Science and Ideology

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by scilosopher, Nov 17, 2003.

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  1. Canute Registered Senior Member

    I don't disagree, but it follows that mind affects brain, an idea which would be strongly contested by science.
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  3. BigBlueHead Great Tealnoggin! Registered Senior Member

    Canute: I hate to reply piecemeal, but there's so much stuff here... Sorry

    If numbers were just concepts:
    There are two apples on the table.
    All conscious observers who can conceive of the concept of numbers are removed from the universe.
    Now there are not two apples on the table. There are apples, but there cannot be two... "two" only exists in the minds of conscious things.

    This is a major problem in metaphysics... some concepts appear to be derived from physical properties. The symbols that REPRESENT numbers are concepts, but are the numbers themselves?

    Not true... many philosophers follow the determinist stance (I think you mentioned Dennett yourself before... he is a determinist as far as I know) and many of those who don't are religious and view the universe as being operated by a single omnipotent being. (The religious types often believe that the entire universe is deterministic except for human beings...)

    Yes, something had to happen at the beginning, but this doesn't logically imply the "first and only" part... why does it make sense that all that has ever happened in the universe is derivative of a single event? I would tend to think that if a causal force arose from nothing once, there's nothing to keep it from happening again. This is why I call it a blind alley of philosophy of science... when you get to the heart of it most people believe in the "first and only cause", or can be made to believe it with a few simple arguments.

    The fourth-dimensional or popular concept of time derives from the first-and-only-cause concept, basically that way back at the beginning of time an event happened which created the entirety of the "movie" of time. Now, we are advancing through the movie (they like to call this "moving in the fourth dimension", woo) watching frame by frame as the causal implications of that single event play out until the end. I think that this is a highly bankrupt concept of time and causality.

    What is moral evaluation if there are no rules then? I think this is what I'm trying to find out, since I agree that we seem to have different ideas about morality. So here goes:

    I believe that morality is a series of rules in the tradition of what people call "common sense", that is, a series of postulates that we believe initially, and gather information on throughout our lives. I think they exist in human memory as a function of our own behaviour, although there are most likely some instinctual aspects to them. I also believe that they are as physical as memory because, for the most part, morality is represented in us by our memory.

    What do you believe?
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  5. Canute Registered Senior Member

    I agree. Doesn't bother me too much. The details are all important on these kinds of topics.

    I know the problem and as you say it's a tricky one. But I wonder if you haven't answered it here. 'Two' seems to be one of Plato's Forms, existing only in the realm of Forms, namely our minds.

    I agree there are exceptions but on the whole philosophers tend not to be physicalists. (Historically philosophers have overwhelmingly tended to be idealists of some sort).

    But we may be confusing materialism with determinism here. The two views can be combined in any permutation. Science is materialist but may be strictly deterministic or not. Zen is (I think) deterministic but not materialist. I'm not sure if you can be neither, but Leibnitz's notion that God arranges everything must be close.

    I agree. I'd rather think of it as a fundamental substrate rather than a first cause, with the physical as epiphenomenal on this substrate. Similar to M-theory but going beyond material superstrings.

    Agree again. But there must be a 'substrate' of some sort.

    Hmm. Your 'woo' made me think of non-dual Advaita master Wu Wu Wei (who was Irish by the way) with whom you seem to agree. (Me too).
    Roughly agree.
    Agree, if you mean we make choices based on remembered precepts.

    That's hard to explain briefly. I'd say that behaving in a 'morally' correct way is acting in accord with one own idea of what is morally correct behaviour, whatever those ideas are.

    This is almost tautological but not quite. This is because it is morally correct to think as rationally as we can about what is right and wrong. As long as we do this, and behave accordingly, then we cannot be judged to behave immorally, even if our behaviour contradicts 'social' morality or some unknown book of rules.

    In effect this is saying that our motives determine the morality of our actions. Alternatively you caould say that we only do a 'bad' thing when we know we are doing it, or we do it without consideration. (By this I don't mean to suggest that morality is only relative).
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  7. wesmorris Nerd Overlord - we(s):1 of N Valued Senior Member

    Butting in

    Aren't the numbers merely definitions? Meaningless unless attached to a concept?

    Logically, nothing could have happened at the beginning as there was no time in which for it to happen. The universe is by definition a closed system if you define it as "inclusive of everything". Even if there exists a "multiverse" or whatever, that is still part of "the universe", IMO. Point being, you can't see outside of a closed system. If you can poke a hole and see outside it, the boundaries change, your system expands and you're inside of the same closed system, you just found out that it was bigger than you thought. Of course, that's just logically. To my knowledge there is no requirement that the fundamentals of the universe are subject to logic.

    Ultimately, causality is only valid within your closed system. Extending that idea beyond the system is simply pointless.. I'm guessing you can see why? Please consider that I don't mean that what we think of as "our universe" is necessarily the extent of the closed system. So yeah it's important to question all of it but also to know that for instance you cannot as rational questions regarding causality when time itself did not exist. Inherently from our vantage point, nothing could have preceded time... yet we can see that apparently aboot 15 billion years ago, time started.

    Yeah it's difficult to forgoe the idea of cause and effect for sure.

    Ah the duality. Nothing could have happened, as there was not time in which for it to happen, yet something obvoiusly happened.

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    Reminds me of the topic when you called me tricksy.

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    Each POV a tire track in time if you will.

    What else you got then?

    An aspect of the survival instinct. Jung comes to mind really. I think part of the survival instinct of a social and conscious being involves the survival of the group as well as the survival of self, at least throughout some percentage of the members.

    I think morality is an abstraction resulting from the function of emotion. Emotions allow a "persistence in time" regarding events that have occured within a POV. In other words, if that bastard kicks me in da nuts, hate acts as a conceptual placeholder in my mind with allows me to survive in the sense than next time I encounter a situation similar to prior nut kickage, I can take action to avoid it, thus "surviving". If some chick allows me coitus, love might act as a conceptual placeholder to lead me back to more coitus. I think that fundamentally, morality is an abstraction of this basis in emotion expanded to the abstract reality of social survival.

    I don't want to be killed.
    Maybe I shouldn't kill people.

    Pretty much that simple. That way each POV survives, the species flourishes, blah blah blah. What do you think? Silly? Seems to me that in a sense it could be construed as implicit to abstract space.
  8. BigBlueHead Great Tealnoggin! Registered Senior Member

    My Theory of Time
    By BigBlueHead

    Time is a concept which has developed in conscious beings as a measure of cause and effect. The memory that those beings have appeals to a continuum of cause and effect, which developed because of its predictive benefits to survival.

    Time itself only exists as a description; what we call the present time, the universe as it is, represents the entire universe and its past and future only have existence as conceptual constructions within the minds of those beings who use time as a measure. Conditions which prevailed before may leave their mark on the present, but this is only an indication that the universe was in such a condition in a previous state. Similarly, our capacity as organisms allows us to predict the future, albeit imperfectly and on a tiny scale, but this is not an indication that the future has already been constructed.

    Often it is considered that the actions of a person are entirely defined by the foregoing causes, or by a combination of those causes and a sort of personal agency. The fact of this matter can not be proved, because one cannot go back and retry the same situation; the result is that one convention or another has been developed to describe this causal relation of how things just were to how they are now.

    Those who believe that the result that came about was, in fact, the only possibility maintain one convention, and those who believe that the result that came about was mutable by conscious agency at the time, maintain another. These conventions then go forward to reinforce our idea that the future and the past are extant parts of the universe.

    But they are not.
  9. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    wes mentioned something I think is relevant which is the idea of a closed system, chains of interaction, and separability ... In my mind that relates both to the extent and details of a universe and the mind/matter duality. If mind effects matter, it is reasonable to recognize that they are not two entirely separate entities. Indeed what we consider mind is likely akin to our physical brains calculations, which at all time are stored as a physical state and proceed as the dynamics dictated by the physics that translates each state into the next sequential state.

    One can argue a separation between mind and matter, but that's meaningless as they are one in the same. Simply because there is a huge gap between what we experience as our mind and the degree to which we understand it physically does not mean that there is such a separation except in our sources of information about "mind".

    In addition to closed systems one has to think about mechanisms, time scales, and importantly the flow and storage of information. In physics we use closed system analysis all the time even though what we're analyzing isn't completely closed. It's an assumption that works very well because we set up the system so there are negligible interactions between the "closed system" and the "surroundings" that happen on the timescale of our experiment.

    In the context of time, which has recently had some discussion there is a clear issue of directionality. We percieve time as a very directional dimension. No spatial directions are percieved in which there is only one direction of flow. This is a very unique thing. Most physical mechanisms at the the molecular scale are completey reversible. Irreversibility only comes up because of thermodynamic issues. Thermodynamics/statistical mechanics simply considers the issue of what happens when you have large numbers of objects following reversible processes. It is quite interesting that the outcome is rarely reversible and then only under conditions where equilibration happens exceedingly slowly so events that happen on exceedingly slow timescales are allowed to equilibrate with those that occur on faster timescales.

    This is an issue of information loss in one point of view. If processes happen too fast we loose the long timescale information that was stored in original state. The close tie of information theory and statistical mechanics is truly core to any argument relevant to what we're discussing.

    I've read a bit about it and realize that looking back on my I'm unclear of whether it makes sense for me to go on at length for that reason. How comprehensible is this post to you guys? Do you think you can paraphrase it so I can see what I've managed to communicate and what may have been lost?
  10. Canute Registered Senior Member

    To be honest I don't quite get that, but one comment.

    'Mind' is a tricky term because is can be meant as including consciousness or not. Many people assert that mind and matter reduce to consciousness. This means that your comment:

    "mind is likely akin to our physical brains calculations, which at all time are stored as a physical state and proceed as the dynamics dictated by the physics that translates each state into the next sequential state"

    is a bit ambiguous. By one interpretation of 'mind' it may not be true.

    Are you saying that processes are reversible but must happen at a different rate when reversed?
  11. wesmorris Nerd Overlord - we(s):1 of N Valued Senior Member

    Hmmm... maybe the term space-time is somewhat of a misnomer.

    Maybe "space" is one layer, and "time" is one layer and "consciousness" is the next layer.

    I mean, we only give "space" three dimensions because we require a means of reference within that space. However the "rules" of nature require no such means of reference, as the concept of reference is simply inapplicable to the space without projecting one's consciousness upon it.

    Seems that time is the integration of space and consciousness is the integration of time. Er at least by analogy. Meh. Just a thought.
  12. wesmorris Nerd Overlord - we(s):1 of N Valued Senior Member

    Hey I wasn't trying to kill the thread, so I got a little wacky.. cut me some slack!

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  13. Canute Registered Senior Member

    I have a feeling that extension depends on motion, motion depends on time, and phenomenal consciousness depends on both. What follows from that I have not much idea

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  14. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    Things are only reversible if they happen slowly, in both directions, so all processes can equilibrate more or less simultaneously (there will still be some irreversibility due to the fact that faster processes equilibrate faster, but in the limit of the exceedingly slow change that has a minor effect).

    As far as consciousness, mind, and matter - I think they can't be separated and speaking at the level of what we percieve vs the mechanical/physcial/calculation is simply a rift of information. We have perceptual information that is inaccessible scientifically so their seems to be something that we fundamentally can't explain physically which encourages saying there is a whole new aspect. While we can't explain it physically saying it is fundamentally different is the same as the now debunked concepts of vitality given to organic matter.

    It is solely a breach of understanding, the only fundamental difference is our separation from it in theoretical and experimental access.

    (BTW I gave up internet access at home so any slowness of response on weekends simply means I didn't feel like going in to work)
  15. Canute Registered Senior Member


    Well ok, but you're in a very small minority of diehards on this one. Just because something is inaccessible to science doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. (Which is precisely what string theorists argue).

    I agree that consciousness, mind and matter can't be fully separated, but nothing follows from this about which they reduce to.
  16. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    I didn't mean that something inaccessible to science didn't exist. I meant that the inaccessability to science makes it seem something that can't be explained scientifically and therefore encourages one to come up with non-scientific explanations.

    Personally, I think that the fact life can arise out of matter is a "proof of principle" demonstration that consciousness and other very amazing things could (and most likely do) have a material basis. Then again some people believe in intelligent design so it is possible they aren't completely satisfied with a solely material origin of life.
  17. Canute Registered Senior Member


    But if 'qualia' are non-material then doesn't this imply a non-scientific explanation? Isn't it possible that science has defined itself a little too narrowly?

    Ok, but I don't find either view makes much sense.
  18. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    Would you consider the information stored on a hard drive non-material? If so then science does not confine itself to material matters. If not then what exactly do you mean by non-material.

    What doesn't make sense about them?
  19. Canute Registered Senior Member

    But doesn't science consider that information non-existent until it becomes meaningful, and non-causal even them. (I'm not very clear about science's view on the actual existence of information beyond its physical structure).

    Briefly, I find it illogical to say that the Universe started with matter, unless it was eternal, and ditto for God. If they were eternal then all bets are off as to why anything exists (even God wouldn't be able to explain it). I feel that the correct explanation would show that the Universe (Cosmos) is inevitable and self-caused rather than inexplicable.
  20. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    No. Science doesn't consider information such as that stored on the hard drive non-causal or non-existant. Look at the causal role attributed to the information stored in DNA. Genetic pre-determinism actually goes too far in many cases.

    Not many people work on computational mechanics (the statistical mechanics of molecular computational systems), but some people do. Personally I don't know enough stat-mech to follow it. It's rather mathematically involved and gets very complicated for more interesting computational systems.

    I guess Turing machines and the theory related to them coupled with Shannon's information theory would constitute a macroscopic anologue that I would probably find more comprehensible, but I've never sought that out. Maybe I should.

    As far as it being illogical that the universe started with matter ... I didn't claim it started with matter. I said that matter is convincingly (at least to me) the basis of life and by analogy likely to be able to explain consciousness and other phenomena whether we understand the details. One doesn't need to have an answer to how matter came to exist or what else exists to accept or debate this issue.

    Personally I find it very strange to suggest that there is anything non-material for the closed system reason. Anything relevant to material existence that one posits is "non-material", clearly interacts with material systems. So I don't see why one would continue to classify it as non-material and assume it has non-material origins. It turns out energy and matter interconvert, order and energy clearly interconvert, so there is pretty much nothing that can't be placed in the common currency of matter in my mind. Why suggest such a thing exists. There's no reason for it.

    (Since I do think matter is all that exists explaining it's existence is all one needs to do to satisfy me as to how anything exists. I would note that this does perhaps put some sort of order to the fabric of the universe as possibly more primary to matter, but that order can be understood in a completely material/physical context so the distinction is specious in my mind.)
  21. Canute Registered Senior Member

    It considers the patterns of pits on a CD causal, since the laser is affected by it. But it's very difficult to argue that the information contained in the pattern of the pits, (let's say it's an encoded dictionary) has any scientific existence.

    But chemistry isn't equivalent. One can argue that for DNA all the information can be physically encoded and decoded, in other words that it has no meaning in itself, but is a physical structure which is phsyically causal. Information on a CD is not like that.

    I've never bothered with it much either, mostly because 'information' as Shannon defines it seems rather uninteresting unless you're a telehone engineer.

    I can't agree. You are starting with an assumption. Your chain of reasoning is bound to go wrong if you assume that matter gives rise to everything, but that matter wasn't the first thing there was.

    I don't know your argument, but I would say that there has to be something non-material for the closed system to exist. Penrose argues something like this (from Goedel) on the basis that axiomatic systems must always exist inside an infinite regression of meta-systems.

    Good point. This is where I would get non-dual about it and say that the distinction between material and non-material (in this particular case) is a false one.

    Perhaps matter and emptiness interconvert as, roughly speaking, Buddhists suggest.

    The reason is our consciousness of existing.

    In view of the discussion so far I find it hard to believe that you don't see that this is an illogical position. If matter is not eternal, and matter is all there is, then nihilo ex nihilo is wrong in your view. (It's wrong in my view as well, but for what I like to think are better reasons).
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2003
  22. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    In the context of the information, I do agree that the direct coupling of genetic information to functional physical systems makes it somewhat different. But take certain books and the effects they evoke in changing the behavior of people that read them. Even though the coupling isn't so tight, there is still in my mind causal physical outcomes from the information in the book. It's simply that there is more contextual variation in the perspectives of the reader and therefore a weaker coupling between the information and it's meaning to the reader and therefore the outcome.

    Shannon's information is very important, it's simply that our understanding of computational processes and encodings is at a simple enough level that it can't be brought directly to bear on many topics of interest to humans in that we deal mainly deal with complex encodings and fuzzy computations.

    I never said that matter gave rise to everything. Even if there are things more basic than matter, everything that interacts with matter (and therefore relevant to us as things with material existence) can be understood through it's effects and relation to the material world. Since we understand the material world best and have powerful tools for extending that understanding, it is likely to be the most fruitful context to ask such questions in. (It's the interaction between the material and non-material I meant by the "closed system reason".)

    As far as your last point, it is possible my wording was not what it could be. I meant given the material context one can put everything in, there is no need to adopt more speculative and less well defined perspectives for discussing such issues or make vague distinctions as to some non-material entity without defining it appropriately.
  23. Canute Registered Senior Member

    Books are a useful example. The words are physical, the photons hitting our retinas are physical (ish) and our brains are physical. But where does the meaning of the words come from? Without that the words are just squiggles and hardly likely to be causal.

    You're probably right, I just find it a bit uninteresting, and the whole concept of redundancy seems peculiar.

    Ok. Let's define 'matter' as anything a physicalist would admit might exist, anything 'scientific'. If there is nothing more than this then something must have come from nothing or matter is eternal. Is there another choice?

    I would argue with that, depending on what you mean. We only understand the phenomenal world, the one inside out heads. Of the phenomena that we know of I suspect we know more about our feelings than the phsyical world, and can more certain of the knowledge.

    But if it turns out that it is illogical to theorise that that matter is fundamental then surely it's worth exploring the possibilities? It can't be just a coincidence that most (all?) philosophers who have explored this issue conclude that matter is not fundamental.
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