On Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 4:51 PM, Rex Allen <rexallen...@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 1:59 PM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com>
> wrote:
> > Rex Allen wrote:
> >>
> >> What caused it to exist?
> >>
> >
> > Who said it needs a cause?
> Why this reality as opposed to nothing?  Given the principle of
> sufficient reason, wouldn't "nothingness" be the expected state of
> things?

Imagine you and I are at two ends of a computer terminal, and you know I am
about to send you a message.  The message encoding is such that there are
two parts, where the first part indicates the message length, and the second
the message.

Notice that before I send any information, the possibility for the message I
might send is unlimited.  You know neither the size nor the content.

As you begin to receive my message, information I send you isn't giving you
anything new, or creating any new possibility, instead it is restricting
that possibility, telling you what the message is not from among all the
infinite possibilities it might have been.

It might be clearer to see how this works considering the multi-verse.  If I
tell you I have a cup on my desk, but not what color it is, you can safely
assume copies of you exist in various branches where it could be any color,
blue, red, yellow, etc.  But if I then tell you it is indeed red, then that
just restricted possibility.

Now apply this concept to the question of why the universe exists, why
something rather than nothing.  What is simpler, nothing existing, or no
restrictions on what exists?  Using that message transfer example, to send
you an empty message requires I send you 1 bit, it would be the bit '0',
indicating the message is zero-length, followed by empty 0-bit long message.
 However, what if I sent no message at all?  That would take 0 bits, and all
possibilities remain open.  Think of it as: is it easier for God to command
that nothing exists, or easier for him to say nothing at all?

This idea is explained in greater detail in Russel Standish's "Theory of

> But, given that reality exists, why are things this way as opposed to
> some other way?
If we follow from the assumption we were led to above, that everything
existing is simpler than nothing existing then the laws of physics are
determined by virtue of your ability to observe the universe around you.
 Other observers exist in other universes, with different physical laws, and
also rightly ask why these laws?  The Anthropic principle holds that all
observers find themselves in environments compatible with their existence,
so these laws are what they are because they allowed conscious observers to
evolve to become aware.

> "St. Augustine observed that if someone were to stand barefoot on the
> beach for all eternity, then his footmark on the sand would be eternal
> too, but nonetheless it would still have its cause – the foot making
> it." -  M. Heller, Ultimate Explanations of the Universe
Concepts such as time, and cause and effect only exist to those inside the
universe.  Outside of the universe it would be possible to have a 4-d view
of the the entire evolution of the universe.  In this view it would be a
static block.  Think of characters in a movie, with things changing frame by
frame, but if the characters could jump outside the movie they are in they
would see they exist on a fixed DVD, with all frames simultaneously
existing.  They would then see that a question such as what started the
movie playing from the beginning makes no sense, however it would still a
legitimate question to ask where did this DVD come from?

> Further, to quote Roger Scruton on the same topic:
> “Suppose we were to accept the big bang hypothesis concerning the
> origin of the universe. Only a short-sighted person would think that
> we have then answered the question of how the world began. For what
> caused the bang? Any answer will suppose that something already
> existed. So the hypothesis cannot explain the origin of things. The
> quest for an origin leads us forever backwards into the past. But
> either it is unsatisfiable- in which case, how does cosmology explain
> the existence of the world? - or it comes to rest in the postulation
> of a causa sui - in which case, we have left the scientific question
> unanswered and taking refuge in theology. Science itself pushes us
> towards the antinomy, by forcing us always to the limits of nature.”
This question is more akin to asking why does the DVD exist?  The best
answer I have found comes from extending arithmetical realism, the idea that
things such as numbers exist, without cause, timelessly.  One school of
thought believes that numbers are simply ideas and human inventions, but I
disagree.  There are an infinite number of facts one could state about the
number 3, yet of course no single mind in this universe could hold all those
facts.  Should that imply that facts which haven't been in someone's head
are not true, or that numbers too big for anyone to have thought of don't

This is something you will have to intuitively accept, but if you do it
answers the question of how things can simply exist, without being caused.
 Let's go with the assumption that nothing existed, not even numbers?
 Wouldn't "Nothing" still have properties?  Such as nothing contains 0
things.  Well once 0 exists, the others automatically have to.  What meaning
does 0 have without the context of 1, or 2?

If mathematical objects such as the whole numbers exist, would more complex
objects also exist?  Such as lines, triangles, hypercubes, Turing machines?
 If a 4-d mathematical object can simply exist, what about a mathematical
structure, or function indistinguishable from the universe we find ourselves

> And a final quote for Wittgenstein:
> “It’s not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it
> exists.” - Proposition 6.44, Logico Tractatus Philosophicus
> >>
> >> Given determinism, what is the significance of a prediction generated
> >> from within the deterministic system?
> >>
> >
> > That your method of prediction has some truth to it.
> Even if you accept that various configurations of matter can result in
> conscious experiences, there's no reason to think that the experiences
> will in any way reveal anything about the underlying system that
> "caused" them, is there?
Right, you can't say whether you are in a universe, a brain in a vat, a
dreaming coma patient, an alien playing the latest full immersion sim-human
game, or a brain being simulated in a computer.  If everything exists,
then indeed you are all of these possibilities simultaneously, some having a
higher count than others, but from your perspective they are
each indistinguishable.

> >> Given randomness, what is the significance of prediction generated
> >> from within the random system?
> >>
> >
> > That your method of prediction will yield the right relative frequencies.
> For randomness there are no "right" relative frequencies, are there?
> Relative frequencies are just the number of times a particular event
> occurred divided by the total number of trials.
> For a random process, if you wait long enough you can get any relative
> frequency of events for any desired sample size, correct?

This is a complex question, this article:


I would tend to say that in the everything there is no randomness, but from
the inside view there can be uncertainty.  Let's say you owned two DVDs, one
was a director's cut version which had some minor footage changes half an
hour into the film but until that point in time everything is the same.
 From the viewpoint of those inside the film, prior to the half-hour-in
divergence, they would have no way of knowing if they were in the original
release, or the director's cut version, so what would happen at half an hour
in would seem to be random, even though each DVD is a completely
deterministic (and static) object.

> Isn't it meaningless to speak of predicting anything about a random
> process?
I don't think so.  Poker players and insurance companies, for example, live
or die by being able to successfully analyze and predict random processes.

> >> Why does it have the aspects that it has?  How is it that it gives
> >> rise to conscious experience?
> >>
> >
> > My theory is that physical processes of great complexity corresponding to
> > what we call information processing and which include the construction of
> > narrative histories in memory instantiate consciousness of a human type.
>  I
> > think when we understand these processes and the brain better we will
> come
> > to understand there are different degrees and kinds of consciousness and
> the
> > term isn't technically useful.
> You seem to have no problem with the existence of matter as a given.
> No explanation needed, apparently.  Why judge conscious experience by
> a different standard?
> It seems to me that you are starting with a strong bias towards matter
> as fundamental, instead of starting with a clean slate and working
> forward from first principles.
> So we start with our observations, and then we construct narratives
> that are consistent with what we have observed. These narratives may
> be useful in analyzing recurring patterns in the records of our past
> observations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are true of
> anything that exists outside of our observations.

If everything exists, then any self-consistent idea is true somewhere, the
problem is trying to tie down yourself to the same place your belief is
correct.  Since you are existing in possibly an infinite number of different
worlds, perhaps few or no ideas you have are true for all the places you

> The possible existence of matter in the form of quarks and electrons
> (or strings, or quantum fields, or whatever) is consistent with our
> observations, but obviously we have no direct knowledge of quarks and
> electrons or the rest. Their existence, and the physical laws
> associated with them, are inferred from our observations.
> Even something right in front of me, like my chair, I still only know
> through my conscious experience. I see a chair here, but I don’t know
> that the chair actually exists. I could be dreaming, for instance, in
> which case the chair exists entirely within my mind.

You could at least conclude the information of a chair exists, whether it be
from a dream, a computer simulation, or a physical photons, in all those
cases it is ultimately information which creates experience of the chair.

> Now, the world that I perceive is pretty stable and orderly. What
> could explain all of that order? Well…ultimately, nothing can explain
> it. Ultimately you have to conclude that my perceptions just are that
> way.

Evolution requires the ability to durably record the results of its
experiments.  In our universe that medium is the DNA molecule.  The laws of
physics ought to also be stable, otherwise the results of the experiments
become obsolete when the rules change.  Lastly, it requires a stable
platform with fixed resources to give enough time to conduct
the numerous experiments and fixed resources to promote competition.  In our
case it took the form of a region of fixed size (Earth) given a fixed
resource (Sol) in a system which has been stable for billions of

> For instance, let’s say that I explain the order that I perceive by
> postulating that a world of matter and energy with governing laws
> exists independently of me. Okay, now we just need to explain this
> external world. Where did the matter and energy come from? What causes
> the governing laws? Why this kind of matter and energy and physical
> laws as opposed to some other?
> In other words, what caused the cause of my orderly perceptions? And
> what caused that cause? And so on.
> As I said in an earlier post on another thread, you either have to
> postulate an infinite chain of causes, or a first cause.
> If go with a first cause that is itself uncaused, then you are saying
> that it just was the way that it was, and so everything that followed
> from it just is the way it was. And so there is no explanation for the
> order of the world we perceive…it just is that way.
> If you go with an infinite chain of causes, then why that infinite
> chain of events, as opposed to some other? In fact, why any chain of
> events at all, why not nothingness?
> I’ll tell you why: Because that’s just the way it is.
> SO, if postulating an independently existing external world doesn’t
> actually explain anything, and in fact only raises new questions
> (e.g., how does unconscious matter give rise to conscious experience?
> what is matter anyway…quantum fields? but then what are quantum
> fields? and what causes “causality”? what started the whole damn
> thing, and then what started what started it?)…then why go that
> direction?
> Ultimately, my perceptions, caused or uncaused, just are what they
> are. There is no explanation for this that isn’t itself
> unexplained…and this inexplicableness of it seems to be necessary, not
> contingent.
> It seems to me that nothing is lost in concluding that consciousness
> is fundamental, and that science is only about constructing plausible
> narratives that are consistent with past observations…not about an
> unexplained and inexplicable independently existing world made of
> mysterious substances referred to as “matter”.

I suppose the only issue with assuming consciousness is fundamental would be
why are we perceiving ourselves to be in a world with simple mathematical
equations defining its laws, why do we seem to be creatures that evolved
from simpler ones, etc.  This, I think, is evidence that mathematical
objects (which observers call universes) are fundamental.  Otherwise we
would might expect to be incorporeal entities in a featureless plane of
existence, or worse, consciousness consisting of complete random/noise.

> > But the ontology of physics refers to lots of things that are only very
> > indirectly related to our conscious experience (like the Big Bang, and
> > quarks).  I don't think (2) is simple or useful at all.  It is the
> extreme
> > positivist philosophy which attempted to recast physics in terms only of
> > relations between sense perceptions.  Mach was one its proponents and he
> > refused to believe in atoms and considered them mere fictions because
> they
> > couldn't be seen.  Now they can be "seen" by scanning tunneling
> microscopes.
> So obviously what we *know* are these relations between sense
> perceptions.  From these it's "useful" to infer the existence of
> things like electrons and quarks.  But that doesn't mean that
> electrons and quarks actually exist.  We use analogy and metaphor as
> aids to understanding all the time.  It's just the way the human mind
> works.
> >> So I’m not saying that the equations found in physics are wrong. I’m
> >> just suggesting that they don’t mean what you think they mean.
> >>
> >
> > What do you think I think they mean?
> I think you think they mean that there is a external world that exists
> independently of our experience of it.  I am suggesting that maybe
> this is not the case, that maybe our experience is all that "exists".
Assume that is true.  Do you think 3 could also just exist?  If so, this
leads back to the idea of mathematical realism, and the existence of other
mathematical structures.

> >>
> >> Why do the laws that govern molecular interactions hold constant over
> >> time?  Why these laws and not some other set of laws?
> >>
> >> Unfortunately you haven't explained anything.
> >>
> >
> > No.  I've explained a very great deal.  I've explained why you and I can
> > communicate by typing.
> You've constructed a narrative that is consistent with our
> observations, but which includes no justification for itself.  If I
> had asked "how does the internet work", then it would fine.
> > Why you will go to the doctor, instead of priest if you're ill.
> In a deterministic system, I go to the doctor because given the
> initial conditions of the physical system and the causal laws
> governing it, going to the doctor is what has to happen.  The fact
> that I *experience" it as making a choice is just an interesting
> aspect of that particular system.  If there is no explanation of the
> initial conditions and causal laws, then there is no explanation for
> why I went to the doctor instead of the priest.
> In a random system, there may be no reason at all that I go to the
> doctor instead of the priest.  That's just the way the dice rolled
> that time.  Randomness is...random, so again, there is no explanation
> for why I went to the doctor instead of the priest.
> So...in both cases, nothing is explained.  Or rather, the explanation
> is:  because that's the way it is.
> > Just not everything.
> "The longing to attain the ultimate explanation lingers in the
> implications of every scientific theory, even in a fragmentary theory
> of one part or aspect of the world.  For why should only that part,
> that aspect of the world be comprehensible?  It is only a part or an
> aspect of an entirety, after all, and if that entirety should be
> unexplainable, then why should only a tiny fragment thereof lend
> itself to explanation?  But consider the reverse:  if a tiny part were
> to elude explanation, it would leave a gap, rip a chasm, in the
> understanding of the entirety."  -- Michael Heller
> -- Rex
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