Get your fill of sci-fi, science, and mockery of stupid people
* FAQ    * Search   * Login 
Want to support this site? Click

Quote of the Week: "In the United States, the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own." - Alexis de Tocqueville, French writer (1805-1859)


All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 19 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilarity PostPosted: 2012-09-25 02:38pm
Offline
Sith Devotee
User avatar

Joined: 2008-11-10 09:59pm
Posts: 3202
Location: the beginning and end of the Present
Okay, just for fun time. I'm a daily reader of io9, but seeing this earlier this morning in Google Reader made me laugh so hard I forgot to facepalm. I'll put spoiler text over my own responses so that you can all have the fun of figuring out what's wrong with these "unanswered questions" for yourselves. I know most of us probably already know this stuff, but really. This is for the sheer fun of it.

io9 wrote:
8 Great Philosophical Questions That We’ll Never Solve
George Dvorsky

Philosophy goes where hard science can't, or won't. Philosophers have a license to speculate about everything from metaphysics to morality, and this means they can shed light on some of the basic questions of existence. The bad news? These are questions that may always lay just beyond the limits of our comprehension.

Here are eight mysteries of philosophy that we'll probably never resolve.

[Reveal] Spoiler: for the record, I don't know if Dvorsky really is a philosophy student or not
Hello? Ever heard of the PHILOSOPHY of science, George? For that matter, have you ever heard of epistemology? The branch of philosophy that asks how we answer questions in the first place? Of course not, if you had you would have known better. All fields of science come from the same set of philosophical assumptions, and from these assumptions we can either determine the answer to a question, or do something you have obviously disregarded-- call a stupid question STUPID! But I bet you are one of those idiots that doesn't realize there is in fact a such thing as a stupid question, aren't you?

Science is many things; what it is not is an antonym for "philosophy", despite what some idiots may say.


Quote:
1. Why is there something rather than nothing?
Our presence in the universe is something too bizarre for words. The mundaneness of our daily lives cause us take our existence for granted — but every once in awhile we're cajoled out of that complacency and enter into a profound state of existential awareness, and we ask: Why is there all this stuff in the universe, and why is it governed by such exquisitely precise laws? And why should anything exist at all? We inhabit a universe with such things as spiral galaxies, the aurora borealis, and SpongeBob Squarepants. And as Sean Carroll notes, "Nothing about modern physics explains why we have these laws rather than some totally different laws, although physicists sometimes talk that way — a mistake they might be able to avoid if they took philosophers more seriously." And as for the philosophers, the best that they can come up with is the anthropic principle — the notion that our particular universe appears the way it does by virtue of our presence as observers within it — a suggestion that has an uncomfortably tautological ring to it.

[Reveal] Spoiler: why is io9 named io9? Just throwing that one out there
See what I mean by "stupid question? Really, this isn't even something they ask in philosophy classes. Its something a four year old would ask. The answer is, because you wouldn't be asking the question otherwise. Duh. As for the anthropic principle, its actual use is to answer why our universe can support life as opposed to not supporting life, and the answer isn't mutually exclusive with the existence of other such universes where we don't exist either. You would know this if you had even bothered to read wikipedia, George. For that matter, why is it wrong for the answer to sound tautological? Tautologies aren't false per say, just rather meaningless. In this case, the question seems to be begging for a tautological answer, because it seems like there can be no wrong answer.


Quote:
2. Is our universe real?
This the classic Cartesian question. It essentially asks, how do we know that what we see around us is the real deal, and not some grand illusion perpetuated by an unseen force (who René Descartes referred to as the hypothesized ‘evil demon')? More recently, the question has been reframed as the "brain in a vat" problem, or the Simulation Argument. And it could very well be that we're the products of an elaborate simulation. A deeper question to ask, therefore, is whether the civilization running the simulation is also in a simulation — a kind of supercomputer regression (or simulationception). Moreover, we may not be who we think we are. Assuming that the people running the simulation are also taking part in it, our true identities may be temporarily suppressed, to heighten the realness of the experience. This philosophical conundrum also forces us to re-evaluate what we mean by "real." Modal realists argue that if the universe around us seems rational (as opposed to it being dreamy, incoherent, or lawless), then we have no choice but to declare it as being real and genuine. Or maybe, as Cipher said after eating a piece of "simulated" steak in The Matrix, "Ignorance is bliss."

[Reveal] Spoiler: is anyone really surprised he referenced The Matrix in this? I really fucking hate that movie
Answer me this question, George. What is reality? It is at this point where it becomes painfully obvious that you have never heard of the Philosophy of Science, because if you had you would know you are asking the wrong question. Science answers the question of knowledge with a methodology of pragmatic empiricism. In essence, to this question the best answer would be "really? You're referencing the fucking Matrix? Humanity invented the computer, and now everyone thinks they are being clever by asking whether computers, WHICH SCIENCE MADE POSSIBLE, might invalidate our concept of reality? Fuck you."

More seriously, I'll answer my own question by throwing out one of my favorite quotes of all time: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.” Philip K. Dick, American author (1928-1982). If that sounds tautological to you, too damn bad. That's what you get for leaving your terms undefined in matters of philosophy


Quote:
3. Do we have free will?
Also called the dilemma of determinism, we do not know if our actions are controlled by a causal chain of preceding events (or by some other external influence), or if we're truly free agents making decisions of our own volition. Philosophers (and now some scientists) have been debating this for millennia, and with no apparent end in sight. If our decision making is influenced by an endless chain of causality, then determinism is true and we don't have free will. But if the opposite is true, what's called indeterminism, then our actions must be random — what some argue is still not free will. Conversely, libertarians (no, not political libertarians, those are other people), make the case for compatibilism — the idea that free will is logically compatible with deterministic views of the universe. Compounding the problem are advances in neuroscience showing that our brains make decisions before we're even conscious of them. But if we don't have free will, then why did we evolve consciousness instead of zombie-minds? Quantum mechanics makes this problem even more complicated by suggesting that we live in a universe of probability, and that determinism of any sort is impossible. And as Linas Vepstas has said, "Consciousness seems to be intimately and inescapably tied to the perception of the passage of time, and indeed, the idea that the past is fixed and perfectly deterministic, and that the future is unknowable. This fits well, because if the future were predetermined, then there'd be no free will, and no point in the participation of the passage of time."

[Reveal] Spoiler: oh, so you *have* heard of wikipedia. Good for you, George
But really, what makes this question impossible for science to answer in principle? Read over that again. Everything you just wrote here validates that science has a place in philosophical debate. This is why its such a shame you have never heard of epsitemology or the philosophy of science, because then maybe you would know why this question has been under debate for so many ages-- people actually do think it can be answered.

And actually, there is one reason it may not be answerable-- again, the terms are undefined, or rather so vaguely defined and definitions disputed between thinkers that it may not be humanly possible to actually come to a consensus on what would count as a valid answer to the question. This would never happen if the western philosophical tradition shared at least some of the more communal values of our scientific institutions. Like not letting everyone and their dog use their own personal definitions to commonly used terms for starters.


Quote:
4. Does God exist?
Simply put, we cannot know if God exists or not. Both the atheists and believers are wrong in their proclamations, and the agnostics are right. True agnostics are simply being Cartesian about it, recognizing the epistemological issues involved and the limitations of human inquiry. We do not know enough about the inner workings of the universe to make any sort of grand claim about the nature of reality and whether or not a Prime Mover exists somewhere in the background. Many people defer to naturalism — the suggestion that the universe runs according to autonomous processes — but that doesn't preclude the existence of a grand designer who set the whole thing in motion (what's called deism). And as mentioned earlier, we may live in a simulation where the hacker gods control all the variables. Or perhaps the gnostics are right and powerful beings exist in some deeper reality that we're unaware of. These aren't necessarily the omniscient, omnipotent gods of the Abrahamic traditions — but they're (hypothetically) powerful beings nonetheless. Again, these aren't scientific questions per se — they're more Platonic thought experiments that force us to confront the limits of human experience and inquiry.

[Reveal] Spoiler: Fuck your smug right in the ego, asshole
Seriously, I call troll. You don't get to proclaim victory just because not everyone worships Rene fucking Descarte, asshole. He's not the only philosopher to ever live. Scientists have a very simple answer to this question. Its called "show me the evidence, or fuck off." Again, learn some goddamn epistemology. Your ignorance of the subject suddenly stopped being cute and started pissing me off. In fact, to an atheist, self identifying as an agnostic is like saying that you are an air-breather. Way to confirm the obvious. But guess what? It doesn't invalidate the existence of vacuum in space. Many atheists will also say they technically count as agnostics, because we don't reject the possibility that our views on the subject could change in the future, and most of us can even tell you under what circumstances we would do so (namely, the presence of evidence). Seriously, George, this not only confirms you know nothing of epistemological subjects beyond Descart, you haven't even bothered to learn about what your opposition is claiming about themselves.

Oh and speaking as someone who likes to take the third rout: please define the traits an entity would require for you to call it a god. My personal view is that this is yet another case of too many conflicting definitions making a definite answer impossible (that is, I am an ignostic. Look it up on wikipedia). But without a concrete definition, I use Occam's Razor and say "the most parsimonious conclusion is that God does not exist, because statements or claims that require God are all either redundant or incoherent."


Quote:
5. Is there life after death?
Before everyone gets excited, this is not a suggestion that we'll all end up strumming harps on some fluffy white cloud, or find ourselves shoveling coal in the depths of Hell for eternity. Because we cannot ask the dead if there's anything on the other side, we're left guessing as to what happens next. Materialists assume that there's no life after death, but it's just that — an assumption that cannot necessarily be proven. Looking closer at the machinations of the universe (or multiverse), whether it be through a classical Newtonian/Einsteinian lens, or through the spooky filter of quantum mechanics, there's no reason to believe that we only have one shot at this thing called life. It's a question of metaphysics and the possibility that the cosmos (what Carl Sagan described as "all that is or ever was or ever will be") cycles and percolates in such a way that lives are infinitely recycled. Hans Moravec put it best when, speaking in relation to the quantum Many Worlds Interpretation, said that non-observance of the universe is impossible; we must always find ourselves alive and observing the universe in some form or another. This is highly speculative stuff, but like the God problem, is one that science cannot yet tackle, leaving it to the philosophers.

[Reveal] Spoiler: Yeah, I call him George. For some reason, he reminds me of a more coherent version of a certain U.S. president
Really just see above. Guy has no idea what he is talking about. I do, however, like how he keeps using scientific concepts like the "many world's theory" when its convenient to him, much like how he does with computers and The Matrix or everything he talks about in the "Question of Free Will". Of course, its kinda pedantic to use the many world's theory to claim life after death, since after all, your life in those universes is not something you will get to experience, and there should be an infinite number of them anyway.


Quote:
6. Can you really experience anything objectively?
There's a difference between understanding the world objectively (or at least trying to, anyway) and experiencing it through an exclusively objective framework. This is essentially the problem of qualia — the notion that our surroundings can only be observed through the filter of our senses and the cogitations of our minds. Everything you know, everything you've touched, seen, and smelled, has been filtered through any number of physiological and cognitive processes. Subsequently, your subjective experience of the world is unique. In the classic example, the subjective appreciation of the color red may vary from person to person. The only way you could possible know is if you were to somehow observe the universe from the "conscious lens" of another person in a sort of Being John Malkovich kind of way — not anything we're likely going to be able to accomplish at any stage of our scientific or technological development. Another way of saying all this is that the universe can only be observed through a brain (or potentially a machine mind), and by virtue of that, can only be interpreted subjectively. But given that the universe appears to be coherent and (somewhat) knowable, should we continue to assume that its true objective quality can never be observed or known? It's worth noting that much of Buddhist philosophy is predicated on this fundamental limitation (what they call emptiness), and a complete antithesis to Plato's idealism.

[Reveal] Spoiler: I bet this guy would shit a brick if you asked him to define objectivity
Okay, smart ass. If the question of Qualia is so important to epistemology, how come we can know about things we cannot observe directly? Say, for instance, the ultraviolet end of the electromagnetic spectrum? Or Infrared? Why does it matter how other human beings might experience the color pink when the color pink is actually a byproduct of the human nervous system, and not an actual wavelength? Could it be that you've taken the train to crazy land by asking a question that's already answered? Could it be that without a definition of reality to guide your questions, you get pig slop like this that isn't actually useful to anyone?

Basically, what I am saying is that the idea of qualia should be thrown in the wastebasket of philosophical history with Plato's Ideal Forms (which they are largely a repackaging of anyway) because modern science, which you refuse to learn anything about except when its convenient to you, has disproven the hypothesis.


Quote:
7. What is the best moral system?
Essentially, we'll never truly be able to distinguish between "right" and "wrong" actions. At any given time in history, however, philosophers, theologians, and politicians will claim to have discovered the best way to evaluate human actions and establish the most righteous code of conduct. But it's never that easy. Life is far too messy and complicated for there to be anything like a universal morality or an absolutist ethics. The Golden Rule is great (the idea that you should treat others as you would like them to treat you), but it disregards moral autonomy and leaves no room for the imposition of justice (such as jailing criminals), and can even be used to justify oppression (Immanuel Kant was among it's most staunchest critics). Moreover, it's a highly simplified rule of thumb that doesn't provision for more complex scenarios. For example, should the few be spared to save the many? Who has more moral worth: a human baby or a full-grown great ape? And as neuroscientists have shown, morality is not only a culturally-ingrained thing, it's also a part of our psychologies (the Trolly Problem is the best demonstration of this). At best, we can only say that morality is normative, while acknowledging that our sense of right and wrong will change over time.

[Reveal] Spoiler: Smug-o-meter just exploded. Will keep writing once the bleeding stops
Ah, yes, more bullshit that only accounts for the philosophers he likes, and not the ones calling for his censure. Come to think, isn't the right to Freedom of Speech what makes it possible for him to spout his non-sense...? Oh yes, turns out that you need to make a few assumptions about philosophy and morality before questions like "what is the best moral system" can be answerd. Thanks Captain Obvious for being smarter than this pseudo-intellectual douche.


Quote:
8. What are numbers?
We use numbers every day, but taking a step back, what are they, really — and why do they do such a damn good job of helping us explain the universe (such as Newtonian laws)? Mathematical structures can consist of numbers, sets, groups, and points — but are they real objects, or do they simply describe relationships that necessarily exist in all structures? Plato argued that numbers were real (it doesn't matter that you can't "see" them), but formalists insisted that they were merely formal systems (well-defined constructions of abstract thought based on math). This is essentially an ontological problem, where we're left baffled about the true nature of the universe and which aspects of it are human constructs and which are truly tangible.
[/quote][/quote]
[Reveal] Spoiler: I ran out of ideas for spoiler headers. This is the best I have
You know, I was hoping you would at least touch upon maybe Kurt Godel and his incompleteness theroems. Maybe do some research before rattling off your opinions. This may be the closest you have come to a truly unanswerable philosophical question. Its such a shame it feels like an accident on your part rather than a sign of intelligence or education.


Okay.... go!



Image
"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"

The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-25 04:27pm
Offline
Jedi Knight

Joined: 2010-02-03 06:28pm
Posts: 877
Location: New York
The question "why is there something rather than nothing" is not a retarded question that only 4 year-olds ask. Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking pondered that question - it's a pretty compelling question. And whose to say it's ultimately unanswerable? It may be that the existence of the Universe is a logically necessary condition for some reason.

But yeah, the article does come off as kind of silly with the suggestion that philosophers speculating about big metaphysical questions is going to ever bring more to the table than science. Some of these questions may be answerable, and the answers are going to come through science. Also, the question "is there life after death" has already been answered with a high degree of confidence.

As an aside, I once heard a somewhat interesting argument that the Universe is actually a simulation, based on Moore's Law. The argument went something like: given the fact that our Universe has experienced an exponential increase in computing power, ultimately we'll have enough computing power to simulate other Universes. The fact that we'll end up simulating many Universes indicates that for any observer who exists in a Universe, it's more likely they exist in a simulated Universe than a naturally-occuring one. This should then apply to us as well.

Of course, pragmatically speaking, our Universe is "real" whether it's naturally occuring or simulated.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-25 09:09pm
Offline
Padawan Learner
User avatar

Joined: 2009-06-08 08:23pm
Posts: 211
You know philosophers do ask why there's something rather than nothing, right? It's not just physicists. Heck, humans have been doing it since time immemorial -- in a little thing some people like to call religion.

Does this guy have to trot out every single major philosopher since Aristotle or something? He may be a noob, but be reasonable.

Channel72 wrote:
Of course, pragmatically speaking, our Universe is "real" whether it's naturally occuring or simulated.


I'm not sure the term real is even meaningful in this context. Maybe we should use the term original? And yeah, that Moore's law argument is really cool.


Seems to me like Formless' post could be written with an intro to philsophy class as background too. lol hypocrisy?



Are you accusing me of not having a viable magnetic field? - Masaq' Hub, Look to Windward

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-25 09:48pm
Offline
Jedi Knight

Joined: 2012-06-07 04:24pm
Posts: 761
Quote:
given the fact that our Universe has experienced an exponential increase in computing power, ultimately we'll have enough computing power to simulate other Universes. The fact that we'll end up simulating many Universes indicates that for any observer who exists in a Universe, it's more likely they exist in a simulated Universe than a naturally-occuring one. This should then apply to us as well.


We have to assume that computing power would ever reach that level for this to be true. But I can't think of a theoretical reason that it can't. Which means I'll have to scoop my gray matter off the floor, because the brain explodes when you think of such things.



Ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμϐαίνουσιν, ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ. Δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης.

The seller was a Filipino called Dr. Wilson Lim, a self-declared friend of the M.I.L.F. -Grumman

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-25 11:01pm
Offline
Sith Devotee
User avatar

Joined: 2008-11-10 09:59pm
Posts: 3202
Location: the beginning and end of the Present
Memnon wrote:
You know philosophers do ask why there's something rather than nothing, right? It's not just physicists. Heck, humans have been doing it since time immemorial -- in a little thing some people like to call religion.

And? So? What's wrong with the anthropic principle as an answer? There is a reason its the go to answer among cosmologists. That it is a tautology doesn't necessarily make it bad-- in logic, a tautology is something that is by definition "true", no matter what the truth value of its premises. They are usually taken as a sign that an argument is flawed because tautologies are meaningless, not false. In this case, however, I would argue that the problem isn't the answer is a tautology, its that the question can only generate tautologies for answers. If you prefer, that makes the question meaningless. If you can show me a way of answering this question that isn't a tautology, please tell me and I might retract that it is a stupid/meaningless question. It would make for a lot more interesting conversation than whining about how I'm a hypocrite and stuff. FYI, yes, I have taken philosophy classes and logic classes. That's why I now find this kind of person so amusing-- I've met people who fit the stereotypes to a T.

Quote:
Does this guy have to trot out every single major philosopher since Aristotle or something? He may be a noob, but be reasonable.

No. But when he fails to, say, acknowledge how any major ethical theory attempts to answer his question of ethics yet acts as if he is absolutely right about it being irresolvable, then he's simply failed to understand some very major tenets of philosophy itself. Add onto that multiple references to adhering to "Cartesian" philosophy, as if its the be all and end all. I find that as amusing as it is annoying.



Image
"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"

The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-26 12:56pm
Offline
Emperor's Hand
User avatar

Joined: 2002-07-07 03:03am
Posts: 7032
Location: Singapura
I like to point to another scenario where a tautology exists. What is fittest? That which evolved and is passed on.

Its a tautology because its based on definition, but that doesn't make things wrong. It just shows how useless the question is. Of course, if the question is modified and given more context, like would a black spottled moth be fitter during the industrial revolution than the speckled moth, we can now generate useful predictions, tests and answers.


Why is there something other than nothing might also have such answers if the question is better defined and constrained.



Let him land on any Lyran world to taste firsthand the wrath of peace loving people thwarted by the myopic greed of a few miserly old farts- Katrina Steiner

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-26 01:14pm
Offline
Emperor's Hand

Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm
Posts: 19999
Channel72 wrote:
The question "why is there something rather than nothing" is not a retarded question that only 4 year-olds ask. Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking pondered that question - it's a pretty compelling question. And whose to say it's ultimately unanswerable? It may be that the existence of the Universe is a logically necessary condition for some reason.

But yeah, the article does come off as kind of silly with the suggestion that philosophers speculating about big metaphysical questions is going to ever bring more to the table than science. Some of these questions may be answerable, and the answers are going to come through science.
Philosophy moves slowly and has occasionally genuinely useful breakthroughs. For example, the scientific revolution? Empiricism? Rationalism? Positivism? Tolerance of differing viewpoints? All of that is philosophy, or rightly belongs under philosophy's umbrella. Empiricism is a philosophy; it is a system of ideas that tells us how we should go about thinking, how we should approach problems, what things in life we should consider important or unimportant.

The idea that an unfalsifiable claim should be assumed wrong by default? That's philosophy- ask Karl Popper.

The idea that people shouldn't get burned at the stake for making obnoxious claims about someone else's revered deity? Also philosophy, when you get right down to it, because "it's wrong to kill people over their beliefs" is a statement of moral philosophy. Even one that is still sometimes disagreed on- ask the victims of the Stalinist purges about how a theoretically materialist, 'scientific' society can decide it's right to kill people over their beliefs.

The problem we now face is that philosophy seems (to you and me at least) to be spinning its wheels, working in unproductive directions that aren't giving us useful insights about how to live and think and plan and work. I would very much like to see that change, though, because I think most great surges of progress in human society have their roots in philosophy. Changing how we think is the first step toward changing how we act.

Quote:
Also, the question "is there life after death" has already been answered with a high degree of confidence.
Since the answer is "absence of evidence means, by default, that it doesn't exist," which is itself a philosophical observation... in that case, philosophy seems to have settled it, at least for this era.

Quote:
As an aside, I once heard a somewhat interesting argument that the Universe is actually a simulation, based on Moore's Law. The argument went something like: given the fact that our Universe has experienced an exponential increase in computing power, ultimately we'll have enough computing power to simulate other Universes. The fact that we'll end up simulating many Universes indicates that for any observer who exists in a Universe, it's more likely they exist in a simulated Universe than a naturally-occuring one. This should then apply to us as well.
I'm not sure how well this works- can you build a computer that simulates the physics of ALL its own atoms? If not, you can't build a universe-simulating computer unless you have a computer bigger than the universe you aim to simulate.

Formless wrote:
Memnon wrote:
You know philosophers do ask why there's something rather than nothing, right? It's not just physicists. Heck, humans have been doing it since time immemorial -- in a little thing some people like to call religion.
And? So? What's wrong with the anthropic principle as an answer? There is a reason its the go to answer among cosmologists. That it is a tautology doesn't necessarily make it bad-- in logic, a tautology is something that is by definition "true", no matter what the truth value of its premises. They are usually taken as a sign that an argument is flawed because tautologies are meaningless, not false. In this case, however, I would argue that the problem isn't the answer is a tautology, its that the question can only generate tautologies for answers....
This might be a sign that we're missing some pieces of physics, not a sign that the question is stupid.

"Why is this lump of metal inexplicably warm from self-generated heat" may seem stupid to a 19th century physicist who can only answer it by saying "well, it's a self-heating metal, next time ask me a question that doesn't have a tautological answer." It becomes a very interesting question indeed when someone has the tools to really know why that lump of uranium does warm itself...

PainRack wrote:
I like to point to another scenario where a tautology exists. What is fittest? That which evolved and is passed on.

Its a tautology because its based on definition, but that doesn't make things wrong. It just shows how useless the question is. Of course, if the question is modified and given more context, like would a black spottled moth be fitter during the industrial revolution than the speckled moth, we can now generate useful predictions, tests and answers.

Why is there something other than nothing might also have such answers if the question is better defined and constrained.
What do you mean about the question "what is fittest?" being useless?

I mean, posed that way it's too general to have concrete answers. But posed that way it's a good way to get a definition for the word, a definition that any biologist worth his salt will expand on until it is informative. You could easily have the conversation:

"Evolution is survival of the fittest."

"What is fittest?"

"Those organisms which are most likely to survive in a natural environment and pass on their genes to their descendants."

"Ohhhhh." [light bulb comes on]

Of course, this might be followed by:

"Well why didn't you say 'evolution is survival of those organisms which are most likely to survive in a natural environment and pass on their genes to their descendants?'"

"Because that has 41 syllables instead of 12."

Which is a fair reply, if you ask me.



Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:
What is this 'favourite character' you speak of? I have walls lined with bookshelves, having a single favourite character would be like having a favourite brick.
-Story of my literary tastes.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-26 01:40pm
Offline
Sith Devotee
User avatar

Joined: 2008-11-10 09:59pm
Posts: 3202
Location: the beginning and end of the Present
Simon_Jester wrote:
I'm not sure how well this works- can you build a computer that simulates the physics of ALL its own atoms? If not, you can't build a universe-simulating computer unless you have a computer bigger than the universe you aim to simulate.

Stephen Wolfram actually had an interesting insight on this idea in his book A New Kind of Science (which I would not actually recommend in full as the words "tome", "massively redundant" and "ego trip" don't fully capture the essence of reading it). He called it the "principle of computational equivalence" and the idea was that in theory there is a level of complexity or completeness that a model or simulation can reach where it stops being a model or simulation and becomes equivalent to simply creating the circumstances described by the model. Most notably, you know you have reached that level of complexity when it takes exactly as much time to run the simulation as to just let the actual events play out.

This has implications on both the simulation argument and the question of free will-- for the simulation argument, how can a computer ever reach that level of complexity or completeness (i.e. non-graininess) when it must obey the same law of entropy that the things it simulates do? For free will, even if the universe were completely deterministic, no model can reach the level of complexity to completely simulate it without essentially being the universe, and no simulation can perfectly simulate events without becoming essentially a recreation of them, for the same reason.

Quote:
This might be a sign that we're missing some pieces of physics, not a sign that the question is stupid.

"Why is this lump of metal inexplicably warm from self-generated heat" may seem stupid to a 19th century physicist who can only answer it by saying "well, it's a self-heating metal, next time ask me a question that doesn't have a tautological answer." It becomes a very interesting question indeed when someone has the tools to really know why that lump of uranium does warm itself...

Well, yes, but until that information comes in that changes the nature of the questions terms such that they can produce meaningful predictions, I think its still valid to say "a tautological answer is better than no answer at all".



Image
"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"

The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-26 06:00pm
Offline
Emperor's Hand
User avatar

Joined: 2002-11-23 12:02am
Posts: 18399
Location: Iowa
There's a fucking collection of articles in the latest issue of Skeptic magazine about "nothing", and why there cannot actually be nothing rather than something.



Mayabird is my girlfriend
Justice League:BotM:MM:SDnet City Watch:Cybertron's Finest
"Well then, science is bullshit. "
-revprez, with yet another brilliant rebuttal.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-26 06:20pm
Offline
Padawan Learner
User avatar

Joined: 2009-06-08 08:23pm
Posts: 211
I really don't see how the anthropic principle is a great answer to why there's something rather than nothing. Clearly there is something, but what caused there to be something in the first place? If so, is there a why and a how? I guess you could say that it's always been there, but that seems unsatisfactory to me.

Quote:
That's why I now find this kind of person so amusing-- I've met people who fit the stereotypes to a T.


Is this a troll?



Are you accusing me of not having a viable magnetic field? - Masaq' Hub, Look to Windward

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-26 06:25pm
Offline
Jedi Knight

Joined: 2010-02-03 06:28pm
Posts: 877
Location: New York
Simon Jester wrote:
Channel72 wrote:
Also, the question "is there life after death" has already been answered with a high degree of confidence.

Since the answer is "absence of evidence means, by default, that it doesn't exist," which is itself a philosophical observation... in that case, philosophy seems to have settled it, at least for this era.

I was thinking more along the lines that science has settled it by determining that life (meaning personality and self) is an emergent property of electro-chemical activity in the brain, which ceases to function after biological death.

Simon Jester wrote:
I'm not sure how well this works- can you build a computer that simulates the physics of ALL its own atoms? If not, you can't build a universe-simulating computer unless you have a computer bigger than the universe you aim to simulate.

The computer might not have to simulate every particle in the Universe - the exact state of a particle could be calculated lazily when an observer looks at it (which is suspiciously what seems to happen in our "real" Universe anyway with wave function collapse.)

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-26 06:45pm
Offline
Sith Devotee
User avatar

Joined: 2008-11-10 09:59pm
Posts: 3202
Location: the beginning and end of the Present
Memnon wrote:
I really don't see how the anthropic principle is a great answer to why there's something rather than nothing. Clearly there is something, but what caused there to be something in the first place? If so, is there a why and a how? I guess you could say that it's always been there, but that seems unsatisfactory to me.

Find me something south of the south pole. If that makes no sense to you, then maybe you will understand why your question makes no sense to me.

If there is no universe, there is no dimension of time; no dimension of time, no causality. No causality, then why ask what "caused" the universe? The universe must exist for questions of causality to have any workable framework.

Quote:
Quote:
That's why I now find this kind of person so amusing-- I've met people who fit the stereotypes to a T.


Is this a troll?

No, but I'm beginning to suspect this is. I explained my background because you called me a hypocrite and hell, maybe I am. Next conversation please? Then you come back with this. Your response to me explaining how a tautological answer is better than no answer is to meander about the origin of the universe? Something totally unrelated? Frankly, that smells of crypt-religious baiting. If you want to talk religion, just do it. I won't bite, believe it or not, but just be honest about it. I get tired fairly quick when people try to conceal their motives behind flame-bait.



Image
"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"

The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-26 08:02pm
Offline
Padawan Learner
User avatar

Joined: 2010-06-17 02:50pm
Posts: 217
Dr. Trainwreck wrote:
Quote:
given the fact that our Universe has experienced an exponential increase in computing power, ultimately we'll have enough computing power to simulate other Universes. The fact that we'll end up simulating many Universes indicates that for any observer who exists in a Universe, it's more likely they exist in a simulated Universe than a naturally-occuring one. This should then apply to us as well.


We have to assume that computing power would ever reach that level for this to be true. But I can't think of a theoretical reason that it can't. Which means I'll have to scoop my gray matter off the floor, because the brain explodes when you think of such things.

Unfortunately, it is not possible, and this is another example where the author didn't realize that physics has already provided the answer to the mystery he's contemplating. The Bekenstein bound puts an upper limit on the amount of data storage that is possible in a finite volume containing a finite energy. Applied to the particular example of simulating universes, consider the following. Let's say that computer A is "simulating" the virtual computer B. If computer B contain 1GB of memory, than computer A must contain at least 1GB of memory in order to keep track of the state of the memory in computer B*. On the universal scale, it would take all of the quantum states of our universe to simultaneously keep track of all the quantum states in the simulated universe (assuming the universes are of equal complexity). There is also a physics bound on the speed of computation by noting that the maximum rate that a change of state could propagate through all the bits of a computational system is equal to the speed of light across the longest path through it. So, we won't be simulating any universes at all, except those of trivially low complexity.

*One might think that the simulating computer could get away with less memory by compressing the data stored in the virtual computer, but this is not possible for an arbitrary memory configuration. There is always at least one sequence of bits that cannot be further compressed by a loss-less compression algorithm.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-27 05:08am
Offline
Jedi Master
User avatar

Joined: 2005-06-29 11:31am
Posts: 1108
Location: Londinium
Magis wrote:
Dr. Trainwreck wrote:
Quote:
given the fact that our Universe has experienced an exponential increase in computing power, ultimately we'll have enough computing power to simulate other Universes. The fact that we'll end up simulating many Universes indicates that for any observer who exists in a Universe, it's more likely they exist in a simulated Universe than a naturally-occuring one. This should then apply to us as well.


We have to assume that computing power would ever reach that level for this to be true. But I can't think of a theoretical reason that it can't. Which means I'll have to scoop my gray matter off the floor, because the brain explodes when you think of such things.

Unfortunately, it is not possible

A shame - I love the idea of God/The Creator actually being a nerdy computer programmer. 8)



What is WRONG with you people

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-27 06:23am
Offline
Emperor's Hand

Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm
Posts: 19999
Memnon wrote:
I really don't see how the anthropic principle is a great answer to why there's something rather than nothing. Clearly there is something, but what caused there to be something in the first place? If so, is there a why and a how? I guess you could say that it's always been there, but that seems unsatisfactory to me.
If there wasn't a universe, there wouldn't be an "us" to look at the universe and wonder why it's there. For us to wonder "why is the universe there" is like acorns wondering "why is it that whenever we acorns look up, we see an oak tree?"

Which is actually a reasonable question, and probably one that would give the acorn a lot of insight about itself and its purpose in life. Heh.

Channel72 wrote:
I was thinking more along the lines that science has settled it by determining that life (meaning personality and self) is an emergent property of electro-chemical activity in the brain, which ceases to function after biological death.
Unless you take this and add Occam's Razor you haven't proven anything. And Occam's Razor is a philosophical tool.

Quote:
The computer might not have to simulate every particle in the Universe - the exact state of a particle could be calculated lazily when an observer looks at it (which is suspiciously what seems to happen in our "real" Universe anyway with wave function collapse.)
Here, I'm not sure you can even do that; I don't know if you could be 'lazy' enough about computing particle positions to get an accurate universe simulation significantly smaller than the universe it simulates.

If I really thought we lived in a simulation, I'd be trying to figure out how to spot the granularity, the limits on resolution and the things oversimplified to spare processor cycles. I suspect we'd find a simulated planet, with the stars in the skies and so on being simulated at much lower resolution. At the moment, we really couldn't tell if the interior octillion or so tons of plasma that make up the Sun were being modeled at a resolution of "one cell per cubic millimeter of plasma" instead of "one cell per cubic picometer of interatomic void," and yet that would save a LOT of processor power.



Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:
What is this 'favourite character' you speak of? I have walls lined with bookshelves, having a single favourite character would be like having a favourite brick.
-Story of my literary tastes.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-27 08:30pm
Offline
Padawan Learner
User avatar

Joined: 2009-06-08 08:23pm
Posts: 211
Magis wrote:
(assuming the universes are of equal complexity).


That's the thing though. Must we assume the universes are of equal complexity?

Simon_Jester wrote:
If there wasn't a universe, there wouldn't be an "us" to look at the universe and wonder why it's there. For us to wonder "why is the universe there" is like acorns wondering "why is it that whenever we acorns look up, we see an oak tree?"

Which is actually a reasonable question, and probably one that would give the acorn a lot of insight about itself and its purpose in life. Heh.


I think so. Just because we're here doesn't mean there isn't a universe that doesn't have something like us, aye? There's a grandeur to the question, I think.

Formless wrote:
Find me something south of the south pole. If that makes no sense to you, then maybe you will understand why your question makes no sense to me.


Yes, I know the argument. There are, however, actual attempts at explanations. Brane cosmology, the multiverse, evolution of universes, etc are all possible. Those potentially get us to the 'why is our universe the way it is' answer. If our universe is nested inside a multiverse without time, is our universe an emergent property of the multiverse? Does the universe arise from observation, and if so, whose? And so on. In fact, people are trying to test brane cosmology right now.
Formless wrote:
Quote:
Quote:
That's why I now find this kind of person so amusing-- I've met people who fit the stereotypes to a T.


Is this a troll?

No, but I'm beginning to suspect this is. I explained my background because you called me a hypocrite and hell, maybe I am. Next conversation please? Then you come back with this. Your response to me explaining how a tautological answer is better than no answer is to meander about the origin of the universe? Something totally unrelated? Frankly, that smells of crypt-religious baiting. If you want to talk religion, just do it. I won't bite, believe it or not, but just be honest about it. I get tired fairly quick when people try to conceal their motives behind flame-bait.


You realize that you're coming off as someone who, like the author of the paper, acts like he knows everything known to man, right? That you completely fit a common stereotype of philosophy students? I was wondering whether that was on purpose. Guess not.

I really don't see how that was totally unrelated. I was talking about the question that the io9 guy asked, you know, from the OP. Besides, the religion thing was a throwaway line.



Are you accusing me of not having a viable magnetic field? - Masaq' Hub, Look to Windward

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-28 01:44pm
Offline
Sith Devotee
User avatar

Joined: 2008-11-10 09:59pm
Posts: 3202
Location: the beginning and end of the Present
Memnon wrote:
Magis wrote:
(assuming the universes are of equal complexity).

That's the thing though. Must we assume the universes are of equal complexity?

Why must we make any assumptions about a universe whose existence is formulated to be unfalsifiable by the questioner, whether intentionally or not?

Memnon wrote:
Yes, I know the argument. There are, however, actual attempts at explanations. Brane cosmology, the multiverse, evolution of universes, etc are all possible. Those potentially get us to the 'why is our universe the way it is' answer. If our universe is nested inside a multiverse without time, is our universe an emergent property of the multiverse? Does the universe arise from observation, and if so, whose? And so on. In fact, people are trying to test brane cosmology right now.

Okay, sure, those are actually interesting theories to contemplate. Of course, do note that they all rely on a subtle redefining of the word "universe" for the sake of convenience; the word technically refers to all that exists, which means that the "multiverse" speculated in both multiverse cosmology and Brane cosmology would be the universe as classically defined. I realize its pedantry, but its worth noting since in the end someone will ask "where did the multiverse come from?" and we're back to "South of the South Pole." (or North of the North Pole, if you prefer) :-)

Quote:
You realize that you're coming off as someone who, like the author of the paper, acts like he knows everything known to man, right? That you completely fit a common stereotype of philosophy students? I was wondering whether that was on purpose. Guess not.

How so? I'm merely showing answers to exist where the author of the article implied there were none, and in fact granted the writer that there may in fact be no answer to the question of numbers and that it may exhibit incompleteness. I don't know for sure about the question of numbers, granted, as I'm not exactly a math specialist, but there you go. I even invited others to do show their own knowledge, rather than acting like I am specially gifted with knowledge only philosophers know (because only philosophy students have heard of The matrix :lol: ). For instance, Magis' explanation of how the Bekenstein bound shoots down the specific style of simulation argument where the universe outside is of equal complexity to ours is something I didn't know before Magis mentioned it. I wouldn't be extending that invitation if I thought I knew everything.

But like I said, maybe I am being a hypocrite. I don't think so, but who cares?

Quote:
I really don't see how that was totally unrelated. I was talking about the question that the io9 guy asked, you know, from the OP. Besides, the religion thing was a throwaway line.

Okay, my suspicion meter dropped the needle a few points. Sorry about that, Poe's law tends to keep me wary of internet strangers asking about the origin of the universe. :-)



Image
"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"

The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-29 12:55am
Offline
Padawan Learner
User avatar

Joined: 2009-06-08 08:23pm
Posts: 211
Formless wrote:
Okay, sure, those are actually interesting theories to contemplate. Of course, do note that they all rely on a subtle redefining of the word "universe" for the sake of convenience; the word technically refers to all that exists, which means that the "multiverse" speculated in both multiverse cosmology and Brane cosmology would be the universe as classically defined. I realize its pedantry, but its worth noting since in the end someone will ask "where did the multiverse come from?" and we're back to "South of the South Pole." (or North of the North Pole, if you prefer) :-)


Well they certainly get at the question of 'why is there a universe that supports us specifically', especially the evolution of universes explanation (which is possibly the most popular-sciencey, though it's very interesting). The OP doesn't use the 'something rather than nothing' formulation, though that one's interesting too -- and, yes, it's not reasonable to come up with an answer to that one from evidence.

Formless wrote:
But like I said, maybe I am being a hypocrite. I don't think so, but who cares?


It was a very strong vibe I got when I was reading your post -- that you were acting like the article's author and seemingly not realizing it. After all, he does use the word 'solve' and not 'postulate a reasonable answer to'. Solve is much stronger.

Formless wrote:
Quote:
I really don't see how that was totally unrelated. I was talking about the question that the io9 guy asked, you know, from the OP. Besides, the religion thing was a throwaway line.

Okay, my suspicion meter dropped the needle a few points. Sorry about that, Poe's law tends to keep me wary of internet strangers asking about the origin of the universe. :-)


Is it not true that people have been asking about the creation of the world since time immemorial? And that it hasn't been definitively answered since then? It was simply a comment that there are certainly lots of philosophers who have been blown away by the question, and that there's a curiosity about it in a lot of people: priests, philosophers, physicists, artists, and so on. That doesn't mean I agree with them, of course!



Are you accusing me of not having a viable magnetic field? - Masaq' Hub, Look to Windward

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: io9 lets a PHI 101 student write a blog post: cue hilari PostPosted: 2012-09-29 02:42am
Offline
Jedi Council Member
User avatar

Joined: 2002-09-20 11:15am
Posts: 2367
Uhm, north of the north pole isn't that well formulated either. It may sound impossible but isn't. You can continue going north when you have reached the north pole.
Simplestwould be to take the generalassumption of geographival north pole vs magnetic one.
But even if we are not allowed that semantic cheat the magnetic north isn't a spot, its 3 dimensional so even after reaching it on the surface you can continue going north by using the Z axis. Heck you could continue going north while getting closer to the south pole by going negative Z, ie dig.
You'd have go pretty far before losing it.
If you do it on the right planet you could in theory continue going 'north' in a complete spherical oblong movement through the core int space and back again.
etc

edit hate posting one handed, and no not like that

Top
 Profile  
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 19 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Malagar, Stas Bush and 4 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group