Thursday, August 23, 2007

God's Warriors

I hope each of you have been watching God's Warriors on CNN as I have! Christiane Amanpour is doing an outstanding job profiling the "true believers" among the three great Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

If you have not been watching, please look for repeats, which I am sure will be scheduled.

We were discussing the program at a group breakfast this morning and one person made an insightful observation and asked a critical question:

They are all true believers in their view of God and the Universe and they deny that any other view can be correct. Only one can be correct - either that or none of them are right!



I picked up an object at the table and demonstrated how ALL THREE views could be correct!
THREE APPARENTLY CONTRADICTORY VIEWS IN 2-D MAY BE CORRELATED IN 3-D!
I've reconstructed my breakfast-table demonstration in the figure below:



"A", viewing the situation from above, claims the true situation is a horizontal rectangle at 9AM and a vertical rectangle at Noon. For "A" and his co-religionists, "God" is a constant rectangle that changes orientation only.

"B", viewing from the front, sees it quite differently! "God" is sometimes a rectangle and sometimes a perfect circle, changing shape only, not orientation. For "B" and her co-religionists, "God" is horizontal rectangle at 9AM and a circle at Noon.

"C", viewing from the side, sees it a different way! He agrees with "B" that "God" is sometimes a rectangle and sometimes a perfect circle, changing shape only, not orientation. However, for "C" and her co-religionists, "B" has the timing reversed, "God" is circle at 9AM and a horizontal rectangle at Noon.

Of course, the "real" TRUTH is that "A", "B", and "C" are each limited to a two-dimensional view of a three-dimensional object, which we humans recognize as a common can of soda, slowly rotating on a table. Given their fixed viewing points, all of their reports are absolutely TRUE, but fail to capture the WHOLE truth.

WE HUMANS ARE LIMITED TO 3 SPACE DIMENSIONS PLUS TIME

We humans have brains that are limited to perceiving three dimensions of Space and one dimension of Time. As we stand on the surface of the Earth, the North-South dimension and the East-West dimension appear similar to each other. It takes the same amount of energy to travel a mile North or South or East or West.

However, the Up-Down dimension seems somehow different. To travel Up from the surface of the Earth to a point a mile above takes lots of energy. However, traveling Down from that high point to the surface not only takes less energy, it yields energy! Yet, we understand (kind of) that the Up-Down dimension is really the same as the North-South and East-West if you consider the accelleration of gravity.

The final dimension we can perceive, Future-Past, which we call "Time" seems very different to us than any of the three Space dimensions. Indeed, Time appears to be only a half-dimension, since we can only go towards the Future and not towards the Past. There seems to be a powerful accelleration or something that forces us in one direction on the Time axis. Like falling Down from a height along the Up-Down axis, it is effortless to move along the Time axis in the Future direction. Moving Up to a height along the Up-Down axis takes lots of energy -- similarly moving to the Past along the Future-Past axis takes more energy than we can muster.

BUT TIME AND SPACE ARE THE SAME, AND THERE ARE MORE DIMENSIONS HUMANS CANNOT PERCEIVE AT ALL

However, Einstein teaches us that Time is exactly the same as Space (in the same sense that North-South and East-West are the same as Up-Down). We can run a movie or videotape in the Future or Past direction with equal ease. If not for that accelleration towards the Future along the Time axis, we could travel to the Past with equal ease.

Indeed, according to Einstein there are many dimensions beyond Space and Time but we mere humans are not privileged to perceive them. However, if some super-creature could correctly perceive those dimensions (as we could see 3-D and thus understand more than "A", "B", and "C" in the above example who were limited to 2-D), that super-creature could understand more than us.

"SPIRIT" AND "MATERIAL" SEEM SO DIFFERENT. MAY THEY BE THE SAME?
One of the participants brought up the subject of "dualism" vs "monism". Most philosophers up to Decartes were dualists who thought Spirit (or thought or form, etc.) was orthogonal to and quite different from Material (or physical or particular objects, etc.) Spinoza was one of the original monists who taught that what he called "Thought" (Spirit) and "Extension" (Material) were merely two ASPECTS of an Ultimate Reality we humans just could not fully perceive. That Ultimate Reality had a large number of Aspects and we could only conceive of two, Spirit and Material!

BOTTOM LINE: The purely "Spirit" Universe that the religious "true-believers" cling to is TRUE in its own way, but limited. It does not capture the WHOLE TRUTH. On the other hand, the purely "Material" Universe that the scientific "true-believers" cling to, while TRUE in its own way, also fails to capture the WHOLE TRUTH.

Ira Glickstein

26 comments:

wwp07 said...

The toipic of God's Warriors over breakfast was very good, espeically Ira's analogy to the the different ways ov viewing the same object, which in this case was the creamer container for the coffee. and yes, the breakfast was excellent.

joel said...

From Joel: re: Ira's, God's Warriors

Ira said:
They are all true believers in their view of God and the Universe and they deny that any other view can be correct. Only one can be correct - either that or none of them are right!
I picked up an object at the table and demonstrated how ALL THREE views could be correct!

Thanks, Ira. I love analogies. Not only are they an excellent form of argument, sometimes they are the only form of argument possible. Analogies also serve to reveal to us the state of mind of the person who creates the analogy and therefore aids communication. Analogies also stimulate thought and creativity. As a teacher, I can also say that analogy can sometimes clarify an obscure concept or the overly complex. I'll go even further and say that all of scientific theory is based upon analogy. For example, chemistry and physics could not have progressed without the atomic model of hard shell spherical particles moving analogous to the solar system.

Lets explore your analogy a bit. You say that the observers live in a two dimensional world, but your observers are actually displaced from one another in two tabletop dimensions and can apparently view the object's third dimension (height off the tabletop). Your "ant people" would only see a varying length line. Thus, this particular analogy is not self consistent.

Plato's cave analogy is in the same family (projection of a three dimensional object), but different. The objects outside the cave are three dimensional, but their shadows inside the cave's opening, (which is the only information available to those inside the cave), are two dimensional. In Plato's analogy, it is the speculation concerning the source of the shadows that depends on the observer.

I won't presume to repair the dimensionality of your analogy. Could you repair it so we can look at it again? With respect -Joel

wwp07 said...

God’s Warriors… We as humans will never know if there is a God or not, and each of us has his/her own view of who God is or is not… We can only speculate… and of all the religions, who is to say who is right or who is wrong, or if they are all right, or none are right… However, thanks to an email that has been circulating of late, we perhaps have an insight into the question of God’s existence…

The email is a PowerPoint presentation called Fantastictrip.pps. It starts with a picture of leaf of tree, and continually takes a view of that leaf from higher and higher up, until you reach 100 million light years away…. Then the second half starts at the leaf, and goes smaller and smaller until you reach a theoretical 10 to the -16th or atometer. In both cases, being way out or way in… there is still more to see, each being very similar, but what you do see is space between whatever there is to see…. And perhaps in this space lies some energy form holding (creating) everything together…… it may be the common thread that binds… it may be where God is

Ira Glickstein said...

From Ira Re God's Warriors

Thanks, Joel for your Comment.

Of course I thought of Plato's cave analogy as I was developing this version of a 2-D view of a 3-D world. However, like the people in Plato's cave, my viewers are full 3-D beings, but they are fixed in place on two sides of the table and above the table such that they only get a 2-D view of a 3-D can of soda.

This is exactly what you get when you watch TV. If the camera does not move, you see a 2-D version of a 3-D world. In my example, "A", "B", and "C" were granted snapshot views of "God" at 9AM and again at Noon. "A" concludes that "God" is a rectangle that changes orientation. "B" and "C" conclude that "God" changes from a rectangle to a circle, but they have opposite impressions of what shape "God" is in at 9AM and Noon.

The point of the demonstration is that each of us, over our lifetimes, sees a series of snapshots of the world. Since none of us can be in the same place at any given time, we necessarily have different viewpoints. Working together, we create models of the world around us but, necessarily, those models are limited to the dimensionality our brains have evolved to process. In our case, evolution has determined that three space dimensions plus a half-dimension of time are sufficient and effective for survival and reproduction.

If, as Einstein teaches, Time and Space are identical dimensions, and there are some number of additional dimensions we cannot comprehend, there is no way we can fully describe the world around us. Each of us accurately reports what we see *from our own particular viewpoint*, and threfore wat we report is absolutely true, but even the sum of all these accurate reports fails to account for the whole actuality.

In my example, "A", "B", and "C" all file accurate reports of the snapshots of "God" they are allowed to see, yet there is no way they can resolve them into a rotating soda can so long as their viewpoints are fixed and limited to a 2-D view.

Ira Glickstein

joel said...

From Joel re: Ira's analogy, Warriors

Ira said:

In my example, "A", "B", and "C" all file accurate reports of the snapshots of "God" they are allowed to see, yet there is no way they can resolve them into a rotating soda can so long as their viewpoints are fixed and limited to a 2-D view.

Joel responds:
I agree. However, someone can if we lift your restriction of fixed viewpoint. In "image understanding" they have developed computer methods for combining 2-D video projections that can recreate the original 3-D object which produced them. Humans have been doing this for many years (although sometimes imperfectly) as machinists interpret orthogonal projection drawings to make real objects. What is required is that someone who can see all of the projections.

There needs to be a "religion integrator" who is versed in all of the views of God and who is willing to accept all of the data. What we can extract from your analogy is that the fundamentalists who are frozen in position and not willing to look at the view of others, will never determine anything more about God. Those who are willing to see from other viewpoints have sufficient information. However, they may not possess a model which will allow them to integrate the various images into a single multi-dimensional God. The analogy does not physically forbid them from doing so. The fundamentalist viewers and the can of soda have the same dimensionality. It is only your definition of their rigidity of position that forbids them from doing so.

We can also learn something else from your analogy. Each of the viewers is fallible. Therefore, their report about the projected image may be erroneous. The integrator (the one who has knowledge of all images) in that case may find no 3-D shape which fits all the claims concerning the separate projections. A fundamentalist may make claims concerning his view which are inconsistent with other views and will lead to confusion rather than clarification of the nature of God. The integrator may justifiably say that someone is wrong, but he cannot say who. Also, the fallible viewer (or viewers) may not report self-consistent images over time. This is also a challenge to the task of the integrator and may in fact make his task impossible. An example of such self-inconsistency is the Catholic trinity which is simply termed a "mystery" by Catholic theologians.


Getting back to the original contention that Ira's analogy was to respond to: "Only one can be correct - either that or none of them are right!" I believe that that the analogy tells us something about religious moderates versus fundamentalists. The moderate religionist reports vague shapes that are consistent with Ira's visual analogy. However, the fundamentalist reports detailed images (the 2-D projection of a can labeled Pepsi versus one labeled Coke) that cannot be made consistent with other contrary views. For the fundamentalist, the Abramic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam and don't forget Ba'hai) cannot be made consistent with one another, because each contains a non-competition clause. Moses reports that he will be the last to look upon the face of God. Jesus reports that he is the last messiah and Son of God. Mohammad reports that he is the last prophet. Bahalula reports the contrary view that he is a new prophet of Islam. Hence, the fundamentalist of each religious view is cornered into a position that makes other views impossible. Only one or none can be right. Non-fundamentalists do not have this problem. Ira, thanks again for a great analogy. With respect -Joel

Ira Glickstein said...

From Ira Re God's Warriors

Joel wrote a sentence that captures my thoughts *exactly*:

"...What we can extract from your analogy is that the fundamentalists who are frozen in position and not willing to look at the view of others, will never determine anything more about God."

Absolutely! Anyone who says things like "The Koran (or the Bible) teaches us absolutely everything we need to know to lead a moral and productive life on Earth" is forever doomed to have self-limited knowledge of the Universe.

Likewise, the rigid scientist who says: "If I can't see it and touch it and do repeatable experiments with it, it does not exist" is also doomed to have self-limited knowledge of the Universe, as well as stunted understanding of the human mind, including his or her own.

Joel goes on:

"Those who are willing to see from other viewpoints have sufficient information. However, they may not possess a model which will allow them to integrate the various images into a single multi-dimensional God."

Kind of correct, but I am not sure about how "sufficient" in the information any human or group of humans can gain from looking at and combining different viewpoints and coming up with a *single* multi-dimensional model that captures them all correctly.

If the Universe (or "God") has more than three and a half dimensions, no human can completely model or conceive it. Even if it has dimensionality within our capabilities, that does not mean the model created will be correct. For example, our three viewers cannot determine the material the can is made of nor if it is solid or hollow. If it is hollow, it could contain any type of liquid or solid or be inhabited by a hamster, etc., and they would not know from the snapshots available. Even if they were able to touch the can and cut it open, they would not be able to know where the aluminum was mined and refined and rolled, or where the sugar and flavoring and carbonated water came from, or who created the can and filled it with soda, etc.

Ira Glickstein

PS: I've noticed the last two days the listing of ten most recent Comments does not contain the initial text of the Comments as it used to. I have not made any changes to the Blog code. I assume neither of the other Administrators made any such changes. I have no idea why this happened. Please continue to put the "From {Commenter} and Re {Topic} wording in your Comments. I will investigate and try to fix whatever went wrong.

Howard Pattee said...

From HOWARD Re: God’s Warriors

Plato’s cave allegory (an extended story illustrating a truth) is often called a metaphor (a short figure of speech that is literally false). In fact, the shadow is not a metaphor. All vision is literally a projection, a 2-D shadow on the retina. Perception of 3-D objects is a complex artificial reconstruction that depends on learned coordination with the entire sensorimotor system.

It is also literally true that no two people can ever see the same projections because their eyes cannot be at the same place at the same time. “You can’t step in the same river twice.” Of course, if the viewed objects do not change in time, the two projections can be made to appear the same. Nevertheless two people can usually agree when they see a cow or a cat.

I think they can’t agree on their concept of God because there is no projection. Organized religions are all imaginative allegories that are used to allay fears or create meaning. Their “truth is revealed” by their God, and one cannot hope to resolve contradictions that arise from such “immutable authority.”

For that reason I’m against organized religions. We universalist mystical panentheists, like Spinoza and Einstein, get along fine without organizing.

Ira Glickstein said...

From Ira, Re God's Warriors.

Howard wrote, regarding the "immutable authority" claimed by some religions: "...I’m against organized religions. We universalist mystical panentheists, like Spinoza and Einstein, get along fine without organizing."

I agree that no organized (or disorganized) religion or person has any kind of immutable authority when it comes to faith issues. However, let's not "throw out the baby with the bathwater".

In my past life in New York I was an officer in a synagogue and am currently an active member and do computer work in the office of the new synagogue we built here in The Villages, FL. So, at least *I* believe in the value of organized religion, just so long as the group does not claim to be the "be all and end all" on the subject.

Also, I have it on good authority (you, Howard :^) that you have given at least one sermon at a church, namely the First Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ, Williamstown, MA, 13th Sunday After Pentecost, August 29, 2004, Title: "Time and Chance in God's Creation and Darwin's Evolution" by Howard H. Pattee, Scripture: Genesis 1:1-31; Ecclesiastes 9:7-12.

I like your sermon although I don't happen to agree with your main point. You say, in part:

"Evolution has been a controversial problem for Christianity ever since Darwin described it nearly 150 years ago ─ The reason is obvious. Chance mutations and natural selection appear to replace God’s design. ...

"There is a much older problem for Christianity ─ as old as Christianity itself ─ called the problem of evil, or, why a loving and omnipotent God allows bad things happen to good people. Nobody is happy with this either. We would prefer fairness and justice. Ironically, the problem of evil arises not from chance but from its absence in God’s actions. Both evolution and evil are problems just because chance events, or accidents, are excluded from Christian theology."

As a Spinoza/Einstein determinist I believe in strict "cause and effect". We humans are forced to use probability and statistics because we cannot know all the precise causes and their exact effects. Due to our mental limitations, we probably never will. Despite the great success of quantum mechanics and Heisenberg uncertainty and so on, Einstein never accepted the "Copenhagen interpretation" as the ground truth.

Darwinian evolution (which I accept) requires mutations and crossover of DNA strings, but these could all be totally deterministic.

Furthermore, what we humans think of as "evil" is mainly subjective. What appears "evil" to Osama Bin Laden's supporters may appear "good" to George W. Bush supporters, and vice-versa. If we could see the "big picture" (which I do not believe we will ever see completely), we would realize, as Epictetus (the Roman Stoic) wrote nearly two-thousand years ago:

"As a mark is not set up for the sake of missing the aim, so neither does the nature of evil exist in the world."

Ira Glickstein

PS: In addition to Plato's cave analogy and my soda can, the "blind men and the elephant" also applies to the posting that initiated this thread.

Each blind man uses his hands to describe the elephant. To one, who happens to touch its side, it is "like a wall". To the second, who happens to grasp its tail, it is "like a snake." To the third, who happens to touch its leg, it is "like a tree".

These are all absolutely TRUTHful observations of "what an elephant is like". Yet, without our (superior) knowledge of what an elephant is "really" like, they could not be readily put together to form an elephant. Of course, our "superiority" to the blind men only refers to our powers of eyesight. None of us really *understands* what an elephant "really is like", much less the Universe.

joel said...

Ira said:
Likewise, the rigid scientist who says: "If I can't see it and touch it and do repeatable experiments with it, it does not exist" is also doomed to have self-limited knowledge of the Universe, as well as stunted understanding of the human mind, including his or her own.

Joel responds:
I may be someone you consider a rigid scientist. You slightly, but crucially, misquote what such an imaginary person would say. I would say, "If I can't see it and touch it OR HAVE MACHINES WHICH SENSE IT and do repeatable experiments with it, it MIGHT AS WELL not exist" Science is all about predictability, not existence or non-existence. I would contend that those who claim to have a knowledge of the Universe or the human mind which is inaccessible to the scientific study, simply have lively imaginations. Imagination and speculation are extremely important to science (as attested to by Einstein), but science includes an iteration between speculation and testing. If that doesn't lead to predictability, then the speculation is useless. Those who are satisfied with pure speculation without testing, provide fertile soil for charlatans and false prophets to manipulate people. The general public's hold on rationality is not so firm that scientists can afford to neglect their responsibility to defend the scientific method. An example is the fact that to this day people believe that the result of double blind studies at Raleigh-Durham demonstrated that remote prayer speeds medical recovery, when in fact it showed there was no such effect. With respect -Joel

Ira Glickstein said...

From Ira, Re God's Warriors

I accept Joel's rewording of my comment about those I call "rigid scientists". Joel's rewording is:

"If I can't see it and touch it OR HAVE MACHINES WHICH SENSE IT and do repeatable experiments with it, it MIGHT AS WELL not exist."

Of course, when I wrote "see it or touch it" I intended to include the use of microscopes and telescopes and X-rays and cloud chambers and infrared sensors and chemical analysis and all other techniques used by scientists and technologists to extend our human seeing and touching senses. Repeatable experiments using these sensors are the heart of the "scientific method" which I fully support.

I agree with Joel to the following extent: Unless something can be sensed and predicted in a repeatable way, nothing said about it can be said to be a *scientific certainty.*

However, I do not agree that things not known to scientific certainty, in Joel's words, "MIGHT AS WELL not exist".

Joel goes on: "Imagination and speculation are extremely important to science (as attested to by Einstein), but science includes an iteration between speculation and testing. If that doesn't lead to predictability, then the speculation is useless."

Speculation about scientific issues by such luminaries as Einstein is "useless" if it does not lead to predictability? Joel, did you really mean to say that?

I would say that science-based speculation, by qualified scientists and engineers and technologists is *never* useless, even, if after extensive experimentation, it turns out to be dead wrong. ANother of my boyhood heros, Edison, experimented with many different materials before he hit upon carbon filaments and then tungsten filaments for practical incandescent light bulbs. Testing of each of the failed materials lead him and his scientists to better understand the reasons for the failure and therefore the characteristics necessary for the evential successes. Within our lifetimes, we will see incandescent light bulbs almost totally eclipsed by flourescent and light emitting diode lighting. Does that mean tungsten was a failure and might as well not exist?

Beyond science and technology, there is a whole wonderful world of literature and art and the beauty of Nature and so on that is unaccessible to most scientific knowledge. In these areas, we humans differ considerably in what we consider real beauty or great art and so on. So, there is limited or no predictability. However, would you deny that beauty and art bring great enjoyment to most humans and are really what makes life worth living?

Cosmology and other speculation about God and the Universe have characterized human consciousness for ages and the rise of science and acceptance of the scientific method have not made much of a dent in that speculation. Indeed, scientific knowledge has enriched the range of cosmological speculation immeasurably. I do not think that speculation is useless either.

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

From HOWARD Re: God’s Warriors
IRA wrote: Darwinian evolution (which I accept) requires mutations and crossover of DNA strings, but these could all be totally deterministic.
HOWARD answers: I believe you are confusing faith and science. No one can disprove pure speculation or expressions of faith. Mutations could be the hand of God. On the other hand, as a matter of empirical science, there is no evidence for deterministic mutation. My sermon was about both faith and science, but I tried not to confuse them.
Darwin saw the problem with determinism. Determinism implies predestination. Darwin wrote: “It has always seemed to me that for an Omnipotent & Omniscient Creator to foresee is the same as to preordain; but then when I come to think over this, I get into an uncomfortable puzzle . . .” What puzzled Darwin was that it is precisely determinism that creates the problem of evil (when terrible natural events kill innocent people). A crucial event in his life was the death of his ten-year-old daughter, Annie, after a long and painful illness. After her death he reluctantly gave up Christianity because he could not believe in a deterministic Creator. From all the evidence of his life and study he concluded, “[We should] look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance.”
In my opinion, based on the physicists and biologists that I am familiar with, Darwin’s view is today the most common interpretation of the laws of nature. This is largely because of the evidence of quantum theory and because strict determinism raises more problems than it solves.
I would ask Ira: What great mystery or problems in your life are solved by strict determinism? If you and Epictetus really believe that evil does not exist in the world, then that is true whether the laws are probabilistic or deterministic.
Howard

joel said...

From: Joel re: God's Warriors

Ira said:
However, I do not agree that things not known to scientific certainty, in Joel's words, "MIGHT AS WELL not exist".

Joel goes on: "Imagination and speculation are extremely important to science (as attested to by Einstein), but science includes an iteration between speculation and testing. If that doesn't lead to predictability, then the speculation is useless."

Speculation about scientific issues by such luminaries as Einstein is "useless" if it does not lead to predictability? Joel, did you really mean to say that?

Joel responds:
Actually, I did. I don't think we disagree even if you don't like my wording. You came up with many examples of speculation that ultimately led to predictability, which support my case. Please note that I said an "iteration" between speculation and testing is required. Obviously, that means that early speculation may fail and new speculation will be required. Edison, as you pointed out, speculated, predicted success and failed time and failed again. Ultimately his speculation led to predictability (and reliability). Einstein's speculation also led to predictability. That's exactly what I am saying. Of course, one must take a risk in the process that a particular speculation will lead to predictability, but it may not. You may prefer the more classical statement. In order for a speculation to be "scientific," it must be "testable." I don't believe that speculation in the area of metaphysics has ever led to predicability and has not even been testible. If you can give me an counter-example, I'd be pleased.

The above is just a kind of reworded classical view of science, but I'll go even further. Certain areas of what one calls theoretical physics are UNscientific. The view that the Universe is ten-dimensional is considered to be untestable. Too much energy would be required to carry out a test, according to Hawkins. In my view, such speculation is not science. It may be terrific mathematics, but it isn't science.

Finally, let me put in a good word for the use of the term "predictable." Newton's great accomplishment in "Principia" is his demonstration of the ability to predict the orbits of planets, based upon a model concerning a universal attractive force. Neither he nor anyone else in science actually believed such a force existed. It was termed mystical. However, his work was scientific, because it yielded predictability. The real existence of an attractive force called gravity was not tested and proven true. We need to keep reminding ourselves that science is about models of reality that satisfy our senses, not about reality itself. The Newtonian model was rejected by some, because we can push on one another, but we never can pull. (What we call "pulling" is actually our fingers pushing from the opposite side of someone's arm.) Like certain combinations of notes in music that were considered dissonant in Newton's time, but are very acceptable now, we don't blink at the strange fact that the Earth can pull on its moon without touching it. With respect, -Joel

Ira Glickstein said...

From Ira, Re God's Warriors

Howard asks Ira:

"What great mystery or problems in your life are solved by strict determinism?"

Probably none!

However, how has the knowledge the Earth is spherical enriched *your* life? Neither Moses nor Ghengis Khan had that knowledge yet they lived very eventful and interesting lives. Everyone on Earth up to 600 years ago lacked that information and suffered few if any ill effects attributable to that lack. However, I still believe you and I are better for having that knowledge - BECAUSE IT IS TRUE.

Why did Einstein stick with his dogged belief in determinism against the arguments of Bohr and Heisenberg and all the others he respected so highly? It satisfied some deeply held (almost religious in the best sense of that word) belief in the Nature of Nature. In the idea that science, as Joel attests, is based on predictable, repeatable tests.

As careful tests showed early in the history of science, maggots do not appear on rotting meat by spontaneous generation (as most people believed until 1859). They come from eggs laid by flies. It riles some of us that the majority of physicists believe that radioactive atoms spontaneously decay with no cause. Perhaps it is some sort of defect of character? (In us? Or in those who are *not* riled?)

At Joel's suggestion (in a private email) I am working on a new Topic that will explore determinism in greater depth. I hope to post it in a week or so.

Howard continues in his questions to Ira:

"If you and Epictetus really believe that evil does not exist in the world, then that is true whether the laws are probabilistic or deterministic."

I guess so. You are correct!

However, I am amazed that both non-religious scientists and religious people believe that the nature of evil exists. When God created the World (Genesis 1:31) He said it was "very good". Therefore if Satan exists and is both created by God and actually Evil, then God was mistaken and is not Omnipotent and Omniscient and Omnipresent. As the book of Job suggests, Satan (the Adversary) checks with God for permission before acting. Satan is therefore a creature of and agent for God.

As for non-religious scientists who believe matter and energy and the laws of nature are all there is to nature and the universe, where do *they* think the "nature of evil" comes from? How do they know it when they think they see it?

As Hofstadter illustrates in his wonderful "Godel, Escher, Bach", all the ants in the ant colony are terrified when the Anteater pays a visit. To them, he is the "essence of Evil". Yet, "Aunt Hillary" (the group consciousness of the anthill) welcomes the Anteater's visits because he cleans out the deadwood and renews the anthill.

Why don't anteaters destroy the ant colony totally? Well, when a sub-species of greedy anteaters evolves and they destroy all the anthills in their neighborhood, the next season they all die of starvation!

To the slow rabbit who gets caught and eaten by the fast fox, the fast fox is the essence of evil. Yet, to the slow fox who fails to catch the fast rabbit and starves to death as a result, the fast rabbit is the essence of evil.

If a breed of swift foxes evolved and ate all the rabbits (and other prey) in their neighborhood, the next season they would starve to death! And, if a breed of swift rabbits evolved and they outran the foxes, causing the foxes to die out, the next season the rabbit overpopulation would cause them to eat all the vegetation and they too would die out!

Natural selection is a self-regulating process. Where is the evil in that?

From our perspective, we understand that the continual contest between predator and prey is the essence of natural selection and raises the average speed and agility and intelligence of both predator and prey species.

"Nature is raw of tooth and claw!"

So, where is the "evil"?

Ira

Howard Pattee said...

From: HOWARD Re: God’s Warriors

The classical “problem of evil” is not the best language to describe the problem. It is really about the cause of disasters. The original problem was how God could be both omnipotent and loving. What does omnipotent mean? If it means God has the power to determine or control all events, then it is hard to understand disasters that kill innocent, God-fearing (or loving) people. Determinism is the problem, not the answer.

Darwin’s answer, by allowing a little chance (non-determinism in God’s laws), solves this problem, as many theologians have recognized. Of course this “rational” solution is ultimately a matter of faith, not science. Bohr’s response to Einstein was very simple: How do you know what God is doing?

Howard

Howard Pattee said...

From: HOWARD Re: God’s Warriors

I neglected to add the other half of Darwin’s argument against determinism. It bears on the current controversy of the “Intelligent Design” vs. natural selection controversy.

The question is simple: If mutations are intelligently designed (determined by God) then why are the great majority of mutations deleterious and why do most species become extinct? More generally, what possible value is natural selection in a deterministic universe?

Howard

Ira Glickstein said...

From Ira, Re God's Warriors

Thanks for your Comments Howard! As always, they get to the heart of the problem in a most astute and courteous way!

In your first Comment, you ask how a "loving" and omnipotent God could allow disasters that kill innocent people, including believers.

Well, I, as a pantheist, certainly do not buy into the idea that God is *separate* from the Universe or that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (OOO) -- or loving -- in any anthropomorphic way. I doubt Spinoza or Einstein would buy into any of that either.

You say "allowing a little chance" is "Darwin's answer" and "solves this problem" and "many theologians" (presumably true believers) have recognized chance as the solution. Say what ???

How does that all work? God creates all the animals and the environment with full knowledge aforethought, and then spins a roulette wheel to determine where the next earthquake will kill thousands of people? Somehow that absolves Him of having detemined that all those people will suffer?

Or God creates humans "in His image" and gives them "free will" to destroy themselves in some ecological disaster? If God is OOO, He knows beforehand that our "free will" will lead to the disaster -- or if He spins a roulette wheel to add "chance" to the matter, and then lets us do it, is He not ultimately responsible?

As you know, during my PhD studies with you, I programmed "HexLife", a simulation of biological life, evolution, and natural selection. I set it up so the user could pick any of several pre-set initial "random seed" number generation sequences and initial conditions. Given a particular starting situation, my simulation would play out, bit for bit, in an identical sequence of evolving organisms and periodic extinctions would take place.

Although I was separate from my creation and OOO with respect to all the "laws of nature" within it, the first time I ran it with a given "random seed" and initial conditions, I was unable to predict any specific outcomes. However, after running a given situation, I knew, to exacting detail, precisely what would happen. I have not run "HexLife" in ten years, but if anyone ran that given situation on any compatible PC today, it would play out in the same exact sequence, with disasterous consequences for hundreds of simulated organisms as they are killed in predictable ways.

Therefore, even if if God is separate from the Universe (which I'll accept only for the sake of this part of the argument), and if He created the Universe and Laws of Nature in full detail, and if it is all deterministic, even He does not know how it will play out. On the other hand, if He has run it before with the same situation, He knows all the exact details!

You continue: "Bohr’s response to Einstein was very simple: How do you know what God is doing?"

I can't speak for Einstein, but he might ask Bohr "How do you know it is *not*?" [Garrison Keillor's favorite joke which I think I've told before: Two penguins sitting on an ice floe. One says "Looks like you are wearing a tuxedo." The second replies "Who's to say I'm not?"]

I'll get to your second Comment later.

Ira Glickstein

Ira Glickstein said...

From Ira, Re God's Warriors

Your second Comment brings up so-called "Intelligent Design".

Proponents of ID suggest that Darwinian evolution and natural selection and so on are possible, *but* the initial biological cells are so complex that it is impossible that they came into existence randomly. Therefore, God Created those initial cells and the Laws of Nature and let evolution and Natural Selection play out to generate the life forms we have today.

The problem with ID is that the same argument can be used with respect to the existence of God. God is certainly more complex than a biological cell, so He could not have come into existence without a Creator. Who Created God? A Super-God? Is it "Gods all the way up?"

The standard theological answer is "God has always existed". That is a major "cop-out" IMHO! On the other hand, ask a non-religious scientist where the initial matter/energy and laws of nature came from and he or she will say "they have always existed and are conserved in the universe." So, what is the difference?

Howard goes on: "If mutations are intelligently designed (determined by God) then why are the great majority of mutations deleterious and why do most species become extinct? More generally, what possible value is natural selection in a deterministic universe?"

Although I do not accept ID as promoted by the true religious believers, I do think mutations, most of which are indeeed deleterious, are necessary for a deterministic universe to play out.

Let me give a simpler example. Chess is a deterministic game in that there are a finite number of possible board positions and moves. When the rules of chess were formulated, at that very instant, all the strategies and all the future games of chess according to those rules were, in effect, determined and, in principle, could have been enumerated.

However, chess is still an interesting game for humans to play because there are so many possible games that some of them have never been played. Even if a given game has been played in the past, the people playing that game again are not aware of the outcome.

I am not a chess expert, but I believe that, for a time, the "Queen's gambit" was a winning strategy, until someone came up with a good counter-strategy for it, and, among chess masters, it went extinct.

The history of chess and the success and failure of given strategies is a simplified model of the evolution and natural selection of biological life. The "mutations" are the various errors made by players over the years, various strategies like the "Queen's gambit" that evolved, survived for a time and reproduced, and then were overcome by superior strategies. This process continues and, in our lifetimes, powerful computers have been enlisted to come up with still more ingenious strategies. How do they do it? By modeling all legal moves through a dozen or more plys and then evaluating the outcomes in a min/max way. Each new computer program makes the old ones obsolete and they go extinct!

As for a pantheistic explanation of something like Intelligent Design, I accept all the neo-Darwinian explanations, but I point to the mechanisms that evolution has developed to protect against certain deleterious mutations and promote positive ones. Certain genes are duplicated many times such that, if one copy is destroyed by mutation, other copies assure that the given protein will still be coded for. Furthermore, there are well-known mechanisms to correct copying errors and so on.

On top of all that, there were certain genetic operations that Nature could not do by itself (such as putting cold-water fish genes in tomatoes to make them more frost resistant), so Nature evolved humans who eventually became scientists and micro-biologists who would achieve these "Intelligent Designs" in genetic engineering laboratories!

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

From : HOWARD Re: God’s Warriors

I think our religious views are essentially the same. I use panentheism simply to allow the possibility that God could extend beyond our universe (beyond our event horizon).

Darwin did not accept the (OOO) God. (He hard a hard time with his religious and scientific conflicts.) He rejected the omnipotent and omniscient God just to the extent that chance entered God’s laws. In other words, God is responsible for global laws but not local accidents because they are necessary for evolution.

Your Hex Life example I think begs the question of determinism. The question is whether evolution would repeat itself if started over with the same initial conditions. This is obviously untestable and therefore largely a question of taste (or faith) and not a scientific question. However, in my thought experiment (restarting the universe), I simply have little faith that the same billions of cosmic rays would produce the same billions of mutations over billions of years of evolution (as is required by your deterministic faith).

Your second questions: “Who Created God? A Super-God? Is it "Gods all the way up?" I see as a problem just because of determinism that requires a cause for all events. As I point out in my sermon, this Aristotelean or Newtonian view of causality is the cultural basis of the problem.
I quote from sermon: “For Aristotle and Newton there were no uncaused events, only events with incomplete knowledge of the causes. This classical view of chance is no longer acceptable. Modern physics has rediscovered another concept of chance. It is an old meaning. Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) saw chance as a truly chaotic event without any cause whatsoever. It is an uncaused or undetermined event. This is hard for us to imagine because Aristotelian causes have strongly biased western culture. Christian theology incorporated all of Aristotle’s causes. To St. Augustine (354-430) there are no uncaused events except God.”
Of course, by “modern physics” I’m thinking of the vacuum quantum fluctuations that result from Heisenberg’s principle. This also is ultimately a matter of faith that it is an ontological principle (a property of reality) not just an epistemological principle (a property of observers).
Your chess example seems to me to be a case of natural selection of human strategies based on incomplete knowledge. The issue is the same. Are a player’s errors an illusion caused by a hidden ontological determinism or are they just intrinsic epistemological noise?
Howard

joel said...

From Joel, re: radiation, indeterminism


I've been very interested by the discussion that you (Howard and Ira) have been having. Please tell me if I've got this part right. As I understand you, the absence of determinism in radiation emission is equivalent to an absence of causality. Although certain pre-conditions are necessary, the exact moment of emission of a single quantum of energy is unpredictable, even if all of the surrounding conditions are known and controlled. The lack of causality or lack of repeatability in quantum emission implies that radiation-induced mutations are truly random. A rerun of the process of evolution would see different mutations in different geographical locations at different times, because mutations occur due to individual collisions not the average flux. I assume that even though these mutations would be "smoothed" or filtered to some extent through survival of the fittest, a different evolutionary history might result. However, only the initial mutation is indeterminant. With respect -Joel

Howard Pattee said...

From: HOWARD Re: God’s Warriors

Joel has the majority physics view right, but there are other speculative ideas about deeper causal models (hidden variables). This discussion with IRA about determinism and chance has reinforced my long-standing belief in the necessity of Bohr’s generalized complementary principle. It is not a popular view because it requires two logically contradictory models like determinism and chance to adequately explain reality. The principle applies to all our modes of perception and thought.

This principle arose first from the necessary particle-wave duality of electrons; but the argument of whether the universe was fundamentally continuous or discrete (waves or particles) has been going on since Zeno’s apparent paradox of motion by discrete counting of steps. Aristotle dismissed Zeno’s argument by simply asserting, “That which moves does not move by counting,” but he did not mention that the moving object itself was discrete. Today, we accept both continuous wave and discrete particle models of all matter. We don’t argue over what matter really looks like because we have no way of getting beyond our models.

I think the same necessity applies to deterministic and probabilistic models. The wave equation and all our computations with it are assumed to be deterministic, but the variables are interpreted only as probabilities. Furthermore, even though computational steps are functionally interpreted as discrete and deterministic, like Ira’s Hex Life, speaking precisely, they are physically continuous dissipative dynamical processes that are therefore probabilistic (subject to error). It is only because the probabilities are high that we think it’s deterministic.

Many physicists have recognized that strict determinism and chance cannot be reconciled in one model. Max Planck said, “For it is clear to everybody that there must be an unfathomable gulf between a probability, however small, and an absolute impossibility. Thus deterministic dynamics and statistics cannot be regarded as interrelated.”

Howard

joel said...

From Joel re: Howard, determinacy, free will

Thanks Howard. My next question is how the presence of a truly random or unpredictable process effects philosophy. Suppose radioactive decay is truly random, making mutations and a few other things like lightning unpredictable even to a super intelligence. Once the mutation is observed, the rest of the evolutionary process is deterministic. So, although the effects of low level indeterminacy may propagate, indeterminacy itself does not. All the paradoxical problems that determinacy produces remain.

Let's suppose that some truly random process in the human brain intervenes when we try to make a decision. (For argument's sake, lets say that the nerve firing threshold has some noise in it that depends on quantum emissions from space.) As a result, the history of human decision making plays out differently in different universes. This might be interesting , but it would seem to have no impact on the classical conundrum of "free will." Although at any moment, the future and our role in it are unpredictable, this view doesn't say we have free will. It doesn't say that we are anything more than noisy machines whose decisions are not repeatable or predictable. The possibility of free will being nothing more than a machine illusion remains with us. This means that the whole "determinacy versus free will" issue has been posed incorrectly. We are still stuck with the intractable question of whether or not "free will" really exists. With respect -Joel

Ira Glickstein said...

From Ira, Re God's Warriors

I'm still working on a new Topic posting for Determinism but I appreciate Joel coming in and Commenting on my interchange with Howard.

Joel has correctly identified the nub of the issue. We currently (and perhaps forever) are unable to *predict* the exact moment of decay for a radioactive atom. There are two possible explanations: 1) It is a truly causeless process, totally random -or- 2) There *is* a cause but, due to the small scale of the atom, we do not (yet - or ever) have the sensors necessary to detect and predict it for a given *single* atom.

I note that the half-life of radioactive decay in a mass of material is quite predictable, to several decimal places, and choose explanation #2. Howard and other physicists who understand the mathematical models at the heart of QM choose explanation #1.

If the scale of the "true cause" (if there is one) of radioactive decay is forever too small for us to detect with any type of future sensor, it is forever a "hidden variable", so we will never resolve the question in a scientific way. Thus, we must speculate and become: A-Athiests (pure random), B-Believers (in a hidden cause), or C-Agnostics based on our cosmological attitudes towards the nature of Nature and the Universe.

Howard mentions Zeno's paradox which I have also been thinking about. Modern version: If I am going 30MPH and you are 30 miles behind me going 60MPH, you will be only 15 miles behind me in half an hour, 7.5 miles behind me in the next quarter-hour and so on. But, according to Zeno, you will not catch up to me in any *finite* amount of time because it would take an *infinite* number of halvings of the distance. You can't have an *infinite* number of halvings in a *finite* time.

Yet, we know by experiment, you will indeed catch and pass me in one hour! How to explain the paradox? My explanation is that time and distance are quantized! (They seem continuous, like water, but we know if you divide water in half repeatedly: pint, half-pint, quarter-pint, and so on, you will eventually get to a single atom of H2O and further division will no longer yield water!) Thus, as you chase me in your car, after an hour, we get to the point where some *finite* number of halvings reduce time and distance to *indivisible* and *finite*-sized quanta.

As to re-running evolution with the same initial conditions: Howard argues that some cosmic rays will alter the exact sequence of mutations so the results, after billions of years, will be different. Joel argues there will be some smoothing due to survival and reproduction of the fittest, but agrees the exact details will be different.

My argument depends upon the Universe being both *finite* and *discrete* (quantized energy, matter, space/time). The whole basis of QM is that energy comes in discrete quanta and, since energy and matter are interchangeable, matter is quantized.

If space/time also come in quanta as in my HexLife digital computer simulation and if Einstein's hidden variables are correct, then Howard's cosmic ray is also bound to come and cause the mutation at the same time when you rerun with *identical* initial conditions!

Ira

Ira Glickstein said...

From Ira, Re God's Warriors

WOW Joel! The air or something in the "upper US" must be stimulating your brain to far higher levels that the air down here in Florida.

You nailed the issue of "free will" even in a NON-deterministic Universe. If I am about to make a decision, say between two flavors of ice cream (or between Atheism, Theism, or Pantheism), and the decision is close, a stray cosmic ray hitting a neuron in my brain may flip me from one to the other.

You wrote: "The possibility of free will being nothing more than a machine illusion remains with us. This means that the whole 'determinacy versus free will' issue has been posed incorrectly. We are still stuck with the intractable question of whether or not 'free will' really exists."

Absolutely! Even if cosmic rays and radioactive decay are truly random and cause our brains to be "noisy machines" how does that amount to "free will" as opposed to determinism the way most people think of it?

IMHO, we make our decisions based on the vector sum of: a) our genetically-based temperament "Nature", b) what we are accustomed to based on our upbringing and education "Nurture", and c) our lifetime and especially recent experiences. That is the essence of Free Will - basing our decisions on the deterministic sum of a), b) and c).

If a decision is close, a bit of "chance" in the form of a cosmic ray or other "noise" interference comes into play and we may non-deterministically make the "close second" choice.

Is that how believers in both God and "a bit of chance" explain "free will"?

One of my teachers in Hebrew school said: "God knows all, yet free will is given." He posed that as a great cosmological and theological mystery. As you have pointed out, even if God DOESN'T KNOW ALL, free will is not the opposite of determinism. It is just determinism plus some "noise" in close decisions.

Ira

PS: When I retired in 2001, my former employer was pursuing a number of patents based on my ideas, a couple of which have been awarded. One that is still kicking around in the system is based on what I called "predictable unpredictabiity" or more simply "the Tonto algorithm".

It is based on the story of Tonto and the Lone Ranger atop a hill with the bad guys (can't call them "Indians" any more :^) about to attack.

T: "Will they come up from the east or west?"

LR: "Kemosabe (trusty scout), the west route is easier, they'll come from the west."

T: "The bad guys know you know the west route is easier, and you will expect them to come from the west."

LR: "Right Kemosabe! They'll come from the east to surprise us."

T: "The bad guys know I am up here and will know I will tell you that they know that you know what they know you know ..."

Anyway, my patent is based on two agents with access to the same broadcast information and decision algorithms in their computers coming up with the exact, bit-for-bit decisions and plans, including apparently random effects on close decisions, despite a total lack of *direct* communications between them.

Howard Pattee said...

From: HOWARD Re: God’s Warriors

Ira’s Tonto patent reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon. Two fortune tellers (fakirs) are apparently playing chess, but each is staring into his own crystal ball to decide what move to make next. What is the game they are actually playing?
The moral of the Complementarity Principle is that it is useless, and hence a waste of time, to argue over which of two unrelated models is the “true model” when we need both models to fully understand our observations. Models of computers are a good example. Like it or not, according to the physicist’s model, a computer is a continuous probabilistic device that when used to model a system is also usefully interpreted as discrete and deterministic. Both Turing and von Neumann recognized this and discuss how to reduce the errors in computers.
To view the universe (and mathematics) restricting one’s images to only discrete models is like using only half your brain that has special regions for imaging discrete objects (edge detectors) and special regions for imaging continuous motion (sensorimotor controls). How millions of neurons actually do this is an entirely different question, but models of neurons still use both continuous and discrete models.
Heinrich Hertz expressed the physicist’s concept of a good model. “We form for ourselves images or symbols of external objects; and the form which we give them is such that the logically necessary consequents of the images in thought [models] are always the images of the necessary natural consequents of the thing pictured.”
Most important, Hertz emphasized (like Kant) that we can’t know reality. All we have is our models (images). Physics has learned not to artificially restrict the language of models, like continuous and discrete, deterministic and stochastic, reversible and irreversible, particle and wave, etc.
Hertz said, “For our purpose it is not necessary that they [images] should be in conformity with the things in any other respect whatever. As a matter of fact, we do not know, nor have we any means of knowing, whether our conception of things are in conformity with them in any other than this one fundamental respect.” [i.e., the image of the consequent in nature is the consequent of the image in the model]

Howard

Howard Pattee said...

From: HOWARD Re: God’s Warriors

To remind myself that my images and emotions are only in my brain and not “the real thing-in-itself” I have this quote above my desk:

Hippocrates (400 BC) “Men ought to know that from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by this, in an especial manner, we acquire wisdom and knowledge, and see and hear, and know what are foul and what are fair, what are bad and what are good, what are sweet, and what unsavory; some we discriminate by habit, and some we perceive by their utility. By this we distinguish objects of relish and disrelish, according to the seasons; and the same things do not always please us. And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us, some by night, and some by day, and dreams and untimely wanderings, and cares that are not suitable, and ignorance of present circumstances, desuetude, and unskilfulness. All these things we endure from the brain . . ."

Howard

Ira Glickstein said...

From Ira, Re God's Warriors

Howard nicely sums up the situation. It is "all in your head" (to which the fool might reply, "there's nothing in my head".)

The electron (or photon, etc) sometimes appears to be a particle and sometimes a wave.

One might say, after observing the one-slit/two-slit experiment, THE ELECTRON is the thing that changes. Sometimes it is really a particle and other times really a wave.

I would say the electron is SOMETHING, neither a wave nor a particle exactly, but SOMETHING (perhaps something we mere mortals will never be able to appreciate).

Like the "A", "B", and "C" who started this thread arguing about "God" being a rectangle that changes orientation but not shape vs a rectangle that changes into a circle, etc., they are all correct from their own point of reference. Yet, in that case "God" WAS a can of soda.

Let us not imagine our imperfect models ARE the actuality. As Howard taught me, "the map is NOT the territory!"

Ira Glickstein