Geometry Matters!

[I apologize. I am publishing my rough draft. I edited it and cleaned it up, but when I tried to save it everything got lost. I cannot be bothered to repeat those efforts.]

The stage is set. It is the 4th century BCE. It is ancient Greece. People are thinking about ideas. Possible explanations for how the world works, how nature operates, are being entertained. A Greek mathematician, Euclid, decides to essentially compile all known geometric and mathematical knowledge known in the world at that point. His work, the elements, is the foundation for much of the mathematics and geometry to move throughout history in human thought.

Now imagine. Place yourself in this time. This is the beginning of creating a system of math and geometry, of putting it to language in written form and to have the ability to send out to the world for people to consume and acquire. It is a hypothetical truth statement, it is not a book of false statements. They assert their own validity and truth value. Nothing of this sort had existed up until then (at least that we have empirical evidence of, and of such vastness). Now, what reason might a person who picks up this book ever decide to accept it as truth at all? Imagine, the very first argument for mathematics or geometry. The first time someone ever said “the sum of all angles within a triangle is 180 degrees” or that “the area of a triangle = 1/2 the length of the base multiplied by the length of the height of the triangle. What criteria would someone who has never heard that before have to accept it as truth?

This question can be answered for both how any child consumes and acquires mathematics, and for how the people of the day, grown men and women, who had lived their entire lives without knowledge of geometric and mathematical proofs and methods, are to accept mathematics…

The child does so simply by accepting it as true by convention. They are told this is the way things are, this is the truth, you memorize it, and you will be tested on it later to make sure that you still remember, you have acquired these truth statements. Perhaps this is why many kids do not do well with mathematics. They are not taught the first principals of which they are based off of. Instead, they are asked simply to believe, on faith, via convention, via authority, that what is being told of them is true. Others acquire it easier because they find it aesthetically pleasing. It makes sense to them. They see how it fits together. It is an aesthetic event and phenomena. They see something and conceive of something that someone else cannot. They see connections and relations where the other person cannot. Perhaps this is why memorization is not optimal.

But imagine a grown man, in the 4th or 3rd century BCE. Or whatever century copies of this book, The Elements, finds its way to you, to your country, and translated in your language (which requires someone who knows both languages, and is in contact with a scribe of sorts, and the means to produce the book). There was no internet, no data transfer, no email, no planes. Animals, carts, people, and testimony (gossip/news).Now, you receive this copy of the book, and you are now told all these things. What is your criteria for accepting it? Do you simply accept all foreign and different truth statements.

Geometry is not quite the same as farming or making cloths. Though farming could very well be an aesthetic and phenomenal model of geometry. Geometry could be intuited from farming, once one saw land, related sizes of one plot with the size of the plants growing, inferred that double that size would double the size of crop production. Found some system of denoting the size/shape/geometry/area of the crop (number of steps, lengths of cow, whatever), then made the inference that if that same area is repeated a similar crop would be produced. There is a correlation made. A connection between two things that would not have normally been there before. A new concept. And that concept is that of identity or relation. If this = that, and you make another this, then you should get another that.

It is not necessarily true, but it is an inference, a hypothesis, an assumption, a guess, an axiom.

And then we do that. Then once successful, or a relation is made, then desire can come into play. If I know I can manipulate nature, I can make an action in the world and a causal effect would come about that I wanted to, then now the only question I should ask is, what is it that I want?

And so a food quota could be produced. If I reason that we need a certain amount of food, and there are this many of us, we will need to produce this much. Now that I know how much I want, I can solve for x, x being the size of the plot of land necessary to produce the amount of food that I desire. I need this amount of land.

I am on a tangent.

So, what reason would that person have to accept it as true? So mathematics has to give you a reason to accept it. Geometry has to provide a reason to accept it. Mathematics/geometry come up to you and say “I am the truth”, you would want to ask “why?” or “how can I know that you are the truth?”. Mathematics would say “Here are my assumptions, the starting point from which I necessarily arrive at these truths. I call these assumptions axioms. I assume them, I take them to be the case because they are self-evident and do not require any proof of their own. In fact, they cannot be proven. That is just the way it is.

So, let’s make believe. Let’s pretend you are that person from over 2300 years ago. You open the book,first you see a list of definitions.

  • A point is that which has no part
  • A line is a breadthless length
  • A straight line is a line which lies evenly with the points on itself
  • A surface is that which has length and breadth only
  • A plane surface is a surface which lies evenly with the straight lines on itself
  • A figure is that which is contained by any boundary or boundaries
  • A circle is a plane figure contained by one line such that all the straight lines falling upon it from one point among those lying within the figure are equal to one another

And more. Now, it is you, the reader, to decide whether or not you choose to accept this as true. What does it mean for a point to have no part? Can something with no parts exist? A straight line is made up of points. And so on. All resting on a point is that which has no part. A point (something with existence) is that which has no part (is not made up of anything).

Now to the the assumptions, the axioms you see are:

  1. Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another.
  2. If equals be added to equals, the wholes are equal.
  3. If equals be subtracted from equals, the remainders are equal.
  4. Things which coincide with one another are equal to one another.
  5. the whole is greater than the part.

So, we have if A=B, and B=C, then A=C, x + y = x + y, x – y = x – y, if A=B then B=A, and if A and B are both things (not zero, not non-existing), then A + B > (is greater than) A, and A + B > B.

Those are up to you to decide if you accept them as true or not. This is a book you just got and have nobody in the world to talk to about if you accept or not. You have never read this book yet, though perhaps have heard the ideas (or not).

From these axioms Euclid moves to his 5 postulates. Let it be postulated that:

  1. A line can be drawn from two points.
  2. Any line can be extended along that straight line indefinitely.
  3. For any straight line, a circle can be drawn having the line as the radius and one end point the center of the circle.
  4. All right angles are congruent.
  5. If two lines that intersect a third line such that the sum of the inner angles on one side is less than two right angles, then the two lines inevitably must intersect each other on that side if extended far enough.

The first seems fairly straight forward. Pick any two points and a straight line can be drawn. We have the definition of what points and a straight line are above. This seems fine. The second also seems fine. You have a line, you can just keep making it longer, and it will still be that same straight line. You can make a circle by taking a line, keeping one end constant, and rotating it around in any direction along the other end of that line. All lines that form at 90 degrees/perpendicular are the same. But the last one… what does that look like?

There are two lines (one ones going more horizontally) and they intersect a third, any third line, in any orientation. If the two internal angles (alpha and beta) are less than two right angles, then if you extend those lines, eventually they will meet on that same side. we can use the opposite side, (the left side of the picture where the lines are moving away) and choose to see if those are smaller than two 90 degrees either, it doesn’t matter. But when we DO find these angles to be less than two 90 degrees, the lines will necessarily touch if those lines are extended, eventually.

And so, from just this hundreds of pages of proofs for propositions were deduced, using 100% only what was stated above, and no other influence or knowledge. Just those definitions, those axioms and those propositions (and any deductions that came along the way).

From that a form of geometry, a single form, came into existence. This form of geometry stayed in existence as the only form for roughly 2000 years. There was only Euclidean geometry. From acquiring this geometry we could now see things using these concepts, see relations using these concepts. We used geometry to model our reality, our technologies, our understanding of the world. We used these geometries to describe forces, to describe physics, the laws that physics and the sciences are based from.

Historically, the 5th postulate of Euclid has always been the one that stands out. It simply has. It is a longer postulate, yes. But there was something about it that caused it to stick out from since day one. In the middle ages Islamic philosophers attempted to disprove the 5th postulate.

Then in the 19th century non-Euclidean geometries came into acceptance as valid concepts.

For any given system, as long as the same starting definitions and assumptions are held to be true, no matter what logical deduction and interpretation that can be arrived at is valid. So, if it is possible to start from the same basic statements (definitions and axioms) and only necessarily true (deductive) statements are made from that logical system with the same set of rules, then whatever is deduced, however it is interpreted, will be true. There can be no means to say one interpretation is more true or valid than the other.

Euclidean geometry is true when the lines drawn are on a flat planar surface, but surfaces are not defined such that they have to be flat. They are just two dimensional figures. In fact, there is no reason why we should even infer that a plane SHOULD be flat. But that was just how Euclid saw things, and that is just how everyone else saw things. And that was what was accepted, by convention, as geometry.

But almost no surface is flat. Surfaces are curved. When you zoom in enough, there actually is no such thing as a flat surface. Flat surfaces can only exist in a universe where lines are made of points and points are made of nothing (no parts), which is to say, no dimensions. But in a physical universe of stuff, of matter, everything has a part, everything takes up space, has volume, has three dimensions. So a mathematically, geometrically flat surface is not even possible.

We see more often in the world curved surfaces. Such as the entire surface of your body, the surface of a tree, of a leaf, of the earth.

And so if we look at the geometry, as defined by Euclid, on the surface of a sphere (such as the Earth), we get straight lines forming a grid such as our longitude, and our latitude. The unique thing is that any given straight line on the surface makes a complete circle around it along the longest possible route (the circumference). Each line of longitude pass through two points, the poles. Now, if we take a look at the 5th postulate using this spherical surface:

We will see the example again of the 5th postulate. Take any two lines and a third that intersects them both. Like these 3 lines:

Untitled

You will see that any two straight lines that can be drawn parallel from the equator of a sphere (or any longitudinal line), will eventually meet at a single point (the pole of the sphere). Euclids 5th postulate states that that occurs when the sum of the two interior angles are LESS THAN the sum of two right angles. Yet, in the spherical geometry we see that the sum of the two internal angles are equal to two right angles, because they both are right angles, and all right angles are the same (congruent).

So the 5th postulate is not true under this spherical geometry (non-flat planar surface).

and interesting thing to see is that under this spherical geometry the sum of the angles of a triangle necessarily must be GREATER than 180 degrees. This is very different than any geometry we normally believe to be true. And yet, empirically it is true for our planet.

If you were to go buy a piece of land and the gps coordinates of that land were such that along a given line of latitude (ie. the equator), and you were to draw two straight lines heading to a single point (meaning the shape of the land was a triangle), you could literally get out your ruler and protractor and measure it out, and the sum total of the angles on the inside of that triangle would add up to more than 180 degrees. It is the geometry of our planet. It is empirically observable. It is true.

Yet we don’t see geometry that way. We see it as flat and in a plane.

We could do the same thing for other surfaces. For hyperbolic geometries, geometries of any shape.

So what? What does this matter to me? How does geometry matter?

Geometry matters because it is directly related to how we perceive in the universe, how we perform science, how science and math is used to explain the universe, and our entire body of scientific “knowledge”.

Here is why:

Because both sets of geometry are both 100% true, both 100% equally possible, either can be adopted. Now, science operates under the belief that the truth of the universe, the true way the universe is and can be explained and modeled, is objective. Meaning there is one single truth to be discovered and elucidated.

That means that there can only be one geometric shape of the universe. Is the universe a sphere? Is it planar? Is it hyperbolic? Is it _____ (insert any possible geometric surface curvature here)?

So science and scientific knowledge depends on there being only one single true geometric shape of the universe.

Now, science is a study of empirical data. To determine something scientifically it must be testable. You must be able to refute the claim made by science, the theory.

An experiment could be made. You could take the surface of whatever it is you want test to determine its curvature. And you can draw along that surface grids that pertain to all the different geometries. Euclidean or non-Euclidean (spherical, hyperbolic, etc) grids on the same one single surface (ie. the floor of the room you are in now). And the experiment could be done that you will roll a ball on that surface along a straight line, and you could then watch the path of that ball and see which grid it traverses. Then you would know the answer to the surface curvature (the geometry of it).

You can do this experiment because it rests on the belief/assumption/axiom/Newtonian “law” that all of physics is based off, of inertia. That something when put in motion will stay in motion along a straight line until some external force prevents this. This is your basic law of inertia. Self evident. It needs no proof. It is an axiom of science.

So, keeping this in mind you do the experiment. The ball traverses the floor and you can see and plot out its path empirically. Now, it will follow a straight line in SOME grid system used (and each grid system used represents a distinct possible geometry that follows Euclids rules of geometry). Now, here is the thing. From the results of this experiment it is impossible to judge which geometry the surface actually is (objectively). You cannot determine an “absolute” geometry.

The reason for this is because you can interpret the results in any way, and none are necessarily true. If the path of the ball followed along the grid of straight lines that represented a flat surface geometry, and not of a curved surface, you could say one of two things, all based on the law inertia:

  1. The surface is flat, and no forces were acting on the ball.
  2. The surface is curved, and a force was acting on it such that it moved off the straight line of the curved surface and so it appeared to move on a flat surface.

Likewise, if the ball followed along the grad of lines that represented a curved (ie. spherical or hyperbolic geometry) surface, you could say one of the two things, all based on the law of inertia:

  1. The surface is curved, and no forces were acting on the ball.
  2. The surface is flat, and a force was acting on the ball such that it moved off the straight line and so it appeared to move on a curve.

No matter what the outcome, a necessarily true interpretation cannot be found. All interpretations are valid.

The inference of forces stems from objects moving out of an inertial frame (a straight line given that accepted geometry). So the two are co-dependent. With that said, depending on which geometry you decide to accept, this will change the existence of forces. Some disappear and new ones appear under different geometries of space, of the universe.

So when we hold a “scientific fact” to be the absolute and objective truth of the way things are, we should keep things like this in mind. That we cannot truly know for certain, as an objective truth. Even our very fundamental concept of the geometry of things comes into question. An alien from another part of the universe that evolved such that their ancient mathematicians and philosophers first devised a mathematics and geometry which was conceptually spherical will have deduced different laws to explain the same universe. They could create the same technologies and everything. The only difference is the model, the aesthetic of the universe, the allegory for truth changes. What is being represented by the model will still be accurate in the way an analogy is accurate.

And so meeting that alien we might have different laws of physics, different equations and conceptual schemas of what exists, what is in the universe, what laws govern it, etc. But both will be capable of the exact same things.

GEOMETRY MATTERS!

 

A(n aesthetic) theory of everything

Science is the pursuit of the theory of everything. It has the motivation and goal to explain all that can be explained (via science). It looks to explain all of nature, all of the universe through equations. It is seeking a grand unified theory of everything. The truth that science seeks to encapsulate is the objective truth of the universe.

Let’s just assume this is possible. Let’s just assume that this occurs. Suppose that today or tomorrow or next year scientific explanations have come to a conclusion. EVERYTHING can now be explained. Everything. There is no more mystery that science cannot explain, cannot model, cannot predict. This is what the scientific pursuit aims for. It is its purpose.

Now, we should ask ourselves some questions.

First, is this what we want? Is life better when we know absolutely everything about everything, where all things can be explained and all predictions knowable? It is an important question to ask.

Second, how will this knowledge be consumed? Do we believe or expect every single person on the planet to now memorize or come to know all of the science that explains everything? I can hardly expect this to be the case, since today there is LESS scientific knowledge (I assume) than there would be come the day when science has explained everything. And if generally people are not educated in all of the current science, then why should/would they be in the future when even more (all) scientific knowledge is made known?

There are also those people who do not have scientific minds. They don’t process information in that way. They don’t conceptualize atoms and cellular pathways and molecular mechanisms and physical laws. What use will be a scientific model for those people?

Once (again, I am assuming this is even possible) all things are known through science, this knowledge, if it is to be useful, will need to be consumable. In order for it to be consumable it must be understandable and easy to relate to and to conceptualize. It must be simple enough to grasp for all. These become issues of aesthetics. Not just that, it should be enjoyable and fun to consume. This is also an issue of aesthetics.

Once science has finalized all the knowledge of the universe, there will be few interested in the jargon and mechanical technicalities involved in understanding. What good is knowledge if it is too complicated or unpleasant to consume and acquire? What will become necessary (for most, and preferred by all) will be a conceptual schema of that knowledge that can be enjoyable and easy to communicate and represent. Aesthetics.

This is what allegory brings to the table, it is its strength. This is what metaphor and story make possible. I do not foresee a culture of people, upon knowing all of the objective truths of the universe, being capable of communicating all of these truths through complicated mechanisms and equations. What I see as much more likely is an allegorical representation of those equations, of those mechanisms, of those physical laws. I see this as a necessary process if the scientific pursuit ever succeeds in achieving its goal. Culturally, socially and qualitatively, it will allow all people to make use and maintain the knowledge gained.

We do this to degrees today. Watch any PBS/Discovery channel scientific show and the explanations (which is meant to reach a general audience of a wide range of cognitive abilities) given are often soaked in analogy, metaphor and allegory. A concept that is already ready at hand for the viewer is taken into account and used in an analogy so that they can consume and derive meaning from the scientific model. When I am asked for a scientific explanation for a given thing I am forced to do this as well. I cannot use the language and jargon of the scientific world. That would be a horrible explanation as it doesn’t take into account the person who is looking for the explanation.

And in this same way the general public will want to reap the knowledge that comes when science has come to ‘know everything’. And in this same way, it must be consumable and aesthetically pleasing. Scientific knowledge via allegory, via metaphor, via myth and story.

I find it curious. Science was born from not accepting the current stories of the time, the current, you may say, myths. In its own pursuit it may very well end in a myth, a story, an allegory of its own.

A physical/scientific rationale for skepticism?

All conscious beings are conscious of something. We perceive. Right now, reading this post, you are perceiving the screen, the words, and the meaning that you derive from those words.

We trust that what we perceive is precisely what is actually “out there” in the “real world” (i.e. reality). We trust our senses and our perceptions to be a correct portrayal of “reality”. We do this, despite having full knowledge of a wide range of variance in how we and other people perceive “reality”. We can have differing views from others on what is hot, cold, blue, red, grey. We can even have variance in our own views. When we are sick our sense of taste is different. Try drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth. It tastes metallic! When you are in a different mood, things appear differently. When you are starving, food tastes better.

So what does that mean? Is the taste of orange juice “in” the orange juice? Is the taste of orange juice a property of the orange juice? Most people would probably say so. But how can that be? The orange juice didn’t change between when I was thirsty, when I was sick, or after I brushed my teeth. Why is the perceived taste not constant?

We inherently know that our own states can alter how we perceive things through our senses. And so, with a scientific world view of atoms and mechanisms, we can say that each state is different in some causal way. The toothpaste on my tongue altered how I taste the orange juice. But really, truly, the REAL taste of the orange juice is still there. I just didn’t accurately experience it. That is probably a common interpretation.

There are other examples of differing perception. Color blindness. Synesthesia (where people mix up senses, i.e. they smell colors, taste sound, etc). Now, with all this variance, whether it is color blindness, synesthesia or the difference between orange juice with or without brushed teeth, under what criteria are we to judge is the “actual”, the “true”, the “normal” the “REAL” taste of orange juice, the real phenomena in question? Aside from convention, I am not so sure.

And so, if that is the case, is reality just something we agree upon?

We believe that our everyday normal waking experience of the objects we perceive is the true reality of things. And those other examples, color blindness, synesthesia, brushed teeth, etc, all of those states are abnormal. Those are the special cases. But really, truly, our “normal” waking state is the truth of reality. I won’t comment on this view point, but needless to stay it is not a good argument.

A scientific hypothesis could be made that under the assumption of evolution the organisms that are best able to perceive nature/reality as it truly is will be better at surviving. This is a valid hypothesis. But it opens the door to a counter hypothesis along the same lines. It is perfectly conceivable as well that perceiving things truly as they are might be a detriment to the survival of an organism. Why else could denial come into existence? It is better to deny the existence of something, some experience or some truth, for ones mental sake (which is important for survival and success) than to address it as a reality. There certainly are scenarios where ignorance is much more important to survival and success than absolute knowledge.

In addition to this counter hypothesis there is a possible scientific rationale for skepticism, for being skeptical that what we perceive is actually fully true of how things really are.

We model ourselves through science and scientific theories. Under this model the body is made up of cells, cells are simply molecules, molecules are just atoms. These atoms, molecules and all the operations that occur in the body operate under forces (electrochemical, etc) and are governed by the laws of physics. Now, we also operate under the view that our perception is a physical process. The orange juice hits my tongue. It physically touches it. This physical interaction is nothing more than atoms touching other atoms. The taste buds (physical receptors on my tongue that bind molecules in the orange juice, that is, molecules OF orange juice) once activated play a game of dominoes with other atoms, a cellular process called a signalling cascade. The orange juice touches the taste bud, that taste bud (molecules) interact with another molecule, and that with another, and another, and another until molecules in your nerves reach molecules in your brain, and somehow, the experience of taste is perceived.

Now, someone who might have a “defective” taste bud (i.e. a genetic mutation that causes the tongue cells to express a different orange juice receptor) such that there sense of taste might differ from what everyone else tastes. For that person, they might always taste orange juice as if they brushed their teeth. Or maybe they taste something completely different. We believe that the reason why people differ in their perceptions have a physical causal reason.

Here is the thought experiment: It is perfectly plausible that there might actually be a single objective truth to what orange juice tastes like. Let’s just assume this. If this were the case, then in order to perceive it, there must be a perfectly tuned machine (the human body and all the machinery, i.e. molecules) capable of tasting the orange juice as it is. But, it is perfectly plausible that in order for the orange juice to be perceived EXACTLY as it truly is in reality, the machinery involved (the molecules and biochemical structures of the cell) are not stable or possible under the laws of physics. It is quite possible that yes, there is a single true objective taste to how orange juice actually is, but if there is, it can only be experienced as such under specific physical conditions. And it is perfectly plausible that those physical conditions are simply not stable under our laws of physics, or via the machinery of the human body (carbon based organic chemistry), etc.

If this is the case, there is a scientific rationale for skepticism. It would be impossible to know if it was the case or not.

So what does that mean? You tell me.

Bag of Chemicals Thought Experiment

With dualism it is hard to conceptualize how consciousness could arise from matter. If there are two separate categories of things (i.e. substances), how could they ever interact?

In order for two things to be able to interact in any manner, they must have something in common in which to interact. Imagine two people with lots in common, they have many means to interact. Imagine two people with polarizing personalities/interests/traits, they would have less things in common in which to interact, but at the end of the day, they still have quite a lot in common being that they are both humans, both on earth, both have physical bodies, etc.

Oil and water have minimal interactions. If you combine the two in a container you will find all the oil stays together on the surface of the water. Water is hydrophilic (obviously), while oil is hydrophobic. It doesn’t like to interact with water. Now, despite this, it still does interact with water because they both, categorically, have something in common: they both are made up of physical matter (i.e. atoms).

Now, mind/experience/consciousness is a non-physical thing (substance). While physical matter is, well, a physical thing (substance). How is it that one could possibly produce the other?

Let’s address the possibility that matter produces mind, as is commonly held in various schools of thought (scientific, psychological, etc). This is the underlying assumption behind views that depression is just the result of chemistry of the brain. What this view holds is that the presence or absence of more or less or different atoms touching other atoms (physical) results in a different state of consciousness (non-physical).

How can this be?

Some take this to be the case, as it stands. It is that way. I would like to bring a thought experiment into view which might challenge such a view. It addresses the ontology of consciousness, how consciousness, this non-physical thing, comes into existence, into being.

Let’s assume that a single atom (or sub-atomic particle such as an electron, a quark, etc) has no consciousness. It is dead. Lifeless. Inert.

Imagine someone has a bag of chemicals (atoms). The bag might be really big. It could even be the size of the universe. But for all intents and purposes, it is a bag of chemicals of a certain size, with a certain amount of chemicals in it. The chemicals have no means of escaping the bag, and no chemicals can enter the bag. Essentially, it is a closed system (just like the universe).

Now, the chemicals at first are just elementary elements to start with. Just your basic building blocks of matter. Hydrogen atoms, helium atoms, etc.

You shake the bag of atoms, and you do so over time (perhaps over 14 billion years; you are quite old and quite determined to perform this experiment). The atoms will, according to the laws of physics, move around, collide into each other, be attracted, be repulsed, bind to one another, dissociate, etc, etc.

Now, remember, initially we started with a bag with just physical stuff. Only one category of thing, physical matter. There is no consciousness, no non-physical thing in the bag yet. Now, today, in this moment, we can agree that there is consciousness in the universe, this non-physical thing. So, in order to go from a universe made up of ONLY one category of things (physical stuff) to a universe in which there are two categories of things (physical and non-physical stuff), there must be a precise moment where that one new category of things (non-physical stuff) comes into existence.

So, the bag of chemicals is being shaken around. Atoms are combining, doing their thing. At some point a star is formed, and at some point a star explodes, heavier atoms like metals are formed, some come together under certain forces and form structures we might call planets. Atoms keep atoming. Physical matter keeps doing its physical matter stuff (motion and collision).

Now, whether or not it is human consciousness, animal consciousness, a plant consciousness, a rock, a worm, a bacteria, a whatever, it is of no concern. What matters is that at some point the bag of chemicals (the universe) goes from a state of only atoms (physical stuff) to atoms and consciousness (physical and non-physical stuff). Now, at this current moment there is still only physical stuff (atoms), and as we approach the moment where consciousness comes into being, what do we have? We have dead, lifeless, non-conscious atoms in motion, in space, colliding and interacting according to physical laws. In theory each atom could be known by simply its location in space (if we could apply a gps location to it over the bag (universe), and it has motion. That is ALL THAT THERE IS in the bag (universe) at this point. Atoms. Moving. Some atoms are grouped together, and some form structures, but still, it is just dead, lifeless, non-conscious bits of physical stuff of certain amounts in certain arrangements. Like lego pieces arranged in a certain way over here, and arranged in a certain way over there.

Now, if our starting assumptions are correct, them being:

  1. There exists two different things in the universe: physical stuff (matter) and non-physical stuff (mind/consciousness/etc).
  2. Matter causes consciousness (physical stuff causes non-physical stuff to exist).
  3. Fundamental physical stuff (atoms, sub-atomic particles, etc) do not, in themselves, have consciousness.

So, if these assumptions are to be correct, and our system, our bag of chemicals (the universe) is to make a transition from a system that has only matter (physical stuff) in existence to a system that has both matter and mind (physical and non-physical stuff) in existence, and this transition occurs at a definite moment in time, t, then we should bring our attention to this moment in time, t.

Just moments before this moment in time, t, let’s say t minus 1 minute, maybe t minus 1 second, maybe t minus 1 nanosecond, maybe t mins 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds. Whatever. As you approach time point t, what you will have are physical atoms in specific locations in space (three dimensional space coordinates, i.e. gps locations). Then, at time t, what has changed? If we are to accept that in one moment the system has no consciousness, and then the next it does, what has changed? Imagine a system of dead, lifeless atoms, and they all have their locations in space, and are moving on their paths (as they have for all of time), colliding, attracting, repulsing, etc, based on the laws of physics. Then, all of a sudden, the different just before time t and the actual moment of time t, what has changed? Atoms just moved a bit more into different spatial coordinates (gps locations), just as they have for all eternity before this moment in time, t.

Why is consciousness, this non-physical thing supposed to exist now? What is special about THIS spatial coordination of atoms, of matter? Literally, just a nano-second earlier there was no consciousness in the system. Remember, we are holding that the system goes from non-consciousness to consciousness. So there must a an exact time, t, where the transition occurs. So, just a nano-second earlier there was no consciousness in the system. You could give every single atom in the system, the bag, the universe, a specific gps location. And then a nano-second later at the moment of time ‘t’, the moment where consciousness comes into existence, what has changed? In a nano-second each of those atoms, those non-conscious things, have moved a little bit, based on their individual velocities given to them by forces from the physical laws of the universe/bag/system/nature. Where is the cause of consciousness? How could it arrive? And even if it were to somehow be formed from such a system, “where” does it exist? “What” is being conscious? Is it a property of the atoms? Is it a property of something other than the atoms? But there are only atoms. Is it something separate from the atoms? If so, how could the atoms, the only things in existence, create something from which they had no starting materials? What does that even mean?!?!

It seems logically inconsistent. A contradiction. Impossible, or at least, conceptually inconceivable.

Perhaps our starting assumptions are not correct. Let us start with the third.

Fundamental physical stuff (atoms, sub-atomic particles, etc) do not, in themselves, have consciousness

Is this a self-evident truth? For what reason do we have to hold this to be true? Well, assuming the first assumption is true, in that there is a dualistic universe of matter and mind, two distinct and mutually exclusive categories of stuff, I am forced to look at my own experience as a human. I have a body, and that body is made up of large number of cells. Each of these cells is made up of a large number of molecules. Each molecule is made up of a large number of atoms. Each atom is made up of a large number of protons, neutrons, electrons. We could keep going. Essentially, the thing I call ‘my body’, is a collection of an insane number of constituent building blocks of physical matter. Now, I only experience a single consciousness. Consciousness is irreducible, in that it is single, continuous, contiguous and it unites all my experience and perceptions into one single field. It is single, and it must be single, because if it was fragmented I could never have the possibility of memory. If each perception, each moment, was a different/separate consciousness, then information from one could never be made available to another. Memory, and so much more, would not be possible. I don’t experience my laptop as a separate experience to the temperature I am feeling now, as a separate experience to my dog snoring on the couch. Consciousness is all unified, singular, into one experience.

Now, I experience this singular, continuous, unified field of consciousness (thought the objects of my consciousness change, it is always “I” who experiences them). But the body is made up of a ridiculously unfathomable number of physical things. If each of these physical things had their own consciousness, how could I arrive at a single unified experience of consciousness? Especially if I am in perfect fluidity with the greater system, my environment. At every moment atoms, dead, lifeless, inert, non-conscious atoms from my environment are flowing and assembling “into” my body, and at that same moment atoms, dead, lifeless, inert, non-conscious atoms from “my body” are flowing and “leaving” and going off into the environment. I breath. Dead, non-conscious physical atoms come from my environment, enter my blood stream by binding hemoglobin, get shuttled to cells, form chemical reactions, and now, as opposed to just moments ago, are now structurally a constituent of the body. Did I gain consciousness? Does that even mean anything? When I eat, when I defecate, when I spit, when I scratch my head and thousands upon thousands of skin cells are removed from my body, when I bleed, I am losing these atoms. Is my consciousness being lost or affected?

We don’t believe so, do we? Because we have one unified consciousness. So we hold this assumption that atoms do not have consciousness. Otherwise, why wouldn’t I experience multiple consciousnesses. The consciousness from that atom, or that, or that, and that, and that one over there too. That is not our experience.

We also do not accept that atoms have consciousness, otherwise that would raise ethical issues as to how to treat every single atom in the universe.

Assumption two:

Matter causes consciousness (physical stuff causes non-physical stuff to exist).

Perhaps this assumption is not warranted. It is a generally held belief by modern scientific thinkers. Why are we becoming such a medicated culture? Why do we give our children drugs that we infer will have a causal effect on how they behave, how they perceive and experience existence? Someone that is depressed believes that the drug, which is just a collection of dead, lifeless atoms, will lead to a causal path where those dead, lifeless atoms will, following the laws of chemistry (which is nothing other than physics), interact with other dead, lifeless atoms, and somehow, in some way, that will lead to a change in the quality of the conscious experience (from depressed to not depressed).

I am not sure that this assumption is true, but it is not wrong to say that this is a standing assumption that the western, scientifically minded world holds to be true. Whether conscious or not, it is an underlying philosophical assumption and world view in which our behavior and decision relies upon.

Assumption one:

There exists two different things in the universe: physical stuff (matter) and non-physical stuff (mind/consciousness/etc).

This the biggest assumption of the three. The other two rely completely on the truth value of this assumption. This assumption is actually an inference that we make, as I mentioned in the materialism vs. immaterialism post, here. Essentially, we infer that there are these two things because we have a conscious experience. This conscious experience is of things. That is, consciousness has objects. When we are conscious, we are conscious of things. The only criteria that you have that you are conscious right now is that you are conscious of something. Properly put, in Descartes cogito ergo sum, what he is saying is that for as long as he is thinking (conscious), he is. For as long as we have an object of which we are conscious of, then we the thing that is doing the consciousness, the thing that is aware (the Self, consciousness itself), then we know that we are conscious. This is the case in waking life and dream states. But in deep sleep, there is no object of consciousness. The object of consciousness is no-thing. It isn’t that consciousness does not exist, rather, with the lack of an object of consciousness, there is no ego, no self, no criteria, no “I-am-ness” to make an inference of experience.

Now, we definitely know that consciousness exists. This is the single most truthful axiom, the single most self-evident truth that cannot be denied. More so than any other assumption or axiom, such as the axiom of non-contradiction (i.e. If P then not P is not true as it would imply a contradiction, i.e. my dog is sitting on the couch, by the principle of non-contradiction I cannot logically structure the thought that she is also not sitting on the couch (though this is quite possible and quite common in dreams, i.e. it was my house but also not my house, that person was my family member but also not my family member)))))))

So, we are conscious. And we are conscious of objects. Dualism comes into play when we infer that the things we are conscious of (which, in itself, consciousness is a non-physical thing, it is an experience, and nobody can touch my experience, though they can touch me and the things I am experiencing) have a physical true existence outside of our minds. We quite literally through this inference bring the objects of consciousness into a physical real existence. Just think, if a new born was put into a coma, and like the matrix movies, was kept alive for the span of a regular human life via feeding tubes, heart pumps, etc, etc, and that baby were to dream its entire life. For that baby (or adult or anyone in this thought experiment), all of the objects of its consciousness (the content of its dream) would be given ontology. It would be given existence. Reality. It would be real. The objects of the consciousness would be inferred to have real existence, out there, external to the mind.

When we are in dreams, in the moment, while we are conscious of those objects of consciousness (the content of the dreams), we are experiencing them as real. They ARE real. The mind, the consciousness, makes them real. We are experiencing them. There was a dream that changed my life and compelled me to investigate consciousness. I was in nature, some sort of forest type setting. I came to a narrow stream, it was about 3 feet wide. I decided I wanted to jump over the stream, I was heading to the other side. As I jumped over the stream a snake sprang out from the water and was looking to bite me. I was so scared, so startled, I woke in one of those cliche tv/movie panics. I was terrified, even still in waking life.

How could this be so?

If I think of a snake jumping at me now I am not scared. It is not real. There is no reality to it. I “know” it is just in my mind and not something that is actually “out there”, with a real physical existence.

But in the dream, the dream IS the object of my consciousness. It is the ONLY object of my consciousness. It is the only thing that IS. What is the object of my consciousness is brought into a real existence, it is inferred to be real, to be true, to be out there. The conscious experience of the object BRINGS it into existence, in relation to the thing that experiencing it, me.

Anyway. I have gone way off track and I am hungry.

Though I cannot prove any of the three assumptions to be true, and in fact I do not necessarily hold all or any of them to be true, my purpose of the thought experiment is to see logical impossibility of consciousness coming into existence from such a system.

Though it is worth addressing, quickly, the concept of emergent properties. Emergent properties are only concepts and conceptual. They exist only in the mind, and are analytic, which is to say necessarily definitional. When someone says hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water, and water has completely different properties that did not exist in hydrogen nor in oxygen, and so H2O, water, is more than the sum of its parts. It has emergent properties. And that this is what consciousness is. Something that emerges from atoms.

I have only a few things to say. First, this on the surface seems an intelligible argument, but it isn’t. It isn’t because what has emerged is still a physical thing. No new non-physical thing has emerged. Water is still physical. Show me how hydrogen and oxygen can combine to form a conscious experience.

More importantly, hydrogen + oxygen = water is a definition. It is like all bachelors are unmarried men. When I say the word bachelor, “unmarried men” is not an emergent property. It is just a definition. We first started with something, water, and we gave it a definition, H2O. H2O is given an analytic definition of being two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen. We made that definition, that rule, that concept in order to explain what “water” is.

To say water is an emergent property of hydrogen and oxygen is sillyness. We start with a phenomenal experience and we give it a symbol, syntax, a name, a word “water”. Then years go by, and eventually we want to explain just exactly what water is. So we create concepts of atoms, and we say water is H2O. In order to do that, we first instate what H is and what O is. We make up a system based on definitions. Now to turn around after all that and say “we have hydrogen as the real stuff, we have oxygen as the real stuff, and if we combine them something new comes into being, separate from the two, water. Water is an emergent property” is circular and non-sense. It is like starting off with forming a language, and before the written word existed we might have had the word “goat”. It is an utterance, a sound we make. Then, once someone decided it would be a good idea to take the sounds we make in our language and produce a written language so that we could write things down, an alphabet must be created. “Goat”, the sound and word, existed. Then, by definitions and convention, a certain symbol (letter) would represent the “guh” sound of “goat”, the letter g. And the “teh” sound of “goat” would be represented by the letter “t”, and so on.

Now, to develop the alphabet which is to represent the language and sounds, then to turn around and say “hey, ‘goatness’ is not contained in g, o, a or t alphabet symbols. Yet, when I combine them together into g-o-a-t, something new comes into existence that wasn’t there before, therefore goat is an emergent property” IS JUST PLAIN WRONG! It is not true. We created a definition of what the word goat is to be (g+o+a+t connected into one sound), in the same way that we define a bachelor to be unmarried man. It is purely analytic (definition). The predicate (description) is contained in the concept of the subject. It is contained via a definition. H2O is contained in the concept of water, as are H and O. There is no emergent property.

I have written for too long. I will count this as two blog posts towards my monthly goal of a blog post each day, as I could easily have divided it up.

All this to say, consciousness is not an emergent property. It is the fundamental foundation of our existence, the single strongest assumption/axiom we can rely on, and the thought experiment above shows that it is logically inconsistent and conceptually difficult (to say the least) to conceive of how dead lifeless atoms in one geo spatial position at a moment in time could have no consciousness, but if some of those atoms moved a fraction of a nanometer in one direction, at a new time point, t, consciousness would now exist. It does not seem plausible.

Paradigm shifts: Consequences part deux (science as an aesthetic pursuit)

At least another post is warranted concerning paradigm shifts. As originally discussed here, a science and scientific progress follows phases. There is the adoption of a paradigm/theory, the period that follows is one of normal science in which experiments are done based on the predictions of that paradigm/theory, over time anomalies accumulate until the currently held paradigm/theory comes under scrutiny in terms of its validity and truth value. At this point a period of crisis emerges, followed necessarily by a period of revolution.

The revolution is when, at the time, the currently held paradigm/scientific theory is ready to be abandoned. The scientific community reaches a tipping point where faith in that theory, that model, that paradigm for how the universe is, how nature is, how the world is, is no longer acceptable. The paradigm/theory can only be replaced with a new paradigm/theory. The scientific community, at this point, will, much like a political revolution, involve in discussion/debate as to what the future paradigm/theory to be adopted should be. It is at this point that we are concerned in this post.

Like any other human endeavor that involves consensus of opinion among a large number of people, this process is highly social and political in nature.

Imagine the context. The scientific community no longer holds such and such a theory to be acceptable any longer. A new theory must replace it. Naturally, there will be some scientists with a specific opinion on what the new replacement theory should embody and entail, and there will be others with a differing view. Each will have their own reasons, their own motivations. This happens continuously, for each paradigm shift. In some instances the number of competing theories may be quite varied, in other instances, perhaps that is not the case at all and one prevailing theory is obvious for all.

In any case, when there are competing possible theories to replace an existing theory, an existing paradigm, an existing world view, what are the factors that influence the final decision regarding the adoption of one theory over all the others?

It would be nice to assume that the scientific theory chosen will be ‘obvious’, and stand out as ‘the objective truth’. This is wishful thinking. If it was the case, why didn’t it stand out before? People differ in their interpretations of data. But that is not else. The choice of what paradigm to move into, to accept, of what scientific theory to adopt moving into the future of scientific progress, can never be based purely on scientific data. It can’t be. Because the data, up until that point, is always framed within the old (currently held) paradigm/scientific theory/world view. No two paradigms/world views are meaningfully comparable. They are incommensurable. When Einstein said gravity isn’t a force acting on bodies that are separated over space, rather gravity is what we call the curvature of space due to the mass of a body, neither can be said to be right or wrong relative to the other. They cannot be compared meaningfully.

Something else happens when scientific theories are adopted and used to replace older existing scientific theories. It is important to make clear that it is never purely the data that can be used as the criteria to choose one theory over another. There is always an appeal to aesthetics and faith. This is CRUCIAL, and cannot be understated. Aesthetics, in the sense that the new theory must be pleasing, it must account for certain logical relations, yes, but it generally should be simple (Occam’s razor: the simplest explanation is the most likely) and not unnecessarily complicated. For what reason are we to impose this guiding principle on our decisions of scientific theories, of how the universe is? Since this guiding principle of science is one that addresses empirical investigations, we have the right to ask what empirical data do we have that would support the belief that nature is always as simple as possible? Do we even have a single piece of data to support that? Is it not the case that every time we make a simple theory, the simplest one possible, that we have to end up modifying it and adding more and more things? We started with the atom, that was simple, and things just got more and more complex (protons, neutrons, electrons; then they were made up of quarks, and those might be made up of non-dimensional strings that vibrate…). When are our theories ever ACTUALLY the simplest possible?

Yet we invoke this aesthetic guiding principle at every turn along our scientific pursuit. Quite literally, our scientific progress and theories are formulated with aesthetics in mind.

The adoption of the new scientific theory/paradigm is also based on faith. The replacement is chosen as the scientific community has faith, has belief, that it will be successful in explaining future phenomena, and predicting future phenomena as well.

Faith and aesthetics. Does that sound like your concept of what science is?

Besides these two underlying influences, the actual process of zeroing in on a new scientific theory/paradigm to replace an old one that is no longer viable is also a political and social process. Much like any process where a group of diverse and differing people have to come to an agreement, opinions will be stated. Some members of the scientific community will be louder than others, some opinions will have perceived merit over others, some distinguished and highly regarded scientists will have opinions, and those of less regard will have theirs. Just like any political process, any social process, all these factors will invariably have an effect. When Richard Dawkins speaks, his followers take his word as gospel. If his view is incompatible with that of a less highly regarded scientist, the general public will take Dawkins’s view over his colleagues.

It isn’t perfect. And that is natural.

The consequence that we have to take from this, is that our relationship to science, and any given scientific theory or “truth”, as stated, as not as objectively true as we hold it to be. Rather, it is a standing hypothesis, and just as any hypothesis can never be proven, rather only refuted, the same is true for any and all currently held scientific theories/paradigms/world views, no matter how accepted and held it is.

Another consequence comes from analogy. Just as the validity/strength of a conclusion any chain of arguments makes rests on the weakest link in that argument, and just as the strength of a physical chain is only as strong as the weakest link, the same is true of science.

If the process of science rests on weak links, weak steps, weak foundations, then the entire body of science is only as strong as that weakest link.

We hold scientific knowledge to represent the objective truth of our objectively knowable universe. We are not just confident in this, we are sure of it. It is how many of us frame our universe/reality/nature/etc. Science is objective, not subjective, it holds up to scrutiny, it is this process, this methodology that assumes nothing, and is meticulous in its resolve to come to know things for certain.

Yet, at every stage of the development, adoption and replacement of one scientific theory, one paradigm, one world view for another, there is that link that involves aesthetics, faith, and the social/political factors that lead to an agreement/convention. Are any of those things objective? Are any of those things scientific? If they aren’t, if a pivotal and vastly important step in scientific development rests on non-scientific principles, then what can we say of the whole pursuit of science? Like a chain, whether physical or a series of arguments, the whole is only as strong as the weakest link, then what does that mean of science and the scientific process? Does that mean that it rests on aesthetics, faith and convention, like any other belief system such as mythology, folklore, religion, allegory?

We may convince ourselves otherwise, but for now I am not so sure.

 

Is it logical to be logical?

We all know that logic exists. It is a form of reasoning that follows specific rules such that if you begin with a true premise, and maintain the rules of reasoning (logic), then you will arrive at a true conclusion, necessarily.

Now, let’s say you or someone you know is like Spock, a Vulcan from Star Trek. Vulcan’s are purely logical and do not appeal to emotion whatsoever. Now, if someone were you ask you the question “Why are you logical? What is your reason for being logical?” What answer could be given?

See, a logical person cannot answer by saying “I am logical because it is logical to be logical”, since that is an illogical statement. It is illogical because it is a circular argument. It cannot be said that it is logical to make the decision to use logic. The decision to use or not use logic must come from outside of logic.

Take a similar line of arguing for comparison: a sometimes used argument for the validity/truthfulness of scripture (ie. the bible). One might ask, ‘How do you know what is said in the bible is true?’, a response may be ‘because it says so in the bible’. This, again, is circular reasoning, and cannot be used. The bible is true because the bible says that it is. But the reason I have to accept that the bible is true is because it says that it is, and because it says that it is, I believe it to be true. It is circular. Logically speaking, it is illogical.

Is it logical to be logical? Yes, because it is logical to be logical. Since I know it is logical to be logical, if I want to be logical I should be logical. This is an illogical argument. It is circular.

I am going to try to come at this from a different perspective, a visual one. Venn diagrams can be used to visually represent “sets” of things. These sets have “members” in them. An example would be, the set of all phones, P, represented by the circle.

P

Now, we can try to get a better idea about the types of members in P, meaning, the types of phones. So we could look at the set of all cell phones, C, and and set of all home phones, H.

CH

Visually, what is being represented here is that we have a larger, more encapsulating set of members, phones, and within that set of all phones in existence, some can be classified and grouped into a sub-set of cellphones, C, and some can be grouped into a sub-set of home phones, H. The two sets, cellphones and home phones, do not overlap at all because they are mutually exclusive. There is no such thing as a cellphone that is also a home phone, and vice versa. They are separate, and no member (phone) of either subset is contained within the other subset.

Now, we can go further. Within the sub-set of cell phones, C, we can look at the members that belong to smart phones, S, and regular old crappy cell phones, R.

SR

Now, once again, we have two subsets of P, which are also contained as subsets of C, and these two subsets S and R (smart phones and crappy old regular cell phones) are mutually exclusive, that is, a cell phone that is a smart phone cannot also at the same time be classified as a crappy old regular cell phone.

Now, what if we decided to look at the members of the set of cell phones, C, and see which members of C were made by Nokia, N.

N

Here, you see a new set, a new circle (elipse), N (the members of the set C (cell phones) that are made by Nokia). Here we have an overlap of sets. Some of the members of N overlap with the members of S, and some overlap with the members of R. From this visual representation we can interpret it in that of all the members of cell phones that are produced by Nokia (N), some are smart phones and some are regular old crappy cell phones.

Ok. Now, let’s look at a new Venn diagram.

L

Here, we have the square box as the biggest set, K. K is the set of all knowledge. Perhaps we could call it the set, T, containing all true statements. Something along those lines will do. So, it is a set of all knowledge and/or all true statements. So anything that is a true statement, or a piece of knowledge, is a member of K, is contained within K.

Now, of all the true statements in existence, some could be rounded up and put into a subset of what we could call logical. This subset of all logical truth statements could be denoted as the circle above, L. So, within that set, that circle, L, exists every logical truth statement in existence. Now, we know that circular arguments are not logical. So though I don’t know exactly to what set a circular argument belongs to, I know for a fact that it cannot, necessarily, be contained within L, because L is the set of all logical truth statements, and by definition, a circular argument is not logical.

So the reason and motivation to use logic, the rules of logic, as a means to acquire “truth” or valid arguments, cannot be a logical reason. Again, if you were to make ANY logical argument to arrive at the conclusion that it is logical to use logic, any such argument would be a circular argument, and would necessarily be an illogical argument. It would not be a member of the set L, logical truth statements.

It cannot be said to be logical to be logical.

If you are interested in this you can google Godel’s incompleteness theorem, which shows this, as well as many other necessary consequences, to be true.

It it is for this reason that you cannot appeal to God to believe in the truthfulness/validity of God, you cannot use science to prove science, you cannot use logic to appeal to the use of logic. For all of these, what we can call modes of epistemology, a word that means knowledge, acquiring knowledge, systems of knowledge, you can never appeal to that given system to validate that system.

The choice of using logic, of science, of whatever, must always be an extra-logical, extra-scientific, extra-whatever choice. The motivating force, the reason behind using logic, science, etc, must always lie OUTSIDE those domains. And so what might those reasons be?

I am inclined to state that they are preferences. Preferences of aesthetics, of convention, and faith. We use logic because we have an aesthetic preference for what it does. It orders things, it keeps things easy to understand and group and relate to. It is an aesthetic choice. We also chose it because we have faith in it, that it will come to a conclusion that we deem, via convention, to be true/valid/valuable/preferable.

We adhere and follow scientific modes of explanation because of aesthetics. Scientific explanations fit nicely together, the models are aesthetically pleasing, they leave no gaps, and the gaps that do exist we have faith and belief that eventually they will be filled in, and filled in in such a way that will be coherent, cogent and thus maintaining their aesthetic appeal.

So, the next time someone is being logical with you and making a valid argument against you, feel free to tell them how illogical they are being. They won’t be able to prove you wrong (that is, while using logic)!

 

 

The Dark Room

I conceived of a thought experiment, though I am not sure when.

Imagine awakening in a pitch black room. You could not see what is in front of your face. Perhaps you can imagine this as how you are now, or as yourself but with amnesia, though I am not sure if it matters.

You are in this completely dark room, of which you have absolutely no knowledge of. All that you know is that you are motivated to learn everything you can about the room. For the sake of the thought experiment, perhaps it is your natural motivation, or perhaps a voice is heard that states you are to catalog and know the room in every sense. Know all of its contents, what exists in it, the shape, etc.

Now, how could you ever know, in the truest sense of the word, when you have finally and completely come to understand the room, catalog everything in it, etc? You start from a state of ignorance. No knowledge. You know nothing about the room. It could be infinite in size. It could have nothing in it. It could have one thing in it. It could have ____ number of things in it. You don’t know. There could be things in it that you can’t perceive, there could be things that are so small you have no means to apprehend. You don’t even know if the room itself is constant, and that it doesn’t change as you move around within it.

How can you know, for certain, NECESSARILY, without any possibility of doubt, what is in the room, what is the room, its shape and structure, etc? Can you?

You might first start by walking around the room. Perhaps even crawling on hands and knees. You feel around, fumbling in the dark. You find something. You label it and categorize it. You continue this process. You feel the floors, the walls, perhaps the ceiling. You find that the walls meet the floors, and the walls meet the ceiling, you walk around and do this. Perhaps you convince yourself that the room is finite in size, it has a definite structure/shape. You convince yourself that you have searched every inch of the room. You must have come across everything in it. But again, there is always the chance that something else still remains in the room. How can you know you have learned everything about the room? How can you even be sure that the room doesn’t change, that after you leave one area of the room the room itself doesn’t shift and change, leaving you, based on your assumption that the room is constant, to come to false conclusions. Can you come to know anything at all without making any assumptions whatsoever?

I think about this room sometimes. I wonder if the person in the room, any person, who starts with knowing NOTHING, absolutely nothing about what is in the room, or information on the room, is able to deduce knowledge of the room. If for example you were told there are only 5 things in the room, and you found 5 things, then you could deduce that you now know the 5 things in the room. But you aren’t given this information. You have no idea. No matter how many things you find in the room you can never be sure that you have exhausted all that there is in the room. You can’t be sure that a hole in a wall forms, new things come in, and the hole is fixed, all without your knowledge. There is always quite literally always one more thing that could be in the room, one more explanation that could be made that would have to be addressed.

I think of this thought experiment because I think it says something about a conscious being (humans, me, you, etc) seemingly being thrust into a room (the universe, existence, reality, nature, the world) and having a motivation to come to know what the room is, what is in it, what are the rules of the room, etc. Just as in the thought experiment, certain assumptions have to be made in order to start to create a body of “knowledge”. And based on those assumptions, your behavior and methodology for how to go about investigating the contents of the room is shaped (world view). And just like the thought experiment, no matter how confident we get in cataloging the stuff in our room (universe), in explaining the content, in explaining the room itself and how the things in it relate to each other, can we ever be sure we know everything about the room? Is it not possible that we learn something new? Is that not always the case? Our ideas of the room are constantly changing, that is one thing that we can determine to be constant. Our concepts of the room are not simple, and actually get more and more complicated and involved as we learn more and more things about this room. Should we believe the room, and the laws (we impose on it) that govern it to be static, or perhaps the laws themselves change. What reason do we have to make these assumptions?

I am reminded of the confidence of a child. I am guilty of this. I know I have seen it happen in others as well, both child and adult. In this setting we have two people, one who lacks any education whatsoever on a topic, and another that knows quite a bit. The person that wants to learn something (student) learns a little bit, and is taught from the person that knows quite a bit (teacher). Is it not the case that, at times, the student, upon learning a bit of knowledge, will be quick to judge that what they have learned is sufficient. They are quite happy with what they have learned thus far, and believe it is sufficient. They now know about this topic, and no longer need any more education from the teacher. Thanks but no thanks, I know what I am doing. I got this under control. But the teacher, seeing this, can’t help but smile. It is the ignorance of youth. It is a mistake. The teacher knows not just what the student knows, but also all the other things that the student does not know. All the things of which the student does not even have any concept of existing. Just like Dick Cheney said, we are aware of what we hold to “know”, we might be aware of some knowledge that we don’t know, but we know is out there, but there exists stuff that we don’t know, and we don’t even know that we don’t know it. How can we? We find ourselves in the dark room with no information on what the upper limit of what can be known. There can always be something else.

Just like the person that is quick to judge that they now know everything after learning a thing or two, they rush with their false confidence, and make statements and take actions that do not reflect the fact that they cannot and do not know what they cannot and do not know.

I wonder if the person in the dark room can come to know everything about the dark room. Perhaps that isn’t a meaningful question, and perhaps it is the wrong question to ask. Though, I do think it is important to ask, because I believe the pursuit of science is an objective pursuit of exactly that knowledge. Perhaps, if that knowledge is not truly possible, it is worth asking a different question: what is the best way to model the room? What is the way in which to derive meaning from the room? Leave the pursuit of objective knowledge of the totality of things behind, and instead derive a model, a view of the room, that derives the most meaning to you.

In any case, it is just a thought experiment.

Materialism and Immaterialism

So I wrote a blog post yesterday and when I clicked “publish” something went wrong and the whole thing was lost.

I will, as briefly as possible, attempt to re-hash what I wrote previously.

Right now, if you are reading this, you are reading the blog post from a device. It is either a computer, a laptop, a tablet, phone or who knows what. But, there is a device. Let’s just assume you are reading from a laptop. Now, a materialist/physicalist/scientific world view would be that the phenomena you perceive which you attribute to the laptop (color, shape, texture, sound..smell?) has a source. The phenomena is perceived in the mind, and this is possible because there are physical things in existence, out there, that interact with your physical body and the senses are able to translate those interactions, somehow, to the mind as phenomena that you perceive.

Intrinsic to this view is that the source of those phenomena is a thing, and that thing is made up of matter, it is physical, it is extended in space, and the phenomena we experience is an accurate representation of what that thing actually is.

What I mean is, under such a world view, when I am conscious of what I would categorize as a visual representation of my laptop (i.e., I can see colors expanded over a geometric shape, and I call those colors and geometric shapes to be “laptop”), I believe that what I am seeing has, as its source, an actual object in the world that is exactly how I see it. Even more basically, what I see and perceive is actually what is out there, physically, in the world.

I think this is the world view that most people, especially if you have never given it any thought before, would assume.

Immaterialism is different. An immaterialist (or idealist) recognizes that first and foremost, I am aware/conscious of a perception. The perception is of something, there is always an object of the consciousness, of what is perceived. This is, in our everyday waking life experience (aside from thinking, etc) an experience of phenomena. When I see my laptop, what I am experiencing are phenomena (colors that extend over certain shapes/geometries), and smells, tastes, sounds, and tactile sensations (touch). A bundle of certain phenomena is grouped together and I call that “laptop”, a bundle of another I call “table” and a bundle of another I call “tomato”.

So far there is no difference between a materialist and an immaterialist. The immaterialist though, recognizes that the perception itself is non-physical. The experience of phenomena, the conscious experience of being aware of “laptop” is non-physical. You cannot touch an experience. You cannot taste an experience. You cannot locate it on a gps map and move it somewhere else. It is immaterial. It is non-physical.

And so experience itself, consciousness itself, perception itself, is non-physical. The immaterialist recognizes this and says that there is no reason to believe that the immaterial experience of phenomena necessarily represents a physical, extended, material object in an external world made up of physical, material objects. It is the materialist that has to make an inference, that has to take the experience and then from that make the belief that those experiences are of physical/material things.

The two universes that a materialist and an idealist/immaterialist live in are completely differently structured. One has atoms and matter, consciousness, perceptions, phenomena and ideas/concepts.

The concept of an atom doesn’t necessitate the existence of a physical atom. The same way that a concept of a pegasus doesn’t necessitate the physical existence of a pegasus.

The story is made much more interesting when Descartes introduces dualism. For Descartes, the universe/reality is made up of two different substances: matter and mind. There is the stuff of the physical world: atoms, matter, bodies, motion, etc. This stuff operates causally, like billiard balls moving around, one in contact with another, colliding, imparting forces onto each other in a never ending dance of cause-effect (governed by the laws of physics thanks to Newton). But Descartes recognizes he is a thinking thing. Cogito ergo sum. He knows he thinks, and thinking/the mind/the soul/consciousness is not material, it is something completely different. And so, man has a dualistic existence. There is the physical body, which interacts with the physical external world, and there is this non-material mind that lives somewhere in the brain.

This was quite confusing. Perhaps you can see why. For you see, in order for any two things, no matter what they are, to be able to interact with one another, they must have some common grounds in which to mediate an interaction. Now, for Descartes, these two substances (mind and matter) were of completely different substance. One (matter) had a physical existence. The other (mind) was completely non-physical. So how could one impart an effect, could interact, could communicate to the other? In the physical world, an atom touches another, and another, and there is a chain reaction like dominoes falling. Sugar touches the tongue, a nerve ending is excited, electrical signal is carried along the nerves (which is just atoms, ie. ions, moving) those atoms touch others, until finally the dominoes of atoms touching atoms gets to the brain. And then what? The atoms touch what? Do what? Does the final atom touch a non-physical thing? What does that even mean?

The flaws of Descartes dualism was immediately met with skepticism. He even received a letter from Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia who raised this exact point. How a physical substance could impart an effect on a non-physical substance.

Most people today, I would believe, hold this to be true. That there is mind, and it is different than matter. So, how can this be? Can you think of how a physical thing is to interact with a non-physical thing? How might this look?

Today we also have those that don’t entertain dualism. We have materialists. We have immaterialists. We have some outspoken scientists today that are so strongly committed to materialism that they declare consciousness to be an illusion. I find this quite concerning and dangerous, as I think we can all agree, (Descartes included) is that there is only one thing that we can be certain of and it is that we are aware of something. This awareness is consciousness itself. In order to even make the statement “I am not conscious” is a contradiction.

I am not sure where that leaves us. I won’t argue my thoughts. I will just leave those positions here in the post as something to think about.

Dark Matter. Dark Energy.

Dark energy and dark matter is just so cool and interesting. Dark matter and dark energy, so it is believed, constitute about 95% of the mass in the universe! 95%!

The remainder is what we are capable of seeing and experiencing, ‘ordinary’ matter. That would mean that almost all of our universe is made up of stuff that we have never experienced, have no real means of experiencing through the senses, and have never perceived or thought of before. This is a powerful implication in terms of what is. What is there that exists? The idea that in our universe there is this stuff that for some reason does not produce phenomena that we can detect. In other words, light (electromagnetic radiation) does not interact with it.

How did we come to the world view, the belief, the concept that dark matter and dark energy exists?

Once the theory of gravitation was accepted within the realm of science, the equations that govern motion and mechanics were applied to bodies within our solar system. Based on the data and paths/orbits of certain bodies (ie. Planets, satellites, etc) it was inferred that under the accepted laws of science that there must be other bodies in our solar system. From this, empirical evidence was sought, and found, and from this we had the discovery of new planets, Uranus being the first found in this manner.

Now, in the 20th century we have instrumentation that allows for the empirical evidence of vast celestial bodies. Astronomers and astrophysicists can observe entire galaxies. These galaxies are to be understood and modelled just as any other atom, any other dead, lifeless mass in the universe, via the laws imposed by physics.

Now, something funny happened in the 20th century. According to the mathematical equations, the laws that govern physics, the galaxies should have been observed differently. The prediction from our accepted theories were not represented by our empirical data. The way certain galaxies, certain parts of our universe were behaving were not as the mathematics predicts.

This is a VERY interesting junction point in history. The theory, which up until that point was accepted as fully TRUE, and the actual empirical data were at odds with each other. They both said different things. Due to the principal of non-contradiction, it cannot be said that both were correct, as that would also imply that both are incorrect. One must be correct, the other must necessarily be false.

But on what grounds, what criteria is the scientific world to judge which is incorrect and which is false?

Because when the calculations were way off, man (science, the scientific community) would have to make a choice. Move into a universe, to belong to a universe where our calculation is wrong, our theories are wrong, and what we see IS TRULY what is in the universe. Or, to move into a universe, to belong to a universe where the calculation is RIGHT, and that the universe must be different in a way that creates an explanation, an explanation that is interpreted and agreed upon (by convention) that the universe that we belong to now has a new kind of substance, completely foreign to us that we cannot perceive by any of our instrumentation as well. It is actually most of the universe, and we are just a fraction of it. It exists, and without it the universe that we thought we lived in would never be possible. Having this is a good thing.

Because that was literally what the scientific world view was forced to decide between.

I, myself, really like the second universe. It has so much potential! The interpretations could be varied. Explanations could range from evidence in support of multiple dimensional theories, I am sure our friend Deepak Chopra would love to argue in favour of the other substance within the yogic system as well as other Indian philosophies (I can’t remember if Samkhya AND Vedanta follow this system or not) that interacts with the matter and the mind. This subtle body that has properties in common with the immaterial substance of mind and the material extended substance of physical matter. It is almost like an operator. It connects a to be. A + B. It is the +. It is the operator. It connects the two. I am rambling.

So, there was an option. Now, a judgment HAS to be made. Either we move into one universe, or another. The results force upon us the choice: which universe do we move into? Because we cannot hold both that the calculations are right and not right. It is a basic axiom of logic. The principle of non-contradiction. We must ask ourselves if this contradiction is warranted, and if it was then we MUST choose one of the universes. Though it would be interesting to entertain what such a universe would look like if both were accepted as true.

Either way, one chooses a universe. The scientific community chose the universe where the calculation is right.

But notice the impact of the psychology. It must have come to the judgment that the theories CANNOT be wrong, and that our empirical evidence, our senses and instruments that extend our senses (but really?…..) were lacking information on this objective truth. Our model, how we view the universe, the math and geometry and reasoning, that MUST be right. But the empirical evidence, our own experience, is lacking.

I found this great pic when I google image searched dark matter:

There MUST be something else. The math says so. The math CANNOT be wrong. That would imply that our theories are wrong, since our theories are mathematized, the universe IS math, and the math is IN the actual doings of the universe, so if our math is wrong, then our universe is wrong (our model of it, our theories of it, the way we know/understand/perceive/view it). That is too hard to face. But also, our faith in our math is too strong, we are committed to our theories. We would have to change some of our theories to change the math. So let’s stick with the math being right, and change our universe in that sense. The stuff added, since we could not see or perceive it, and it MUST be there, but we would’ve perceived it by now, and since we have not perceived it, then it is must be there but not perceivable. Period. We receive no electromagnetic radiation (including light) from it (this is our detection system which is translated to a means of phenomenal detection by us, ie. The detection of gamma rays which is translated into some sort of visual feedback (a needle moving, a light source such as a computer screen, etc); something using our senses to make the inference “Oh, that means an x-ray was detected”.

The name dark seems appropriate.

And just like that, the universe now changes. The way we view the world, the universe, has changed.

A paradigm shift. In just one conceptual change, a new paradigm is created and the structure of the universe/nature/reality/the world has changed. And what are the factors? There is a judgment to be made regarding the interpretation of the results of a calculation, a prediction, made on the structure and movement of distant galaxies. The math, the theories, are not matching what we see. So, either the math, the theories are wrong and what we see is accurate, or the theories are right and what we see is inaccurate.

What reasons do we have to choose one interpretation over the other? What reasons do YOU have? It is, I think, worth thinking about.

In any case, a decision by the scientific community was made (though it should be noted that there are some competing theories which involve changing the previous held theories, ie. modifying gravity). But what reason could have been given for one world view over another, for one interpretation over the other?

In any case, this is an interesting example of a key game changing perceptual shift from a basic metaphysical question: What is? What is there? What exists? Ok, so we have matter and energy. Those are two substances yet they can convert between each other. Ok. There is anti-matter and matter (will definitely need to look into how the concept of anti-matter was brought into existence). And now we have dark matter and dark energy, with their own unique characteristics and qualities, and they are almost everything in the universe. I am not sure about how they may or may not relate and interact with the other substances in existence.

Paradigm shifts. Coming to you soon!

Consequences of Paradigm Shifts

In my recent blog post (here) regarding paradigm shifts and the structure of scientific progress (revolutions), as put forth by Thomas Kuhn, the empirical fact that paradigm shifts occur requires some attention.

If you haven’t read the blog post mentioned above, you simply need to know that a paradigm is a framework, a model (such as a scientific theory), as to how a system is framed/structured/conceived/perceived to function/viewed. The system could be very limited, such as how physical traits are inherited over generations (ie. genetics/genomics/epigenetics/evolution; such that, someone with such a paradigm would think that living organisms exist because they are suited to their environment via natural selection, whereas someone who didn’t hold that paradigm might have a different explanation, ie. God or chance), or the system could be the entire universe/nature/reality and all the models used to explain how it is, why it is, what it is (ie a myth, folklore, religious view, philosophy, or the entire body of scientific knowledge).

Now, paradigm shifts occur. This is a fact. A historical fact. We have experienced it within our lifetime, and we can experience it everyday, and we have knowledge of it happening throughout history. Whether we compare how people viewed the world from an Aristotelian world view (that objects in the world were self-movers, things fell to the earth because they were actively devoted to finding their natural place in the universe, or fire and air and gas rose up because that was their natural place to be), or from a Muslim world view, or a Protestant, or a Mormon or a Hindu/Vedanta world view, or a Buddhist, or a Newtonian, or an Einsteinian, or a quantum mechanics world view. At every stage along the history of science, people framed the universe, the phenomena they experienced, under a specific world view which is born from a specific paradigm or sets of paradigms. And over time, every paradigm led to another. Thus a paradigm shift occurred, and from that new paradigm the world, the universe was no longer the same. Atoms were no longer the smallest things in the universe. Women were no longer considered property but were given the right of being their own people, and thus could vote. Homosexuality, more or less, became an accepted norm.

World views today are changing and changing at an even faster rate. With the acceleration of social perception of things such as gender, freedoms, rights, political correctness, etc, today we now have the concept (whether you agree with it or not) that gender is fluid and not binary. This is a paradigm, this is a world view. One that many people today, and certainly most people 50 years ago, or 200 years ago, could never entertain.

How we structure and view the world, the universe, reality, nature, etc, is constantly changing. It changes in what statements/sentences we accept and agree upon as true. A paradigm results in world views, and a world view is a set of true sentences I make about the universe that I inhabit.

My world view is completely different from that of a Amish persons, or that of someone from a tribe that has little contact with the outside world. It is quite literally different than almost all the people I have in my life. Otherwise we would all hold the same truth values, hold the same opinions and interpret events in our lives in the same ways. But we don’t. Because the meaning we arrive at from specific events and phenomena are framed differently, and we give things different meanings and interpretations. Has it not happened to yourself that perhaps you and someone have had a discussion about a third person. A statement is made which is held to be true, such as ‘that person was selfish’, or ‘that person was rude’ or ‘that person was X’. Has it never happened to you that you did not see the event the same way? You may have replied with your own statement, which you held to be true, that perhaps this third person was not in fact X, rather, you perceived them to be Y (ie. just joking or any other interpretation of the event involving this third person).

How could two people see the same “objective” event in the world and come out with two different interpretations of true statements about what happened? One person sees luck, the other fate. One person sees a miracle, another routine use of medicine. One person sees a coincidence, another person sees a ‘sign’.

Even as you age and move through life, the way you see things changes. The way you view the world changes. The way you structure the universe, the world, reality, nature, changes.

The big bang theory is less than 100 years old. The concept is so young! At some point, the very concept, that the universe was roughly 14 billion years old and expanded from a singularity, had no existence! None! It was not fathomed! But now, rightly or wrongly, many people would say that the universe started from the big bang. That is how they experience their universe. That is the structure of their reality. But it was not always so. For many people in the world (Vedanta/Yogi’s/Buddhists/Hindus) time is cyclical and the universe can never not exist, nor the Self. A completely different structure of reality/the universe/nature/the world.

Once upon a time it was safe and recommended by doctors to smoke cigarettes. Today, not so much. That is a change in world view.

I don’t think I need to press any further to show that it is a fact that paradigm shifts occur, that world views change. What I care most about, is the question: What are the consequences of the very fact that it is possible for paradigms to shift? For world views to change? For the possibility of different world views, different paradigms, different models and structures from which the universe/reality/nature are held to even exist?

I think that the consequences are very important.

I think that there is good reason to think that there are a vast number of potential world views for any given person or culture to hold and live out their life successfully (though I have no idea and don’t care to define what I would mean by successfully to be). At any given point in human existence there are a set of world views among various peoples/cultures, and at any given point in human existence those humans managed to carry out their existence successfully, that is to say, procreate and continue existing. People survived just fine thinking the world was flat, and people survived just fine thinking that the earth was at the center of the universe.

Immediately, we are brought to the question: Is there a world view that is best? Are some world views “better”? And if so, which? As well, under what criteria are we to judge/determine which world views are better/best?

The thing that Kuhn brings to our attention, and I am quite in agreement with him, is that it is meaningless to compare two paradigms to one another. It cannot be done as different world views are incommensurable. They cannot be compared.

Take as a simple example two polarized world views: an atheistic, modern, scientific world view, and a Christian world view.

On what grounds, on what criteria, on what basis is someone to judge which is “more true”, “more accurate”, “better”, of a “higher quality”?

The reason why they cannot be compared is because in order to make a judgment on ANY difference among the two world views, the differences are always viewed from worldview. No matter who is making the judgment they will inherently have world view, and thus will be making their judgments from that perspective. When one person says “x happened because of God” and another person says “x happened because of such and such of a causal relationship, which ultimately regresses to something that isn’t God (ie. the big bang)”, there is no possible means to say one is better/more true/worse than the other. You can only say that the scientific world view is better IF you operate and structure and view the universe from such a world view. You can only say that the Christian world view is better if you operate and structure and view the universe from such a world view.

Perhaps it is not necessarily true, but, the important point is that ANY judgement made, using whatever criteria you wish, as to which world view is “better”, already presupposed a world view in which to make such a judgment.

If you were to say “well world view X is better than world view Y because it values peace more” (ie. less people are killed), or “well world view X is better than world view Y because it values family more”. Both of those statements are meaningless, as one can only make such a statement from an already existing world view where their universe/reality is structured such that peace or family valuation are valued in a certain way that would enable them to make such a judgment.

You cannot escape this!

Each world view is valid and makes sense under its own world view! It is only when a world view is framed from a different world view that it doesn’t make sense. Bible literalists (spelling?) cannot comprehend people who believe in science. The converse is also true. Just like the example of you and a friend and the interpretation of a third person, the phenomenal experience is there, and each interprets it from their own stance, their own perspective, their own world view, their own structure for reality/the universe/experience/the world. The bible literalist and the atheist scientists look at the same phenomena and come to very different explanations. Neither is wrong in their own mind. The point to be made, is neither can be wrong from the others mind as well! The two world views are incommensurable! They cannot be compared from any reference point meaningfully. 

If this is the case, then what does that mean? I think the consequence is obvious and staring us in the face. If there is no means to compare any world view from another, except from a world view, then we cannot make any meaningful comparisons. And if we cannot make any meaningful comparisons then we cannot say, objectively, or with any meaningful value of truth, that any world view is better, worse, more or less valid, more or less “true”, more or less “accurate” than any other world view. If this is true, then does it not necessarily follow that any world view is accurate, relative to itself, that it is true, relative to itself, that it is meaningful, relative to itself, that it is best, relative to itself? If this is true, then does it not necessarily follow that any world view is best? Any world view is true?

If this is the case, then there is no such thing as objective truth. Rather, what matters most is a world view that provides a system of knowledge, a system that provides meaning from the experience of the world/reality/the universe/nature that is cogent, cohesive, non-contradictory and all encompassing. Every world view aims to explain everything in its entirety. As soon as it cannot explain something, a new explanation will develop and thus a new world view is immediately born. Depending on the “size” of the “hole” in the body of knowledge in a given system, or the value/meaningfulness of the hole, the world view will change in proportion. Ie. if tomorrow gravity was overturned and we reverted our views back to Aristotles, that would be a HUGE change. But, if tomorrow someone discovered a new cellular process whereby DNA damage is repaired and can have repercussions to various disease research, well, that would change our view of the world and how our bodies/nature/the world is structured, but it wouldn’t really have an effect on most of the population directly in terms of their perception.

It is just this reason that enables a religious world view to maintain its own integrity. Religious world views have special clauses that for any hole that might be encountered (ie. something you don’t know or understand), there is often a fall-back clause/explanation such that the thing under question can be explained simply because God wills it as such. If this is accepted as true, and it is under a religious world view in which God knows and does all, then one never requires to look outside their world view for explanation of any unanswered questions (except for contradiction).

Speaking of religions, the greatest motivating thing is world views. Well, it would be necessary that all actions are carried out from a world view, so this would be a redundant statement, but we could look at our archetype for the lowest of human behaviors: war. Nobody wants war. Nobody wants to kill. I mean this intrinsically. As in, inherently you want to kill, for no reason whatsoever. If this was the nature of man, then man would not be able to form social bonds and society. Knowing this nature is found in others, man would never dare to entertain social relations. But man is a social animal. So he cannot function that way.

Rather, we kill for specific reasons. We have to be moved to kill. Though some don’t need to be, and we deem them sick and unfit for society. If one of the 5 remaining humans on the planet was a murderer by default (psychopath or whatever the term might be), then the 4 non-murderers would not wish to remain on social terms with this 5th killing human, either by banishing this person from the group, imprisoning said person, killing them, or leaving the person and the group goes off without the person. So we are not motivated to kill by nature.

Look at the story line of Muslim extremists and the Western world. It is an interesting story line, especially if we pay attention to the language, concepts and meanings behind how the story is told. You have two groups killing each other. Both feel justified in their actions. Both feel they are the morally superior side. Each has their world view, and by default their world view represents all truth statements, since they can never hold their view to be untrue, since a world view is a collection of all truth statements. They are terrorists and pure evil because of their religious views, and the West is, I don’t know, I don’t hold their world views, but I am under the impression it is something along the lines of, ‘complete sinners, lost completely in what is morally right/wrong, as laid down by God, and act as a cancer on the planet that is to be wiped off the earth, not simply because they are evil, but because their numbers could spread and that would be a detriment to the number of people who held the common world view (Islam)’. The funny thing, that is exactly how the West sees them, except instead of “God” perhaps other words might be used. Or not. But both descriptions could pass for either sides.

So who is right? Well whoever is on my side obviously. My views are a set of truth statements, as I can never hold something to be true and not true (principle of contradiction), and so I am right, according to me. And they are right, according to them. (by the way this is a completely hypothetical argument between “myself”. My actual world views structuring how I perceive that story line are not stated here).

So, in any case. Each group feels warranted in their killing. Each group dehumanizes the other group, making it easier for them to kill them. Each group is rational in their beliefs to kill. Each group is justified. Again, only in relation to itself. The other group is not justified in relation to the in-group.

Inherent in any world view, it is important, in fact necessary, for everything to be explained. Everything must fit together. Any inconsistency leads to a question of the validity of the world view, and it is this and only this that can be the basis/criteria to meaningfully judge a world view to be valid or not, since humans do not allow contradictions in their understanding.

How does this relate to science? My goal for the month was to write about science for a month.

This relates to science in the sense that it relates to our relationship to a scientific world view. That under this world view, our body of knowledge rests on science and scientific discovery. That science is the means through which we gain true knowledge of the universe, as it truly, actually, objectively is. Science and the scientific world view holds as an assumption that reality is observer independent. Meaning, that whether or not any humans existed or not, the laws of physics would still hold. That green would be the color seen when electromagnetic radiation oscillates at a specific frequency. That plants produce energy via photosynthesis, and that the sun is at the center of our solar system.

But what is important is that from the very existence of different world views, and from the inability to meaningfully compare any two given world views, we cannot take any of the truth value statements in any world view as absolutely true, as objectively true of the universe/reality/the world/nature. We can’t. You cannot say that your opinion of how that third friend acted in situation X is objectively/absolutely true. Your friend cannot say that their opinion of how that third friend acted in situation X is objectively/absolutely true. NOBODY CAN SAY HOW THE THIRD PERSON ACTED IN SITUATION X IS OBJECTIVELY/ABSOLUTELY TRUE! The truth of any of those statements only has validity from the perspective, the world view, of the person uttering that ‘truth’ statement! And so the very notion that there is an “objective truth” can only be framed from a world view that accepts that as true. But in terms of the validity of some statement/sentence being “true”, no matter what world view is held, is not possible. The sense in which we believe that something is objectively true, observer independent is impossible. When this concept presented itself in the early 20th century from quantum mechanics, that objects in the world only exist when they are observed/measured, Einstein made the famous statement, paraphrasing, that the he believes the moon is still there whether he looks at it or not. But this is the thing! The moon is a concept that stems from a world view. The concept of moon involves sub-concepts such as “a giant spherical body of mass/atoms” and “rotating the planet in space”, etc, etc. For someone who has a completely different world view, in their universe the phenomena we would call “moon” might be explained in a completely different set of truth statements. It could be something completely different, something non-material, it could be a living thing, it could be god, it could be pure energy, etc. For that world view, Einsteins statement that the moon will always be the moon, has no meaning, because from that other world view, the “moon” was NEVER the “moon”. It always was and always will be something else.

Just like that, we cannot say which world view is true. We cannot say that Aristotle was wrong, and that the current scientific model is right. Aristotle is wrong from the current scientific models world view, but it is wrong from an almost infinite number of other world views, including ANY FUTURE SCIENTIFIC WORLD VIEWS THAT MIGHT UNDERGO A PARADIGM SHIFT. I say this because humans have always been “sure” of their world views at any given time, and yet, they always change. Yet at every given point their confidence is unchanged. “Now” “we know”. We “know better” “now”.

Of course we do, because we are viewing the past from the world view of today. Of course from that perspective we will always know more! We can not NOT view the world from our own currently held world view. And since any given world view is always truest from its own perspective, any world view (it doesn’t matter which), will always have the bias of seeing its own way of seeing things as the best in comparison to any and all other world views. Again, until a hole in that world view is formed which reveals a contradiction or lacks explanation.

So, what am I ultimately trying to say. Well, I understand how it will be perceived, and the consequences of what I hold to be true will have on how I am viewed, but I am pursuing the idea that, essentially, there is no single objectively true world view, all world views (religion, science, myth, folklore, etc) are all interpretations of the same thing (the universe as it is subjectively experienced by individuals in a culture), and simply use different language to do so. Each world view is based off of aesthetics, belief, convention, preference (or indoctrination). Science is no more valid, and no less, than any mythology or folklore. To even contend such a statement would be to do so from a world view in which such a statement is deemed false, but that could not be an objective contention, it would be subjective as it would be from the world view of the subject, and no matter still, as mentioned above, any argument for comparing the two world views is meaningless and incommensurable.

The consequences of such a view are many. Many questions arise.

I have more thoughts on this. Many, many more thoughts. But I am tired and today was a tiring day.