On Sun, Jan 17, 2010 at 12:50 AM, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com> wrote:
> 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
> Nothing".

So in this view conscious exists as a fundamental entity?  Or
conscious experience is caused by something more fundamental?  Or it
supervenes on something more fundamental?

That of course is my core question...how does something unconscious
(matter, numbers, etc.) give rise to conscious experience?

You can just assert that it does as a brute fact, but there's nothing
in my concept of matter or numbers that would lead me to believe that
it should.  So, there's an explanatory gap.

My response to Brent a few minute ago I think covers most of this better.

>> 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.

If the observer "finds" himself in an environment, then it is
obviously compatible with his existence.  He exists there after all.
Even if (to our way of thinking at least) it logically makes no sense
that he could.

Assuming computationalism, it seems possible to write a simulation
that would contain an observer who experiences himself in a chaotic
nonsensical reality.  So if we can generate this experience that way,
then this would seem to be part of the "everything" that exists.

What precludes this kind of observer existing?  You only mention
evolved consciousness in stable universes, but why not universes with
inconsistent nonsensical laws where observers come into being via
random processes, "boltzmann brain"-style?

>> "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?

Seems like a legitimate question to me.  "Where the DVD came from" is
just a way of asking why it exists.  Though whether they ever manage
to ask the question "inside" the DVD depends entirely on what data is
encoded on the DVD.  They have no "choice" in the matter.

Either the DVD has data that represents someone asking such a
question, or it doesn't.  It just is the way it is.

>> 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
> exist?
> 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
> in?

I think these things exist only as aspects of conscious thought, not
independent of it.

So in an earlier thread Bruno said:  "If you believe that the
primality of 17 does not depend on you, then you can explain why
matter and consciousness is an unavoidable consequence of + and *."

To which my response was:

I would say that anyone who makes the same starting assumptions and
follows the same rules of inference would conclude that 17 is prime.

But the concepts of 17 and prime do not exist independently of
context.  I'll go with Meeker on this one:  "Mathematics is just
precise expression and inference to avoid contradiction."

>> 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.

I'll just reproduce my response to Brent on this point here:

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.

>> 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.

Given that these things can be represented mathematically (seems
feasible at least...surely we could write a computer simulation that
represents something like that), I'm not sure how the adoption of
mathematical objects as fundamental precludes them.

How far are the conscious experiences of schizophrenics or Alzheimer
patients from some existence like this?

Given that so much is representable via mathematics, I don't know you
can avoid admitting the existence of all sorts of crazy white-rabbit

Though it seems that all available theories have this problem to some
degree.  Strange observed behaviors in some branches of the universal
wavefunction in the many worlds interpretation.  Boltzmann Brain
scenarios given large amounts of time.  Infinite space giving rise to
all possible configurations of matter (even very unlikely ones).  Etc.
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