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Author Topic:   Time and Beginning to Exist
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


(1)
Message 86 of 268 (642396)
11-28-2011 12:58 PM
Reply to: Message 84 by designtheorist
11-28-2011 12:38 PM


Re: Reply to PaulK
1. No timeless state or timeless and immaterial beings (such as Universe Designer or Creator God) exist prior to the beginning of time. (This is your unexamined, implicit and false premise.)

"Prior to the beginning of time" is a logical oxymoron. You cannot have a point on a ray located before the origin of the ray, which is what you're referring to.

2. Everything that exists at the first moment of time came into existence simultaneously with time and so there is no prior moment in which they did not exist.

Nothing "came into existence." There was no moment of time in which everything that exists did not exist; the full mass-energy of the Universe has existed at every moment of time, as per the laws of thermodynamics. To "come into existence" there must be a prior moment where the thing in question did not exist, and there is no such thing as a moment prior to the first moment, as per above.

3. If we take these objects to have a beginning, then it is one different from everyday beginnings.

And why shouldn't it be? "Causality" is a notion that we know applies within the Universe, but we have no idea or way of knowing whether causality applies to Universes themselves. It is entirely possible that existence is the default state, that Unvierses are inevitable, or any of a million other potential hypotheses that you are excluding by applying a law of physics to a place where you have no idea of its actual applicability.

4. Therefore, the claim "Everything that begins to exist has a cause" is suspect, false or needs a more rigorous definition.

Your every complaint about the argument is wrought with logical errors. You aren't even trying to discuss the argument using its own definitions - you're continuing to talk about locations in time "before" the beginning of time, in effect referring to a point farther North than the North Pole. Your arguments aren't logically self-consistent with any sensible definition of terms, and thus are invalid.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 84 by designtheorist, posted 11-28-2011 12:38 PM designtheorist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 87 by designtheorist, posted 11-28-2011 1:08 PM Rahvin has not yet responded
 Message 89 by Jon, posted 11-28-2011 1:19 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


(2)
Message 143 of 268 (642570)
11-29-2011 7:29 PM
Reply to: Message 133 by designtheorist
11-29-2011 5:43 PM


Re: Reply to Larni
I cannot do that but neither can you prove it does not exist

Argument from ignorance. This is a logical fallacy.

You cannot prove that sugarplum fairies do not exist either - our ignorance of their existence does not give them a greater-than-zero probability of actually existing. Nor does this actually shift the burden of proof - if you make the positive claim that an additional time-like dimension exists superimposed over the time dimension we experience, you need to provide evidence for such an assertion, and it is not the responsibility of the skeptic to falsify any little fancy that pops into your brain.

The sole purpose of your "eternal timeless realm" hypothesis seems to be to provide a location for your creator deity - you're making an unsupported assertion so that you can use another unsupported assertion as a "cause" for the Universe. You're not following evidence to draw conclusions, you're drawing conclusions and speculating new possibilities to fit your pre-existing conclusion to real evidence. You compound error onto error in order to justify your belief.

Big Bang cosmology suggests that time has a minimum value, yet that remains one of several potential hypotheses. Time could stretch back eternally, and the Universe could "bounce" from Big Bang to Big Crunch and back again (though current observations show that the Universal expansion is accelerating, not slowing down, suggesting that this hypothesis is unlikely), or perhaps the extreme warping of spacetime from all of the mass-energy of the entire Universe being confined to an infinitesimally tiny amount of space could allow time to warp back in on itself. Or, perhaps, Universes just don't require causes. We haven't, after all, been able to observe and Universe other than our own, and we haven't even been able to do that much fully.

But what really reeks of falsehood in the theistic explanation (including yours) is the lack of an actual explanation.

The assertion that "a god did it" doesn't actually explain anything. Even if we were to prove with absolute certainto tomorrow that yes, an additional timelike dimension does exist, and yes, a "god" did create the Universe...

...we would still have no better idea of how the Universe was created than we do today. Attribution is not the same as explanation. In all of your arguments (and those of theists in general), "Creator" is used as a word that conveys explanation when it does not. It's a placeholder, a variable, an unknown where the explanation is supposed to go.

Once upon a time, a physics teacher performed a little test on her students. She hung a plate of metal next to a radiator. When the students were asked to touch the metal, they noticed that one side was hot and one side was cold...but the side facing the radiator was the cold side. She asked the students to explain this.

They gave numerous hypotheses, essentially along the lines of "because of convection."

But they had no idea what had actually happened. They were using "because of convection" as if it were an actual explanation, when in reality it was just words; they would have said exactly the same thing whether the side of the plate facing the radiator was hot or cold. Their "explanation" was equally able to "explain" each and every possible observation - in other words, it didn't explain anything at all.

In reality, of course, the teacher had allowed the radiator to heat one side of the plate...and then simply turned it backwards before the students arrived.

"Creator" is used in exactly the same way. You believe in your deity and would do so whether physics tell us the Universe had a "beginning" or not. Your conclusion is already written - what you're actually doing is searching for clever arguments to justify that conclusion after the fact - like searching for quotes, sometimes taken out of context, by respected scientists that seem to agree with you, and by focusing on the "plausibility" of a hypothesis as opposed to evidence to support or falsify it. Your "Creator" equally explains any possible observations of the Universe...which means it doesn't actually explain anything at all. It's just a word. There's no mechanism, no reason, no evidence, no sequence of events, just bald assertion, a conclusion written before any evidence was observed followed by filling in the reasoning after the fact.

It is conceivably possible that there exists one or more additional timelike dimensions that intersect and "encapsulate" the entire set of our own Universe's time dimension. It is conceivably possible that something, whether colliding branes or soemthign else (inclusing extra-Universal aliens or a "god") "Caused" our Universe.

But that could still be the case regardless of whether our Universe has a "beginning." Our time dimension could be twisted like a moebius strip with no true beginning or end, and still be encapsulated in a larger timelike dimension. A "Creator" could still be responsible for its existence either way, or in a thousand other hypotheses. Your "explanation" would remain unchanged, either way, equally able to explain each and every possibility.

The only reason you introduce an additional timelike dimension into the debate is to make your "Creator" hypothesis sound more plausible, bypassing the problem of causality in a Universe that seems to have a minimum value of time. But your hypothesis is still not an explanation. It's still not testable - the Universe would look the same to us, either way. Your theology is the sort of useless navel-gazing performed by children when looking up at the clouds and wondering if maybe there is a magical kingdom of animate, sentient teddy bears with joyful emblems sewn on their tummies just on the tops of the clouds - in other words, bare speculation coupled with wishful thinking and a total disregard for the burden of evidence. That you manage to add weight to your arguments with adult concepts like logic, logical fallacies, and quotes from experts, means simply that you've retained your childish thought patterns in your adulthood, not that you've actually added anything of substance to create an argument that is convincing to any but the gullible and those who already believe.

Evidence is the only rational basis for belief. What matters is not what you find to be personally convincing, or what you've been taught since childhood. What matters is the observations that have been made thus far, and which hypotheses are supported more strongly than others. What matters is not what you can't disprove, like an additional timelike dimension or sugarplum fairies, but rather what observations tell us is more likely to be true, like the existence of horses as compared to the existence of the chupacabra or bigfoot.

What matters is evidence.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 133 by designtheorist, posted 11-29-2011 5:43 PM designtheorist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 144 by designtheorist, posted 11-29-2011 7:39 PM Rahvin has responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


(1)
Message 146 of 268 (642573)
11-29-2011 7:47 PM
Reply to: Message 144 by designtheorist
11-29-2011 7:39 PM


Re: Reply to Rahvin
It is not an argument from ignorance because it is not my argument. We are discussing PaulK's argument. PaulK could strengthen his argument if he could prove an immaterial realm does not exist. He cannot.

So...it's not your argument, but then you use it again saying PaulK cannot prove an "immaterial realm" does not exist.

You are claiming that PaulK's argument is false because he cannot disprove your pet hypothesis, which is in fact an argument from ignorance and an attempt to shift the burden of proof.

Any particular reason you ignored the rest? Laziness? Or is cherry-picking individual quotes out of a larger amount of relevant text just a hopeless neurosis of yours?


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 144 by designtheorist, posted 11-29-2011 7:39 PM designtheorist has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 150 by designtheorist, posted 11-29-2011 11:43 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 147 of 268 (642576)
11-29-2011 7:52 PM
Reply to: Message 145 by kbertsche
11-29-2011 7:42 PM


I suggest that "begin to exist" is roughly synonymous with:
1) "have a finite age"
2) "have a temporal starting-point of its existence"

If this is what it means, there should be no doubt that the universe "began to exist".

Comments? Do we have general agreement so far?

"Began to exist" implies a previous coordinate in time where the entity in question did not exist. If time is a like a ray or line segment and the entire Universe is contained only within the coordinates of time, then it is possible for the Universe to have existed at every moment of time and yet for there to be a minimum time coordinate.

If the Universe is a globe and T=0 is the North Pole, does the Universe "begin" at the North Pole, or is the North Pole just the absolute farthest North coordinate on the surface of the globe?


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 145 by kbertsche, posted 11-29-2011 7:42 PM kbertsche has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 148 by kbertsche, posted 11-29-2011 8:55 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


(2)
Message 180 of 268 (642664)
11-30-2011 12:29 PM
Reply to: Message 167 by designtheorist
11-30-2011 11:12 AM


Re: Reply to No Nukes #164
The mathematics of the BB model breaks down at the singularity because of infinity but the laws of physics do not necessarily break down. Heat rises and expands in our universe, correct? Like charges repel each other? The electromagnetic force is more powerful than gravity, yes?

NO.

The forces we know today also broke down around T=0. Matter did not even exist yet in any form we would recognize, the Universe was too hot and dense even to be comprised of subatomic particles like neutrons and protons. We're talking more like a superdense, superheated quark-gluon plasma, not atoms making gasses and solids and liquids. As Cavediver and Son Goku mentioned, electromagnetism couldn't even exist yet at the high energy density in the first few moments after the Singularity.

There is no reason to believe any of these would be different when the universe was in its earliest moments. Just as photons and neutrinos are flying out at the speed of light or faster, space itself is expanding.

There's every reason to believe they were different. Stars didn't even exist yet. Hydrogen didn't even exist yet. Photons weren't flying around because there was no electromanetic force yet! Neutrinos pass through normal matter, but the Universe was more dense than a black hole, even neutrinos can't just pass through that.

When we say "the math breaks down," we really mean just about all of it. We lack any predictive model that can describe conditions at the Singularity with any degree of accuracy, that's why we made the Large Hadron Collider - to try to replicate the superhot, superdense quark-gluon plasma for a fraction of a second and take some actual observations and develop a framework. It's why Big Bang cosmology is not about the origin of the Universe, but rather a descriptive, predictive model of how the Universe appeared at different points in time.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, the singularity was real and the laws of physics were suspended. What triggered the change? Why would the universe, stable for aeons, suddenly expand in a flash of light and heat generating the cosmic microwave background radiation we see today?

Who said anything about stability, or eons? Why do you assume the Universe existed as the Singularity for any amount of time greater than a bare moment? Why do you assume the Universe was stable? Why do you assume the Universe sat as a Singularity for eons? If space was compressed into a single point, what would time look like, since it's tied to space? What would the effect of all of the mass of the Universe existing in such a dense state have done to warp spacetime?

The Singularity is not an "object." It's not a bomb waiting to explode! It's a mathematical breakdown where the usual predictive models we use stop applying because the conditions are too different from what we observe today to use our normal math. The word "Singularity" just means "this is a state we cannot currently explain, the laws of physics as we know them don't work here, we need more information about the deeper underlying laws of the Universe to make any predictions."

It is just nonsense to assume the universe could exist for any period of time as a singularity. And it is pointless nonsense. Nothing is to be gained by the speculation. The theory makes no prediction and adds no insight to our knowledge.

Of course it does. Tracing expansion back to the Singularity is what predicted the CMB. That observation of a predicted phenomenon was one of the best bits of evidence supporting the theory that the Universe is expanding and therefore must have been smaller and hotter in the past. It's a pillar of modern cosmology, how can you possibly say that it "adds no insight to our knowledge?" But of course no cosmologist says that "the Singularity existed for any amount of time." The Singularity is a mathematical error from the laws of physics we know exceeding their limits, just as Newton breaks down at the scale Einstein takes over. It's not an object, not a state of the Universe, not something that "existed."

What if, DT, spacetime really is like the surface of a globe, and when you look into the past and approach the Singularity at the North Pole, you suddenly find yourself looking into the future and moving South? What if time has a minimum value, but has no boundary, just like the latitude and longitude of a globe? What if what we call "causality" is really just a Universal law regarding the relationship between adjacent coordinates of time?

What makes you think a behavior of the Unvierse, like gravity or time or causality, applies to the Universe itself?

Edited by Rahvin, : No reason given.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 167 by designtheorist, posted 11-30-2011 11:12 AM designtheorist has not yet responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


(2)
Message 193 of 268 (642767)
12-01-2011 12:07 PM
Reply to: Message 190 by kbertsche
12-01-2011 9:55 AM


I don't see how (A) "began to exist" implies prior time any more than does (B) "has a finite age". They seem pretty similar to me in this respect. Based on our normal experience, both would suggest prior time. But neither one necessarily implies prior time. Both imply a "zero-point" to the thing's existence, but neither one says anything about what happened "before" the thing's existence.

The real root problem here is that the English language is not well suited to models of physics that do not correspond directly to everyday human experience. Talking about "the beginning of the Universe" when time itself is a property of the Universe is one of those cases - English just doesn't accurately convey the correct information, the words are too laden with additional connotations and baggage.

This is why physicists use math.

I don't even particularly like talking about "the beginning of the Universe," because that's already using an anthropomorphic view of time. Time is a dimension, and our perception of it as a sequence of events is an illusion caused by our entropy-driven brains, just as our perspective on matter as physical objects is an illusion caused by the fact that we don;t see on the subatomic scale. You think my fingers are touching keys on a keyboard? They're not - the repelling force of the electrons in the atoms that make us up prevent us from even touching. And even that is basically an illusion, because particles are just bits and pieces of various fields.

This is why people don't usually understand physics on the level that cavediver and Son Goku do - even the dumbed-down English descriptions require that you be capable of abandoning the conceit of the human experience and attempt to comprehend the Universe on its own terms, despite the fact that it will not at all be intuitive to human beings who grow up never seeing an atom or a proton or a quark.

What we call T=0 is not really a "beginning." Time is just a dimension. If you imagine the minimum value of time as analogous to "the farthest you can possibly move to the left, after that you find yourself moving in the direction you formerly identified as right," or the oft-used North Pole analogy, you might begin to conceive of at least one of the hypotheses based on the real Universe as opposed to the human-experience-based model in your head. The North Pole is no more the "beginning" of the Earth than literally any other point, and T=0 is not necessarily any more a "beginning" for the Universe. The Universe doesn't "come into being" at T=0 any more than the Earth "comes into being" at the North Pole.

The whole thing is a giant Outside Context Problem.

We know that the Unvierse hasn't reached heat-death (essentially, when we run out of negentropy, and all energy differentials are evened out, all potential energy is exhausted), and that entropy always increases as time moves forward, so there must be some mechanism to either restore negentropy (something like the Big Crunch model that doesn't look too probable right now) to provide for an infinite-past-direction time dimension, or there must be a minimum value for time, whether that means a wraparound like what happens to a north-bound traveler at the North Pole, or a true point-origin like a geometric ray, etc. If none of these were the case, then none of us would exist - an infinite past with no Big Crunch means an infinite amount of time for entropy to increase, which means the Universe would have reached heat-death an infinite time ago (isn't infinity fun?).

But in none of these are we talking about a "beginning" that is at all analogous to human-experienced events. It's difficult to separate from the anthropomorphic concept of time, but doing so is mandatory if you're going to try to understand the shape of the Universe. Time is just a dimension. It's no different from length or width or height. It's a continuum of coordinates. The state of the Universe in any specific coordinate of spacetime is related to its state at adjacent coordinates - which gives us the illusion of causality. When you talk about the "cause of the Universe," you're really talking about "the cause of the system that provides the illusion of causality," which immediately requires the assumption that there's an additional causality-system to the one we actually observe - an unfounded assumption based on human hubris rather than actual evidence.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 190 by kbertsche, posted 12-01-2011 9:55 AM kbertsche has not yet responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 194 of 268 (642769)
12-01-2011 12:13 PM
Reply to: Message 186 by DWIII
11-30-2011 9:40 PM


Re: What of this "immaterial realm", anyway?
You keep going on about this "existence of an immaterial realm" which you allegedly deduce. What is currently known about this immaterial realm? What else can be known about this immaterial realm? What specific properties (physical or metaphysical) would this immaterial realm possess? Can there be more than one immaterial realm, or must it be all one monolithic piece?

How big is this immaterial realm? How many entities (intelligent or otherwise) may comfortably reside in this immaterial realm? (Feel free to select from the various transfinite cardinalities for these last two questions.)

If this "immaterial realm" is so easy to grasp, as you say, you should be able to answer a few of these questions.

You're asking "what" DT thinks he knows...but equally important is how he thinks he knows it.

Did DT make some observation of this "immaterial realm?" What [i]evidence['i] led to the conclusion that such a thing might exist? If this "realm" is "outside" of the Universe, how has this "realm" interacted with the Universe such that DT could possibly gain information about it?


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 186 by DWIII, posted 11-30-2011 9:40 PM DWIII has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 195 by NoNukes, posted 12-01-2011 1:31 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


(3)
Message 211 of 268 (642943)
12-02-2011 8:02 PM
Reply to: Message 209 by Straggler
12-02-2011 6:16 PM


Re: Ideas
The number four is arguably an objective aspect of reality and thus an idea which any intelligent being in our universe will eventually conceive of. Because of the objective nature of this concept it can arguably be said to "exist" in a Platonic sense.

The number four is a conceptual representation that exists only within the human mind.

Everything we experience, including all of our senses, happens exclusively within the confines of the human skull. If there is a pen on your desk, the color and shape of that pen, the feel of it in your hand, the sound it makes when you roll it on your desk, are all nothing but the end result of your brain processing signals sent by your eyes, ears, and skin.

The entire world we experience is an attempt at a map of the territory. We never actually see the territory itself.

"Four" is an abstract symbol. If there are four apples in a basket, those apples exist regardless of whether you count them, or what number you think is really there. "Four" is a concept, part of our internal map of the territory. "Four" exists within the human mind, but not outside of it; it's only a representation.

What we experience is so far different from the true underlying facts of the Universe that human-relatable concepts are only useful when explaining things a human being can actually experience. Our brains have trouble multiplying in terms of truly comprehending how a billion marbles relates to a dozen marbles - aspects of reality that don't correspond directly to experiences in the ancestral human environment just don't computer intuitively. We lack the modeling program to map that territory by default, and that's why we use math as a way to fully describe reality in pure representative symbolism. Our brains might not be able to intuitively grasp the real relationship between 412 GeV and 115 GeV, but we can write it down and use mathematical symbols to make predictions that don't occur to us otherwise.

Stories and memories and language "exist" as patterns of neural activity in the human brain. The story of Goldilocks is a map that just doesn't correspond to any real territory - something human minds are quite capable of doing, for better or for worse. But all stories, whether based on real territories or not, are just maps, representations in our minds, which means their "real" existence is simply that of a pattern of neural activity. Those maps exist only for as long as there are minds that contain those neural patterns.

When we first hear about an aspect of reality, we create a map of that new part of reality's territory in our minds to the best of our ability. Unfortunately, this means that we instinctually try to interpret such things from a human perspective, rather than trying to comprehend the Universe on its own terms. Most people don;t really realize on a deep level that the world we see is an illusion of scale, a derivative of natural processes that human beings just never experience directly, things like the repulsion of electron shells providing the illusion of contact.

We take for granted that there are words in our languages that have meanings, and try to apply those meanings as if the dictionary or a philosopher could use definitions for natural-language words like "finite time" and apply them to cosmological theories like the Big Bang.

This is the allure and the danger of the layman's explanation, particularly "science" reporting and magazines like Popular Science. It's possible to gain a very basic understanding of what physicists discover through normal language; analogies like balloons or globes, but invariably human nature tends toward believing that the map is the territory, that the balloon and the globe are not just rough analogies but rather that they convey full understanding of the real subject.

The Universe is not like an apple, or a seed, or a bomb. I can talk about how a seed is planted and begins to grow, or how an apple falls from a tree, or how a bomb is made and then explodes. But the Universe is not analogous to any human experience, and it is only our own hubris and our tendency to confuse our maps with the actual territory that causes us to ask such human questions as "what caused the Universe," or "what happened before the Big Bang." Time is part of the Universe, the Universe does not happen "in" time. The Universe has a particular shape, a cosmic geometry, that includes fields that produce what we call particles, and space, and time, and build up the human-experiencable objects like the Sun and the Moon and the Earth or the pen on your desk. If we are to understand the geometry of the Universe, we need to ask the Universe, not an English dictionary, what is meant by a minimum value for time, what the expansion of space means for the past and future, and how the Universe really works at its most basic level.

The implications and connotations of natural-language descriptions simply serve to confuse map with territory; and like trying to translate slang directly from one language to another, you simply wind up with the wrong answer.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 209 by Straggler, posted 12-02-2011 6:16 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 218 by Straggler, posted 12-05-2011 7:57 AM Rahvin has responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 221 of 268 (643180)
12-05-2011 2:33 PM
Reply to: Message 218 by Straggler
12-05-2011 7:57 AM


Re: Ideas
Everything we experience is a conceptual representation within the human mind. But any intelligent beings in our universe (human or otherwise) are going to have conceived of the the number four aren't they? It is this objective "existence" of the number four that makes it arguably very different to human stories such as Goldilocks.

The only difference is that in the case of "4" the map is intended to represent a section of reality, while Goldilocks is a map that does not correspond to any territory (though it's components include representations of real things - bears and little girls and porridge do exist, after all).

Do you think any alien intelligence out there would also have the concept of 4?

I don't think alien intelligences matter when determining objective reality. Objective reality is that which exists regardless of whether anyone, human or alien, believes it does.

Does this level of objectivity qualify things like numbers as "existing" in a sense that is closer to empirical facts (e.g. evolution occurred) than wholly subjective ideas (e.g. my original novel) which exists nowhere but in my head?

I don't really know the answers. But I sympathetic to the idea of mathematics specifically as having objective existence in some sense.

Mathematics is particularly related to objective reality because it's a map that we specifically model after the territory we observe. "Four" is still a subjective concept, it only exists in your head, it's a symbol that represents something in reality. The something that it represents is real and objective, and this means that any alien intelligence that tries to investigate reality is likely to also have a concept of "four." We'd both be trying to map the same territory, and particularly with a simple concept like an individual integer, it's extremely likely that our maps for that particular bit of reality would be nigh identical.

Math isn't perfect, though, because it's still just a map of the territory based on our current level of knowledge. Newtonian mechanics are expressed mathematically, but when it comes to planetary orbits and other out-of-scale segments of reality, the numbers come out wrong. We in effect can apply the concept of "five" to a part of reality where the real answer is what we would label "four," because we aren't omniscient and the limitations of our current understanding at any given moment in history prevent us from having perfect maps of the territory.

Hell, we can even apply math to pure fiction - Goldilocks, after all, tried out three beds and three bowls of porridge owned by three bears. That "three" doesn't correspond to anything in reality, it's a map of a false territory.

Mathematics only exist in your head, but they represent objectively real things that you observe, limited by your ability to accurately interpret your observations. Truly independent observers given the same level of understanding of the Universe are likely to arrive at similar (hypothetically identical) representations of reality once you correct for differences in the specific symbology because all are attempting to map the same territory. That doesn't make the ideas in their heads any more objective in existence than Goldilocks, though. They're still just ideas; reality exists regardless of whether there's anyone there to map its territory, and regardless of the accuracy of anyone's maps.

I suppose you could say that math is the language we use in our cartography of the Universe.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 218 by Straggler, posted 12-05-2011 7:57 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 222 by cavediver, posted 12-05-2011 4:18 PM Rahvin has responded
 Message 223 by Straggler, posted 12-05-2011 5:50 PM Rahvin has responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 224 of 268 (643267)
12-05-2011 8:21 PM
Reply to: Message 222 by cavediver
12-05-2011 4:18 PM


Re: Ideas
Easy to say. Can you explain in what sense "four" is subjective in a way that your apples are not? For the record, as far I am concerned, "four" is far more "real" than mere apples

I think they're both subjective.

"Apple" is another label we apply, just like "four." They both exist in our heads, and our attempt to model reality as we experience it.

In reality (and correct me if I'm imprecise here), the Universe is comprised of various fields of probability that happen to factorize. There are no apples or cells or molecules or atoms or protons or quarks, there are differenciations in quantum fields which behave and interact in specific ways that at a specific scale look, feel, and taste like quarks, protons, atoms, molecules, cells, and apples. The photons we see, the neurochemical impulses we taste and feel, are nothing more than the most probable interactions of "lumps" in quantum fields.

And even that is merely my basic conception of what's really there. It only exists in my head as my best representation of what's real based on information available to me right now.

There is, in fact, no spoon.

"Four" is a bit different, in that it's more abstract than "apple." "Four" can be used to describe energy levels and quantities and relationships between other numbers based on context, while an "apple" is always just a fruit from one of a set of species of tree. I think that my description of mathematics as the language with which we describe our maps of reality was fairly appropriate.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 222 by cavediver, posted 12-05-2011 4:18 PM cavediver has not yet responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 225 of 268 (643268)
12-05-2011 8:29 PM
Reply to: Message 223 by Straggler
12-05-2011 5:50 PM


Re: Ideas
OK. Can you give an example of a concept that is objective rather than subjective? And explain in what sense it is objective in a way that "four" is not?

I don't think there's any such thing as an "objective concept." A "concept" by definition can exist only within the confines of an intelligent mind. It's an abstract representation of something else, which may or may not actually exist in objective reality.

Some of our concepts are likely pretty close to what's objectively real...but no matter what, our concepts all boil down to our maps of the territory, not the territory itself. When I count four apples, I am making a description of reality as I observe it, which may or may not be wrong, and either the "four" or the "apples" or both could be accurate or inaccurate depending on my observational basis.

I would suggest that mathematical concepts such as 4 and Pi arguably meet that criteria at least as well as any other concepts you can name.

I would argue that the parts of reality represented by "4" and "Pi" are objective, but that the words and concepts themselves are our own invention.

If we're talking about it, then it's a representation in language conveying ideas that themselves are representations of reality as we either perceive or just plain imagine it.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 223 by Straggler, posted 12-05-2011 5:50 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 226 by Straggler, posted 12-06-2011 9:28 AM Rahvin has responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 228 of 268 (643489)
12-07-2011 12:48 PM
Reply to: Message 226 by Straggler
12-06-2011 9:28 AM


Re: Ideas
Well obviously the words, symbols and exact conception are human inventions. But let me ask you this: Do you think that reality is innately logical?

I think that reality appears to be innately self-consistent. The Universe doesn't make arguments, so the term "logic" doesn't really apply. I also think that the term "logic" when used in a context like yours carries additional meanings that are inaccurate - thanks to Star Trek, many people equate "logic" with "makes intuitive sense," and the Universe flatly does not.

Hey, if you can nitpick, so can I

Do you think that a concept like pi is arguably an aspect of objective reality and thus can meaningfully be said to have been discovered rather than invented?

I think that a concept like pi can be said to be based on reality, and therefor represents an aspect of objective reality, limited by our understanding of that aspect. I think our understanding of pi is pretty well-tested and extremely precise for all practical considerations, but I still think it's important to differentiate our understanding of reality from reality itself. No matter how accurate a map we draw, we are still drawing a map, and the map is not the territory.

We would presumably agree that any suitably advanced civilisation would be aware of this relationship

Agreed

The symbols used are indisputably just human conventions. But the relationship being expressed is arguably a property of objective reality. No?

The relationship is still a representation of a real relationship.

Remember how all science is tentative pending additional evidence? This is why. All of our concepts, from "2" to "Hydrogen" to "2+2=4" and "pi=3.1457..." are merely representations of observed aspects of reality. Because they are representations limited by our own observational capabilities, they are subject to change when new information proves our representations to be inaccurate.

Newton described the relationship between heavenly bodies and introduced orbital mechanics. But as it turned out the relationship expressed in his mathematical representation was wrong, on scales outside of normal human experience. Einstein was able to provide a more accurate representation for the real relationship that works at all scales (so far...).

Do you see what I mean here? There are times when we can reasonably believe that our maps are indistinguishable from the territory, like with concepts like "4" or "pi." They're well tested, and the probability of us being wrong with those concepts is so slim it's basically beneath consideration. But they're still just maps, not the territory itself.

You should know from my posting history that I'm not in any way advocating some sort of idiotic equivocation like "well everything is just subjective anyway." All of our concepts are subjective, but some concepts are more likely to accurately represent reality than others.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 226 by Straggler, posted 12-06-2011 9:28 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 229 by Straggler, posted 12-07-2011 5:47 PM Rahvin has responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 230 of 268 (643538)
12-07-2011 6:22 PM
Reply to: Message 229 by Straggler
12-07-2011 5:47 PM


Re: Ideas
Last questions:

Do apples objectively exist?

The things we call apples certainly appear to exist in objective reality, though we know now that their real nature is significantly different from the limited sensory input we receive about them. What we see as discrete objects of a specific shape and size with a particular taste and texture are actually perturbations in a quantum probability field that interact with other perturbations in quantum probability fields such that at different scales they behave like quarks, protons, atoms, molecules, cells, and apples.

That said, there is still a miniscule possibility that we are in the Matrix or some other reality-simulation (a dream, etc) and that apples are fictional.

Does pi objectively exist?

The relationship represented by pi certainly seems to exist in objective reality, and it seems to be extremely accurate. The Universe appears to be self-consistent, and within that framework the diameter and circumference of a circle have a very specific relationship, apparently every time without fail.

That said, again, there is a miniscule possibility that the world we experience is in fact fictional, and that real objective reality does not contain the relationship pi, or where that relationship is different. It rather hurts my brain to think of a simple mathematical relationship like pi being different somehow, but my lack of imagination is not necessarily a bar to reality, which already manages to boggle my mind on multiple topics.

Does the Easter Bunny objectively exist?

It doesn't appear to. It appears to be an amalgamation of multiple concepts that do base themselves on an understanding of objective reality (bunnies and eggs, for example), but the myth as a whole diverges significantly from any evidence and contradicts several expectations (mammals laying eggs, let alone colored eggs, as an example) based on significantly repeated observations, which points to the hypothesis that the Easter Bunny is, in fact, just a made-up fictional character.

There is, of course, a miniscule possibility that we live n the Matrix. Or that the Hare Club for Men actually exists and purposefully distorts the myth of the Easter Bunny into a strawman representation of itself (embellishing fact with fictional nonsense like claiming that the bunny lays eggs) and covers up actual evidence of its existence and true nature.

You'll note that, in the case of pi and apples, the chances of either of those concepts not corresponding to aspects of objective reality are miniscule, while the reverse is true of the Easter Bunny, where the larger probability by far is that the Easter Bunny is fiction. All concepts are just our attempts to map the territory of reality, but some maps don;t correspond to any territory, while others are very accurate. We tell the difference by examining evidence based on observing how predictions drawn from our maps are contradicted or verified through additional exploration of reality.

Are mathematical concepts like pi closer in nature to empirical things like apples than they are to wholly subjective notions such as the Easter Bunny?

You're taking this as part of the never-ending idiocy of "subjectivity vs. objectivity." But I'm not RAZD. Please do remember that.

Even though all human concepts are (and can only ever be) representations within human minds limited by the perception and understanding of human beings, some of those concepts will more accurately represent objective reality than others. "Gravity" is a concept that represents a fundamental force of the Universe, like "electromagnetism" or "the Strong Nuclear force." Our representations could be wrong, but because we've tied their definitions to examinations of reality through testing and evidence, they're far more likely to be accurate than a random made-up guess like pink unicorns made of happiness and sunshine.

The map is never the same as the territory in the same way that there is no globe that is actually the planet Earth.

But many globes will far more accurately represent the real planet Earth than any map of Middle Earth found in a Tolkien novel.

We take linguistic shortcuts and say "apples really exist" when the likelihood of the alternative is so tiny as to be insignificant, and/or where the complexity of the real truth is inclusive of the simplistic answer and doesn't add significant practical meaning to the ideas being exchanged at the time. We just don't need a quantum-physics lesson to ask whether someone likes the flavor of apple pie. Somewhat like how we can use Newton to predict the motion of a pendulum, even if it's not quite as accurate as Einstein.

But it's important to remember that our understanding is separate and distinct from what we are trying to understand. Our models of the Universe can always be wrong, while the Universe is the way it is regardless of whether we understand it or even exist to ask the questions in the first place.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 229 by Straggler, posted 12-07-2011 5:47 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 231 by Straggler, posted 12-09-2011 12:40 PM Rahvin has responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


(1)
Message 232 of 268 (643610)
12-09-2011 2:26 PM
Reply to: Message 231 by Straggler
12-09-2011 12:40 PM


Re: Objective/Subjective
Whatever objectively exists can only ever be experienced and conceived of subjectively. This seems to be your main point. And I couldn’t agree with it more. This much is essentially inarguable. But I still take issue with one key thing that you have said.

I think our "disagreement" is small, and that we probably have something pretty close to the same idea going on here.

I would suggest that mathematical entities such as 4 and Pi can be said to exist objectively. In fact I would suggest that they arguably have a greater claim to objective existence than things like “apples”.

"4" and "pi" represent concepts that do seem to accurately correspond to consistent relationships in objective reality.

"4" in particular is a representation of such a basic concept that it's hard to conceive of it being wrong. It's barely conceivable that we live in a simulated Universe like the Matrix where "4" maps to a part of our experience, but while the "real" Universe contains no such thing.

But the vastly more probable option is that "4" represents something real - an integer between "3" and "5" that corresponds to particular amount, and where that amount is present in many real-world environments.

It's a description of such a basic abstract concept (you can talk about four "real" atoms or four "real" apples or four fictional bowls of porridge) that fits so well with observations of reality (if we line up five apples, we can definitely see that one whole apple exists between apples three and five, so it's not a fraction, it must be an integer) that I would agree that it more accurately reflects something objectively real than the word "apple" does.

But it would be taking things to the absurd to conclude that “apples” don’t objectively exist because of these limitations wouldn’t it? We can hopefully both agree that “apples” do indeed exist (aforementioned provisos implicit).

Sort of. Basically, yes.

The reason the alternative is absurd is simply that the probability of that alternative (that "apples" don't objectively exist, etc) is so low as to be beneath consideration. I think it's important to acknowledge at a basic level that any concept or experience we have is our brains' attempt to map reality (and some of that isn;t even conscious) using the limited information available to our senses, but we don;t seem to disagree on that at all. An "apple" is far more complex than the word actually implies, and it's not what our senses seem to tell us in many respects (we aren't actually "touching" the apple, there is no real contact, it's just the repulsion of electron shells providing the illusion of contact, etc), but for practical everyday purposes the term "apple" represents an objectively real thing with sufficient accuracy that we may as well say "apples are real, objective things."

So the question is – Does Pi exist? It obviously doesn’t exist in the same physical sense that apples do. But I think you can very meaningfully say it exists as a property of reality. I think to say that 4 or Pi only exist subjectively is no more sensible than saying that my conviction in the existence of apples is a subjective belief.

"4" and "pi" exist within the self-consistent Universe we experience, which may or may not be real. We could live in the Matrix, remember, and in the "real" Universe "pi" could be exactly five, or there could be no such thing as circles in the first place. It's an absurdly low probability, but all human knowledge is tentative pending additional evidence, and math carries no exception to that universal truth.

In the Universe we do experience though, "4" and "pi" represent relationships that are identical for every observer in a relevant context and which have been accurate regardless of whether the observers were aware of the relationship or not. They're damned accurate representations of what we perceive of as reality by any test you can name. More accurate than "apple," largely because they're such abstract concepts that apply universally at such a basic level.

I don't think we're really in disagreement here.

I put it to you that this relationship is therefore not something that we (or any other suitably advanced alien civilisation that may be out there) have invented. I put it to you that this relationship is instead an aspect of objective reality that we have discovered.
In short I put it to you that this relationship objectively exists in some sense that is independent of the minds conceiving it. What do you think?

We invented the mathematical symbols and even the relationship to represent something we observe that we did not invent. Assuming our measurement of that real relationship is accurate , any independent observer capable of taking similarly accurate measurements would arrive at the same representative relationship expressed in the equation, even if the symbols used were different.

I think the sort of subjective-objective shenanigans we have both engaged in with RAZD elsewhere are different and not overly relevant to anything being discussed here. I think the link between reality and maths as the language of logic is fascinating and very possibly tells us something rather deep about the nature of reality itself.

Agreed, though I also think it's interesting to see what it tells us about ourselves.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 231 by Straggler, posted 12-09-2011 12:40 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 233 by Straggler, posted 12-12-2011 10:59 AM Rahvin has responded

  
Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 237 of 268 (643956)
12-13-2011 12:05 PM
Reply to: Message 233 by Straggler
12-12-2011 10:59 AM


Re: Objective/Subjective
The reason I chose that relationship is that I don’t see how it can possibly be derived from empirical observation. It is a mathematical relationship. So what observations are you suggesting it is based on?

Mathematics is essentially a language of symbols that represent observations in the "real" world. We can observe an apple (an integer) and see how the relationship between integers changes as we add or remove apples; we can observe half or a third of an apple and develop fractions and decimals. We observe exponential and other non-linear relationships int he real world, too.

The language of mathematics takes observations and converts them into abstract concepts with a set of rules governing their relationships with each other based on real-world observation. When we talk about pi, we aren't talking about a theoretical relationship - that symbol was made to represent a real, measured relationship between the circumference and diameter of a circle.

Those symbols, though, can be used in a purely abstract sense, even to describe a fictional set of observations. I can talk about four apples that I don't have, or try to calculate the minimum energy required for the Death Star's superlaser to destroy the planet Alderaan. The relationships still have a basis in the real world, just like the word "apple" refers to something real even when I'm talking about an imaginary apple.

A specific mathematical expression, like yours, or my four imagined apples, can be a map that corresponds to no territory. That's basically why I mentioned previously that even mathematics is tentative. But we didn't invent "4," or "pi." We invented the symbols, but we based them on real observation. We didn;t invent exponential relationships - you observe one every time you drop an object. We just invented the symbols, and took measurements to see the specific relationship in specific cases to the best of our observational ability.

Because the symbols are based on real things, an independent alien observer will likely have developed a basically identical mathematical language that just uses different symbols. 1+1=2 would be a universally agreeable expression once you convert the writing systems...whether you're talking about adding real apples or counting imaginary TIE fighters.

What accurate measurements are you suggesting are required in order to derive that particular relationship? Whether Pi has been calculated to 10 decimal places or 10 million decimal places doesn’t make any real difference to the truth of this relationship does it?

That's basically my point. If we can only calculate pi to 10 decimals, we're less accurate than if we can calculate it to 100, or 1000. In the case of pi, we know we can never be perfectly precise because we can't ever calculate an infinite number of decimal places. We know that our map can never exactly match the territory, just that we can attain sufficient accuracy for any and all practical needs. When we talk about pi, we're talking about our understanding of the relationship between the diameter and circumference of a circle to the best of our observational ability, and in this case it's been tested very well such that we have great confidence that pi is not, in fact, "5" or "12.7." An alien intelligence would also be aware of the relationship, and would not likely believe pi to be "5," though they may have calculated pi to a different number of decimal places than we have and therefore be slightly more or less accurate in their understanding.


“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.”
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 233 by Straggler, posted 12-12-2011 10:59 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 238 by Straggler, posted 12-13-2011 1:09 PM Rahvin has not yet responded
 Message 239 by NoNukes, posted 12-13-2011 2:47 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
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