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Dawkins slap down


By thunderlips11   Follow   Wed, 24 Apr 2013, 1:02am PDT   1,824 views   45 comments
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"Science works... bitches!"

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APOCALYPSEFUCKisShostikovitch   Mon, 29 Apr 2013, 9:19pm PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (1)     Comment 6

Imagine Dawkins, instead of laughing at a hillbilly jesufascist, debates Moynihan about why he shouldn't be stuffed into a supermax to provide a dewy prison bride to neonazi cannibals.

thunderlips11   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 2:11am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 7

Heraclitusstudent says

All these logical arguments only eliminate the roughest forms of dogmatism and leave the real content of religion and spirituality mostly untouched.

What is spirituality?

You may enjoy this segment:

Heraclitusstudent   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 5:32am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (2)     Comment 8

I love this video.
It hits exactly the nail on the head: This is about the experiences people have.
What is spirituality? It is something about the experience of life.

You see, Dawkins is right: we live in an objective world where physical laws reign supreme and where there is nothing magical.

He is right that religions are full of stupid dogmas. The Bible and other books are mostly useless rants and there is no objective way to separate the childish superstition from the wisdom they may contain.

And he's finally he's right that a religious experience happens ultimately in the brain, and the brain being a sometimes flawed physical instrument, aberrations can come out of it. Especially if you induce them.

So essentially, just like this video, he discards any religious experience as some kind of bizarre idiosyncrasy of the human brain.

But there's the rub: everything we experience in life comes from our brain. Our experience is all encompassing. And our experience is not something objective, it is something subjective by nature. It cannot be reduced or discarded.

Let's take an example: what is pain?: it is a signal following nerves and triggering some neurons. But is understanding this the same as understanding the experience of pain? Nope. Absolutely not. Experience cannot be reduced.

It cannot be discarded as irrelevant either, unless you want to discard the experience of food, the experience of love, fresh air in your lungs, and everything that makes life worth living. You could analyze any of these things down to each individual atom of your brain, that would be totally irrelevant to understand them. And this is not because I'm seeking god in the gaps of our scientific understanding, it's because science doesn't apply here.

This is why Dawkins is wrong. Our reality simply is not something that can be reduced to scientific knowledge.

Dan8267   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 6:04am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 9

Heraclitusstudent says

All these logical arguments only eliminate the roughest forms of dogmatism and leave the real content of religion and spirituality mostly untouched.

Examples, please. What is the real content of religion other than non-spiritual, non-superstitious, natural, atheistic, philosophy?

Dan8267   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 6:05am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 10

APOCALYPSEFUCK is Shostakovich says

If he's so smart, he should figure out a way to put bankers, realtors and mortgage brokers in prison.

You're thinking of William Black. Elect him as Elizabeth Warren's VP, and we'll see bankers in prison.

Dan8267   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 6:09am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 11

John Bailo says

As such, like Hawking, he is a darling of the Middlebrows.

Question: How do we justify belief in the Scientific Method.

Answer: It works. Planes fly, medicine saves lives, GPS is accurate to feet, astronauts land on the moon and return safely.

Are you saying that Dawkins is wrong? Are you saying that the Scientific Method has not empirically proven its worth and ability a million times over? If so, please go into detail. If not, then isn't what Dawkins said in the above video 100% on mark?

Dan8267   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 6:20am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (1)     Comment 12

Heraclitusstudent says

What is spirituality? It is something about the experience of life.

Spirituality is the fictional stories the people make up to explain emotional experiences. However, they fail at explaining the experiences and the hinder rational, natural explanations. As such, spirituality is nothing but lies that prevent discovery of the truth.

Heraclitusstudent says

Our reality simply is not something that can be reduced to scientific knowledge.

Every time someone has named a specific phenomenon that could not be explained by science, that person has been wrong. Here's a short list of things that science could not possibly explain, but then did.

1. Life
2. Sentience
3. Electricity
4. Earthquakes
5. Comets
6. The planets moving in retrograde.
7. The sun.
8. The tides (Bill O'Reilly still thinks this is unexplainable).
9. Where humans came from.
10. How the Earth and the stars were created.
11. The diversity of life on the planet.
12. Mountains.
13. Why we age.
14. Death

So, what exactly in your life do you think cannot be explained rationally and explicitly using only nature and human language?

I think you underestimate the power of
- rationality
- science
- the human mind's ability to understand
- language's ability to express ideas

Even more importantly, you fail to recognize that explaining things like the creation of human life in a mother's womb in scientific terms does not reduce the subject matter but rather enhances it by showing us the beauty and details that would be invisible otherwise. Knowing exactly how babies form does not make it less spectacular, but more.

thunderlips11   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 6:40am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 13

Heraclitusstudent says

And our experience is not something objective, it is something subjective by nature. It cannot be reduced or discarded.

I'm not so sure I go for that. Here's why:

Heraclitusstudent says

Let's take an example: what is pain?: it is a signal following nerves and triggering some neurons. But is understanding this the same as understanding the experience of pain? Nope. Absolutely not. Experience cannot be reduced.

I would rather say that:

"What is pain? it is a signal following nerves and triggering some neurons. But is understanding HOW pain works the same as experiencing pain itself?"

I wold say yes, both types of knowledge are objective. The neurons are indeed stimulating the sensation of pain in an attempt to alert to body to avoid the source of the problem. Over and over again, people who touch hot ovens report pain in their fingers, and those who persist in touching the oven develop damage to the skin and sometimes even lose a finger.

Move your finger, dammit! And as one would expect from an imperfect reality that arose and developed by chance, pain isn't perfect. You will also feel pain over things you can't fix by repositioning your body to avoid stimuli. Not just ovens and spears, but also cancer and arthritis.

Our desire to think about alternatives to death and another reality (through heaven, rebirth, or even becoming one with the universe) is a self-defense mechanism evolved by the brain, otherwise constant anxiety about death could prevent us from reproducing as a species. Just like pain evolved to warn animals to avoid certain body-damaging stimuli.

APOCALYPSEFUCKisShostikovitch   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 7:36am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 14

Dan8267 says

APOCALYPSEFUCK is Shostakovich says

If he's so smart, he should figure out a way to put bankers, realtors and mortgage brokers in prison.

You're thinking of William Black. Elect him as Elizabeth Warren's VP, and we'll see bankers in prison.

Oh, yes. My guy. Bought his latest book for a guy I knew who worked at the CBO and he raved at his command of the macroeconomics of underwriting abuse. Don't have to convince moi. Have had email exchanges with him on control fraud. A really nice guy! But just the kind of guy you'd want stomping Moynihan's teeth down his throat.

Heraclitusstudent   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 7:51am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (2)     Comment 15

Dan8267 says

you fail to recognize that explaining things like the creation of human life in a mother's womb in scientific terms does not reduce the subject matter but rather enhances it by showing us the beauty and details that would be invisible otherwise.

I totally recognize that.
By "reduce" I mean: decompose a phenomenon into its parts to show how the behavior of these parts logically create this phenomenon. You can't do that with the experience of pain. You can explain pain but this is not the same as the experience of pain.
You missed my whole point, read again.

Heraclitusstudent   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 8:02am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (2)     Comment 16

thunderlips11 says

I wold say yes, both types of knowledge are objective. The neurons are indeed stimulating the sensation of pain in an attempt to alert to body to avoid the source of the problem.

It is not objective in the sense that it can't be measured. If you could observe pain going from the fingers to the brain of a person, you can't be sure of what this person is feeling. You can understand *why* pain exists, and get a raw sense of how it works. This won't help you the next time you feel pain.

The feeling of pain is irremediably attached to the point of view of one person and cannot be separated from this point of view. The same goes for almost everything in life: our taste of food, sex, the feeling of the sun on the skin, etc, etc... Our whole experience as human being escapes the scope of science.

Heraclitusstudent   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 8:11am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (2)     Comment 17

thunderlips11 says

Our desire to think about alternatives to death and another reality (through heaven, rebirth, or even becoming one with the universe) is a self-defense mechanism evolved by the brain,

That's your *belief*. I don't think there is any proof of that, is there?

And as far as other realities... define real.
If you experience it, is it real?
Or is it exclusively real if you can explain it as something outside your brain?

Heraclitusstudent   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 8:31am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (1)     Comment 18

Dan8267 says

So, what exactly in your life do you think cannot be explained rationally and explicitly using only nature and human language?

I think you underestimate the power of

- rationality

- science

- the human mind's ability to understand

- language's ability to express ideas

Let's be serious: science can't explain why there is something instead of nothing. It can't explain why the laws of physics are what they are. Therefore it can't "explain" anything I experience in this life, starting with gravity, except at a very superficial level.

Furthermore there are good reasons to think it can never explain these things.
Take gravity for example: you can describe it quantitatively like Newton did. That's not the same as "explaining" it, as in "knowing why it's here". You can say the curvature of space-time causes gravity as Einstein did, but it just pushes the problem one step back: Why does mass distort space-time? And even if tomorrow we find cause X for this distortion, then my question will be: "What causes X"? At the end of the day, the laws of physics are just quantitative patterns. They are just observations.

And btw the goal of science is not to explain everything. It's to observe a few rocks and learn a few bits within an ocean of ignorance.

For all of us, human beings observing the universe, we can say we are confronted to a mystery. It would be very arrogant to pretend otherwise.

Dan8267   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 9:30am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 19

Heraclitusstudent says

By "reduce" I mean: decompose a phenomenon into its parts to show how the behavior of these parts logically create this phenomenon. You can't do that with the experience of pain. You can explain pain but this is not the same as the experience of pain.

You missed my whole point, read again.

I disagree with that point. Of course, anything that exists in nature, even "subjective" human experiences like "pain", can be explained without loss of information or understanding in terms of the parts and the interactions of the parts of the system.

Even if this were not true, even if the "experience" of pain could not be described by language or understood by the rational mind, does not mean that there exists anything "supernatural" or beyond nature and therefore would not give any credence to "spiritual" experiences or religions.

However, I would submit that simply because one does not have the language to describe an experience does not mean that such a language could not be invented. History if rife with examples of this very thing. Pascal and Fermat did not have the language to discuss the mathematical predictions of the future. That language was latter invented and called statistics. Newton, having invented calculus, still lack the language to talk about infinities and infinite smallness. Today we use such language with ease in Calculus classes.

The experiences you say cannot be described in pure logic will, someday, be written in source code with by high school students on computers cheaper than a Starbucks coffee.

Dan8267   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 9:30am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 20

Heraclitusstudent says

Let's be serious: science can't explain why there is something instead of nothing. It can't explain why the laws of physics are what they are. Therefore it can't "explain" anything I experience in this life, starting with gravity, except at a very superficial level.

Prove any of those assertions. Remember, history is full of examples of things that "science can't prove" that science later proved. Just because we don't understand something now, does not mean we won't understand it later. The god of the gaps is ever shrinking. Given how much science and engineering has progressed in the past one hundred years, are you really that certain it won't answer all of those questions in the next thousand or the next million years? If you are so certain, please explain why.

I have no reason, whatsoever, to believe that the universe is, at a fundamental level, unintelligible. Modern science has answered questions that a mere century ago no human being ever even thought to ask or could have even imagined asking. The most bizarre and alien aspects of the universe have been predicted by mathematics and physical theory even before anyone imagined such things could exist: black holes, the Big Bang, Calabi-Yau manifolds. Are you telling me that the human mind can understand and predict those things but no mind could possibly be built to understand the universe itself? I would call that a very strong statement and as such, the burden of proof is on you.

And in any case, if there were to be anything that science, mathematics, and logic could not explain, than such a thing could not be explained by any other means including religion and art.

Heraclitusstudent says

Therefore it can't "explain" anything I experience in this life, starting with gravity, except at a very superficial level.

Well, for being superficial, science's explanations have certainly accomplished a lot of practical goals. Our superficial understanding of aerodynamics have created super-sonic jet aircraft. Our superficial understanding of disease has eliminated smallpox and double the lifespan of humans. Our superficial understanding of nuclear physics has created nuclear weapons -- for better or worse. Our superficial understanding of electricity has created computers, television, radio, the Internet, and all the software from games to international banking systems. If the understanding of nature provided by science is superficial, you are welcome to show us anything deeper.

Heraclitusstudent says

Furthermore there are good reasons to think it can never explain these things.

Religion and mysticism have been around for 200,000 years and have yet to explain one damn thing. Science, as we know it, has only been around for a few hundred and is the lowest funding priority for all nations, yet it has produced amazing results. How could you possibly be able to image what science could do in 200,000 years?

But then again, if you have a better alternative, feel free to share.

Heraclitusstudent says

Take gravity for example: you can describe it quantitatively like Newton did. That's not the same as "explaining" it, as in "knowing why it's here". You can say the curvature of space-time causes gravity as Einstein did, but it just pushes the problem one step back: Why does mass distort space-time? And even if tomorrow we find cause X for this distortion, then my question will be: "What causes X"? At the end of the day, the laws of physics are just quantitative patterns. They are just observations.

Infinite regression of causality is a copout. There is no reason to believe that causality can infinitely regress any more than there is that space and time can be infinitely divided. Even causality takes time, and since time occurs in discrete packets, an infinite chain of causality would take infinitely long to propagate and therefore, no matter where you are in the chain, your phenomenon could never "be caused" and therefore could never exist. Nothing could exist. This is the same problem with time extending infinitely backwards. The present could never exist for any time. Therefore, nothing could exist.

But even if infinite regression existed, that would just mean that the scientific method is a non-halting process. It would still be the best, and the only real, way to understand the universe.

Heraclitusstudent says

That's not the same as "explaining" it, as in "knowing why it's here".

To understand what a thing is, is simply to understand its properties. To know what a ball is, is to know that a ball has the properties: shape, mass, location, color, bounciness, weight, texture, taste, rolling, etc. To understand a particular ball is to know the values of these properties within a certain error. This is the meaningful definition of understanding. And yes, understanding can be explicit.

Heraclitusstudent says

And btw the goal of science is not to explain everything.

Science doesn't have goals. Only decision making entities like people have goals. And I, for one, see nothing objectionable about explaining anything and everything unknown. Explaining exactly how a tiny conglomeration of molecules goes from a fertilized egg to a human being makes the process far more spectacular than ignorance does.

Heraclitusstudent says

For all of us, human beings observing the universe, we can say we are confronted to a mystery. It would be very arrogant to pretend otherwise.

Mysteries exist to be solved. What is arrogant is saying that religion explains mysteries or that only a "god" can understand them and no one else should try.

I have read nothing in your arguments that presents a good reason to limit scientific inquiries or to respect the lies of religions. Nothing you have written suggests that there exists a better alternative to naturalism and rationality. Nor does anything you wrote support the opinion that science should be less respected by our society. I would argue that given the accomplishments of science, it should be far more respected by our society.

These are the only things that you and I appear to disagree upon, but if you still think I've missed your point, feel free to provide a concise and precise thesis to debate.

Heraclitusstudent   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 9:48am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (1)     Comment 21

Dan8267 says

I have read nothing in your arguments that presents a good reason to limit scientific inquiries or to respect the lies of religions. Nothing you have written suggests that there exists a better alternative to naturalism and rationality. Nor does anything you wrote support the opinion that science should be less respected by our society.

That's because I said nothing of the sort. Science is great at doing what it does. I don't think we need an alternative.
I also agree that religions are full of lies.
This doesn't mean spirituality doesn't make sense and should be rejected as "delusion" (Dawkins's premise), which is the claim I attacked.

Heraclitusstudent   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 10:08am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (1)     Comment 22

Dan8267 says

Prove any of those assertions.

It's a simple observation: there currently exists no scientific theory that explains why there is something instead of nothing. And there no scientific explanation either of why the laws of physics are what they are.

Infinite regression of causality is a copout.

Absolutely not. This is a simple observation that the nature of the universe is certainly not revealed by listing quantitative patterns verified in this universe.

I have no reason, whatsoever, to believe that the universe is, at a fundamental level, unintelligible.

I have many simple reasons to believe that there is no explanation for the existence of the universe as a whole.

Here is one more: To seek an explanation is ultimately to seek a cause. And physical causes by nature are part of the universe. Therefore you can't find a physical cause to the existence of the universe because this cause would be 'in' the universe.

Religion and mysticism have been around for 200,000 years and have yet to explain one damn thing.

Agreed. So what? So far I claimed human experience could not be explained by science or discarded as a delusion, and I claimed the laws of physics provide no explanation for the universe outside a superficial level. If you want to debate, at least answer my points.

Heraclitusstudent   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 10:40am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (1)     Comment 23

Dan8267 says

The experiences you say cannot be described in pure logic will, someday, be written in source code with by high school students on computers cheaper than a Starbucks coffee.

This is where I think you still missed my point.
Let's say you write a program that "experiences pain". What will you write exactly? That the program will try to avoid certain situations? Is that the same as "experiencing pain"? clearly that wouldn't be enough.

Even if you were to write a sentient program (And disclaimer: I believe this is possible), how could you ever be sure that the program is "experiencing pain" in the same sense that I am. You could never be sure of what the "experience" from the program's perspective is.

I repeat what I said: the experience of pain, as other human experiences, is irreducibly attached to a unique point of view. This is why also this is not a question of language. This is not a question of how you communicate. It's a question of point of view.

Having an experience is not the same thing as having knowledge. Having knowledge doesn't imply that you have the experience.

Even if this were not true, even if the "experience" of pain could not be described by language or understood by the rational mind, does not mean that there exists anything "supernatural" or beyond nature [...]

Well... it means just that human experiences are beyond the scope of scientific knowledge. Once you admit it true for pain, you will see it is true as well for pleasures, and in fact the complete range of human experiences. We live in a world made of these experiences.

[...] and therefore would not give any credence to "spiritual" experiences or religions.

We also know some people have spiritual experiences. Can we say they are not real?
Define real.

If someone has an experience, in what sense could you say "it is real", "it is not real"?
It is real for this person, in the same sense that pain is real, is it not?

rooemoore   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 11:00am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (1)     Comment 24

John Bailo says

Dawkins is smart on the Woody Allen sophomoric level of sophistication.

The arguments are those made are those that you come upon as an undergrad and then sit, dazzled, by their brilliance, yet not aware enough to imagine they have been propounded, and argued, many times before.

As such, like Hawking, he is a darling of the Middlebrows.

Bailo - now I know where I've seen you before! I didn't realize you were a professor.

Dan8267   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 11:39am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 25

Heraclitusstudent says

It's a simple observation: there currently exists no scientific theory that explains why there is something instead of nothing

1. In 1800, there was no scientific theory that explained why the sun shown. That doesn't mean in the future, there won't be.
2. The lack of theory as to why there isn't just nothing is hardly a justification that "spirituality" has any merit.
3. A thing is held together by its opposite. In order for nothing to exist, it's opposite, something, must exist. That is why there is something instead of nothing.
4. http://www.amazon.com/Universe-Nothing-There-Something-Rather/dp/145162445X

Heraclitusstudent says

Absolutely not. This is a simple observation that the nature of the universe is certainly not revealed by listing quantitative patterns verified in this universe.

I have given the reason why we can discredit infinite regression of causality. Feel free to argue the reason, but don't ignore it or the discredit stands.

Heraclitusstudent says

I have many simple reasons to believe that there is no explanation for the existence of the universe as a whole.

Here is one more: To seek an explanation is ultimately to seek a cause. And physical causes by nature are part of the universe. Therefore you can't find a physical cause to the existence of the universe because this cause would be 'in' the universe.

I disagree with the premise that to seek an explanation for the universe is to seek a cause of the universe. Causality, by the layman's definition, requires linear time. A cause must precede its effect. Our notion of linear, infinite time breaks down at singularities and therefore the concept of causality does as well. Asking what occurred one second before the Big Bang is like asking what is located one mile north of the north pole. It is a meaningless question. This does not mean that the universe itself isn't intelligible and understandable, only that notions serving the evolution of creatures on Earth aren't necessarily sufficient.

To state that there can be no explanation is a far stronger statement.

And even if I did buy that there can be no explanation, that still does not justify the belief in supernatural entities as such things are simply lame attempts at explaining things anyway.

Heraclitusstudent says

Agreed. So what? So far I claimed human experience could not be explained by science or discarded as a delusion, and I claimed the laws of physics provide no explanation for the universe outside a superficial level. If you want to debate, at least answer my points.

I will gladly debate your points, however, you must make them clear. I am doing my best to discern exactly what those points are. It is the responsibility of the writer to clarify his own points. You may assume that I will sincerely work towards understanding what your points are regardless of whether or not I agree with them.

As for the claim that human experience cannot be explained by science, I challenge you to give one example which, in principle, cannot be explained rationally and naturally. I'm not asking for an example of something yet unexplained, but something that cannot be explained. And please, explain why that is unexplainable, if doing so is possible.

Heraclitusstudent says

Let's say you write a program that "experiences pain". What will you write exactly? That the program will try to avoid certain situations? Is that the same as "experiencing pain"? clearly that wouldn't be enough.

If human beings "experience pain" by some criteria X that you provide, it is clearly possible to write software that "experiences pain" by criteria X when executed by hardware. This is empirically true since the human brain is a neural network built by genetic instructions.

Furthermore, any physical neural network can be represented by a virtual neural network executed by a sufficient Turing Machine. [As a side note, the converse of this statement is also true. Any Turing Machine can be executed by a sufficient neural network simulating that machine.] Therefore, anything the human brain, one particular example of a neural network, can experience, so too could a virtual human brain on a cluster of computers.

By logical extension, any "sentience" experience by human beings according to some criteria Y you provide could also be met by a Turing Machine executing a virtual neural network. This is simply a cold, hard fact.

Dan8267   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 11:39am PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 26

Heraclitusstudent says

Even if you were to write a sentient program (And disclaimer: I believe this is possible), how could you ever be sure that the program is "experiencing pain" in the same sense that I am. You could never be sure of what the "experience" from the program's perspective is.

How can you be sure, or even "confident", that anyone "experiences" the color blue like you do? In order to address such issues, you have to understand what color is and how it works. I happen to do so because it's relevant to what I do for a living, and I'm damn good at what I do for a living. I understand the differences in the experiences of color among monochrome, bichrome, and trichrome species. What enables me to understand this is a deep understanding of the mathematics, physics, biology, and neural science involved in sight. I can explain how our ancestors transitioned from bichrome to trichrome (a very interesting story) and how the brain used interpolation to compensate for the additional dimension, which is where we get the color pink. I can also show you how we, as a species, appear to be in the transition from 3D color to 4D color and how the brain might make such an adjustment. These things are understandable.

And it is because these things are understandable that we can understand how other species would see things even if they are different from our own experiences.

In fact, I have no problem imagining five dimensional graphs or playing six dimensional tic-tac-toe. You just have to open your mind to the experience.

A side note: Not to be picky, but just to clarify to others listening in on this conversation… Of course, the "program" isn't sentient. It is the execution of the program that produces the emergent property we call sentience. A print-out of the source code is no more going to be "sentient" than a DNA chart is a life form.

Heraclitusstudent says

I repeat what I said: the experience of pain, as other human experiences, is irreducibly attached to a unique point of view.

Ah, but no point of view is unique. If I take a collection of atoms and arrange them, one by one, to form an exact copy of your body, including your brain, then I have recreated you as a person with all the shared experiences.

Furthermore, I don't even need to do this in actual reality. I could do it in virtual reality, in principle if not in practice today, and I would have achieved the same goal. I could create as many duplicates of you as I wanted. There is nothing unique about your point of view.

Once I reconstructed you virtually, I could trace through the reactions of your virtual brain to stimulus and understand exactly why you do everything you do.

And here's the kicker. You're actually body, including your brain, is composed entirely of atoms which do nothing but obey the laws of physics. As such, your actual self has no more free real than your virtual copies. Sure, both are equally complex decision making machines, but neither deviates from the laws of physics. Everything you have ever done or will ever do has already been determined, regardless of the flawed Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Humbling, isn't it? Yet, people call me arrogant when I believe the above statement apply to me and everyone else just as much as they do to you.

Heraclitusstudent says

Having an experience is not the same thing as having knowledge. Having knowledge doesn't imply that you have the experience.

Semantics. Those virtual copies of you didn't have the experiences of your life, but as far as they are concerned, they did. Even more importantly, you didn't have the experiences you think you had. How many of the atoms in your body need to be replaced by equivalent atoms (hydrogen for hydrogen, carbon for carbon) for you to be a different person? If the answer is that it doesn't matter, then why shouldn't an atom-by-atom copy of you, or for that matter a virtual copy of you, be as much you as you are?

Heck, if I take your body, and replace every atom, one by one, with an equivalent atom while using the replaced atoms to construct a copy of your body, which is the original? Is it even a meaningful question?

Heraclitusstudent says

This doesn't mean spirituality doesn't make sense and should be rejected as "delusion"

Heraclitusstudent says

We also know some people have spiritual experiences. Can we say they are not real?

Define real.

OK, this seems to be the heart of the discussion.

If I think I am Napoleon and I invaded Russia, that doesn't make it real. Real is what has actually happened.

The real question is, what do you mean by "spiritual"? I have been using the term as it is used colloquially, to mean something supernatural like a "god experience".

When people talk about having a spiritual experience, what they should be saying is that they had an emotional experience. Even if it was life-changing, the experience was natural, not supernatural. As, thunderlips11 pointed out, even the experience of "feeling god's presence" can be induced by the gold helmet. Everything that people attribute to a "supernatural" experience occurs entirely in the brain. It is not a supernatural experience, but rather a natural one, and as such is fully subject to scientific and natural explanation.

Now, if you want to define "spirituality" for the sake of making a proposition, you are free to do so. However, I am free to point out if your definition of spirituality has no bearing on what everyone else is using the term to describe. Hell, if you define "god" as a four legged animal often kept as pets by humans, then I am no atheist by that definition. However, that doesn't mean I'll accept the existence of what other people call god.

Finally, I propose that mysticism, even in the absence of religion, is still a bad thing and a lie. Naturalism, the acceptance of verifiable natural explanations, is a far better and more useful philosophy.

rooemoore   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 1:42pm PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (1)     Comment 27

Dan8267 says

Finally, I propose that mysticism, even in the absence of religion, is still a bad thing and a lie. Naturalism, the acceptance of verifiable natural explanations, is a far better and more useful philosophy.

Game. Set. Match.

Heraclitusstudent   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 3:25pm PDT   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (1)     Comment 28

Dan8267 says

I disagree with the premise that to seek an explanation for the universe is to seek a cause of the universe. Causality, by the layman's definition, requires linear time. A cause must precede its effect. Our notion of linear, infinite time breaks down at singularities and therefore the concept of causality does as well. Asking what occurred one second before the Big Bang is like asking what is located one mile north of the north pole. It is a meaningless question. This does not mean that the universe itself isn't intelligible and understandable, only that notions serving the evolution of creatures on Earth aren't necessarily sufficient.

I think you just established that there is no cause to the big bang in the traditional sense of cause and the question of its cause is in fact meaningless.

And as to whether causes are necessary for 'understanding': obviously if events happened without cause we wouldn't have a very good understanding of these event.

All we know of the big bang is that it happened. As to why the universe was condensed in one point...there is no why, no cause and no understanding. And contrary to your optimistic notions, it's not a question of more science and more inquiry, it's simply that there are things that are beyond our brains.

You seem to in fact agree that our brains may not be sufficiently evolved to understand some notions. But this goes well beyond the question of evolution. We understand causal things because our brains are based on matter that acts causally too and can simulate physical states. When things are not causal, logic doesn't apply, deductions are useless, the whole edifice of human reasoning collapses. Questions like "why is there something instead of nothing?" simply are beyond reasoning for humans. (In spite of people generously selling books about the matter).

I brought this question simply to show that your idea that "we can understand anything with enough inquiry is way too optimistic. You may not agree but there are strong reasons to think this is not the case.

In any case I'm not trying to claim that God created the big bang, simply that there are things beyond our understanding and I stick to that.

Heraclitusstudent   Tue, 30 Apr 2013, 3:43pm PDT   Share