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Posted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 5:11 pm
by Ryan A
This is a little late but atheism is somewhat of an unfair label. Since most people are theists, it is easier to define yourself in terms of what you are not.

I could go walking around saying I am an evidentist meaning I only believe in things there are evidence for, but then someone would say "oh you are an atheist." And I would have to agree since atheist means a person who does not believe there is god. That is different than saying "I believe to not believe there is god." I am not claiming to have evidence that there is no god. I am saying, no evidence therefore no god.

There is also a strict logical definition of who should be proving what. Logically, you always must prove a positive statement such as something existing or not. In some ways our courts are the same, the court must prove there was a crime committed else, there was no crime. Likewise, the logical burden of proof for god's existence is on the believers, not the naysayers. Thus, to the teapot example, atheists take LOGIC into account.

Furthermore, having god doesn't really predict anything testable so just on those grounds I find it mostly useless. It predicts a lot of stuff about things after you are dead, which doesn't really interest me because I am living now. As for it uniting large groups of people under a common banner, this is nice and certainly served a much greater purpose in the past than it does now. Currently, our global integration is so vast that communities don't need to be localized physically as they once needed to be. Larger global issues like global warming, poverty, genetic engineering, and over population (just to name some) can serve as a uniting principle for making a large group of individuals function more cohesively as a unit.

There are actually a lot more atheists than you would think Ironman. In fact, 1/4 of China's population is atheist, which is roughly 1/16 of the world and that is just China.

I also think most people who are agnostics, either have not taken much time to look at the evidence/lack of evidence OR they have the evidence but like being politically correct so they just say they haven't decided.

Also, believers tend to meddle in things which they should meddle in, but for all the wrong reasons. I think it is fundamentally bad for society, when we stop researching treatments because some group of people think we are tampering with god's work, when there are other groups who don't even think this god of theirs is real but nonetheless have to live without the best treatments available.

I personally, would not mind so much if the meaning of god shifted to something more reasonable, like collective human experience, or the idea that physical laws are a certain way for no reason.

For instance, it is very likely that we will never know why physics has the laws that it does, whatever those may ultimately be, so there is something we must accept as being "just the way it is". Unlike god however, this acceptance unveils all knowledge of the rest of the universe by predicting anything we apply the equations too.

If god took on a similar role in defining some underlying human tendency or conditions such as primal capacity for love/fear/greed/altruism and people were comfortable delving into the details when needed then that would be instructive.

Finally, I firmly believe that most religious canon is based on human needs in terms of survival. Christians know that in order for "them" to survive, they must reject others beliefts, same for Islam and many other religions out there. This is evolution folks, to not eliminate the competitors is to eliminate yourself. Other stories in such "sacred texts" are often testaments to what humanity is most afraid/proud of. Many of them would be good to understand better today. We knew long ago that we could impact the planet like no other species and that gave us the so often reflected sense of being special, and at the same time seeded terror in our minds of power gone wrong. I would infer that heaven and hell are what the human mind forecasts as the two extremes of human impact on Earth at some time in the future. Certainly it is advantageous to warn against one and support the other if we want to live a certain way.

Ultimately, if you would like to say god made the beginning of the universe, that might be ok unless we find something that says otherwise and then god could be the one who started some cyclical process. Personally, these seem like attempts to reconcile how we always see something start and finish or can infer a start and finish if we didn't see it. This may simply not apply and then the universe could "just be" but that would go against common experience.

For people who think the universe needs some such explanation, I then wonder why you need to explain that, when you don't need to explain the origin of your god. It seems like you could just call the universe god and then the atheists and the theists would think the same thing. It is almost as though we differ only in that the theists accept intelligence coming from nowhere, and we accept a set of predictive equations coming from nowhere.

Finally, to those who think god guided evolution to make humans, that would more or less make god equivalent to randomness and cumulative selection theory which are perfectly understood. So god could act perfectly random and in exact accordance with survival of the fittest or not at all. When given the choice, is it merely the need to feel a divine connection to affirm his action?

I think we should continue learning from past religious people who had great success but continually question whether those success stories were associated with god or just being connected some other way.

Posted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 5:21 pm
by Ryan A
Was reading through some of the older stuff... I need to read the lounge more I guess....

The difference between being intolerant of religious intolerance and being intolerance of religion is that religious people really are all the same, atleast the ones who go by the book. They say "believe the book because the book is law". My intolerance is about people who reject provable facts because of their book. I guess I am not intolerant of the religious intolerance, I just think it makes them look all the more foolish and anything they say becomes less intelligent.

I would like to think people are fundamentally able to be smart but walking around outside with religious or non religious people seems to prove this false.

Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 4:32 am
by Ironman
You bring up some good points. Some people in the scientific community do think of God as the knob twidler, who dialed in the exact physical constants fro the universe. It could be though that the constants are the only ones possible, or if this is rare, the reason we find ourselves here in it, is that it is the only one that could have life.

Besides that like you pointed out, if we have God to make the Universe, then where does God come from. I think it is more likely that the beginning of the universe is simply one end of the dimension we know of as time. Before there was matter there could not be time, because if nothing changed between one frame of time to the next, it is still the same frame. So something has to change in a spacial dimension. It is kind of like my theory for why the speed of light is a constant maximum speed in a vacuum. It is because if you can cross 2 plank lengths, in a plank time, you would be skipping over a segment of space which is impossible. Or the time or distance would be so small it is only a probability and doesn't actually exist. Plus everything in the universe balances out to 0. So put into an equation we don't really exist.

Now there are some in the scientific community who think the fact that the universe exists in particle form, means it was observed by something ont he outside which broke the wave form to particles and that something is God. However our observations have the same effect of breaking wave to particle. Which shows the more "real" version out of the infinite probabilities of waves. So it is likely that what we think of as our consciousness, or sentience is simply part of an energy that interacts with waves and breaks it down to particle form. Our brain simply assigns that energy an identity. That energy possibly interfaces with our reality through other dimensions we are not aware of from out side the universe. Maybe it is what exists in between universes if you think of universes like a sea of bubbles.

So if we discover the graviton and a theory of everything to prove all that stuff right, then we may no for sure there is no god. But at least then the god hypothesis will be fallible and therefor valid, even though proven wrong. Then we can have stem cell research and have fanatics who blow people up be nothing but a distant memory. But that is wishful thinking, because the more ridiculous it is, the more glory there is in having blind faith in it.

Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 8:15 am
by corless319_
WOW two amazing posts in a row. I couldn't have written better. Love the stuff you guys write. Talking about creation theories. Obviously if you don't believe in god you have to believe or at least consider the oscilating universer theory. Big bang everything started at nothing moving faster than the speed of light away from a single point in space and then eventually the universe slows down then stops and then reverses on itself gaining speed untill a final big crunch. Then all that energy even too much for a massive black hole explodes outwards again starting the process over again. The movie k-pax states that with Kevin Spacey? Practically there isn't reincarnation you just live your life over and over again because everything happens the way it has and will for eternity. You live in a time fram and die. Time passes before and after and then it starts again a clone of itself from the previous universe moving growing expanding in the same way it did before. To try to imagine the size of the universe alone is mind boggling. Looking up at the stars at night in the country make me feel incredibly small. The universe is so big we as a species wouldn't even be a blip on galactical radar. If there is a god and he made us the universe and everything then maybe were in a giant universe test tube where he looks on and wonders.

Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 5:11 pm
by Ryan A
Yes right now there is an extraordinary need to twiddle the knobs, especially the knobs that define the higgs boson mass. It is quite a big problem because it essentially involves tuning the higgs mass to a precision of something like 10^-50 which is utterly insane.

There are a lot of theories of time associated with thermodynamics. Specifically, time is a measurement you can make when you are away from equilibrium. In this sense, time is only defined when the universe is not completely uniform. I don't really know all the particulars but I spend a lot of time going to seminars and seeing people make connections.

For instance, if you apply Einstein's general relativity across a blackhole horizon, then the laws of thermodynamics follow, including the law that entropy increases throughout the universe, which is pretty amazing considering no other theory can derive the laws of thermodynamics.

Balancing out an equation is indeed a troubling problem, especially considering the lack of finding antimatter in the universe, even though there should be symmetric amounts of matter and antimatter.

Then there is CP violation in the weak force which is another strange thing, essentially saying there are preferred directions for weak interactions to go and all of our beautiful symmetry arguments do not work.

I have read some different theories on consciousness but nothing like what you are saying. Where did you read about that one? I think the modern trend in neuroscience is the idea of emergent properties, which are characteristics that are not fundamental but exist when a system becomes sufficiently large. For instance you can say thermodynamics is emergent because if you only have one particle, thermodynamics does not exist. Thus consciousness is a property of a network large enough to have emergent properties.

Many people also think and have evidence for the world being waves absent of measurement, atleast on a microscale. How this gets broken at larger scales, is sometimes attributed to symmetry breaking below some cutoff energy.

Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 8:03 pm
by TheHeb
Ironman wrote:We should NOT target the poor. There is a social aspect to this, as in culture. That's why it's socio-economic and not just economic. Targeting working class people has the same inherent problems as targeting blacks. It's a cultural thing, not racial and not by class.
That was kind of the point I was trying to bring up. Even if someone with a burka was more likely to be carrying a bomb than someone without, we shouldn't profile. Isn't wearing a burka also a cultural thing?

Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 8:11 pm
by TheHeb
Ironman wrote:It has not been that long since they were treated as 2nd class citizens.
By the way I should mention that in a lot of ways they still are treated that way.

Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:07 pm
by Ironman
Corless, the theory of the big crunch where everything contracts has recently been proven wrong. It turns out everything will continue to expand and eventually dissipate. When even the super-massive black holes have dissipated to nothing, then there will be no change from 1 frame of time to the next, so that will be where the end of the time dimension is. But you never know, maybe that will cause the spacial dimensions to collapse and we could have the big bang again. Pure speculation of course.

There is some new particle accelerator that is being finished soon where they are going to be able see if the Higgs boson exists. Maybe they will find a graviton too.

If I remember right it was Victor Stenger who says the everything in the universe balances out to 0. I don't remember if it had to do with anti-matter or not. I think it did though.

Now the CP violation in the weak force didn't that have to do with Higgs boson being the explanation for massless particles like photons making up particles that have mass? There was something to do with the relation of weak force bosons and photons also. That stuff starts going a little over my head though. I find it fascinating and read about it, but I never had college physics. I only took computer related classes.

The consciousness thing is simply a hypothesis I came up with. Part of it comes from knowing that we have found the parts of the brain where each mental function comes from. The brain assigns an identity to our consciousness. That is as far as that part of it goes.
Then the other part is from the experiments showing that a single photon acts like a wave when not observed. as in it is noting but probabilities. Observation is what breaks the wave form down to a particle. The self awareness or consciousness of who we are is what observes it. So it appears that consciousness, whatever that is, comes into contact with waves and breaks them down to particles, or makes a probability an absolute thing. Our brain uses electrical impulses. So consciousness being an energy seems a like a good hypothesis. So it could be it is an energy like magnetism or something like that. I got some of the quantum stuff from Dr. Fred Alan Wolf. It was after reading one of his articles that I starting thinking about that.

Emergence certainly does seem to be the answer to the origin of life and all our brain functions. But it has never been answered what is it that my brain assigned my identity to that is aware of all these brain functions. It doesn't think or do anything. it is just what makes me aware of myself and not someone else. It is the only thing in us that is unexplained. Nothing that is explained could be responsible for our observation having influence over a quantum state. So I really think those 2 things are tied together somehow.

But there could be other factors I am not aware of. I have only a limited knowledge on the subject. Quantum and astral physics are 2 things I find very fascinating, but they are also 2 things that stretch my mind to the limits. I think I don't completely grasp some of the concepts. Then of course some of the large equations are truly beyond my comprehension.

Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:26 pm
by Ironman
Actually I mean that culture IS a good way to profile. As in Muslim attire and not race. Going by sagging pants, gold teeth and so on, and not by race or income. It's not hard to tell which of the little hoodlums is most likely to be up to no good, and race has nothing to do with it.

I disagree about blacks still being treated like 2nd class citizens today. But that is a topic that is very disputed. It could be that it varies by region. It could be that in most of the country including where I am, blacks are treated equal. But perhaps in other areas they are still treated poorly.

For example, some people think affirmative action laws are a good thing. Where as I feel by their very definition they discriminate based on race. That is because they treat people differently (aka discriminate) and the criteria is race. Therefor racial discrimination. In my opinion race is irrelevant.

Posted: Wed Mar 26, 2008 12:28 am
by Ryan A
Yes the LHC is going to start running soon but I am saying even if they find the Higgs, there are still problems with it, the major one being this precision problem in order to cancel some other terms in the equation. I am not specifically versed in high energy physics but I talk to those guys a lot and so atleast have pretty current explanations.

The higgs would give every particle mass, without it, the standard model does not work, but we have not discovered it yet.

The weak force has a force mediator very similar to the photon BUT they have masses, which limits their range to atomic scales. It is believed at higher energy the W and Z bosons would become massless because of the way the higgs works, which would make the weak look just like Electricity and Magnetism (for which the photon is the force carrier). There was actually a nobel prize of the Electroweak unification some time ago, and now there is quantum electrodynamics which is the quantum theory of E&M and has predicted things to amazing accuracy.

I am not sure I follow the brain assigning an identity to our consciousness. I guess I don't view consciousness as anything particularly special. Just that in the network that is our brain, there are feedback mechanisms to the basic level of input, rather than internal feedback (which would I guess be the sub conscious). A lot of chemical reactions would be just like this.

You send in chemical X and out comes chem Y and Y goes into something that produces X. So now, not only are you getting X from the original source but also from your own internal pathway. Now figure you have chemicals A through Z and networks A' through Z' and you have an amazingly complex feedback network. I am a novice on theories of consciousness but I actually do a little bit of work with networks and am specifically interested in feedback networks and that is my understanding of how large feedback networks can do really complicated things.

As far as the photon goes, I want to clarify the wave/particle picture a bit.

The photon always has some wave character but it might not be displayed unless your measurement device would detect wave behavior in the first place. The classic device is the double slit. You send a photon at a pair of slits and you observe an interference pattern. This is truly remarkable since there is indeed only one photon, but it nonetheless behaves as though it were a wave that can interfere with itself and gives the desired pattern.
If you then covered one of the slits so that it were a single slit (a wide one so there is no diffraction) then you would just observe a single dot on the screen always.
Uncover the second slit and again you see the pattern. Certainly, for each photon you see only one dot but if you keep sending single photons eventually it as though you sent an entire beam of them at the slit. Somehow, the single photons behave as though they were with their comrades even if they are not. It doesn't have to do with "intelligent observation" or any specific mental machinery. Any old physical event that forces the photon to decide will make it a particle, but it retains it's wave nature in the sense that the distribution of the particles will be that of a wave. So the probability is still very real, it just becomes absolute that one time, a second photon can do something very different.

There are actually a lot of theories about this recently trying to address the role of the observer. A theorist showed that maybe our observation is not so key afterall. He imagines all of the quantum waves in contact with the rest of the world (which they are) and that the world acts as a measurer, forcing quantum states to collapse into particles. The particles collapse however into a distribution exactly equivalent to if they collapsed only when we measured them, which probably makes sense. It doesn't matter what does the collapsing as long as the distributions are the same. It is fairly recent article but I don't have access to it just this minute. I will dig around and try to find it.

Also, equations are overrated.

Posted: Wed Mar 26, 2008 12:32 am
by Ryan A
Here is the paper,
I am trying to dig up the whole thing

Posted: Wed Mar 26, 2008 3:57 pm
by Ironman
That's interesting, I would definitely like to see the whole thing. It would seem that as we travel along the time dimension, all probabilities become an absolute that is our reality. However There has to be some explanation for the interference pattern. Because it seems that unless we detect the photon going through slot A, B or neither, it does all 3 things. So while it doesn't have to have anything to do with us, something makes the particle be only where it really is and not everywhere that it could be.

What do you think about the dead cat thing? Or what about the different more complex variations people come up with for the dead cat scenario? That is some really strange stuff.

Then as far as the chemical reaction in the brain, I understand that. The thing is, my brain can do all it's thinking and controlling the body without me being aware of it. There isn't an answer to why there is that awareness or why I am aware of this mind and not someone else. I'm not saying dualism is the answer, because thinking and personality and so on is all understood. There is some cause of it, and that should be solid proof against religion. Of course the impossibility of dualism has us 99% there.

I thought finding the Higgs boson would solve it all. Does the precision problem have to do with things that are smaller then a plank length in all dimensions being only a probability and not really existing at all, or the foam as people call it? Which I think was because of the equations that work out to infinity. I'll read an article about something, but then I don't always know how it relates to other things I've read.

Posted: Wed Mar 26, 2008 8:10 pm
by Ryan A
Well I guess the point is, quantum states only exist when the background is controlled. In experiments, we make sure the photon does not hit anything before the it gets to the slit, so the slit is the thing that collapses the probability.

Certainly the cat is either alive or dead, but the point is, we don't know it so we say there is a probability of it being both.

I guess the point here is that our opening the box doesn't choose the cat's state, the cat was already one or the other, but the opening of the box makes us look at a distribution of possibly outcomes which is directly due to the quantum state.

Well every professor I have ever talked with says the photon interferes with itself, so basically, until it hits the screen, it is a like a wave. When it hits the screen and must exchange some energy ( or momentum), it must do so discretely and so it shows up as being particulate. If you try to detect it at the slit, I am pretty sure it will not have an interference pattern, but if you detect it after it will.

Right... there isn't an answer to why there is that awareness other than "it is a property of the system" and this gets back to the why is the universe governed by this theory and not that one and I maintain there is no answer in sight.

As for the Higgs, I am referring not to its discovery, indeed it is essential that the Higgs exist but there are other problems even if we do find it. Basically scientists say it is difficult to imagine such a perfect cancellation between unrelated parameters of the universe and so physicists are looking for some other way to relate them or formulate a newer theory that would take care of this problem.