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Posted by Harvey on June 14, 2002 19:54:12 UTC

Hello Luis,

***>>>"I don't (think) this particular SAP (strong anthropic principle) approach jives with our many of our observations." Let's get our terms straight here: your position is the SAP; mine is the WAP. Your opening paragraph is a very accurate portrayal of the SAP position.***

Brandon Carter's introduction of the anthropic principle is where we get these terms (Carter, B. (1974). "Large number coincidences and the anthropic principle in cosmology." Confrontation of cosmological theories with data. M. S. Longair. Dordrecht, Reidel: 291-8):

Strong Anthropic Principle (SAP): " the Universe (and hence the fundamental parameters on which it depends) must be such as to admit the creation of observers within it at some stage." (Carter, p. 129)

Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP): " we must be prepared to take account of the fact that our location in the universe is necessarily privileged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers. (p. 127)"

I understood this reference as a SAP account: "If you play roulette for a million years, would you attribute your winnings to something more than 'randomness alone'?" I believe this is a SAP account. A WAP account would be if there are many slots to still win (i.e., not just one winning slot). And, if we didn't win, we wouldn't be around to ask your question so it wouldn't matter. The SAP can apply to a few different possibilities depending how one defines the word 'must'. For example, if 'must' means the chances of winning are so likely given the number of times we play roulette, then this is a probability favored interpretation of SAP. If you say 'must' means that logic/mat necessitates you win given some nifty equation, then this is a necessitated universe intepretation of SAP, etc. In that reference you seemed to infer a probability favored interpretation of SAP. For a full explanation I especially like Nick Bostrom's doctorate dissertation ( ).

***H: "All I have to do is show severe weaknesses of materialism and then we have reason to doubt it." L: Aha! There are but two ways you might logically show any sort of weakness in an argument's premise: through empiricism or inference. And since any empirical means would have to be materially based, you are forced to base your premise on pure inference. Thus, your premise is the absolute opposite of mine, and as such it's no wonder our conclusions are usually diametrically opposed to one another (hence the name of my last post). Your desired conclusion is that something exists beyond the material level. But this means your argument is best if it can conclude the validity of pure inference based upon the premise that pure inference is valid.***

Well, there are also other logical fallacies which can show the argument is invalid. However, my arguments do not have to show there exists something beyond the material level. All I have to show is that there are significant inadequacies with the term 'material level'. For example, a popular question in physics is if there is such a thing as 'particles'. Maybe there are only 'fields'. Once we begin to doubt an oversimplified material perspective, then we doubt the premises by which many accept materialism.

Btw, if making valid logical inferences is invalid, then discussing anything is worthless since nothing can be established (since it requires inference to make a conclusive statement!).

***Importantly, your position is nonfalsifiable, as it is essentially the assertion, there is something beyond that which we can show.***

Not all materialism is showable via direct sensory experience. For example, yesterday a team of astronomer's announced a discovery of a Jupiter sized planet. They didn't see this planet in a telescope, rather they infer its size and position based on irregular motions of a star studied over time. We are using inference to indicate the existence of invisible things. Similarly, when discussing the 'order in nature', we use inference to see if our model of the world (e.g., materialism) is able to best explain that order. If our inferences lead us to a different explanation, then we have to give up perhaps a simple minded concept of a material world. For example, in Quantum theories it is looking like we have to give up the notion of particles and think in terms of fields or particle-waves, but not just particles.

***"Logic doesn't actually exist as far as materialism is concerned." Sure it does. But it doesn't meet your definition of "existence," because you've presumed there to be "something deeper" than anything materialism itself can ever account for. No matter how robust the materialist argument, your premise is built to regard it as somehow less momentous than yours. How in the world could someone even hope to argue with that?***

I'm just telling you the implications of materialism. A materialist is someone who believes that 'meaning' is not something that actually has material existence since 'meaning' is not a material thing. Rather, what exists is material things with perhaps some material properties (e.g., spin, momentum, mass, etc). Logic is just another term for rules, but rules are immaterial concepts that can't actually exist in a pure materialist conception. Rather, the rules have to reduce to material properties and when we are talking about logic we are really talking about material properties as humans perceive them. Logic must be reduced to human perceived properties of material (e.g., strings). The problem is, we don't know what the fundamental indivisible stuff of the universe is composed, nor do we know the fundamental properties of this stuff, therefore we have to guess that the classical experience that we have of human logic is somehow accurate enough to establish a proper understanding of nature (even though we lack knowledge of this fundamental indivisible stuff and its properties - which give us our understanding of classical logic that deals with premises, inferences, fallacious arguments, etc).

***What? Okay, I admit it I'm horrible with labels, but whatever position I espouse does not "suffer an inability to explain mathematical, logical, and physical laws." Indeed, it explains mathematical, logical, and physical laws quite superbly.***

No it doesn't. If laws are not fundamental to the world, then your argument must somehow reduce to some fundamental indivisible stuff (FIS) having properties that somehow translates into our math, logic, physical laws of the world. However, why does this fundamental stuff act in a manner to cause nuclei, atoms, molecules, planets, stars, etc to form? If there are no laws to stuff, then there are no restrictions. The stuff can do anything such as behave like Cartoon Land stuff. What prevents it from doing so? For this reason, I reject the whole materialist concept.

***"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." By describing an emotional impulse as "the ultimate human quest for truth" your position dismisses any attempts to logically examine itself. Why?***

Not at all. We should be prejudiced in favor of satisfactory (meaningful) accounts of the world. This is how the whole notion of truth is formulated. For example, if I see a pencil drop, I am apt to say that a pencil has just dropped. However, if later I was shown this room to be a holodeck and shown the pencil dropping was an illusion, then I have the perfect right to question the meaning I place on my experiences while in that room. However, until I am shown to be in a holodeck, I should go with my prejudice for seeking a meaningful experience to my experiences. Similarly, until I have reasons to the contrary, we should seek to impute spiritual meaning to our experiences because this makes our experience meaningful.

***Do you not agree it's more sensible to examine an urge than it is to simply accept the desire to satisfy it? And what does it say of us if we simply accept instincts as some unexplainable compass guiding us towards truth? Why reject the logical examination of such instincts? How is it damaging to the "materialist" if he cannot satisfy an urge with his explanation?***

Here, let me switch gears for a few paragraphs:

Do you not agree it's more sensible to examine the fallibility of our senses than to simply accept our desire to mindlessly accept them? And what does it say of us if we simply accept our sensory experiences as some unexplainable compass guiding us towards truth? Why reject the logical examination of our mindless acceptance of our sense impressions? How is it damaging to the 'solipsist' if he cannot satisfy an urge to accept a 'real world' with his explanation?

***One can logically explain an emotion, and one can logically explain the impulse of emotions. In the process, one might very well explain why somebody feels satisfied throughout or after an emotional experience. You may not agree with the explanations, but an examination of our urges can most certainly be a "materialistic" examination of satisfaction.***

One can logically explain a sense impression, and one can logically explain the impulse of those sense impressions. In the process, one might very well explain why somebody feels satisfied throughtout or after a sensory experience. You may not agree with the explanations, but an examination of our urges can most certainly be a 'solipsist' examination of our sensory satisfaction.

***For instance, in "materialistic" terminology I might explain the processes which caused a young man to attempt ravaging a scantily-dressed young woman at a particular beach. But does the fact that my explanation cannot satisfy this young man's urges make my argument any less valid? How absurd!***

Switching back to normal drive gears...

The issue here is finding enough meaning as one is able while still being honest to one's intellectual inquiry of the world. For example, if Intelligent Design brings enormous meaning to one's life, and they are being intellectually honest in their investigations, then that represents a 'green light' to go forward in that belief. On the other hand, if a great deal of evidence comes up to the contrary such that they are not being intellectually honest, then they must reconsider and be willing to sacrifice some meaning of the world in order to maintain their intellectual honesty with the world. This is why young earth creationism is at fault, it fails to be intellectual honest in the attempt to maintain a high degree of meaning in their fundamentalist beliefs.

Luis, the whole world works on this view. If you look at the history of science, a number of scientists found special meaning in their hypotheses and were unwilling to give them up except for the most intellectually challenging times. Look at Einstein giving up some of his realist views that QM challenged, he wasn't willing to give them up. Maybe today he would start to give up some of these hardcore realist views (since he was an intellectually honest individual), but that doesn't mean it would be easy for him. It is natural to cling to meaning. In fact, that is what we should do barring the most intellectually challenging times.

***"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..." ...which is entirely consistent with the "materialist" notion that we and the universe evolve together. In fact, is this not compatible with the Pantheist/Panentheist position?***

My point is that we cling to meaning even in something as basic as our rouge sensory experiences of the world. Realism (including scientific realism) is perfectly legitimate for this very reason. We find the world more satisfying if we accept on faith that our perception of the world is somehow accurate. We do this because it provides extra meaning, and there is nothing wrong in having that motivation. In fact, without that motivation we probably couldn't even function in the world.

***"We can identify through reason that nature follows rules... 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." This underscores why Stafford used to get so frustrated with you. You agree that the universe and we evolve together (some might say "as one"), and you agree that we know (the rest of) the universe through our senses, but you can't seem to make the connection that what we identify through reason is simply a reflection of the notion that we AND the universe evolve together.***

Luis, do you really want to appeal to Stafford logic?? In any case, I'm not quite sure what you have in mind. Are you suggesting that mathematics that goes through some type of Darwinian natural selective process where we reject the math that doesn't work in nature (i.e., there is no pure abstract mathematics)? In that case, of course we end up with a correlation between mathematics and physical theories since we ignore or reject math that doesn't preform this function.

Or, are you suggesting that we can only select physical theories that have mathematics as part of their structure. For example, maybe 10 years before Einstein there was a guy who elucidated special and general relativity, but he did so in the non-mathematical language of biology so all the physicists laughed at him and wouldn't let him publish. In that case, of course we end up with a correlation between mathematics and physical theories since we ignore or reject physical theories that doesn't enable this function.

Or, are you suggesting that whatever axioms or whatever rules of inference we select the universe is also 'obeying' these as long as they are 'consistent' and 'obvious' to human mathematicians. In this third category, we end up with a correlation between mathematics and physical theories because there is some intrinsic relationship between what appears to be obvious truth and consistent and what the properties of indivisible stuff happen to possess. That is, the axioms and rules of inference somehow reduce to the limitations of the indivisible stuff and its interaction with itself.

Perhaps you mean something else entirely? Even so, in my view all three of those approaches fail to account for the success of mathematics in science. There are objections for each scenario which I think strongly discounts the arguments of each. Rather than give all my objections to each, I'll wait for your specific reply.

***To even doubt our observations..." Sorry I don't exactly fit into whatever box you'd like to put me in, but I don't doubt that what I see is real. If I hallucinate, maybe my interpretation of reality is wrong, but nothing unreal exists. (I think I mistakenly allowed you -- for a long time, too -- to label me as "antirealist," but the fact is I am not. The "deeper" meaning of things that you perceive is, in my view, the real imputed characteristic of reality. Reality is reality. To ask "why" is begging the question of a higher intelligence. "Why" is your way of imputing human motivations into a higher sentience, when all I assert is that our ability to recognize reality is just another part of reality.)***

I'm not the first to draw the connection between scientific realism and mathematical realism. The two go hand in hand. The theories of physical science are mathematical theories, so much so that you cannot explain physics without resorting to mathematical realism. If you are a scientific realist, then mathematics should present you with some very difficult problems. For example, how do you explain inverse square laws which are very straightforward mathematical relationships? How do you explain Pythagorean relationships of distance (used extensively in special relativity)? The list goes on and on. The real question becomes why do you reject the simple almost self-evident observation that nature is mathematical? The only reason that I can gain is that accepting it bothers your agnosticism/atheism. So, rather than inch closer to a theist stance, the mathematical antirealism is much more of a pleasing alternative. Could that be in any way correct?

***"what happens when we say that human satisfaction is not a major concern when talking about materialist truths?" Human satisfaction is the focus of what I was discussing in our last post... indeed, it seems I'm on the verge of getting right back into the same stuff I was bringing up in our last conversation.***

No, Luis. You are accepting a meaningless view of the world that even you cannot find very satisfactory. If true, it means that whatever relationships you have in this world are finished at the time of death like the trash you threw away last week. Perhaps humans should see relationships as dixie cups so that when one person they care about dies, they can just get out on that dance floor and find another dixie cup. They can do that until they are the next dixie cup being thrown out. Is that a satisfying level of meaning for you? I, on the other hand, am very satisfied believing in a God, an afterlife, an eternal paradise, etc.

***Who's saying "logic doesn't exist in nature"? Not I! I'm saying that our co-evolution with the seemingly inanimate universe is part and parcel of our ability to recognize and react to certain consistent configurations in nature and ourselves. What I am saying is much the same as what Stafford says. Indeed, as you pointed out, the idea has been around for eons (figuratively). Only most of us don't claimed to have proven it in 1960 (rolls eyes, again).***

In order for me to properly respond to this, I need to understand exactly what kind of co-evolution you imagine. Please respond to those choices I gave above.

***I think, in fleshing out this response, I've clarified -- for myself if for no one else -- exactly why Stafford causes so much controversy in rooms like this. It's a familiar and old philosophy, only this version comes with numbers attached. Some readers might fuse their realization of the meaning of the philosophical position itself with Stafford's work, and come away with the mistaken notion that the philosophical stance is Stafford's own idea!***

Since he's gone from this site I can be more honest. Stafford gains the kind of attention because he portrays himself as an authority in a crackpot sort of way. Crackpotism is never without a loss of interest, especially when done in with a Ph.D.

Warm regards, Harv

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