Beauty is subjective, that is, not objective. I could go into a more in-depth explanation of subjectivity if the diference isn't clear.
"Made" is a bit of a tricky word. In some contexts people infer some sort of maker, but in others they don't. I mean that humans were "made" in the same way that the Earth, or Lake Eerie(SP), or the Andromeda galaxy were made. Maybe "formed" would've been a better word.
As for what we're made by, you can take your pick on what to call it. "Evolution," "physical laws," "the interaction of matter and energy," "chemistry," "a cosmological accident," are all good names for it.
Personally I'd call you an "agnostic atheist." Best of both worlds, right? :P
Explain what? There's a lot going on in this thread, I don't know what specifically to explain :/
Continuing my response to Destinee:
c) No, I don't.
i) No, I don't, because actions are determined by thoughts, and
ii) Freedom of thought can be disproven in one step: Try to decided what thought you're going to think next, before you think it. If you can't even decide what to think, then how can you claim to have free will in thought form? You have no power to determine what pops up next in your own mind. As depressing as that truth is, it is the truth whether or not anyone likes it. Of course, there's scientific determinism and all that to back me up, but I much prefer one-step proofs where I can take them.
d) Yes, of course it's possible! Does anyone know what happened this day 30,000 years ago? I don't think anyone ever will. Do we know how many atoms of hydrogen are in the horsehead nebula? Nope. We have no way of knowing. So of course there are things we can't detect. However, we have to have good reason to infer that they really are there. We have excellent reason to believe that there was, in fact, a day 30,000 years ago (has history ever skipped a day that we know of), and that there are some number of atoms of hydrogen in the horsehead nebula (do we know of cosmic-scale gas cloud anywhere in the universe that does not contain any hydrogen? Also, there's the spectrum of light it emits which can be measured and matched up with the hydrogen spectrum, among that of other gases).
e) Why would it be? Should "mammals are warm-blooded vertebrate animals distinguished by the possession of hair or fur among other things" be on the assumptions as well? The definition of the word "fact" is just a definition like any other. The concept of a "fact" is just a linguistic way to deal with certain things, if you'll pardon the pun, "after-the-fact."
"the opposite of beauty is not ugliness, but falsehood."
Last time I checked the thesaurus, this was not the case :P And, how would anyone "observe" that?
Is that "novel" as in a written story, or "novel" as in "new" as in every post reaches a new level of absurdity due to its length? :P
stuntdude: Sounds good. Way to solve my spiritual identity crisis. I am now officially an agnostic atheist until further notice.
"For instance, Flo's assumption is clearly the least in number. If I have the assumption "Everything I perceive is an illusion", similar to her assumption though perhaps a bit more insane :) this is the ultimate negation of reality... If my single assumption is that you are all very extensive aspects of a dreamworld and nothing is real as a result, then it "explains" everything. But it also does away with everything."
True. But keep in mind that my (unattainable in one lifetime) goal is to know everything about the universe. So I choose the smallest amount of assumptions that allows me to do that where my conclusion is not also an assumption. Sure I could assume nothing is real and then techinically I know everything, but do I really? All that knowledge is tied up in an assumption. Religion seems the same way (albeit less extreme) to me.
"But to study qualitiative phenomena, for instance beauty, it has to reduce them to quantitiative, and in the very act ignore their significance. No doubt there is a quantitative basis, but is that it? For scientific materialism, there cannot be anything else."
I don't believe there is anything else beyond scientific materialism. However, I agree that practically (as pertaining to real life rather than the quest for reality) there is something more. After all, we are spiritual creatures whether or not that spirtuality is based in deterministic science or not. This is why I am not against religion or spirtuality within certain limits. It is a very helpful system for many people on the practical level of leading healthy, happy lives. I only begin to protest when people try to apply it to a greater reality beyond that of practically making us happier. I don't think it has anything to do with how the universe works.
As you say, certain areas are limited in their scope. Science is limited to the cold, hard, rational reality of how the world works. Religion is a practical tool for many people but it is severely limited in truly understanding how the universe works.
Does that make any sense?
I meant explain the whole idea of assumptions.....never mind, I guess I'll just bow outa this one, I just don't get it :)
Jade: Assumptions are the basic things that you just accept on faith in order to reach your conclusions about religion, how the world works, etc. Everyone has some, but of course you want to minimize them. That's what we're discussing.
Like Quantum said, we're talking about the basic assumptions we have about the universe which then lead to our beliefs.
For instance, in science, there is an assumption that "the way things work today, they will work everyday". If photosynthesis changed every single day, it wouldn't be predictable, right? So that's an assumption that we make, that since it's been working for the past 100000 years the exact same way, it will continue working that way till the end of time.
An assumption you might have is that the Bible is historically accurate. Because of this, you believe Jesus (pbuh) was raised from the dead, and believe in the Trinity, etc etc. Not everybody has this as an assumption, of course. Usually it's people's conclusion, not as assumption.
An assumption we often make in our day-to-day life is that someone isn't lying to us. There is a possibilty that my dad is lying to me, the weatherman is lying to me, etc etc, but we tend to trust these people. This is another assumption.
Does that make more sense?
So we're listing the assumptions we think we have that have led to our specific worldviews and differences in belief :)
Hmm....but if you can prove something, even if you originally believed it as an assumption, does that leave it as an assumption still? For example, "the Bible is historically accurate." Sure, I grew up believing this, but many people have gone to great lengths to prove it. They're not just assuming, they actually try and validate it.
That's why I'm confused. Is anything really just an assumption and nothing more??
That there are assumptions.
That assumptions can be proven.
See, I just don't think I get this at all :P
WAIT A SEC WHO SAID I SAID EVERYTHING WAS AN ILLUSION? >.>
I did not say that, I said everything COULD be an illusion, totally different =^=;
Jade: No then it's no longer an assumption. it was just an example XD flo: oops sorry I didn't say you said that. I just said you had the least number of assumptions apparently. then listed another random assumption. XD sorry dude
If it helps any, I'm an agnostic theist :)
Also, I'll reply to the actual assumptions stuff later, I just find discussing general stuff more interesting... XD But I will, God willing, reply to the points.
I understand what you're saying. Bear in mind that I had a similar position not 7 months ago. I'll try to explain as best I can, but there is a key difference between religion and science, often overlooked, and that is this: To discover something in science, you don't need to be open to the idea of it. To discover God, you need to seek Him. You can find Him and not submit (as I did), but to find Him, you need an open heart and intellect. Humility is not required in science. It is in religion.
I think when you say "know everything about the universe", your defintion of "knowledge" is limited and tied up in your assumptions. What you're willing to accept as knowledge is very much determined by your original assumption of scientific materialism (thanks for changing terms btw, it really clears things up :) ). Do you know everything about the world if you ignore the sea? I don't think so. But if you're only willing to accept anything muddy as the world, then yes, you can know everything about the world, but that is tied up to your assumption too.
I don't think religion has anything to do with how the universe works either :) Not in any way worth really thinking about, I mean. But there is more to life than how the universe works, as you so aptly pointed how. There is why the universe works, which is what religion ultimately deals with. Problems of purpose can be seen as offshoots of deterministic science, but you can also see the sea as only the rocky bed underneath :) The sea cannot exist without the rocky bed, and purpose cannot exist without our brains, but the sea is more than its bed, and purpose/significance/meaning/beauty/morality can be more than the brain.
I am not saying that it is, at the moment. But I think it is fair to at least accept the possibility.
The reason I am posting all of this and not actually answering the questions I posed to you :) is because you denied free will.
Now, I have become a determinist in my time (that was about... 13 months ago). So I think when a person is willing to reject fundamental and universal human experience, for the sake of an assumption, then there is a problem with the assumption. Not with the experience. I can never convince someone of anything if they are willing to deny experiences for the sake of theory. Theory ought to explain experiences, not negate them. Hence my entire tirade about the 'essences' of things.
There is something else I'd like to mention, and that is based off of the following:
Namely, the mention of "people of understanding" (often translated as "people with intellects"). Note that it is mentioned right after a natural phenomenon, i.e. day and night. Arabs, as it were, were extremely adept at astronomy, and even more so after the spread of Islam (because of a specific reason related to Islam). They needed to be, becaue (a) in the desert there isn't really much more interesting than the sky, lol and (b) it was used for navigation.
So when the Quran mentions a natural phenomenon and then mentions the intellect, we have a bit of a problem. Because of course you would agree, as an agnostic atheist, that our intellects are what help us understand natural phenomena, but this doesn't necessarily lead us to God. So why would the Qur'an mention it?
It's important here to note that with the start of the Renaissance was the beginning of the slow secularisation of Europe (not Asia -- we have a totally different experience there). And through many historical factors and personalities, including religious ones, eventually the intellect was reduced to reason alone. (There's more to the story, obviously, but that would require a book.)
So when the Quran talks about intellect, it doesn't just refer to reason. Intellect includes things like, for instance, significance of things. Somewhat related to reason, in that it shouldn't be unreasonable, but not purely reason itself. Does that make sense?
I think it's important to realise that perhaps the intellect is a bit more than pure reason. Not necessarily, again, but the possibility should be open.
And lastly, I would change what you said about science. "Science is limited to the cold, hard, rational reality of how the world works." I would disagree: Science is limited to the cold (? not really haha, I mean, it's quite beautiful), hard, rational reality of how the quantitative aspect of the world works.
Destinee: You make some good points that I will have to think about some more, but some I'll go ahead and give some intial reactions.
You say my definition of knowledge is limited by my assumptions and in a sense you are right. I will never know anything beyond scientific materialism, but then nobody can. Anything beyond that is untestable and unprovable. It may exist, but I can't prove anything about it, so it isn't very useful in terms of acheiving my overall goal. As soon as you bring that into the mix any sort of proven base of knowledge is impossible. I definitely think that religion and stuff is worth considering, but as long as I can come up with quantitative explainations of things there is no need to bring it in and "muddy the waters" so to speak.
You say religion/sprituality provides a "why" and I agree. However, I don't think that "why" is necessarily part of how the universe really works. But once again it is important to the human experience whether it is part of reality or not. We just have to realize that is the case. Both science and religion have their realms and their limits.
Anyway, your post was very intriguing and I'll think about it some more and then continue the discussion.
Oh, and I agree - science is beautiful. I probably shouldn't have used the word cold - I got a bit dramatic getting my point across :)
"For instance, in science, there is an assumption that "the way things work today, they will work everyday"."
I disagree. If you observe the laws of the universe staying exactly the same each day, then that forms a perfect statistical trend which gets stronger every day it continues. Using inductive reasoning, we can extrapolate and figure out that the universe's physical laws will probably continue on their perfect trend of staying the same. Since we have good reason to expect they will, and none really to expect that they won't, it follows that we should act as though they will, for practical purposes.
If you go that route, no assumption is needed.
Same with the assumption of people not lying to us. It's not necessary to ever assume that, when in most cases you could very easily weigh the person's motivations to lie against their motivation to tell the truth.
I once went through a weird period, philosophically, where I was trying to grapple with the fact that I could never be sure that, for instance, my family wouldn't poison me one day. Eventually, I realized that the reason why I could be fairly certain this would never happen, is that they have very little reason to motivate them to do it, and a whole lot (e.g. prison sentences) to motivate them not to.
Obligatory bragging: Both of these can be concluded just from my list of three :P
Haha no worries, I'm always dramatic. ;)
Thanks for your initial reactions. I don't want to like, disturb your contemplation :) but there are several points of note, I think (I honestly don't want to sound like I'm criticizing you, but sometimes I might word it that way, sorry about that :) I'll try to lessen the offence using a harmless smiley haha):
a) You often distinguish between reality and life/human experience, I notice. For instance, something may make us 'happy' but is not real. Or something may be spiritually fulfilling but it isn't 'real'. I think that again, this is based on the assumption that reality is only quantitative. Whereas, something like intentions (a worldwide human experience) is not quantitative. Does that make it less real? Why must everything subjective be an illusion, when it is a fact that anything that requires even an iota of humanity must be subjective, because we are subjective and interpretation is subjective? :) If anything, an objective science which can only deal with objects shouldn't even be applies to subjective humans.. (I don't mean, of course, the "matter" part of us.)
b) I think that saying you cannot "know anything beyond sceintific materialism, but then nobody can. Anything beyond that is untestable and unprovable. [...] it isn't useful in terms of achieving my overall goal" is disingenuous :) for three reasons:
(i) You are assuming that knowledge must be provable, and even then, only provable through testing. If anything, testing is the worst way to find knowledge, because the falsifiability principle that ought to be applicable to scientific theories states that you cannot ever prove a theory to be the truth, only disprove a theory for not being the truth. So you are approaching closer to certainty but never at it. It is conceivable that any new discovery can overturn a whole accepted system of thought (which happened with Newtonian mechanics due to Einstein). Does that make sense? So why must something be testable to be knowledge? After all, there is historical knowledge.
(ii) Your overall goal :) appears to be finding out how the universe works. While I think life-forms are fundamentally different to the rest of the universe, even if we ignore my assumption (or observation, whatever you wanna call it since I haven't explained it yet), if your goal is just finding out how the universe works, then stick with science. But scientific materialism isn't just about how the universe works -- it is a philosophical claim about the how being all there is. As a philosophical claim, why not consider it subjective, like the rest of human experiences? :) I hope I'm making myself clear.
Sorry I've been ignoring your posts :) As for this latest one, I'm glad you mentioned inductive reasoning, because the problem of induction is precisely what I am talking about. :) Science has basically ignored the problem of induction, by making the assumption I talked about. Trends et al ignore the problem of induction too.
And ha I went thru a similar phase (though I never doubted my family's motivations). I forget how I dealt with it though :/ LOL.
also, I don't think it is quite so easy to weigh motivations.
Destinee: Ok. I'm going to reply to another piece of your (first) post.
"Now, I have become a determinist in my time (that was about... 13 months ago). So I think when a person is willing to reject fundamental and universal human experience, for the sake of an assumption, then there is a problem with the assumption. Not with the experience. I can never convince someone of anything if they are willing to deny experiences for the sake of theory. Theory ought to explain experiences, not negate them. Hence my entire tirade about the 'essences' of things."
I definitely see your point here, but I will try to defend my perspective.
a)The human brain is a very amazing, but also very limited tool. It has not evolved to understand how the universe works - rather it has evolved to survive. Thus many parts of the human experience are severely flawed when looking at this realm. We simply cannot let "common sense", instinct, or emotion drive this search for reality.
Not that the human experience isn't important, but what we experience (be it religion, free will, etc.) or intuitively believe in is often flawed simply because we did not evolve to see truth - we evolved to survive.
I would point out (again) that the human experience is quite important, including things like morality and spirituality. They are worthy of looking into purely because they are key pieces of our day to day life. They are not, however, key pieces to our understanding of the universe.
Time and time again our intuition is severely wrong when it comes to physics - just ask anyone who has taken a physics class. We don't percieve the world objectively, so we must be very careful about putting stock in any idea simply because it seems that it should be that way.
It makes a lot of sense that we have at least the illusion of free will. Any (conscious) species that believes that every act it does is determined would not survive long. If we think our choices our useless then we would not do everything in our power to get ahead and to survive. Any of our ancestors that didn't believe in free will would quickly die off.
b) I'm not saying with certainty that free will doesn't exist, but I am saying that all objective results to this point have indicated this to be true.
c) As you say, I am making the assumption that the universe can be described by precise mathematical laws and it is an assumption that rules out free will. I make this assumption because it means my goal is possible, but it doesn't mean that assumption is blind. If I do come across something that cannot be described using deterministic mathematical laws, then I would have to discard my assumption and my goal of complete understanding of the universe.
Destinee: Now for your second post. And by the way, don't worry about being offensive. I find this discussion (actually most of my discussions with you) very challenging and rewarding - they continue to help me to formulate a coherent worldview. Anyway...
a) You are right. I could have worded this better - after all the human experience is certainly real. What I was trying to get across is that the human experience, while important to us, has little bearing on how reality works. As I said before, we evolved to survive not to understand how the universe works, so many of our perceptions are severely flawed on this front.
Subjectivity is not an illusion, but nor does it provide objective truth (obviously), so in trying to find that we cannot allow ourselves to be swayed by our own subjectivity.
As for applying objective science to subjective humans, I am inclined to think that it is possible, but I cannot prove that, as research into the brain is very limited at the moment. Only time will tell if it will work out.
Finally, I am in the middle of reading a very interesting book about this very topic - namely, objective science and spirtuality and how they both pertain to our lives. I'd suggest trying to find it. its called The Universe in a Single Atom by the Dalai Lama.
i) You are right that the scientific method's reliance on disprovibility ensures that 100% certainty in knowledge can never be obtained. However, we can get really, really close (a limit of sorts) and I believe that this is the best we can possibly get.
If we are to be sure of our knowledge we must prove it, and if we are to prove it, we must be able to disprove it. It is impossible otherwise. True, this method has its shortcomings, but they are much, much less than using unprovable "knowledge" to try and understand the universe because then we are simply guessing.
Of course, this applies to knowledge about how the world works. Historical knowledge isn't testable, and like religion/spirituality is important to our lives, but doesn't really have any bearing on the greater workings of the universe.
Note that science only applies to how the world works - not why (as you mentioned). You said religion/spirituality provides a why, and I agree. However, when we try to apply that why to the objective how, just like when we try to apply science to the why, we are at fault. Whys are human creations,they are subjective, and they have no bearing on any sort of universal reality. This is why I find belief in any sort of religious explainations for the unvierse beyond just the why to be foolish - this sort of unprovable "knowledge" has no place in this realm.
Does that make any sense?
ii) I kind of addressed this previously, but I'll try to explain. (By the way these ideas are very new to me - as they have come to me while pondering your posts).
-Science jsut applies to the how. It is objective and is tangibly "real"
-The human experience deals with the why. It is subjective. It is important to humanity on a practical level, but has no bearing on how the universe functions. This human experience is "real", but does not apply to the "hows" of the universe. The human experience could be nothing more than the playing out of the objective laws of science, but because it is subjective all that matters to our day to day lives is that it seems like some sort of fundamental truth (even if it probably isn't).
Am I making myself clear? These ideas are sort of coming to me as I write, so they might not be :) Ask me to clarify if necessary.
"Subjectivity is not an illusion"
Let me clarify this. I still don't believe in free will. I think the universe is deterministic. However, subjectivity (and consciousness) is a phenomen that arises out of this determinism and is thus "real"
"I'm glad you mentioned inductive reasoning, because the problem of induction is precisely what I am talking about."
Eh? Of what problem do you speak?