Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eight Questions...

So, I haven't been posting a lot in the past few months. It's because I've been very busy, and had limited access to the computer. But I'm coming around again, I really am. And so I thought I'd take the time to answer Michael Egnor's "Eight Questions for Atheists". Bear in mind that, as I answer these questions, I am not always totally sure that my answers are right. Also: As I started writing this, I realized it would be necessary to break this post into several parts.

One more thing: I realize that what I am writing today is very deep and hard to convey. To some people it will look like rambling, incoherent nonsense. Well, it isn't. It's damn difficult to understand or to write about in a clear way, but I did my best. Rest assured that my mind is still completely fine ; )

Here is the answer to the first question:

1) Why is there anything?

Something must exist.

To elaborate: What is the difference between things that exist and things that do not exist? We say that things exist when we can, at least possibly, interact with them in some way. Things that we cannot possibly interact with in any way are things which do not exist, or at least do not exist to us.

Let's do a thought experiment: Imagine that you "invent" your own universe. You write down the physical laws of your imaginary universe, and you work out the equations to figure out how it would evolve over time. Eventually your equations show that your universe develops planets and life at some point in its history. Further equations prove that intelligent, humanoid creatures would evolve in this universe. Working even more equations reveals that a pair of these humanoids are having a conversation about their universe, wondering why it exists. They are not troubled, or even aware, that their universe "doesn't exist." In their eyes, their universe does exist. It is quite real to them. Their "imaginary" universe seems just as real to them as our "real" universe seems to us. We have no way to tell what "exists" except our experiences. And yet experiences exist within universes that we would call "imaginary": For as our thought experiement shows, 'imaginary' beings in 'imaginary' universes still experience their universe as real. And therefore they have the same evidence that their universe exists as we have that our universe exists.

That leads us to the conclusion that there is no objective difference between real and imaginary universes. The only difference between our "real" universe and other "imaginary" universes is that we directly experience and interact with our universe, but we do not do so with things that are "imaginary". The inhabitants of "imaginary" universes also call their universe "real" and have every right to: It is real to them. Our universe is real to us. "Real" cannot be defined in any other meaningful way.

With that in mind: A completely objective and impartial judge would look at this universe (which would be called "imaginary" by those who do not live in it) as well as other universes (which we say are "imaginary") and would conclude that there is no fundamental difference between them. They are just as "real" (whatver that means) as we are, and we are just as real as they. And if that's the case, then our universe is truly are the same as imaginary universes.

Think about imaginary universes: How would we classify them? We could classify them as abstract objects. Extremely complex abstract objects. Since our universe is the same as they are, our universe is an extremely complicated abstraction. This seems strange at first, but think about it. Think of another imaginary object: for example, a pink room with ten aliens having tea. The room does not exist, yet you could say that the aliens do exist WITHIN the pink room. It's the same for us: our universe doesn't "exist" although we exist within it.

Think of how well this whole idea fits in with "I think, therefore I am." If I can think, I must exist in some sense. Beings in imaginary universes can also think within that universe. Therefore, they exist within that universe.

If this is right, then our universe is essentially just a complex abstract object. Those things "within" the abstract object "exist" (in the proper sense of the word) even if the abstract object itself does not "exist" in any sense of the word. All of this is very interesting, and has profound implications. Christian apologist William Lane Craig often talks about how the universe must have been caused by something immaterial, and that the only things which are immaterial are spirits and abstract objects. Craig says that abstract objects cannot cause things to exist, and so the only possible cause for the universe is a spirit. Yet my line of reasoning would throw Craig a huge curveball: The universe was not caused by an abstract object, it IS an abstract object. Abstract objects do not need to be caused. Therefore, the universe does not need to be caused.

And the implications continue: Abstract objects are not simply things that don't need a cause. Abstract objects cannot be caused period. If abstracts cannot be caused, and our universe is an abstract, then our universe cannot be caused.

God is defined as the cause of the universe. The universe does not and cannot have a cause. Therefore God cannot and does not exist.

Those who are perceptive and have followed this the whole way through will realize, without my having to our articulate, that the ideas presented here mean that there is logically no way at all that we could fail to exist. And our universe does not possess any status of existence which would require explanation. At long last the two ultimate questions of philosophy have been solved.

P.S. I must thank Gary Drescher for explaining the core idea of this post. He writes about it very clearly in the last chapter of his bookGood and Real: Demystifying Paradoxes from Physics to Ethics (Bradford Books).

41 comments:

Samuel said...

Or.... just throwing this out as a possibility and a simpler answer....

Q: Why is there anything?
A: Just because.
Q: Because why?
A: Just because.
Q: But that's not good enough.
A: Why is it not good enough?
Q: Because something can't just exist!
A: So what's your answer?
Q: God is the reason things exist!
A: Why does God exist?
Q: BECAUSE!

AIGBusted said...

Hi Sam,

Do you feel like you understood my blog post? Did it make sense?

Just checking. I'm not sure whether what I wrote is or isn't clear enough for most people to understand.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

You say our universe cannot be caused because it is an abstract object. William Lane Craig would probably respond that abstract objects are timeless, which would render it incomprehensible or rather impossible that our universe could have an origin a finite time ago, as it did according to Big Bang cosmology. Abstract objects simply do not have origins in time. However, since spacetime includes a time-dimension but does not originate itself within time, the 4-dimensional spacetime universe indeed simply IS and thus is timeless. So you might be right after all.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

Do I understand your argument correctly, that it implies a modal realism (sensu David Lewis) with a multiverse in which any universe that is logically possible indeed exists by logical necessity. Since "things" that exist necessarily have no origin, any causal explanation of a universe would be misguided. Correct?

AIGBusted said...

Hi Dr. Gunter,

"Since spacetime includes a time-dimension but does not originate itself within time, the 4-dimensional spacetime universe indeed simply IS and thus is timeless. So you might be right after all."

Exactly. I subscribe to the B-Theory of time, which states that the universe is extrinsically timeless. If you looked at the universe from an outside point of view, every moment of the universe, from Big Bang to Heat Death, would exist all at once (so to speak).

"Do I understand your argument correctly, that it implies a modal realism (sensu David Lewis) with a multiverse in which any universe that is logically possible indeed exists by logical necessity. Since 'things' that exist necessarily have no origin, any causal explanation of a universe would be misguided. Correct?"

Correct.

AIGBusted said...

One more thing:

"Do I understand your argument correctly, that it implies a modal realism (sensu David Lewis) with a multiverse in which any universe that is logically possible indeed exists by logical necessity."

I think that you have grasped the argument well. I understand what you are trying to convey in this sentence, however, I think you may have stated it incoherently.

Lewis and I both define "existence" as a term that is contingent upon what it is applied to. Whether something exists is determined by other beings it might interact with with respect to those other beings. For example, in our universe Barack Obama exists because we can see him on TV, hear him on the radio, and so on.

With that definition in mind, we must conclude that other universes do not exist because we cannot interact with them in any way whatsoever. Nonetheless, there are beings who inhabit those universes, and from their point of view, we don't exist, because they cannot interact with us.

AIGBusted said...

To put it this way: Our universe exists with respect to the things within it that interact with the universe and its laws,

Other universes exist with respect to the things within them that interact inside those universes and obey their laws (if any).

No universe has any external "spark of existence"** that makes it more real than any other universe. Existence is not granted to a universe externally.

**I'm borrowing a term used by Gary Drescher in his book "Good and Real".

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

There is a scientific problem with this view: According to Everett's many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, other universes DO indeed interact with ours in the phenomenon of interferen (otherwise quantum computing would be impossible, because it basically represents a parallel computing across universes). Consequently, those other universes have to be real also according to your definition of reality.

A further problem is presented by the so-called "preferred basis problem" of the many world interpretation: the multiverse cannot be a set of distinct universes, but can only be arbitrarily sliced into universes, just like our spacetime universe can only arbitrarily sliced into spacelike hypersurfaces of simultaneity. For this reason even David Deutsch had to modify his earlier views on the multiverse (see "The Structure of the Multiverse" 2001).

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

Consequently, other universes are as real as other things in our universe, only the multiverse as a whole has no external "spark of existence"

AIGBusted said...

In that case, I would agree: other universes which are interact with us do indeed exist. It would only be those universes which lie outside our multiverse which do not exist (with respect to us).

Very informative.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

I agree, but probably only universes without time dimension would be truly isolated from our universe, and thus "not existent for us", because all universes with time dimension are either directly or indirectly connected by interference with each other. On the other hand: could universes without time dimension exist at all, because without time there would be no causality and thus no internal interaction that could make then existent?

AIGBusted said...

"I agree, but probably only universes without time dimension would be truly isolated from our universe, and thus 'not existent for us', because all universes with time dimension are either directly or indirectly connected by interference with each other. On the other hand: could universes without time dimension exist at all, because without time there would be no causality and thus no internal interaction that could make then existent?"

Very interesting points. I would say you're correct that only time dimensional universes could exist and that all time dimensional universes must exist (since they interfere with ours).

On the other hand, what if the many worlds interpretation is wrong? I mean, Drescher argued for it very well in "Good and Real" but nonetheless there is still much uncertainty on the issue. I suppose if all possibilities are real, maybe a multiverse exists that follows the many worlds interpretation and other multiverses exist which don't?

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

This makes me think about another problem: Isn't your view inconsistent with your B-theory of time. If spacetime universes are extrinsically timeless 4D-objects, temporal and causal relations are reduced to geometrical relations that are not fundamentally different from spatial relations. How could then "interaction" have any ontological significance or even being necessary to make something really real. After all interaction itself is just an illusion of consciousness, just like the flow of time. In this case, the view of logical necessary existence might make more sense, than the relational approach of existence by Gary Drescher.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

Gary Drescher's and your definition of existence is a metaphysical statement that does not depend on the truth of the many worlds interpretation. But if existence indeed is relational, then timeless universes cannot exist in any possible multiverse; and multiverses that do not follow the laws of (many worlds) quantum mechanics would be isolated and thus non-existent for us.

Ron Murphy said...

Too much philosophy implies a degree of certainty that is warranted. The materialist model, based on aspects of philosophical realism, is a sufficient model that can account pretty well for what we do feel we know.

Try here and here for more details of how I support my view.

I think we can accept that most ideas in cosmology and physics that are about what is at or beyond the boundaries of what we can know are all speculations. Those speculations, or hypotheses, offered by science are pretty reasonable, and to some extent may be backed up by observations and maths - though we have to acknowledge that many different solutions could explain the limited observed data. In context of the questions the details of any particular view of cosmology doesn't contribute much.

The problem for the religious is that they take what is a reasonable hypothesis for the cause of our particular universe - some god (or other active entity agent, as we understand those terms) - and heap tons of speculation on top of that to create theologies that link this god to human behaviour.

As speculative as scientific hypotheses may be, none of them try to associate those speculations with very human issues like morality - really dumb.

And, in that context, here are my answers.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

To sum up: Any eternalist view of time has severe difficulties in explaining the regularity of nature, because there are no causal interactions in eternalism. Therefore I fear your argument is incoherent. A timeless 4D-block universe cannot ontologically depend on interactions, because interactions are illusions under this world view. The problem of causality in my view points towards an A-theory of time, which is by the way not incompatible with special relativity, but only incompatible with a certain substantivalistic interpretation of relativity.

AIGBusted said...

"Any eternalist view of time has severe difficulties in explaining the regularity of nature, because there are no causal interactions in eternalism."

I think we can coherently speak of the causal interactions of a timeless universe. To use an analogy: Imagine you and I have a large coffee table book, and each page in the book shows a moment of an imaginary universe invented by the author. You turn the page forward once, you see what the imagined universe looks like one moment from the previous page. Flipping through the book we might notice certain regularities: we look at the corner of one page and see a group of small objects scattered around a larger object. We flip the page and see that the smaller objects are little bit closer to the larger object than they were on the last page. We flip the page again and make the same observation. We flip through twenty pages of the book and notice that the smaller objects are always closer to the large object than they were on the last page. We could make similar observations concerning different groups of objects represented in this imaginary universe. You and I could formulate a set of "laws" to hep us predict what the universe would look like from page to page. And thus laws could and would still apply to a timeless universe. A law simply specifies how things will be in the next moment when some general situation is in place in the previous moment. And moments, as the B-Theory of time describes them, can pretty well be understood as pages in a book, as used in my example.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

What you provided is not an explanation of the problem, but just a different way in describing it. Of course you could conceive of an eternalist universe as a succession of time slices that show certain regularities. However, why should there be any such regularities in the first place? In a multiverse that includes all logically possible universes, most of them would have a chaotic internal structure and would either not show any regularities at all, or only local "islands" of regularity. For conscious observers who invent the concept of "natural laws" such islands of regularity would be a fully sufficient condition for existence. However, our universe does not look that way at all, but is completely regular throughout its history and space. In the multiverse this situation is infinitisimal less likely than the local islands case. Thus, our experience contradicts the expectation from the theory of a timeless multiverse.

AIGBusted said...

Hi Gunter,

In a multiverse as big as the one we are talking about, I believe there would be some regularities, in all of them. Victor Stenger has discussed how many of the laws of physics simply must exist:

http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/nothing.html

I suspect that at least some of our laws, however, are not necessary. How do we explain those? Remember, at the quantum level, and even at the atomic level, there are things that don't seem to be governed by laws, but by chance. Scientists have documented the fact that there seems to be a certain unpredictability there. However, even if there is irregularity at the quantum level, there may be regularity at the macroscopic level due to the fact that macroscopic events are compose of millions (if not billions) of quantum events, and so if quantum events are dictated by chance, there would still be regularity at the macroscopic level because macroscopic events would simply be statistical outcomes of quantum events.

Think about it: chance events are unpredictable by definition, but the overall result of thousands of chance events is predictable.

As I explained it in part 2 of my "Eight Questions" series:

At the quantum level things don't behave lawfully: sometimes one thing happens, sometimes another thing happens. Human beings only see things that result from millions of quantum events. The basic result brought about by large numbers of chance events is more predictable than any single chance event alone is. Casinos know this. What happens when any one person sits down to play is largely unpredictable. They may very well win some money. They may very well lose some money. But when thousands of people sit down to play, the casino knows the end result. And that's why we observe regularity in the universe.

Does that make sense?

AIGBusted said...

By the way, I realize that the link I tried to put in the las comment got cut off. If you google "Victor Stenger Comprehensible Cosmos" the third result is the link I was trying to put it.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

I read most of the books by Victor Stenger, including "Where do the laws of physics come from". The problem is: Stenger is ignorant of any sophisticated metaphysical philosophy, and what is even worse, he apparently does not know what he is talking about concerning physics. If you Google Vic Stenger, you easily find out yourself, that he is only popular among atheists, but rather insignificant in professional physics. The biggest problem with people like Stenger or Hawking is, that they use the word NOTHING for SOMETHING (e.g. a void governed by the laws of quantum mechanics), but not for really NOTHING as it is understood by anybody else (laymen as well as philosophers).

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

I think you did not understand the problem properly, or at least you did not address it: The multiverse and its timeless universes (spacetimes) simply IS. It is not caused by anything, nor does anything really happen in it. The universes are like frozen blocks, and thus laws of quantum mechanics do not explain why we observe such a precise regularity and lawful behavior within our spacetime-universe. It could (and indeed should) be unlawful and chaotic the next moment or at other places, if there are no processes of causation (which IMHO require an A-theory of time).
By the way: Quantum mechanics is often misunderstood as describing lawless events. That is nonsense: All quantum events strictly follow the deterministic Schroedinger equation. Especially under the Many Worlds Interpretation (that you seem to prefer), quantum mechanics is neither indeterministic nor non-local.

AIGBusted said...

"If you Google Vic Stenger, you easily find out yourself, that he is only popular among atheists, but rather insignificant in professional physics."

I got on google scholar and was able to find many peer-reviewed papers by Victor J. Stenger. Nontheless, I don't think it matters if Stenger is "unpopular" among physicists. That seems very ad hominem and not relevent.

"The biggest problem with people like Stenger or Hawking is, that they use the word NOTHING for SOMETHING (e.g. a void governed by the laws of quantum mechanics), but not for really NOTHING as it is understood by anybody else (laymen as well as philosophers)."

I think Stenger's grammatical use of the word 'nothing' might be confusing (as it does make 'nothing' sound like a kind of 'something' when it isn't because it is an absence of 'something'). Nonetheless, in his books I believed he has stated that by 'nothing' he simply means a state that can be described when you remove all particles, space, etc. And that would cohere with the layman's definition of 'nothing'.

AIGBusted said...

I don't understand why or how causation would require an A-Theory of time. Could you please explain that?

"...nor does anything really happen in it."

I don't think that's accurate. I think the B-Theory entails that things really do happen within our universe (as well as others) but that they happen timelessly.

"By the way: Quantum mechanics is often misunderstood as describing lawless events. That is nonsense: All quantum events strictly follow the deterministic Schroedinger equation. Especially under the Many Worlds Interpretation (that you seem to prefer), quantum mechanics is neither indeterministic nor non-local."

I agree. I understand that if the many worlds interpretation is true, that would imply that all quantum possibilities are actualized by deterministic processes.

So, for example, if there are two quantum possibilities for some quantum event in one world, the world would "split" in two and there would be a world in which each possibility would be actualized.

If that same type of quantum event happens billions of times in every world, we could expect that most worlds would have about 50% of those events come out one way, and about 50% of those events come out another way.

And so I think that may explain some of the regularities we observe, since the collective outcome of billions of quantum events is more predictable than the outcome of any one quantum event. Does that make sense?

And by the way, I'm not saying that what I suggested must be true, I just think it is a valid possibility.

AIGBusted said...

Hi Gunter,

It just occurred to me that a passage in Richard Swinburne's "The Existence of God" on page 169 expresses what I was trying to express earlier, and Swinburne manages to capture it better than I do:

"Fairly clearly too there is a small amount of indeterminism in the brain, for, if the
laws of Quantum Theory that govern matter on the smaller scale
have no deeper deterministic explanation (as most physicists claim), then the behaviour of objects on the small scale is not fully determined.

"The laws of Quantum Theory merely tell us the physical
probabilities of various outcomes. In general, indeterministic behaviour on the small scale averages out to produce virtually deterministic behaviour on the large scale. If each coin had a physical probability of 1/2 of landing heads and 1/2 of landing tails, there will be a very large probability close to 1 that the number of coins landing heads in 1,000 tosses will not differ very much from 500. So, even if there is a significant probability that individual atoms willbehave in ways different from the norm, bricks and billiard balls are most unlikely to do so."

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

All materialists (incl. Stenger and Hawking) that have claimed to have shown that the universe could have originated from nothing, did indeed imply a NOTHING that is SOMETHING. For example, the common claim that "Nothing is unstable" is nonsense, because nothing cannot have properties like being unstable. It is simply philosophical blunder. Likewise, Stephen Hawking's recent claim in his new book, that "given the law of gravity" the universe would have originated from nothing is similar nonsense, because a Nothing which includes the law of gravity is not nothing but something. All claims (incl. those of Vic Stenger or Lawrence Krauss) that the laws of quantum mechanics could create a universe from nothing through quantum tunneling are bogus, because a real nothing has no properties and thus cannot be governed by any laws of quantum mechanics.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

In a block universe nothing really happens, because there are no interactions or processes that causally connect events. Events at time A and time B in a block universe are simply statically existing and do not interact, just like a stone one mile south does not interact with a stone one mile north. Events that are earlier or later in the block universe are not fundamentally different from spatially separated events. "Now" in the block universe is just a relational term like "here". This excludes any kind of causal interactions that EXPLAIN the observed order. In the block universe all laws are simply DESCRIPTIONS of the order but no explanations, because there is no place for causation.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

Take for example biological evolution: In an A-theory of time which includes causal interactions the Darwinian process really EXPLAINS how complex beings could originate from simple beings by a chain of descent with modification. However, in a block universe the complete history of evolution simply IS including all complexity that ever was and ever will be. The first living cell did not cause any of its ancestors. Feathered dinosaurs exist in the Cretaceous and modern birds exist in the Holocene, just like two places coexist in space. In a B-theory of time there is no causal explanation for the complexity of life. The origin of life is just one point in the spacetime manifold, and me sitting here at the computer is another point in the spacetime manifold. The fist life has no causal influence on me, just like my toe has no causal influence on my nose. Therefore, I think that the B-theory of time is fundamentally wrong. The laws of physics are time symmetrical, but IMHO the proper conclusion is not "the flow of time, becoming and causation is an illusion", but rather that "the laws of physics do not capture an important part of reality". This is by the way even acknowledged by some atheistic materialists like Quentin Smith, who endorses an A-theory of time in his approach to quantum gravity which includes a combination of Bohmian Mechanics with a Neo-Lorentzian interpretation of relativity (also endorsed by John Bell).

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

I see only two possibilities for an atheistic and materialistic worldview that is coherent in respect to causality:
1.) Adopting the approach of Process Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead in the atheistic version of Donald Sherburne ("Whitehead without God"). But this requires the rejection of persistence and of a B-theory of time.
2.) Or, time is not considered as a geometrical dimension (like space) at all, but is equated with the relation of causality. In this case causality relations would be necessarily existent in the polydimensional Hilbert space of the multiverse, and conscious observers could only observe such causally related events. That time indeed is not a dimension like space is also suggested by the fact that it has a negative algebraic sign in the Minkowski spacetime diagram. If time would be a geometrical dimension like space, Stephen Hawking would not have been forced to use imaginary numbers to make time spacelike in his "No-Boundary" model.

AIGBusted said...

Hi Gunter,

Re: "'Nothing' cannot have properties" I think a state of no space, particles, etc. would have to have properties in light of the fact that such a state would be perfectly symmetrical, as Stenger has explained.

Re: No Causality under a B-Theory, what if each slice of time necessitated another slice of time which was different from it?

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

1.) You say "a state of no space, particles, etc. would have to have properties". EXACTLY! And therefore such a state of primordial void is NOT NOTHING! It is not a valid answer to the question why there is anything rather than nothing. Anything that has properties is not nothing, because nothing is the absence of being.

2.) Concerning causality you say "what if each slice of time necessitated another slice of time which was different from it?". Well, that is simply impossible, because there actually are no such time slices in the first place. Time slices are just arbitrary conventions in your world view and therefore cannot physically necessitate anything. There is no interaction between time slices. There is no reason why there should be any persistence or regularity between time slices, unless you propose a transcendent law, that is outside and beyond the multiverse in your worldview (hello God again).

Dr. Günter Bechly said...
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Dr. Günter Bechly said...
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AIGBusted said...

Hi Gunter,

I think I'm going to make a point to read more about the B-THeory of time, and also a point to explore Process Philosophy/ Theism.

Dennett doesn't argue against free will generally, but only against the libertarian variety; he argues for compatibilism, as do I. I also believe that morality is objective to some degree.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...

I would agree that morality can be objective without God, because "objective" simply means that something is not just privately subjective but intersubjective. Since all (sane) humans share certain basic moral intuitions, these can reasonably be considered to be objective, without being absolute. However, when apologists and religious philosophers state that there can be no "objective" moral without God, what they indeed mean is absolute moral.

Ron Murphy said...

Gunter,

I can see how we are at liberty to choose our own model of reality, given that there's so much we don't know. But we are able to maintain a number of different models for the same phenomena, depending on degree of precision and error we are happy to accept.

But, "retain desirable features like qualia realism, objective values and meaning, libertarian free will"? Any particular reason these are (a) desirable, and (b) problematic for materialism?

If we've evolved to view the world as this subjective experience, and if the apparency of qualia and objective values, and free-will appear to have served our ancestors well, why not continue to use them for our daily experience - our daily model. That's fine.

But just as the quantum view is hardly a common model for our daily lives, and given that we have learned, through science, to see alternative models of the world in addition to our common daily macro view, then what, from a philosophical perspective, makes qualia particularly desirable, or the discarding of qualia problematic?

"Why should we prefer to consider us as zombic robots in the frozen world of a static block-universe" - This, and the 'desirable' view of qualia, sounds like an emotive choice you are making, rather than a critical view of what might be the case.

"...if science does not require such an counterintuitive and destructive world view?" - Again, very emotive, as if you fear something about the materialist world view. Counterintuitive, yes, as is the quantum world. What is destructive about it? That's as pointless an observation as saying the quantum world view totally destroys our common macro level view of reality, as if it stops us getting out of bed of a morning.

We experience our common macro reality just as we do. Discovering that we are automata, if indeed that is what we are, isn't suddenly going to cause us all to start acting like zombies, and nor is it going to diminish our view of morality - it might actually enhance it.

I've seen it many times, from theists and non-theists alike. The fear of materialism is almost palpable; as if it compels us to let go of our subjective experience. It doesn't.

The subjective experience can be accounted for entirely within materialism - even if we can't give a detailed explanation yet.

You allow for machine intelligence. How do you know, given sufficient complexity, that a machine intelligence wouldn't have its own distinctive qualia, that qualia is merely how a sufficiently complex material systems experiences itself?

The problem for non-materialists who also accept science is that they fear applying the same criteria to themselves to which they are prepared to subject everything else in the known universe.

And alternative universes, multi-verses, etc., have nothing to do with this specific personal problem.

dshan said...

"...the only things which are immaterial are spirits and abstract objects."

Spirits don't exist, they are just abstract objects, so there's really only one immaterial thing - abstract objects. But if abstract objects exist then spirits (incl. God) must exist, and I've just disproved my initial assumption.

Oh hell, this philosophy stuff is harder than it looks!

XiXiDu said...

You can also approach this problem by using Algorithmic Information Theory to define Occam's Razor formally. It is over my head but what it basically says I believe is this. Take two programs with the the same output. One program includes the big bang and evolution and another one is similar except that it additionally includes God (or God making everything look the way to deceive us). Programs with the shorter description are more likely.

"Occam's razor has been formalized as Minimum Description Length or Minimum Message Length, in which the total size of the theory is the length of the message required to describe the theory, plus the length of the message required to describe the evidence using the theory. Solomonoff induction is the ultimate case of minimum message length in which the code for messages can describe all computable hypotheses." http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Occam%27s_razor

Check this comment for more: http://lesswrong.com/lw/32l/the_strong_occams_razor/2xvb?c=1

Also see: http://lesswrong.com/lw/2un/references_resources_for_lesswrong/#AIT

Ron Murphy said...

dshan,

That's why philosophy based on deductive logic (formal deductive arguments) is good at asking questions, but crap at giving answers.

We are empirical creatures working with inductive processes to make the best we can. All deduction relies on some premise or other about which we have insufficient data.

Dr. Günter Bechly said...
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Dr. Günter Bechly said...
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