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Posted by Paul R. Martin on June 18, 2001 23:55:43 UTC

Hi Harv,

It's good to have a little time to think again. It's good to be back.

If you will notice, the words 'true' and 'truth' appeared nowhere in my 20 statement post. I only asked which statements were false. Non-false statements may fall into all sorts of categories such as 'True', 'Ambiguous', 'Meaningless', 'Ridiculous', and, yes, even 'Trivially True'. So you have had your category all along.

Since I want to focus on the ones you think are false, let me start with

13. A thinker can imagine initial conditions for a set of numbers.

You say it is "False. At least in the manner you might be thinking. The only initial conditions for numbers is the point to where you pull out your calculator."

I think we are thinking differently. I talked about "initial conditions for a set of numbers" and you talked about "initial conditions for numbers". There is a vast difference:

If I asked you to dream up a set of numbers, you could quickly answer with something like "5, 15, and 432". But if I asked you to dream up numbers, I would be giving you the great challenge tackled by such giants as Weierstrass and Dedekind.

The work involved in meeting that challenge was covered in my original statement number 11. I am surprised you considered that statement to be trivially true; I found the subject to be anything but trivial when I studied it, but then again, I am no mental giant.

Either way, though, whether we are talking about numbers or a set of numbers, I don't understand what you were getting at with your reference to "the point to where you pull out your calculator."

Finally, to describe a little about the manner in which I was thinking, what I had in mind for this "set of numbers" was an enoumous collection of numbers sufficient to describe the state of everything involved in the Big Bang.

I happen to imagine that to be a huge set but I could be wrong. The set of numbers sufficient to describe our universe at this stage of its life is enormous, I think you would agree. But, it is possible that the initial set of numbers might have been relatively small and that additional information about our universe has somehow been produced or created along the way as some other posts have speculated.

Next, my statement 14. A thinker can imagine the evolution of that set of numbers from laws of physics.

You say it is "False, at least at this stage. Dick's proposal notwithstanding, I doubt anyone is anywhere close to doing this."

In my opinion, Dick's discovery falls under statement 12. You found that to be non-false and non-trivial. After the work I put into trying to understand his work, I whole-heartedly agree that it is non-trivial. But it is nonetheless possible and I believe Dick has done it.

What I meant by statement 14 was that by using supercomputers, Monte Carlo techniques, and whatever, scientists can do a very accurate job of predicting the events of specific narrow examples of parts of our universe. The evolution is probabalistic in nature so for example, we can fairly accurately predict the outcome of a million coin tosses, but we can't say much about any individual toss.

We know that the laws of physics demand a level of uncertainty when things get few or small. But at large scales, things obey the laws of physics and we are able to predict evolution fairly well.

(I *do not* mean Darwinian Evolution! When life enters the picture, all bets are off. I don't think science is even close to understanding or describing some of the obvious mysteries surrounding life. These include the origin of life itself, consciousness, free will, and even sleep, for heaven's sake.)

Next, my statement 15. A thinker can influence that evolution by imagining specific "random" quantum interactions.

You said this was "Just plain false in my view."

You may not have read this statement carefully enough, Harv. First of all I said "A thinker" which does not imply "any thinkers" or "all thinkers". The particular thinker I had in mind is implied by my use of the word 'that'. By "that evolution", I was referring to the particular evolution imagined by the thinker in statement 14. It would have been better to say "That thinker",...but the deed is done.

Certainly, if a thinker imagined the evolution of a set of numbers, that thinker would have the ability to 'change his/her mind' and imagine some changes to the numbers from time to time. According to the laws of physics, as long as those changes were of the random-quantum-event type the laws of physics would not be broken but the evolution of the set of numbers might be drastically changed. Think of Schroedinger's Cat or the Butterfly Effect.

In reading your other comments, Harv, I can see that we are not thinking exactly along the same lines. But my interest was in which statements you thought were false, so I won't belabor this any more. Thanks for your thoughts.

Warm regards,


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