On Sun, Jan 17, 2010 at 3:11 AM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:
> Rex Allen wrote:
>> Okay, an underlying objective reality causes the order in what we
>> experience - but then what causes the order in this underlying
>> objective reality?
>> 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 of gas?

A more appropriate analogy would be me asking you why my car won't
start and you replying that it's because there's something interfering
with the process of establishing a self-sustaining state of

This sounds good...but ultimately it just means that the car won't
start.  It could be caused by anything from being out of gas to not
having an engine in the car.  You've given me no new information, just
a new way of saying "the car won't start".

>>>> 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
>> (probably).
>> 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.

Okay, granted.

So I started with the observation that "Given randomness, what is the
significance of prediction generated from within the random system?"

To which you responded:  "That your method of prediction will yield
the right relative frequencies."

To which I then responded: "Isn't it meaningless to speak of
predicting anything about a random process?"

A better response on my part would have been:  "that's an option
available to you from OUTSIDE the random system, not from within the
system, where your choices are by definition random".

FURTHER to take Jason's example of poker players, sure you could write
a card game that used a source of "true" randomness to shuffle the
deck.  And since a deck only has 52 cards, there is only a certain
number of permutations that can result in the hands dealt.  Poker has
rules about the values of the various permutations.  The rules
themselves aren't random.  The cards in the deck aren't random.  Only
the shuffling is random.

Given that there are "determined" aspects of the game, you can make
predictions about the overall process.  BUT you can't make predictions
about exactly which card out of the 52 available will be dealt first
from the deck for a single hand of poker...this part is fully
controlled by the random source that is used to determine the shuffled
order of the deck.

So.  I think this time your point is vitiated.

>> 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.

So I *know* that my conscious experience exists.  What I am conscious
OF varies over time, sometimes drastically.  Including my sense of

While trying Salvia, I've actually had the feeling of being someone
else entirely, with no memory at all of being "Rex".  So I know from
my memory that conscious experiences of being someone other than "Rex"
do exist (to the extent that my memory can be trusted).

So it seems plausible to conclude that the conscious experience of
being Brent also exists, for example.

Accordingly, I avoid the charge of solipsism.

Are my experiences and your experiences causally connected?  I don't
know.  I tend to think not, but it doesn't really matter.  I'll act
basically the same either way.

Whether or not I believe that my shooting someone results in a real
death, I do believe that it will result in real punishment for me.
Why do I believe this?  Because that's what I have observed in the
past, so extrapolating forward from those experiences, it seems like
at least as good a bet as any other that this kind of observation will
continue to be made in the future as well.

>>> 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.

The patterns I've observed don't explain my conscious experience.
There's nothing in my concept of "patterns" which would explain how it
might give rise to conscious experience.

So I fully buy the idea that patterns (physical or platonic) can be
used to represent aspects of what I experience.  And that these
patterns can be updated in a way so that over time they represent how
my experiences change over time.

What I don't see is why this would give rise to anything like the
qualia of my conscious experience.  There is an explanatory gap.  And
I don't see how any new information about patterns or the ways of
updating them will close that gap.

And for me that's really the deal-breaker for any causal explanations
of consciousness, as opposed to considering it fundamental.

As for any correlation between what I observe and what I
experience...for instance drinking alcohol and thereby having my
experiences affected by it:  In my dreams I sometimes have the
experience of flapping my arms and flying.  In the dream it seems to
me, and I fully believe that flapping my arms "causes" me to fly.  In
those dreams, the correlation holds...every time I flap my arms, I
fly.  But from my non-dreaming perspective, there can't be any
"causal" link between the two things...it's just the way the narrative
unfolded in the dream.

I basically put correlations in the waking aspect of life down to the
same thing.  In the end, the way things seem to me is all there is.

I've had even stranger and more intense beliefs after taking Salvia.

So you can set such dreams aside as irrelevant, BUT they are
definitely a way that consciousness can manifest.  If your only
criteria for doing so is that they are less consistent, well, who says
that reality has to be consistent?  This is another assumption on your

>>> 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.

I agree with what you say here.

>>> 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 you judge the validity of ideas based on how useful they are to you
in your quest to find out what you value?

What do you value?  And why do you value it?

As to the "why", it seems to me that based on what you've said so far,
your answer is going to be an evolutionary one.  The reason you value
what you value is that you've evolved to value those kinds of things.

Why did you evolve to value those kinds of things?  Because of the
initial state of the universe plus the causal laws of physics, plus
some random events sprinkled around that themselves still have no
cause.   Since randomness is a fundamental concept also, there is no
reason for why something random happens...it's random!  Why did you
deal a King of Spades as the first card from a randomly shuffled deck
as opposed to some other card?  There is no reason...it's just random.

So ultimately, there is no reason you value the things you do...that's
just the way things are.

>>> "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?
> Because there are so many ways to be something and only one way to be
> nothing.

"Peter van Inwagen proposed a rather peculiar answer to the question
why there exists anything at all.  His reasoning is as follows.  there
may exist an infinite number of worlds full of diverse beings, but
only one empty world.  Therefore the probability of the empty world is
zero, while the probability of a (non-empty) is one.

This apparently simple reasoning is based on very strong an
essentially arbitrary assumptions.  First of all, that there may exist
an infinite number of worlds (that they have at least a potential
existence); secondly, that probability theory as we know it may be
applied to them (in other words that probability theory is in a sense
aprioristic with respect to these worlds); and thirdly, that they come
into being on the principle of 'greater probability.'  The following
question may be put with respect to this mental construct:  'Why does
it exist, rather than nothing?'" - Michael Heller

And a further response:

"For the sake of balanced reporting, van Inwagen should acknowledge
that, by his reasoning, the actual world is also as improbable as
anything can be. What really counts here is the probability of ‘There
is something’ as opposed to ‘There is nothing’."
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