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III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God" 
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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
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If consciousness "only" exists as an extension of matter and energy, how is it that a mathematical model can "describe" (math is a language) a concept like eternity, which Carrier believes to be true of an eternal multiverse?


What Carrier is saying is that defining consciousness isn't so simple as reducing it to matter. It is a concept that exists across a length of time as well. It only exists if we understand that it has dimension in time.

My immediate thought when listening to that part was; what else only exists when time is included? Orbits are a function that requires time. All verbs require time(I think). Gravity requires time(as do the other forces). I'm sure the list is endless.

Quote:
The objective truths of mathematics are a priori assumptions.


I'll have to check this. I think Kant argued that mathematical constructs were synthetic and a priori. But that is a lot like Platonism, which I think is false. It's also not the way math is used in science, which is as abstractions of real quantities.

Quote:
A construct like math, utilized to model the real world, would be limited to a description and measurement of the span of time it exists within. Do you agree or disagree?


I partially agree. But keep in mind much of our knowledge is gained through extrapolative methods. Carbon dating of a sunken ship's golden bars, measuring the distance of far away stars, plotting the course of a rover travelling to Mars. It is the strange beauty of math that it allows us a glimpse into the future and into the past, through extrapolation.


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Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:45 pm
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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
I think it's interesting when it comes to science how difficult it can be to fully understand things referred to. Lennox says no one knows what gravity actually is.
This is not to knock it, but just an indication that it can be hard to say what something actually is. The mathematics question ant raises is interesting.I know Ellis thinks it has an eternal quality. Aliens would discover the same equations and I expect it would help them to build universes!

Apparently Einstein said something like "the most incomprehensible thing about the universe, is that it is comprehensible."
The whole time question is difficult. It's interesting what you say Interbane about orbits requiring time. In his lecture Ellis mentioned that four of the major equations of science are time dependent,including from Kepler and Newton.
Anyway I'm still thinking about it though it's hard to get a handle on it.



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Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:30 pm
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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
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I think it's interesting when it comes to science how difficult it can be to fully understand things referred to.


I have a few thoughts regarding this. The first is that it's nearly impossible to fully understand anything. Our desire for full understanding is noble, but doomed. The information we have in our heads is an abstraction of reality, and there will always be information loss(by definition of the process of abstraction). Still, to know how gravity works isn't to fully understand it. Even if we understood the cause behind gravity(some elementary particle as yet undiscovered?), we still don't know why that's the case. Or what constitutes the elementary particle. Even if we were to have a working Theory of Everything, there would still be difficult questions. Why something rather than nothing?

Another was that even partial understanding is evasive on these deeper subjects for many of us. If math is telling us that matter and energy are essentially the same thing, are we to trust our instincts that this isn't true, or trust the math that it is true? Einstein trusted the math. Amazingly, the math worked. There are many areas like this; reality is often counterintuitive. So if you're having a hard time grasping what Carrier is referring to in the section on time, it's because it's one of those areas that our minds balk at.

The fact that math worked for Einstein may be one of the catalysts that caused his famous quote. Why should the universe be comprehensible to us? For starters, we wouldn't exist if it were incomprehensible. We'd all be dead for dumb reasons. But what of the counterintuitive portions of the universe? We can't quite say they are comprehensible, since the only comprehension is secondary, through mathematics.


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Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:53 pm
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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Interbane wrote:
. . . reality is often counterintuitive. So if you're having a hard time grasping what Carrier is referring to in the section on time, it's because it's one of those areas that our minds balk at. .

Not only is the world counterintuitive, but it's pretty clear that we aren't really wired to see truth at all. We're wired to come to beliefs that lead to survival of the group. The way the world really is has been irrelevant for much of our species' existence and apparently remains so today. There are countless experiments that show how innate thinking patterns lead us astray in the modern world. It's only through a thorough and methodological examination of our assumptions and biases that we can get through the jungle. But how many people actually take the time to do this? I'd suggest that 2% of the population may make the effort. The vast majority of us don't.

Carrier hinted this in Section II when he discusses language and the meaning of words, which likewise very few people take time to examine . . .

As Carrier says:

"People, much less the collective force of blindly produced convention, do not think like philosophers. They rarely analyze their words at all, and often hold all manner of superstitions about what those words mean or how they use them. I call these added beliefs “superstitions” because in practice people do not employ these meanings but different ones altogether, of which they are usually not consciously aware."

The concept of 'linguistic superstition' is really quite brilliant. I'm finding this book is an amazing treatise in critical thinking, the best I've ever read. His bibliographies at the end of each section are quite a good find too. But I don't have much to add here since I'm just starting section III. I'm way behind you guys.


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
geo wrote:
Not only is the world counterintuitive, but it's pretty clear that we aren't really wired to see truth at all. We're wired to come to beliefs that lead to survival of the group.

Hi Geo, you're not far behind me,as I'm still looking at the time question and will be looking more closely at how Richard Carrier understands this.
If you experience and perceive time passing,like say, reading Carrier and stopping to have a coffee,do you think this perception is a wired illusion? What is our connection to reality? And if beliefs are wiring based, how could we know any belief is true? Can a machine rebel against it's program?
Richard's belief, that a lawless single point in space time,spawned the multiverse is based on what? A scientific theory or survival illusion? He presupposes, innumerable unsubstantiated universes, to argue against fine tuning in the known real universe.
I suppose our skills vary when it comes to linguistics. I'm sure we don't always get it right, and maybe meanings are confused in our understanding.
Theism has an eternal perspective so I think it's worth trying to get a handle on the time element. I have a question that Robert might know something about.
In the book of Exodus,when Moses asked God who he should say sent him to the Israelites, God said "I Am who I Am ........ You shall say, I Am sent you." In the gospel of John,at one point Jesus is criticized for something he said about Abraham and replied " Before Abraham was I am"
This seems very sophisticated language for 'primitive' writing with the concept of an eternally present being.Is there anything comparable in mythological writing, I wonder, Robert?
That's a bit of a mixed bag but there it is!



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Quote:
Richard's belief, that a lawless single point in space time,spawned the multiverse is based on what? A scientific theory or survival illusion? He presupposes, innumerable unsubstantiated universes, to argue against fine tuning in the known real universe.
I suppose our skills vary when it comes to linguistics. I'm sure we don't always get it right, and maybe meanings are confused in our understanding.


Carrier has stated;

Quote:
What we call "logic" or the "rules of reason" is actually the structure of what we call language. If a language exists, then by definition logic exists, because without logic you can communicate nothing. It follows then that if you are communicating something, logic exists, for it must be inherent in the very rules that allow the communication to occur.


Not only that, but if our language is limited (which Carrier would agree with) then it follows our logic is limited to the same degree our language is.

Additionally, if we are communicating something that we have not experienced (ie "timelessness" "nothing" "multiverses" ) our language could not possibly "code" what has not been fully experienced by our sensory apparatus. Therefore, any related logical /mathematical coding for the purpose of extrapolation would be dubious at best.

Why even attempt to say we have evidence for a mutliverse or "the universe is eternal" or "before all there was, there was nothing"? That is pure philosophy with an attempt to add the language of mathematics as "evidence" for our philosophy.



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Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:01 pm
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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Addition to my post above:

Carrier:

Quote:
In this way all rules of logic derive from the analysis of language, which is the analysis of coded descriptions of sensory and perceptual experience.


(emphasis mine)

I read a little further after my initial post.
What I anticipated was correct and I am presenting it accordingly.



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Good points there ant.
We con ourselves about our biases and we all have them. The illusion here is that others biases prevent them from seeing reality. I'll bet he is certain his philosophy is totally unbiased. That's pretty much the premise of the book. How he dispassionately and rigorously builds his beliefs from reality based on sound principles.
He emphasizes the importance of sense experience in determining what is real in relation to say,a cat.
But then, so much of what what he presents seems meant to convince you of the total unreliability of these faculties,when it comes to time, and will for instance. I haven't got to his take on consciousness yet.

Sensory deprivation is a form of torture.I don't want to be just bashing him for the fun of it,but he is on a mission.I don't know how many books he's written 'debunking' Christianity. It's almost obsessive with him. Maybe I do bash him for fun then!



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Flann 5 wrote:
Good points there ant.
We con ourselves about our biases and we all have them. The illusion here is that others biases prevent them from seeing reality. I'll bet he is certain his philosophy is totally unbiased. That's pretty much the premise of the book. How he dispassionately and rigorously builds his beliefs from reality based on sound principles.
He emphasizes the importance of sense experience in determining what is real in relation to say,a cat.
But then, so much of what what he presents seems meant to convince you of the total unreliability of these faculties,when it comes to time, and will for instance. I haven't got to his take on consciousness yet.

Sensory deprivation is a form of torture.I don't want to be just bashing him for the fun of it,but he is on a mission.I don't know how many books he's written 'debunking' Christianity. It's almost obsessive with him. Maybe I do bash him for fun then!


Maybe we can call the linguistic analyses that are applied to phenomena we have not, or could not possibly experience (multiverse, eternity, nothingness, vibrating strings) "linguistic superstitions" - for now, anyway :-D :P



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Quote:
I'm finding this book is an amazing treatise in critical thinking, the best I've ever read.


I'm finding this book to be one of the best exercises in self-implosion I've ever read.
:bananadance:



But seriously though - I am enjoying it very much. It has some excellent summaries on a variety of concepts.
Good book.

The most hairy and contentious parts are yet to come.



Wed Aug 27, 2014 1:24 pm
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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
It seems a whole new genre is opening up here.In the meme type category. Of course I believe in Christianity and a lot of what I think comes from that.
A curious verse in the bible, I forget where says, "God has set eternity in the hearts of men"
I'm not sure exactly what it means, but you find things like this in it. Anyway,I would agree it must be hard to conceptualize things outside our experience.Would mathematics be in that sort of category,I wonder? It connects with reality in lots of ways so I suppose is experienced in some sort of way in thought, I guess.
You see how our 'tags' get changed. No bias there!



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Flann 5 wrote:
geo wrote:
Not only is the world counterintuitive, but it's pretty clear that we aren't really wired to see truth at all. We're wired to come to beliefs that lead to survival of the group.

Hi Geo, you're not far behind me,as I'm still looking at the time question and will be looking more closely at how Richard Carrier understands this.
If you experience and perceive time passing,like say, reading Carrier and stopping to have a coffee,do you think this perception is a wired illusion? What is our connection to reality? And if beliefs are wiring based, how could we know any belief is true? Can a machine rebel against it's program?


Hey, Flann, I really like your last question (in bold).

In fact we do rebel against our wiring. When we use birth control we're reaping the pleasures from sex without having to pay the consequences that nature intended. Critical thinking is a way to train ourselves to rise above our primitive hard-wiring to some extent.

To me it's not really that relevant if free will or time passing is an illusion. Because we still perceive it as real and so it's meaningful to us. Even if my love for my family could be explained in purely mathematical terms, it wouldn't diminish what I feel. It's real.

Carrier does seem concerned with purely materialistic means of knowing the world. But much of what we know about human nature has been intuited in non-scientific terms for thousands of years. For example, the Buddha taught about aspects of the human mind that are congruent with modern psychology. The Bible teaches us something about confirmation bias with the verse: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" There are still metaphorical truths that can help us through the jungle as well. Carrier talks about the influence of Eastern philosophy in his life, especially the Tao Te Ching. He does seem to have an axe to grind with the Bible. Maybe this is his blind spot, but as long as you understand this, I think it's easy to see the modern wisdom contained in this book. It's pretty dense stuff. I'm sort of taking my time with it.


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Hi Geo, I appreciate what you say about the experience of what is real and meaningful in life.

I know Richard Dawkins who is big on the genetics side of things,says the same sorts of things about sex and subverting the Darwinian "imperative" to reproduce and pass on genes.The real purpose of life apparently is to serve our genes!
I don't see how he can have it both ways, if the genetic imperative is real and deterministic.The rise of consciousness leading to critical thinking and what is still Darwinian driven cooperation,seems to be the answer.I'm not totally convinced by this argument.
Sam Harris regularly blames genes for peoples behaviour, so he probably needs to check his script with Richard Dawkins.
In any case,from my perspective we are not bound by this kind of determinism and of course all you say is true about your actual experience.
Meanwhile us Theists, are still genetically parked in the hunter gatherer era and incapable of escaping our primitive superstitions! We are more to be pitied really!
What you say is true about our tendency to judge others and be blind to our own biases. Let's face it though, Richard is on some kind of mission as you recognize.A shrink would find his obsessive attacking of Christianity interesting on other than Darwinian premises.
I'm glad you are enjoying the book and I can't resist making the comment based on linguistic ambiguity that it is indeed dense!

I should qualify that quip. It's stimulating in many ways and there are interesting ideas in it.It's curious from my perspective. I think I can see the wheels turning in his head in an elaborate exercise to rid of God.I'm not neutral of course.



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Quote:
Additionally, if we are communicating something that we have not experienced (ie "timelessness" "nothing" "multiverses" ) our language could not possibly "code" what has not been fully experienced by our sensory apparatus. Therefore, any related logical /mathematical coding for the purpose of extrapolation would be dubious at best.


We can code anything using abstraction. Anything at all. But anything we code will have information loss, it's only ever partial. The is a fundamental structure to things(that we abstract just the right "thing"), that it follows a set of rules. That is mathematics. Where logic is relationship between words, mathematics is relationship between real things. Our mathematical abstractions must match up to the objective referrent, and that requires sampling(evidence/experiments). It's a complex interplay of concepts.

Sometimes the problem is that after we manipulate the math and come to a conclusion, the words we use to translate the math for other people to understand are often in the form of metaphor. Math is the initial abstraction, then on top of that we add linguistic metaphor. This is why analyzing some concepts with words does nothing to the veracity. For that you need to run the math.

Quote:
The real purpose of life apparently is to serve our genes!


We have a lot of evolutionary influences that push us to replicate. Many facets of life converge on this point. Replication is central to the evolutionary algorithm, and we would not be here unless we did.

Perhaps you could say that's a purpose. If so, then the purpose of our mind is to override such impulses. When we're able to predict how current behavior will lead to future problems, we can change current behavior.

Quote:
Sam Harris regularly blames genes for peoples behaviour, so he probably needs to check his script with Richard Dawkins.


Do you have a quote? If I had to guess, based on my own understanding, he's saying that there are influences from our genes that color behavior. Yet a majority of our behavior is determined by what we learn in life(not genetic). You, for example, behave in large part due to what you've learned from the Bible. The bible is a large determinant of your behavior.

Quote:
What you say is true about our tendency to judge others and be blind to our own biases.


This is true of everyone, not merely theists. We can overcome our biases to a degree if we understand them, recognize them, and seek to work around them. Have you read much regarding our cognitive biases? It's incredible how many there are. It's also enlightening to have explanations for the various ways we behave that are contrary to reason. I'm sure you'd find a few items in the bias category that you would otherwise ascribe to sin.

The very best way to overcome our biases is to use proper method. This is why Carrier spent so much time talking about method. If our collective biases are a wall in front of us, preventing understanding, then proper method is the ladder we use to scale the wall.


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Carrier reduces reason in the following manner:

Quote:
For reason is the slave of emotion. Reason is not the motivator. Reason is a tool, a process. But for that tool to be applied, you must be motivated to apply it and what you apply it to depends on your GOALS, which are in turn the result of motives, and motives are the product of desires, and desires are the outcome of emotion.


Ergo:

The polemics of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris can be reduced to emotional states that are the primary motivators of the vitriolic condemnations of "religion", intentionally defined in the narrowest sense of the word.

It is not a REASONable argument that because religious FUNDAMENTALISM is a cause of grief and suffering, ridicule, condemnation, and eventual eradication of Religion itself would be beneficial to reason. That is fallacious reasoning.

As I have said before here on BT, the motive is political (the desire to influence and control governmental bodies).
The desire for power and influence is ultimately motivated by emotional biases, either unchecked or poorly scrutinized by the tool of reason - which men like Dawkins and Harris claim to hold in the highest regard.

This is essentially basic psychology. Men of "reason" like Sam and Richard are not to be excluded from psychological scrutiny.



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