Rex Allen wrote:
On Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 6:26 PM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:
Rex Allen wrote:
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.
That's because taking material processes as fundamental has led to great
success, while taking consciousness as fundamental led to mysticism.
Mysticism isn't the inevitable result.
Our observations certainly exist, even if they are uncaused and
fundamental. They certainly seem to have a certain order and
consistency, even if there is no real reason for this. The scientific
method can still be applied to look for and analyze recurring patterns
in our observations, and it makes as much sense to do this as not. We
have to do something to pass the time, after all.
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.
Now, the world that I perceive is pretty stable and orderly. What
could explain all of that order?
An underlying objective reality. That's why we tend to think there is a
reality and dreams, which are less consistent, are not real.
Okay, an underlying objective reality causes the order in what we
experience - but then what causes the order in this underlying
You haven't answered any questions...you've just rephrased them in a
way that suggests that they've been answered.
What causes the order that we experience? Objective Reality.
What is Objective Reality? That which causes the order we experience.
Circles, sophistry, and question-begging.
If your car won't start and I tell you it's because it's out of gas is
that circular and question begging because I don't tell you why it's out
For a random process, if you wait long enough you can get any relative
frequency of events for any desired sample size, correct?
No. The randomness of radioactive decay is confirmed by observing it obeys
Poisson statistics. It could have been falsified by observing different
statistics. I think you are confusing random with "uniformly distributed
random". "Random" doesn't mean everything is equally probable; only that
some things have probabilities between 0 and 1.
If I take a radioactive decay source, map the decay events into an 4
bit number, then look for a sequence of 1000 numbers in which the
number "0" comes up 90% of the time (instead of 6.25% of the time as
would be expected for a uniform distribution), I will never, ever,
ever observe this relative frequency?
And there is a 0% chance that the very first 1000 numbers will exhibit
this relative frequency?
As I said, given enough time and enough attempts, it would seem to be
inevitable. And this would hold equally true for sample sizes of
10000, or 100000, or whatever. You'd just have to wait longer
So, if we waiting long enough (very very very very very long),
eventually we should see a 1000 year period where the randomness of a
particular radioactive decay source was disconfirmed...it would not be
observed as obeying Poisson statistics, right?
No, because in considering whether it were disconfirmed or not we would
take into account how long you had to wait to see that result.
Well…ultimately, nothing can explain
it. Ultimately you have to conclude that my perceptions just are that
I'm not sure what "ultimately" means in this context. I asked before what
you consider a "real" explanation. Is it the same as "ultimate"
explanation? Do we have to *know* with certainty the explanation is true?
An "ultimate explanation" I guess would be a final explanation, the
last bit of information that can (even in principle) be provided which
is relevant to the question posed.
I'd say that "there is no reason for it, it just is that way" is
pretty final. And, for me at least, does produce some feeling of
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.
Or you can say, I don't know yet.
Do you see room for a third option? Or have an intuition that there
may be a third option?
and this inexplicableness of it seems to be necessary, not
It seems to me that nothing is lost in concluding that consciousness
A lot is lost, .e.g all of physical science, unless you can show that it can
be reformulated purely in terms of conscious events - which is what the
I don't see why anything has to be reformulated in terms of conscious events.
Our conscious experiences exist. There are recurring patterns to what
we observe. Cognitively, it helps to "objectify" these recurring
patterns as real things. Fine.
But the fact that it's (contingently) helpful to think this way
doesn't mean that you're justified in ascribing actual existence to
your theoretical constructs.
This goes for chairs and neighbors as well as electrons and quarks.
But if they are what you use to think about the world why would you
(provisionally) ascribe reality to something else (like consciousness)
that you *don't* use to think about the world. Of course you do use
consciousness to think about other people, to whom you ascribe
consciousness and motives and desires, etc. But I don't think that's
what you mean - I think you are referring to thinking about the world in
terms of your own conscious experience.
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”.
If you assume it is only description of past observations then you have
assumed it has no predictive power and it is useless.
I don't see how it would make any difference. There is no better
strategy than to look for patterns in the records of our past
observations and act as if those patterns will continue to hold true
in the future. Regardless of what really exists, or how things really
are, this is the most rational approach.
Then if someone asks you, "What's real" the most rational approach would
be to say it those patterns I've observed in the past and which I expect
to continue in the future. And if you were further asked to describe
those patterns you'd end of describing physics.
EVEN IF reality is totally random, and we’ve just been on a lucky
streak, there is STILL no better strategy than to continue to bet as
though that lucky streak will hold, right? At least, given the fact
that "not betting" isn't really an option...
I suggest you do not
fly on any airliner designed by engineers with this philosophy.
Again, while I have the subjective feeling of choice as to whether I
get on the airliner, in fact I'm going to do whatever is entailed by
the underlying nature of reality.
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.
True. But it doesn't mean they don't exist either. So we can provisionally
accept them into our ontology.
Belief in their actual existence requires more assumptions than the
belief that only my observations of them exist.
As Stathis points out, you don't know that you exist either.
I know that my experiences exist...to the extent that I know anything
at all. Though from these experiences I can't conclude anything
definite about my actual nature.
Not patterns though. You only know that you are having an experience at
this moment - and you really don't know it's YOU. It's just that there
is an experience at this moment. The existence of "you" is a
theoretical construct, a model - though one that is hard not be believe in.
All I know is how things *seem* to me. Not how they actually are.
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".
Maybe you're a brain in a vat, or a computation in arithmetic. I'm happy to
contemplate such hypothesis, but I don't find anything testable or useful
that follows from them.
Useful in what sense? Evolutionarily useful? As in useful in
increasing your reproductive success?
Useful in realizing what I value.
So why should I accept them even provisionally?
Why wouldn't you? Does this view conflict with anything you have observed?
Or is it because you don't think it'll increase your chances of
producing many viable offspring?
Why does everything boil down to "sex" with you, Brent??? WHY?
As the patient said to Freud, "You're one showing me all the dirty
Because there are so many ways to be something and only one way to be
"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.
There's a difference between longing and assuming the thing longs for
"The reason that there is Something rather than Nothing is that
Nothing is unstable."
-- Frank Wilczek, Nobel Laureate, phyiscs 2004
So, why is Nothing unstable?
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