1. Illinois
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    24 Jun '08 06:385 edits
    (This is a free ranging post, so feel free to respond to whatever strikes you as relevant.)

    Are the laws of nature real or imaginary? The argument for laws being imaginary is basically that the laws of physics are merely descriptions of how nature works. The implication being that we can never bridge the gap between our model or representation of reality and reality itself, i.e., the universe works, and it works a certain way, but it doesn't function in accord with any discoverable law. Which is really another way of saying that the way the universe works is incomprehensible.

    The notion underlying this assertion is understandable, as it takes into consideration the limitations of our current theoretical models, but it also undercuts the ultimate aim of scientific inquiry:

    Einstein once wrote, "What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and through the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people."

    In other words, the drive which produces the leaps and bounds in the understanding of our universe has been, and is, spurned on by the dangling carrot of possibly discovering exactly how the universe works.

    The laws of physics may currently only imperfectly reflect how nature works, and this fact may lead certain of us to assume that this will always be the case, i.e., that our laws of physics will always be artificial and imperfect reflections of nature. However, we mustn't forget that these imperfect representations were designed to reflect actually existing properties of nature. As Paul Davies asserts, "Without this assumption that the regularities are real, science is reduced to a meaningless charade." The assumption being that one day science will create a perfect rational model of how the universe works, the Theory of Everything, at which point the objective laws which invisibly govern the universe will be known.

    What we have, then, is a rationally comprehensible universe. Even more so if quantum cosmology is correct. If quantum cosmology is correct, then we would at least be capable of rationally explaining how our universe came into being without the necessity of a Creator. However, within quantum cosmology the laws of physics are taken for granted as being unchanging and eternal, and this introduces a profound existential mystery. We may be able to explain how the universe came into being according to the laws of physics, but we are completely unable to explain how the laws of physics themselves have come into being.

    In light of this, it is no wonder that brilliant theoretical physicists like Albert Einstein refer to the "mind revealed in the world," as their primary inspiration for inquiry. Newly discovered insight into how the world works leaves these "serious scientific workers" with the profound impression that a supremely rational mind conceived it. Is this impression merely an aberration? Have you ever had a similar experience of awe when confronted with the supreme rationality of Nature's laws?

    "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it's comprehensible" ~ Albert Einstein
    __________

    P.S. It seems kind of disingenuous, or if not disingenuous at least excusably ignorant, for someone to simply say in response to this, essentially, "What? There may be something significant about the rationality inherent in our cosmos? Whatever do you mean?" Did methodological naturalism turn these folks into androids? Seriously. Religion doesn't own the rights to awe and wonder, people. Scientists and atheists have talked seriously about this subject in the past and so can you. Burying your head in the sand and ignoring (or pretending to ignore) the fact that there are profound existential mysteries with profound spiritual implications at the heart of the world you're studying simply because they aren't accessible to the scientific method is pitiful, IMHO.

    Good night, and good luck.
  2. Standard memberStarValleyWy
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    04 Jul '08 01:00
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    (This is a free ranging post, so feel free to respond to whatever strikes you as relevant.)

    Are the laws of nature real or imaginary? The argument for laws being imaginary is basically that the laws of physics are merely descriptions of how nature works. The implication being that we can never bridge the gap between our model or representation of rea ...[text shortened]... ible to the scientific method is pitiful, IMHO.

    Good night, and good luck.
    I have been a big fan of Paul Davies (pronounced Davis) for years. I purchased God And The New Physics in a paperback in 1983. I became intrigued with the separation of God from religion, having recently discarded religion and God in one bucket of dirty water.

    Then I had to get The Runaway Universe and Other Worlds and The Edge Of Infinity and The physics of time asymmetry and Q fields in curved space and... on an on.

    But his latest is his best. The Mind Of God is a serious challenge to science to place the origination of the "laws of nature" within the bounded universe... not to magically invoke them with such statements of "It is mathematically Sound" kinds of metaphysics. He asks "Why does math work? From what force within the universe does it originate?" The quotes are mine, not his -- for the sake of brevity.

    Why does the electron hold that exact charge? How did the Value of G come to be the value of G? And dozens of other pleas for clarity within the framework of a bounded universe.

    I think that these things are knowable, but not with our current level of "mis-understanding" of the "laws of nature". I would guess that we are at approximately the level of fifth century "healers" letting blood to cure evil spirits as relates to "physics". I get real nervous to hear prognostications of "dark energy" and "dark matter" as they relate to the "big bang". It may just be my warped head out of joint in space and time... but I can envision "Time" as not being a flowing river, but a construct of mind alone.

    I think that Mind is the solution. What mind turns out to be... is the mystery of all times. (pun intended)
  3. Subscribersonhouse
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    04 Jul '08 07:591 edit
    Originally posted by StarValleyWy
    I have been a big fan of Paul Davies (pronounced Davis) for years. I purchased God And The New Physics in a paperback in 1983. I became intrigued with the separation of God from religion, having recently discarded religion and God in one bucket of dirty water.

    Then I had to get The Runaway Universe and Other Worlds and The Edge Of Infinity and The ph . What mind turns out to be... is the mystery of all times. (pun intended)
    Hi SVW, long time no type! I have a problem with the 'bounded universe' thing. The more we probe into the universe and back in time, we start seeing hints that there was in fact another universe that ours popped out of, starting out in that uberverse as a black hole and in our universe, it became a white hole, which is not exactly the right way to say it, but if something like that happened, the laws of nature did not originate here at all but we inherited them from the parent universe and that universe may have started out as a black hole of some even greater universe and so forth. So we in this universe may have hand-me-down laws that have passed from universe to universe and like the message chain started on the phones, what it started out as is not the same as what it seems to be here.
  4. Joined
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    04 Jul '08 09:202 edits
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    (This is a free ranging post, so feel free to respond to whatever strikes you as relevant.)

    Are the laws of nature real or imaginary? The argument for laws being imaginary is basically that the laws of physics are merely descriptions of how nature works. The implication being that we can never bridge the gap between our model or representation of rea ible to the scientific method is pitiful, IMHO.

    Good night, and good luck.
    …We may be able to explain how the universe came into being according to the laws of physics, but we are completely unable to explain how the laws of physics themselves have come into being…

    Are you implying that the laws of physics themselves where produced by a “god”? I am not saying that is what you are implying here but, if it is:

    Whenever something has yet to have any known explanation, it is typical of some (not all) theists to say that “god” is the explanation. There have been many unexplained phenomena in the past that theists used to "explain" away by saying god is the explanation only for science to eventually come along and discover that the true explanation is something that doesn’t require “god”. For example, our origins are explained by evolution. This is a demonstration, if any were needed, that to say “god” explains some unexplained thing does not explain anything. Now I am not implying here that one day we will know the explanation of what “gave rise” to the laws of physics (if that question even makes sense!), but, to say a “god” made the laws of physics explains nothing.

    …"The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it's comprehensible" ~ Albert Einstein …

    I agree with almost everything Einstein and I think he was one of the most intelligent, decent and kindest people to ever exist -certainly he was a better person than me. But non of us (not even he) can be perfect all the time:

    If a universe was incomprehensible then no intelligent being capable of comprehending any part of it (like ourselves) could come to exist in it -in which case we couldn’t come to exist in it and ask ourselves: “Isn’t it so incomprehensible that the universe is comprehensible?" !!!
    Therefore, the universe that we exist in MUST be a comprehensible one! -and so we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that the universe we exist in is comprehensible!
  5. Joined
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    04 Jul '08 09:261 edit
    Incomprehensable - possible to comprehend with unlimited intelligence.
    Incomprehensible - possible to comprehend with our intelligence.

    I think the universe is comprehensable, but can we get there?
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    04 Jul '08 12:53
    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    Incomprehensable - possible to comprehend with unlimited intelligence.
    Incomprehensible - possible to comprehend with our intelligence.

    I think the universe is comprehensable, but can we get there?
    I think what you are saying is that we need an unlimited intelligence to comprehend the universe?
    I have absolutely no idea whether that that is true or not and perhaps we may never find out but what makes you suspect that we need an unlimited intelligence to comprehend the universe? 🙂
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    04 Jul '08 13:11
    Originally posted by Andrew Hamilton
    I think what you are saying is that we need an unlimited intelligence to comprehend the universe?
    I have absolutely no idea whether that that is true or not and perhaps we may never find out but what makes you suspect that we need an unlimited intelligence to comprehend the universe? 🙂
    I think that when we know more and more, we also learn that there is still more to know than before.

    Like, perhaps one day we will know everything (!) about the Universe. But we have also reveald what the Universe is a part of, and this we don't know much of. When we have leant everything of this new multiverse, we see that this is also a part of something... etc ad infinitum.

    Like a baloon. its surface to the outside is larger and larger the more we blow it up. If the volume of air inside the baloon is our knowledge of the Universe, and the surface the things we are about to learn, or the areas in science that we know exist but not understand, then it doesnt matter how much we blow the baloon up, there will always have a surface to the outside that will be bigger and bigger. Am I fuzzy?
  8. Standard memberScriabin
    Done Asking
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    04 Jul '08 16:221 edit
    how do we know that anything exists?The laws of nature, math, my brother in law, anything? Perhaps that is the better question: how do we know anything?

    Yogi Berra, that great American wise guy, said it best: you can observe a lot just by watching.

    What he forgot to mention is that once we do observe, we draw conclusions and make pronouncements about what we saw.

    It is a lot like language: do words refer to objects that have some sort of existence objectively outside of the boundaries of the usage of the words themselves? I don't think so.

    A chair isn't a chair because it has the "essence" of a chair; or because it is, in "objective reality" a chair. No, it is a chair because we agree that when we use the word chair, that's what we are referring to, that's what the word means. That is also how we "know" why ceilings are above us and floors, usually speaking, are beneath us.

    So the words "laws of nagture" or "physics" or "math" or "time" and the concepts most of us accept about how to use these words appropriately help us to make sense of the world. That doesn't prove anything, it is just a way of dealing with what we think we know now.

    But, our observations of the world are an acceptable scientific reason for concluding that what we refer to with these words exists. Science cannot prove anything, and while some folks appear to believe that some scientific theories are absolutely proven and true, and we can then rely on these theories to prove even more things about the universe, the world, our existence, or why you can't get decent pastrami in Washington D.C,, that's not such a good line of thinking, nor is it the way real science works.

    Science is based on observation, not theory.

    Theory is a tool by which we try to make sense of our observations. The process of science begins with measurement. We can measure things, including time, down to the smallest fraction of which we presently have the technology to conceive.

    I can get water sampled and detect chemicals that exist in any given volume in quantities no greater than 1 part per billion, sometimes even less.

    I don't think anyone here has decided anything does not exist, as a matter of "objective" fact, or some such assertion. If so, it would be a matter of faith over which argument is useless.

    If anyone really thought that there is only one true idea of the universe or time, or anything else, I'd have to wish them good luck with that.
  9. Joined
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    04 Jul '08 19:133 edits
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    how do we know that anything exists?The laws of nature, math, my brother in law, anything? Perhaps that is the better question: how do we know anything?

    Yogi Berra, that great American wise guy, said it best: you can observe a lot just by watching.

    What he forgot to mention is that once we do observe, we draw conclusions and make pronouncements about e or time, or anything else, I'd have to wish them good luck with that.
    Theory is a tool by which we try to make sense of our observations.

    True. But don’t forget that those same theories, with the help of extrapolations and assumptions (that should ideally be carefully designed and carefully chosen assumptions that most people would intuitively find hard to refute) are normally derived from observation (else those theories would not be truly “scientific” theories).

    Science is based on observation, not theory.

    Real science (excluding pseudoscience and pure metaphysics) is mostly based on both observation and theory.

    For example, Darwin made a large number of observations and then, with the help of some extrapolations, came up with his theory of evolution. So the observation came first without theory to make sense of those observations and only then the theory was created by extrapolated from those observations and only then there was a theory that “made sense“ of those observations.

    But, later on, with more observations, that theory of evolution combined with more observations may lead to yet more theories thus those new theories are based on both observation and theory. For example, using the theory of evolution and observations of certain fossils, we may derive the new theory that we evolved from an ape-like ancestor. That new theory will thus be partly based on another theory, namely, the theory of evolution.

    Scientific knowledge is generally based on both observation and theory.
  10. Joined
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    04 Jul '08 19:41
    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    I think that when we know more and more, we also learn that there is still more to know than before.

    Like, perhaps one day we will know everything (!) about the Universe. But we have also reveald what the Universe is a part of, and this we don't know much of. When we have leant everything of this new multiverse, we see that this is also a part of somet ...[text shortened]... up, there will always have a surface to the outside that will be bigger and bigger. Am I fuzzy?
    I think I vaguely get the point you are trying to say and I think you have a point.

    You have just made me think of a vaguely similar argument:

    If X is the explanation for the universe then what is the explanation for X?
    Lets say the explanation for X is Y. But then what is the explanation for Y?
    Lets say the explanation for Y is Z. But then what is the explanation for Z?
    …and so on and so on forever.
    So to FULLY understand the universe we would have to comprehend an infinite quantity of explanations, thus it would be true that we would, strictly speaking, have to have unlimited intelligence to FULLY comprehend the universe (that doesn’t mean we can’t have a finite but, never a less, “useful” level of comprehension of it that allows us to create technology etc from that comprehension).

    It is tempting to try and get around that conclusion by saying:
    If X is the explanation for the universe then what is the explanation for X?
    Lets say the explanation for X is Y. But then what is the explanation for Y?
    Why can’t the explanation for Y be X! therefore the explanation is circular and finite and therefore comprehendible. But that would make the explanation as a whole a circular argument, and, just like all circular arguments, it must be logically flawed.
  11. Standard memberScriabin
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    05 Jul '08 02:32
    Originally posted by Andrew Hamilton
    [b]Theory is a tool by which we try to make sense of our observations.

    True. But don’t forget that those same theories, with the help of extrapolations and assumptions (that should ideally be carefully designed and carefully chosen assumptions that most people would intuitively find hard to refute) are normally derived from observation (else ...[text shortened]... theory of evolution.

    Scientific knowledge is generally based on both observation and theory.[/b]
    It strikes me as incorrect to interpet what I said this way.

    Science seeks to establish through observation that which is the case.

    The method science uses to establish that is observation that can be explained, expressed and then peer reviewed to confirm both the observations and the explanation.

    Theory is merely a tool of communicating -- not the basis of establishing what is the case.

    You mistake the medium for the message.
  12. Joined
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    05 Jul '08 07:481 edit
    Originally posted by Scriabin
    It strikes me as incorrect to interpet what I said this way.

    Science seeks to establish through observation that which is the case.

    The method science uses to establish that is observation that can be explained, expressed and then peer reviewed to confirm both the observations and the explanation.

    Theory is merely a tool of communicating -- not the basis of establishing what is the case.

    You mistake the medium for the message.
    I apologise. I misunderstood your message. 🙂
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    05 Jul '08 08:54
    I always liked the idea that what exists is the most "stable" form for the moment or else it would be replaced by something more stable. Survival of the fittest. And this extends even to the universe as well. The forms that energy take are only the ones that are the ones that survive and if not it would shape into something else.

    And the fact that the world works is just as evident as anything you perceive at all. If you start to doubt that then you can't be sure of anything and that is a sorry existence indeed.

    So I do believe strongly that the word chair is separate that the energy it represents, or is meant to depict. And same goes for describing black holes and the curvature of light or whatever.

    Whether or not the universe is entirely comprehensible or not I do not know. And basically I don't really care. 🙂

    I approve of the pursuit of this but I doubt the reality is stale enough to be described with mathematics and language.


    We can still make enough cool stuff that we can colonize the galaxy or some such.

    Viktor out. ;>
  14. Illinois
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    07 Jul '08 09:50
    Originally posted by Andrew Hamilton
    [b]…We may be able to explain how the universe came into being according to the laws of physics, but we are completely unable to explain how the laws of physics themselves have come into being…

    Are you implying that the laws of physics themselves where produced by a “god”? I am not saying that is what you are implying here but, if it is:

    Wh ...[text shortened]... so we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that the universe we exist in is comprehensible![/b]
    Are you implying that the laws of physics themselves where produced by a “god”?

    I'm implying that the universe is rational and therefore a certain "mind" is revealed in Nature, as Einstein points out. Equating that "mind" with God's mind is one possible explanation, though at the moment unfalsifiable. At the very least, the origin (or lack of origin) of the laws of Nature is a profound mystery. One worth noting.

    Therefore, the universe that we exist in MUST be a comprehensible one! -and so we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that the universe we exist in is comprehensible!

    I'm afraid your logic may be of the circular variety. You are supporting your premise with another premise rather than a valid conclusion, i.e., we must live in a comprehensible universe, therefore we shouldn't be surprised that we live in a comprehensible universe.

    After all, if our universe is at bottom truly incomprehensible, the implication would then be that conscious beings such as ourselves can arise in an incomprehensible universe.

    You are avoiding confrontation with the mystery of the apparent rationality of the universe Einstein was alluding to by engaging in circular reasoning. Please correct me if I'm mistaken.
  15. Joined
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    07 Jul '08 12:562 edits
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    [b]Are you implying that the laws of physics themselves where produced by a “god”?

    I'm implying that the universe is rational and therefore a certain "mind" is revealed in Nature, as Einstein points out. Equating that "mind" with God's mind is one possible explanation, though at the moment unfalsifiable. At the very least, the origin (or lack of was alluding to by engaging in circular reasoning. Please correct me if I'm mistaken.[/b]
    ….I'm implying that the universe is rational and therefore a certain "mind" is revealed in Nature …

    I have no idea what you mean here: Exactly what do you mean by “the universe is rational”?
    From my understanding of the word “rational”, only people can be “rational” or “irrational”!
    The Universe doesn’t “think” -do you agree?

    …I'm afraid your logic may be of the circular variety. You are supporting your premise with another premise rather than a valid conclusion, i.e., we must live in a comprehensible universe, therefore we shouldn't be surprised that we live in a comprehensible universe. …

    How is that part of my argument that you stated above circular? For an argument to be circular, it has to say something like “X is true because X is true” or “X is true because Y is true and Y is true because X is true” etc.

    Now:

    If X = “we MUST live in a comprehensible universe”

    And:

    If Y = “we shouldn't be surprised that we live in a comprehensible universe”

    Then what I am saying here is that “If X is true then Y must be true” BUT what I an NOT saying is that “If Y is true then X must be true”! in fact, I would say X definitely does not follow from Y. Therefore, my argument is no curricular but “one-way”.

    Putting it in another way,
    I am NOT saying that IF the proposition:
    “we shouldn't be surprised that we live in a comprehensible universe” is true
    then it must logically follows that the proposition:
    “we MUST live in a comprehensible universe” is true.
    But what I AM saying is that IF the proposition:
    “we MUST live in a comprehensible universe” is true
    then it must logically follows that the proposition:
    “we shouldn't be surprised that we live in a comprehensible universe” is true.
    Therefore, my argument is no curricular but “one-way”.

    Incidentally, when I said:

    …If a universe was incomprehensible then no intelligent being capable of comprehending any part of it (like ourselves) could come to exist in it…

    I failed to elaborate on exactly what I meant by that that when I should have done because what I forgot to mention is what I mean by “comprehensible” in this context is “at least partially comprehensible” for I now don’t think the universe can never be literally “fully comprehensible” -I am sorry I didn’t make that clear earlier. For the universe to be “totally” incomprehensible, I think one requirement would be that there would have to be no order nor laws of physics in the universe because it is order and the laws of physics that helps to make things in the universe comprehensible -but then there would be just chaos in such an incomprehensible universe and I assume it would take some kind of order and laws of physics to allow sapiens beings like ourselves to physically evolve into existence. And then, of course, that means we can only come to exist in a universe that is at least partially comprehensible and then we can subsequently come to comprehend some those parts that are comprehendible -I hope that clarifies what I meant.
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