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Posted by Harvey on June 12, 2002 21:44:32 UTC

Hello Luis,

***"I see emergence of unbelievable complexity that I think randomness alone cannot explain." In the midst of such vastness, and considering just how minuscule the earth is in relation to the universe, just how exceptional does a random event have to be in order to be truly exceptional? Surely you can appreciate the enormity of the universe. Given the known (never mind the not yet discovered) size and age of the universe, just how unlikely is our situation? If you play roulette for a million years, would you attribute your winnings to something more than "randomness alone"?***

I don't this particular SAP (strong anthropic principle) approach jives with our many of our observations. If random events were the chief cause of organization, then there would be no scientific concepts such as 'laws', 'mechanisms', and 'equations'. The equations of science usually do not predict the most likely random event to occur, rather they often predict the most likely lawful event to occur. Laws have a much higher precedence in science than random events. True, random events occur, but the evolution of events are seen in the context of law. For example, we don't think that the four forces randomly evolved into existence, rather we think they evolved according to certain symmetry breaking requirements. Likewise, we don't think that life randomly appeared, rather we think that life emerged from some basic set of chemical and biological laws that are yet to be discovered. This example is even given added weight by the mere fact that life appeared almost immediately when it could have possibly appeared due to earth's early unfriendly-to=life conditions. If you depended on randomness alone, there is apparently tremendous odds against you in obtaining this achievement (this apparently also applies to some of the physical constants).

***H: "first let's realize that your thoughts are part of a philosophical paradigm called materialism." L: In other words, "before we examine the validity of your stance, let me first point out that it's not a valid one."***

No, let's identify your position so that we both can agree where you stand in the current philosophical debate on this subject. You are not inventing a new position here, you are stating an ancient philosophical position. By identifying it first, we can simply refer to the philosophical position rather than say "Luis' position that all meaning in the world is human attributed and not external to the human mind."

***H: "your materialist paradigm is not a satisfactory picture" L: Not satisfactory to you, of course, but the paradigm I espouse is logically consistent. The only way you can chip away at it is if you reject its entire foundation, reductionism (which you do not -- otherwise your logic would be nil), or (A) postulate something outside of a logical explanation. Either way, I do not see how you can continue this line of debate.***

All I have to do is show severe weaknesses of materialism and then we have reason to doubt it. In that vein, there are plenty of reasons to doubt it. Materialism suffers in its inability to explain mathematical, logical, and physical laws. Even the idea of appealing to logical consistency is dubious. Logic doesn't actually exist as far as materialism is concerned. Logic is another human imputed meaning to nature. Do you see how this can lead to problems?

***H: (Luis' position) "not only ignores the human need for spiritual meaning (because of reasons such as (1) and (2)), but it fails to account for the order in nature." L: Strangely, you included in this statement its very negation. Maybe you didn't see what I was trying to say. I'll try it again...***

I didn't wish to address this particular issue since the counterargument is much more complex, subtle, and not nearly as poignant as the second argument on laws and order of nature, but since you brought it up I guess I have to talk about it.

***First of all, I fully acknowledge, and am prepared to explain (have explained, in bits and pieces) - in logical terms - the human need for spiritual meaning. Indeed, I offered a brief synopsis of my stance in the last post ("I think the reason many of us require 'meaning' is because...").***

Your explanation of why humans seek spiritual meaning is a material one and therefore it does not satisfy the ultimate human quest for truth and meaning. It is empty and leaves one walking out of the theater asking why the hero had to perish and nothing lasting was accomplished. No one would pay $8 to go see your movie of the world because it is depressing and meaningless. Yes, it gives an explanation at the end on why all the characters perished and the movie was depressing, but this doesn't make the movie a satisfying experience. It had a developed 'plot', but lacked heart.

Okay, maybe you might say that it's because "that's just the way it is - I didn't actually write or direct this movie but I figured out the heartless plot of the show". However, there's a subtle problem with this explanation. If a materialist plot of the world is more parsimonious, you have to explain why it is more parsimonious. If we reduced your explanation, I think ultimately it comes down to what is internalistically meaningful to your senses of the world and this is another way of saying that it is the most satisfying to your experience of the world. If, in order for something to be considered true, something must be satisfying to your experience, then what about the people who walk out of your movie of the materialist world? They are unsatisfied customers. They want their $8 back ($6 if they saw it during a matinee).

I expect that you will have many problems with this kind of reasoning, but you might want to consider this issue carefully before replying. It is not so easy to define truth (or what should be considered true) once you attack the notion of satisfaction. Tarski's theory of truth is based on satisfaction which for all practical purposes can only mean what humans find satisfying (i.e., our notion of truth is grounded in human satisfaction to the truth or 'approximate truth' being correctly obtained). Well, what happens when we say that human satisfaction is not a major concern when talking about materialist truths? We cut ourselves off from the very concept which gives us the impression that we do have the truth (or approximate truth). Without satisfaction, how can we say you are proposing the more parsimonious solution?

***Second, the "order in nature" you describe only takes on a meaning deeper than that we can logically account for if you choose to believe that there is something beyond that which we can identify through reason (see (A) above).***

Not so. We can identify through reason that nature follows rules. We do so in the same manner that we identify anything as being true (or to be considered true). We see if the implications of our hunch match our observations. If you want to know if the universe is mathematically ordered, then you do experiments using mathematical structured theories and you see if those predictions match very closely with your observations. It so happens that they do. In myriad of ways. Our concept that we impute human (mathematical) meaning to nature is ridiculous for the same reason that it is ridiculous to believe that we impute truth to our observations. If we thoroughly observe something to be the case, then we have no choice but to believe it is the case. If I drop a pencil, and I am convinced I have dropped a pencil, I must assume and accept the fact that I have indeed dropped a pencil. To believe that I have only imputed human meaning to pencil dropping is ridiculous. To even doubt our observations is to doubt the very stuff that gives us any meaning about the world. We could doubt nothing or believe nothing if we did not accept our basic observations (and basic inferences) of the world at some level. Similarly, to doubt that nature is mathematical and required to be mathematical is to doubt our observations which in the end is ridiculous. To speak in terms of logical consistency, only begs the question of what you mean by introducing logic. If logic doesn't exist in nature, then why even bring it up? If mathematical order in nature is a human imputed truth, then so is logic. If logic is human imputed, then I don't even see the purpose of even mentioning the merit of logic. Human imputed meanings offer no meaning - they are just part of our imagination. If this is what logic is, then we can dispense with the concept.

***Be careful. By speculating there is something "deeper" than that which we might sense through reductionism, and arguing this point from a reductionist standpoint, holists are collectively digging their own philosophical grave. Of course, this is only my opinion.***

Be careful. By speculating there is something 'logically consistent' with materialism and arguing this point from a logical standpoint, materialists are collectively digging their own philosophical grave - especially when they say logic doesn't actually exist. Of course, this is only my opinion. :-)

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