have existed.

As for the most recent comment, relying on quantum fluctuations, we do it all the time. Maybe they're the only reason there's anything at all. Fluctuations in the Higgs field.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby neo-dragon » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:22 pm

Elf, I'm not going to claim that I understand everything that you're saying, or even that I read every single word of it, but what I have read and maybe understood seems to boil down to an argument that a spiritual reality can exist, in the sense that our current understanding of the universe in no way disproves it, and (here's where I'm failing to see how you miss the fact that this is personal belief and not science) it therefore does exist. I'm not sure how you can take a scientific standpoint on this and say things like:
we could certainly observe the results of any spiritual influence on the physical universe if we were set up to make observations in the right place and at the right did. So the point at which theology diverges from science is not on the problem of observability, but on the problem of repeatability.


How can we certainly observe the results of spiritual influence in any circumstances? Forget repeatability, how can it be done once?

I respect your beliefs and your obviously well researched insights. What's more, I have often argued that science and religion/spirituality are not mutually exclusive, but don't mistake what you believe with what is known.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Tiny genius » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:31 pm

Oh, and God doesn't "choose not to know the future". He exists outside time. For him there is no future he remembers the future as we see it (and the past and present) just as we remember the past and experience the present. To him it is a memory of what we did and so we are still free to make a decision because to remember a decision is not to decide it thus we can say that God knows our future decisions according to our own subjective future but we are still free to make them because he doesn't perceive time the same way.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:40 pm

Tiny Genius, I must applaud you on your ability to string words together in a manner which so closely mimics actual English, while not containing any real content! That is not easy! Bravo.

Neo, did you just say: "a spiritual reality can exist, in the sense that our current understanding of the universe in no way disproves it, and it therefore does exist" Does this logic also work for the assumption that the universe is a giant invisible llama, and we are all living in its pulsing neon appendix?

Maybe I missed the "challenge" memo...
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby neo-dragon » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:43 pm

Note that I was also disagreeing with that logic, Steve.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:45 pm

I was hoping that was the case! My universe now makes sense again. Seriously.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby buckshot » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:14 pm

WOW! 8)

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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby elfprince13 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:17 pm

Does anyone but you actually "know" what you're talking about?
"Those" "quotes" "again". Presumably someone else conversant in quantum mechanics, mathematics, computer science, theology, and analytic philosophy would know what I was talking about. If you disagree with premises or the structure of my personal arguments, you're free to do so. And as I pointed out in the other thread, you're even welcome to disagree with the conclusions of modern math & science. Only the latter of those is likely to have negative consequences in conversations with people other than me; but if you can't respond to my arguments against your faith in physicalism without resorting to ad hominem, I think it's a little hypocritical to make snide remarks about other people of any faith.
But seriously, in the REAL world, assuming you live here as much as the rest of us do...do you live your life in accordance with quantum uncertainty and Bell's conjecture? Or do you recognize that quantum mechanics and relativistic paradoxes apply only in very specific ways that are typically not applicable to day to day living?
Relativistic effects are hardly paradoxes, just fun exercises in geometry and application of the proper symmetry groups. And of course I live according to the laws of quantum mechanics and general relativity every day - to the extent that they reflect our asymptotic approach towards a complete description of the laws of physics - the interesting question is how many significant digits we need to look at before their effects are measurably different from classical approximations.

When was the last time you were affected by--or, even better, relied upon and were subsequently rewarded by your reliance on--a quantum fluctuation
Presumably the last time an action potential raced down one of my axons.
counterfactual definiteness?
You can't do statistics in the real world without it - no statistics, no science. You were rewarded by it in this thread when you were able to talk meaningfully about the outcome of your thought experiment with the chair.
Are we not to assume then that the spiritual world can be extrapolated by measuring the bending of space-time and the occurance of quantum effects? May these effects be a result of "spirits" that we cannot observe mucking about with our universe.
No, you're not to assume that. (A Locality + CFD preserving) Quantum mechanics is necessary to break causal closure, but not sufficient. To quote C.S. Lewis "It would be, indeed, too great a shock to our habits to describe them as super-natural. I think we should have to call them sub-natural. But all our confidence that Nature has no doors, and no reality outside herself for doors to open on, would have disappeared. "

My view on spirits is that they should take the view "I think and ONLY therefore I am" so that their own thought is their only existence or the only definition thereof.
I don't subscribe to a "ghost-in-the-machine" view of dualism, so I would disagree with you on this point.
As for existence, "I perceive it and so it exists and it exists so I perceive it". The moment that absolutely NO effects of something can be felt in any way by anyone, it ceases ever to have existed.
That's certainly one view, and not one which could be described as relating to any idea of objective reality.
Elf, I'm not going to claim that I understand everything that you're saying, or even that I read every single word of it, but what I have read and maybe understood seems to boil down to an argument that a spiritual reality can exist, in the sense that our current understanding of the universe in no way disproves it, and (here's where I'm failing to see how you miss the fact that this is personal belief and not science) it therefore does exist.
You're conflating my first argument allowing the existence of a spiritual reality which interacts with our universe and my definition of what the existence of an objective spiritual reality actually entails. The gap between those two isn't something I've discussed yet. My personal beliefs about what the contents of that spiritual reality look like is one gap further, and something I've explicitly described in this conversation, but which I will freely admit are opinion - which is why I made the distinction between "Evil is a matter of perspective" and "Our perspectives on evil are a matter of perspective" way back when, kickstarting this whole line of conversation.

Hopefully next you'll ask me to fill in the gap I just mentioned, since that's subject of the last really interesting set of things I have to say on this subject.

How can we certainly observe the results of spiritual influence in any circumstances? Forget repeatability, how can it be done once?
The operative word there is certain. Again, my belief (based on experience) is that such events happen frequently enough in real life to provide the necessary touch of external consistency to a worldview which I already find to be nearly unique in its internally consistency (and how else are we to measure the truth of a system, if not by the measure of its internal and external consistency?).
don't mistake what you believe with what is known.
Don't mistake not knowing with there being nothing to know, which is where the whole "successive approximations" thing I mentioned earlier comes in. To phrase it differently, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Of course, I have not found it to be the case that there is even the former of those; and I have found the Judeo-Christian tradition to be unique among religions in distinguishing "miraculous thinking" from "magical thinking" - where a miracle is a supernatural event for the purpose of being an attesting sign (usually for prophetic verification - in Old Testament times, Pat Robertson would have gotten himself stoned by now), whereas a "magic trick" (for lack of a better phrase) is a supernatural event "just because".
Oh, and God doesn't "choose not to know the future". He exists outside time. For him there is no future he remembers the future as we see it (and the past and present) just as we remember the past and experience the present. To him it is a memory of what we did and so we are still free to make a decision because to remember a decision is not to decide it thus we can say that God knows our future decisions according to our own subjective future but we are still free to make them because he doesn't perceive time the same way.
The logical incoherence of this worldview is exactly what led people to develop Open Theism.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:33 pm

Elfprince,

I cannot find fault with your arguments because I cannot understand them. I am actually getting a bad headache reading what you are writing.

In all seriousness: Do you win arguments based on the material you present, or solely on attrition? (How often do you hear the phrase, "Dude...I have not the fuckingest idea what the hell you are talking about. Me and Sheryl are going to see Wrath of the Titans in 3D, then go get drunk and subsequently laid. I'll see you Saturday night for Dungeons & Dragons, but no friggin' way am I letting you be DM again...")
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby elfprince13 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:49 pm

I cannot find fault with your arguments because I cannot understand them. I am actually getting a bad headache reading what you are writing.
Is it the style of my prose or that you are unfamiliar with the various jargon on which I'm drawing? I've been trying to balance inserting helpful wikipedia links to physics/math/CS vocab, which I don't want to assume people are familiar with, with coming across as a condescending ass who assumes that nobody knows anything. If you want more backgrounders, I can link those in. If it's my prose I'm not sure how much I can help - I write the way I do because it most often expresses exactly what I mean to say without confusion or ambiguity.
In all seriousness: Do you win arguments based on the material you present, or solely on attrition?
Having had 2 gubernatorial candidates reference my arguments after only 2 years of environmental lobbying at the statehouse, and several agnostic friends who ask to watch whenever I get in one of these discussions because they enjoy reading my argumentation, I'd like to think it's the former. ;)
(How often do you hear the phrase, "Dude...I have not the f****** idea what the hell you are talking about. Me and Sheryl are going to see Wrath of the Titans in 3D, then go get drunk and subsequently laid. I'll see you Saturday night for Dungeons & Dragons, but no friggin' way am I letting you be DM again...")
Maybe I'd hear that more often if we played more D&D and less DotA/Starcraft, or if my girlfriend didn't demand Settlers of Catan whenever we do have a non-computer game night. ;)
Last edited by elfprince13 on Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:50 pm

Wait..."Faith in physicalism"????

And I win: you have just called into question our physical world. This is Boothby's RULE #3:
RULE 3: Once your opponent starts using observation and logic in his foolish attempt to refute what everybody already knows to be true, you can deny that both observation and logic are valid approaches to understanding. Typical responses are, "How can we ever really know anything," and "God does not operate under the rules of logic and rationality--He is beyond them." Never, under any circumstances, attempt to explain just what the hell any of that means, because it really doesn't mean anything (that's the beauty of it). More importantly, do not try and understand it yourself, as your head may actually explode. Your opponent may respond to your first statement by asking, "then how do you know if anything is true?" To which you simply respond, "I just know."

Some other good responses under RULE 3 include "But is there really any difference between the earth and the concept of the earth?" and "If I have no way of knowing if there are monsters under my bed (short of looking) but if I genuinely believe they are there, the fear of them is no different than if they really are there."

One of the other advantages of invoking RULE 3 is that you are no longer constrained to actually have to make sense in what you say or write. By discrediting logic and reason, you are no longer bound by them yourself. If you can keep this up, many times your opponent will just walk away, shaking his head, thereby handing you the "win."
(Actually, I must congratulate you on a very interesting twist: you are actually making MY head explode)

I really do not care how you approach it. You throw around concepts such as quantum indeterminancy and contrafactual definiteness, but at the root, you deny that the real world exists. Then you fill the meta-verse with spirits and phantoms, as if that is the natural (or would that be supernatural?) way to fill the gap you created.
And of course I live according to the laws of quantum mechanics and general relativity every day - to the extent that they reflect our asymptotic approach towards a complete description of the laws of physics - the interesting question is how many significant digits we need to look at before their effects are measurably different from classical approximations.
Really?

By the time you've gone out beyond three places, you're back to counting angels on pins. You're simply proposing another "God of the gaps," except your gaps are forbidden energy gaps, and there are so, so many of them...
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:55 pm

Is it the style of my prose or that you are unfamiliar with the various jargon on which I'm drawing? I've been trying to balance inserting helpful wikipedia links to physics/math/CS vocab, which I don't want to assume people are familiar with, with coming across as a condescending ass who assumes that nobody knows anything. If you want more backgrounders, I can link those in. If it's my prose I'm not sure how much I can help - I write the way I do because it most often expresses exactly what I mean to say without confusion or ambiguity.
Well, until you edited out your earlier comments casting aspersions on my education, you were coming off as exactly that.

Having had 2 gubernatorial candidates reference my arguments after only 2 years of environmental lobbying at the statehouse, and several agnostic friends who ask to watch whenever I get in one of these discussions because they enjoy reading my argumentation, I'd like to think it's the former.
I looked at your heating pellet initiative. Sounds like a great idea. I would bet that you do NOT talk to gubernatorial candidates with the same language/jargon as you have been using here, though.
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby elfprince13 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:07 pm

Wait..."Faith in physicalism"????

And I win: you have just called into question our physical world. This is Boothby's RULE #3:
RULE 3: Once your opponent starts using observation and logic in his foolish attempt to refute what everybody already knows to be true, you can deny that both observation and logic are valid approaches to understanding. Typical responses are, "How can we ever really know anything," and "God does not operate under the rules of logic and rationality--He is beyond them." Never, under any circumstances, attempt to explain just what the hell any of that means, because it really doesn't mean anything (that's the beauty of it). More importantly, do not try and understand it yourself, as your head may actually explode. Your opponent may respond to your first statement by asking, "then how do you know if anything is true?" To which you simply respond, "I just know."

Some other good responses under RULE 3 include "But is there really any difference between the earth and the concept of the earth?" and "If I have no way of knowing if there are monsters under my bed (short of looking) but if I genuinely believe they are there, the fear of them is no different than if they really are there."

One of the other advantages of invoking RULE 3 is that you are no longer constrained to actually have to make sense in what you say or write. By discrediting logic and reason, you are no longer bound by them yourself. If you can keep this up, many times your opponent will just walk away, shaking his head, thereby handing you the "win."
(Actually, I must congratulate you on a very interesting twist: you are actually making MY head explode)

I really do not care how you approach it. You throw around concepts such as quantum indeterminancy and contrafactual definiteness, but at the root, you deny that the real world exists. Then you fill the meta-verse with spirits and phantoms, as if that is the natural (or would that be supernatural?) way to fill the gap you created.
Here's the really interesting twist: you totally misread my post. Physicalism (also called materialism or philosophical naturalism) is the belief that only the physical universe exists. Denying physicalism doesn't mean denying the physical universe, it means embracing the possibility of an existence which incorporates more than the physical universe. If you read my self-description a few posts back, there was that bit about "Inaugurated Eschatology", which (in part) entails a belief that in the end times God's kingdom will be established in a restored physical Creation, and that those who are "saved" will not end up as disembodied harp players on clouds, but will have real physical bodies and inherit the restored physical Earth. You'll also notice that of the two of us, I keep invoking logic and mathematics, and you keep talking smack about the foundational result in logic of the 20th century.
Well, until you edited out your earlier comments casting aspersions on my education, you were coming off as exactly that.
That was the other topic (where I haven't edited them out) ;) I thought aspersions on your education were preferable to aspersions on your intelligence (which I have some respect for). I'm still baffled that you want to come across as the voice of logic, but you refuse to back down from talking smack about Gödel. But hey, prove me wrong, go grab yourself a Field's Medal ;)
By the time you've gone out beyond three places, you're back to counting angels on pins.
I forgot you engineers have such huge tolerances. :P Over here in physics land we know that if the electron were the size of the solar system, any deviation from perfect sphericity has to be less than the width of a human hair. We also know most of the basic Planck units to at least 7 figures.
You're simply proposing another "God of the gaps," except your gaps are forbidden energy gaps, and there are so, so many of them...
Actually, the difference is my gaps are in causality, (the energy gaps are incidental and irrelevant), and that's the only gap you need ;)

I looked at your heating pellet initiative. Sounds like a great idea. I would bet that you do NOT talk to gubernatorial candidates with the same language/jargon as you have been using here, though.
Thanks :) And no, there's quite a bit less physics and computer science and theology involved. Plenty of philosophy still, just of the localist/agrarian kind which plays better here in VT. And for all the looks you get when you start talking about carbon cycles, combustion efficiencies, and fibre baskets, it might as well be the same way I'm talking here ;)
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Re: "Turn him loose as a theorist..."

Postby Boothby » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:20 pm

Tom,

The fact that you think "Inaugurated Eschatology" actually means something--actually has value in conversation--is part of the problem. What do you expect to happen? You say "Inaugurated Eschatology," we then say, "Oh! Inaugurated Eschatology! Of course!" And then we can all go talk about cars? You called it earlier: Jargon.

I seem to recall that Einstein had once said that you need to be able to describe what you believe in a simple manner that your audience can understand, or you really don't understand it yourself.

I see you as hiding behind a HUGE string of $1,000 words. I'm impressed that you seem to have some facility with them, but they're useless to me. You and I (and you and the rest of the people here) do NOT share a common vocabulary if you are going to insist on talking that way, and insist that it somehow makes you easier to understand. In this environment, they're useless to you, too.

And you really need to come to terms with the fact that I don't really give a good god damn about Godel. You brought him up. I'm using him as the butt of my jokes--and that's about it.

Maybe I'm wrong--and when my mind is fresher, I'll seek to improve myself--but what you call "the foundational result in logic of the 20th Century" seems to me to be a high order refinement of more classical logic (as I claimed before: the more classical approach is still valid for more than 95% of all discussions). These new logics claim "We can't know all that there is"--fine, let's confine our discussions to the 99% we CAN know. And if we CAN'T know something, then don't go giving it qualities just because you need to insert those qualities into the world to give you comfort (namely: God).
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