The Crisis in Physics—and Its Cause


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EDIT: My hunch is that we humans do not properly understand the time/causality thing very well.

Bob

Hume inclined to this position.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Makes me wonder about the philosphical implications of the scientific discovery that simultaneity doesn't exist. I suspect that Philosophers would reject the notion that information should ever flow this way (Science --> Philosophy) and that this 'discovery' is just a philosophical error.

Bob

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EDIT: My hunch is that we humans do not properly understand the time/causality thing very well.

Bob

Hume inclined to this position.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Makes me wonder about the philosphical implications of the scientific discovery that simultaneity doesn't exist. I suspect that Philosophers would reject the notion that information should ever flow this way (Science --> Philosophy) and that this 'discovery' is just a philosophical error.

Bob

Simultaneity does exist, but it is not absolute. It is dependent on the Frame of Reference. Two events can be sumultaneous in on frame of of reference but not in another.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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EDIT: My hunch is that we humans do not properly understand the time/causality thing very well.

Bob

Hume inclined to this position.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Makes me wonder about the philosphical implications of the scientific discovery that simultaneity doesn't exist. I suspect that Philosophers would reject the notion that information should ever flow this way (Science --> Philosophy) and that this 'discovery' is just a philosophical error.

Bob

Simultaneity does exist, but it is not absolute. It is dependent on the Frame of Reference. Two events can be sumultaneous in on frame of of reference but not in another.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Well, fair enough, I should have written "absolute simultaneity", meaning the common, intuitive concept that is not correct. Absolute simultaneity does not exist.

Did both events happen at 4 O'Clock? The answer is always "it depends".

IMHO, this alone should be enough to rattle our intuitive concept of causation, but unfortunately precious few have enough education to understand that this idea isn't just some fairy-tale make-believe.

Bob

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"Materialists" -- a label that you toss around with reckless abandon -- don't claim that the existence matter and energy (broadly conceived) require a causal explanation to begin with.

So for "materialists" -- broadly conceived -- matter and energy (also broadly conceived) simply "always were, and always will be."

Sounds as if they've found a First Cause (i.e., matter and energy, broadly conceived). Logically, there is no difference between this and the standard theistic First Cause: "God always was and always will be."

And "logically," by your twisted standards, we could also posit an eternally existing goldfish as a first cause.

Btw, a "causal primary" is not the same thing as a "first cause," as you are using the term.

Your materialist simply swapped "matter and energy" for "God."

In a manner of speaking, yes. By identifying the presuppositions of causation, materialists offered a reasonable theory instead of magic.

I believe it was the rhetorician Kenneth Burke who referred to this sort of use of terms as "God terms."

And I believe it was the atheist David Brooks who said: "To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy."

You, in contrast, begin with the premise that intelligent life, and life generally, do require a causal explanation -- and here "materialists" agree with you. But you then go on to posit a form of intelligent life as an ultimate causal explanation of intelligent life,

I said nothing about intelligent LIFE as a First Cause. I spoke only about an intelligent cause. You erroneously connect the concepts "intelligence" and "life" because, in your experience, they are always found together.

Yup, I'm an empiricist all right. You got me there. You, in contrast, base your conclusions on things that no one has ever experienced, things like an abiotic intelligence for which we have absolutely no empirical evidence. This procedure makes you a stellar theologian.

Ghs

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Sounds as if they've found a First Cause (i.e., matter and energy, broadly conceived). Logically, there is no difference between this and the standard theistic First Cause: "God always was and always will be."

Not so. Matter/Energy is describable by well formed mathematical principles. God is not. Our hypotheses about matter/energy lead to testable quantitative prediction. Nothing said about god yields such results.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Not so. Matter/Energy is describable by well formed mathematical principles.

I was unaware that mathematical description was the touchstone of a metaphysical First Cause. Since when?

Our hypotheses about matter/energy lead to testable quantitative prediction. Nothing said about god yields such results.

So? Practically nothing said about any intelligent being -- especially human beings -- leads to quantitative results. That doesn't make the actions of an intelligent being inherently unknowable or unintelligible. I believe all of Austrian economics is even founded on that idea; the axiom Mises calls "human action."

Don't turn into an old-fashioned Vienna Circle logical positivist on us. That we can't stick a number on some phenomenon or process does not imply that we have no knowledge about it, or that we can't infer things about it, even if we cannot make quantitative predictions or retrodictions. We can't do that with history, yet we validly claim to "have knowledge of history"; we can't do that with ethics, yet we validly claim to "have knowledge of morality"; etc.

Good grief, I'm amazed that at this late date you still need lessons on the difference between the so-called "humanities" and the so-called "quantitative sciences." The sort of thinking and analyses one needs to do when investigating something like "metaphysical first causes" belongs to the former, not the latter. It's a problem for philosophy, not physics.

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To AA.

There is plenty of evidence for the existence of matter and energy. There not an iota, a crumb, a bit, a smidgin of evidence for the existence of a Creator God. There is just nothing to support that supposition.

The Order and Design we see in Nature is what we project. Nature makes the dots. We humans draw the lines connecting them.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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For the critic is free to point out holes, inconsistencies and contradictions in a philosophical or ideological thought system, without, on his part, having the burden of defending a system as a whole, a burden which the advocate of a philosophy does have.

Often true, but not always. The advocate might agree with the critic yet still adhere to his doctrine, admitting that the doctrine is incomplete.

I was thinking of those advoates of a philosphy who defend it as a whole, not of those who pick parts which suit them, and integrate them into their personal philosophy.

I myself am an advocate of such 'patchwork philosophy' because proceeding like this will prevent you from getting trapped in the contradictions of one system, and will also allow for change. Since permanent change and transformatian is inherent in existence itself, clinging to any kid of closed thought system violates this fundamental principle of transformation.

As for real, die-hard avocates of a philosophy - these are actually believers who won't (and can't) admit that the system they adhere to might have any flaws. When a critic discusses with these people (if they allow discussion at all, that is), they can quickly turn into a zealous, often fanatic defensor fidei. Leonard Peikoff is a typical exemplar of this type.

The advocate might agree with the critic yet still adhere to his doctrine, admitting that the doctrine is incomplete.

I had the premises of a philosophy in mind, i. e. the foundation on which it is based.

Not whether the philosophy is incomplete in that it could be improved here and there, but whether the premises of the philosophy stand up to scrutiny. For if they don't and the adherent realizes this, it can't be shrugged off easily.

Suppose you are in discussion with an (open-minded) Marxist during which you succesfully expose Marxism's premises as false, and the Marxist has to agree - can he still conceive of himself as a Marxist? Once the door of doubt is opened, chances are he will walk through it.

If the premises of philosophy/belief turn out to be false, what are the consequences?

I also disagree with your notion that a closed-system necessarily declines. Islam is a perfect example of a closed-system that has not only been widely held since the 7th century, but which is now enjoying a resurgence in just those interpretations of it that are the most closed and least open to new knowledge about the world.

But those closed systems have only survived by means of coercion. None of these systems would have survived qua closed-thought system alone, for without coercion, the systems would have been subject to change. And even with coercion exerted, people have left and are leaving.

Your statement is a kind of philosophical Optimism: given enough time, closed-systems inevitably disappear through a kind of self-strangulation leaving the way open for better and better systems of thought. Untrue.

You assessment in the first part is correct:

"Your statement is a kind of philosophical Optimism: given enough time, closed-systems inevitably disappear".(AA)

I am indeed a philosophical optimist because despite all the atrocities in the history of mankind, one can also observe a forever growing tendency toward more empathy. This empathy is reflected in the Declaration of Human Rights, in animals' rights and in much more.

As for currently resurgent organized religions, they remind me of candle flames flickering shortly before being extinct. One has to think in a larger time frame though.

closed-systems inevitably disappear through a kind of self-strangulation leaving the way open for better and better systems of thought. Untrue.

I don't think self-strangulation is the apt word, since they will dissolve via the inevitable contact with more open systems.

Objectivism and induction are good examples. No one -- certainly not Rand -- ever stated that the problem of induction had been solved; merely that Objectivism "pointed the way" and would "solve it sometime in the future." Yet that certainly never dissuaded anyone from being doctrinaire about Objectivism.

Imo Rand thought of Objectivism as unquestionable. While she did point out human fallibility on several occasions, imo she did not really include Objectivism's premises as potentially falsifiable. Which is why she did not apply her own advice "Check your premises" to her premises.

As practiced by its followers, Objectivism is a species of materialism. By the truism "Existence exists", many, if not most, Objectivists intend to mean "Only material things exist", or if they don't mean that, then they certain intend to mean "Material things, by necessity, existed first; then, somehow, non-material things such as Mind emerged out of the pre-existing material things." It's a logical impossibility, of course, as well as having zero empirical evidence to support it.

But what we call "mind" IS tied to some material substrate. Imo claiming that there exists mind without a material substrate is as fallacious as claiming that values can exist "out there" without a valuer.

One could call Marxism a typical 'secular salvation religion'.

Do you believe in any religion (secular or not)?

I believe that one should have a Good Time, All The Time.

You did not really answer my question.

Edited by Xray
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It's a problem for philosophy, not physics.

I tend to agree with Ernest Rutherford - I forget the exact quote but it was something like:

"There is only Physics. Everything else is just Stamp Collecting."

Bob

That's right up there with another fair-minded quote by H. L. Mencken:

"There are only two kinds of music: German music and bad music."

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But what we call "mind" IS tied to some material substrate.

"Tied"? I doubt it. They complement each other and are always found together, but "mind" is not an emergent property of matter.

Imo claiming that there exists mind without a material substrate is as fallacious as claiming that values can exist "out there" without a valuer.

And as absurd as speaking of "one who values" without also positing the existence of "values"; or of a "lover" without a "beloved."

It's also fallacious to claim that "material substrates" exist apart from "perceiving and cognizing minds."

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The Order and Design we see in Nature is what we project. Nature makes the dots. We humans draw the lines connecting them.

That's certainly the materialist's credo, I grant you that.

Anyway, Kant would be very happy to hear you say this.

Kant's joy was based on something bogus - the synthetic a priori.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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But what we call "mind" IS tied to some material substrate.

"Tied"? I doubt it. They complement each other and are always found together, but "mind" is not an emergent property of matter.

Imo claiming that there exists mind without a material substrate is as fallacious as claiming that values can exist "out there" without a valuer.

And as absurd as speaking of "one who values" without also positing the existence of "values"; or of a "lover" without a "beloved."

It's also fallacious to claim that "material substrates" exist apart from "perceiving and cognizing minds."

The mind is the physical effect of physical causes. All that exists is matter/energy in space/time.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Is there any reason there has to be a First Cause?

Why can't there just be an "always was/is/will be"?

Until human beings develop better sensing, mental processing and other awareness mechanisms, all this stuff was, is and will be nothing but speculation.

Besides, the idea of a First Cause separates it from the rest of reality as a distinct form of existence--a different reality, so to speak.

And it's so easy to ask where the First Cause came from that it's almost painful to ask.

Michael

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Is there any reason there has to be a First Cause?

Why can't there just be an "always was/is/will be"?

Until human beings develop better sensing, mental processing and other awareness mechanisms, all this stuff was, is and will be nothing but speculation.

Besides, the idea of a First Cause separates it from the rest of reality as a distinct form of existence--a different reality, so to speak.

And it's so easy to ask where the First Cause came from that it's almost painful to ask.

Michael

If we find it intolerable that Something should come of Nothing then we must conclude there exists some eternal entity or an eternal regress of entities. These eternal things do not have to be gods or any supernatural beings. It could be that nature in some form or another is eternal.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bob,

I have great difficulty making statements of fact about that "some form or another" you mentioned, that is, if I want to "fact" mean something coherent.

So I prefer to look at all this with a child's eyes.

"I don't know right now," suits me just fine when I don't know. I like to speculate just as much as anyone, but I try to call my speculation "speculation," not fact.

I notice that many other people do not share my reservation. And this includes all sides of the aisle.

In other words, I can't help but see a lot of emperors and a lot of naked butts.

:)

Michael

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Bob,

I have great difficulty making statements of fact about that "some form or another" you mentioned, that is, if I want to "fact" mean something coherent.

So I prefer to look at all this with a child's eyes.

"I don't know right now," suits me just fine when I don't know. I like to speculate just as much as anyone, but I try to call my speculation "speculation," not fact.

I notice that many other people do not share my reservation. And this includes all sides of the aisle.

In other words, I can't help but see a lot of emperors and a lot of naked butts.

:)

Michael

Since the Cosmos is always changing at every instant it exists in some form or another. How else does one deal with change?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bob,

That does not compute.

That does not compute.

:)

I was talking about First Cause (whatever that means), not changes within the already existing cosmos.

Michael

Could it be that the already existing cosmos is the always existing cosmos?

Could it be that it is Turtles All The Way Down?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bob,

That does not compute.

That does not compute.

:)

I was talking about First Cause (whatever that means), not changes within the already existing cosmos.

Michael

Could it be that the already existing cosmos is the always existing cosmos?

Could it be that it is Turtles All The Way Down?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Not if something can come from nothing.

Bob

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Not if something can come from nothing.

Bob

Yup. That is the logical alternative. Either something came from nothing, which is to say everything ultimately came from nothing, or something is eternal.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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(quoting Xray): But what we call "mind" IS tied to some material substrate.

"Tied"? I doubt it. They complement each other and are always found together, but "mind" is not an emergent property of matter.

It looks like I wasn't clear enough in phrasing it, so I'll try again:

By "tied", I meant that what we call "mind" cannot exist without matter. For example, every thought we produce can only be produced because there is a material substance (the brain) making mental processes possible.

Therefore conceiving of a "mind" existing independently of a material substance is mere speculation having no basis in fact.

It is of course possible that a speculation about something while not being able to prove it may still turn out to be true.

I'm merely insisting on the point that it is necessary to mark one's speculations as being mere speculations, and not as statements of fact.

For example, Rand's assertion that "no supernatural dimension exists", is a mere belief presented as if it were a fact.

The same goes for believers in transcendence who claim the existence of a prime mover.

But since neither theists nor atheists can know, imo the only position not in conflict with science is religious agnosticism.

(quoting Xray): Imo claiming that there exists mind without a material substrate is as fallacious as claiming that values can exist "out there" without a valuer.

It's also fallacious to claim that "material substrates" exist apart from "perceiving and cognizing minds."

So you don't believe that e. g. the moon existed before "perceiving and cognizing minds" could look at it?

You, in contrast, begin with the premise that intelligent life, and life generally, do require a causal explanation -- and here "materialists" agree with you. But you then go on to posit a form of intelligent life as an ultimate causal explanation of intelligent life,

I said nothing about intelligent LIFE as a First Cause. I spoke only about an intelligent cause. You erroneously connect the concepts "intelligence" and "life" because, in your experience, they are always found together. I have no doubt that the First Cause was intelligent, since it's the only assumption consistent with certain facts -- physical as well as non-physical -- that we all see and experience today; I doubt very much it was "alive" in any meaningful sense of that term. At this point, Objectivists tiresomely trot out the old "stolen concept" canard, as if that's a valid criticism. It isn't.

AA,

You correctly rejected the "stolen concept" argument since you in fact did not say anything about "intelligent LIFE" as a First Cause.

You are an excellent debater. Kudos for your whole # 47 post!

Edited by Xray
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I'm merely insisting on the point that it is necessary to mark one's speculations as being mere speculations, and not as statements of fact.

For example, Rand's assertion that "no supernatural dimension exists", is a mere belief presented as if it were a fact.

The same goes for believers in transcendence who claim the existence of a prime mover.

But since neither theists nor atheists can know, imo the only position not in conflict with science is religious agnosticism.

Is the assertion "Santa Claus does not exist" also "a mere belief presented as if it were a fact?" Are you also a Santa agnostic? If not, if you positively deny the existence of Santa, then how did you come by this knowledge? How can be certain of your claim?

Ghs

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Not if something can come from nothing.

Bob

Yup. That is the logical alternative. Either something came from nothing, which is to say everything ultimately came from nothing, or something is eternal.

I don't understand this reasoning.

What is the basis, other than pure speculation and nothing more, for claiming a metaphysical dichotomy as if these were the only alternatives?

Is there any reason, other than a wish for tidiness, that it has to be all one or all the other?

For example, why not both?

Michael

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