A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

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dastardly stem
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by dastardly stem »

Physics Guy wrote:
Sat May 07, 2022 4:03 pm
Pareidolia is one thing that's real: people often think we see meaningful patterns in stuff that doesn't really mean anything, or at least doesn't mean what we think. The clouds do not really form horsies or duckies. The mouldy spot on the bread probably isn't a sign to you from Thor.

Yet on the other hand the most striking proof of meaning—perhaps even the meaning of meaning—is seen in complicated patterns that do not follow obvious rules. What I mean by that is not woo, but information theory: the most efficiently communicated message will literally be a string of random characters—if you don't know the code.

This can be eery. After quite a few years in Germany I can now follow even rapidly spoken colloquial German with no real difficulty ... unless there is too much background noise. In a crowded room with many people speaking, or a hall with bad acoustics, German just sounds like unintelligible mumbling. At my age I get the same effect in English, too, but only at a higher noise level. My non-native German proficiency is just not as good as my native English proficiency at recognising signal in noise. So at parties I am often reduced to smiling and nodding and saying, "Echt?" and "Wirklich?" ("Oh, really?") a lot.

For all the evidence I can distinguish in those circumstances, it would be tempting to conclude that everyone is just pretending to understand one another, that communication is make-believe, and that all those echoing sound waves are carrying no meaning at all. And yet as soon as things quiet down a bit and one person's voice stands out clearly, my brain gets a lock on the signal again, and everything is quite unambiguous. There's nothing make-believe about it, not in the slightest. Somebody's lights are on the parking lot, license plate number—oh Scheiss.

Until there's a sudden flood of overwhelming clarity like that, it can be an awfully hard question to determine whether or not a pattern is really meaningful. The mean orbital radii of the planets around our sun conform pretty closely to a simple pattern known as Bode's Law. No theoretical explanation of the pattern has yet been found, however; it's probably just a coincidence (though it will be interesting to see whether extra-solar planetary systems follow anything like it). On the other hand the weird jumbles of wavelengths of light that are emitted and absorbed by simple gases can also be catalogued with simple numerical patterns. These empirical patterns turned out to be the decisive confirmation of quantum mechanics, and they are now used to tell us almost everything we know about distant stars.

If somebody else believes there is a meaningful pattern in data that to you seems like meaningless noise, then you could be right. Or they could.
Yes. Possibilities are endless and all of that. And it's possible there is a spiritual realm. But I don't see how that possibility gives anyone good reason to think there is a spiritual realm. And really if all we were doing is positing any old possibility then calling that real or true or factual, I mean, that sounds more like a game than living a life, practicing science or trying to help humanity. With religion we have people from thousands of years ago positing ideas about spirits, gods and other worlds and that really old guessing game (really sporty sounding as religions competed) seems to be the basis of our religious thinking today. Some may say these ancients were inspired by this god or spirits to conceive of such things. But as far as anyone's observed as far as I know, there hasn't been any evidence for that realm. One might suggest personal spiritual experience is evidence. I question that. That's poorly defined as a concept and it doesn't appear anyone's been able to document a spiritual experience that's otherwise unexplainable. For instance, one might say they know there is a god because they saw a little girl at the bottom of the stairs at their house 45-50 years ago (that's my brother-in-law's explanation to me). His mom was there at the time and didn't see her, but he did. She disappeared after he saw her and started walking down the stairs towards her. Nevermind that he seems as prone to dreaming spirits and hallucinations as I am. I ask, "don't you think you could have been seeing something that wasn't there? Or that you have, all these years later, convinced yourself of this special visit?"

"no", says he. "It really happened and I can't deny it. Joseph is a true prophet."

The stubbornness on the topic is interesting. An argument from ignorance surely convinces many but it demonstrates we can posit anything in the place of God and voila! a good argument or as good an argument ever presented on god is made. That's the type of effort it takes to rebut religion when all they have is fallacious reasoning. And yet here we are offering an "anything is possible" as our best defense. Of course there is tons that humans don't understand. And sure, that can mean there is a spiritual realm we simply haven't been able to detect. It's all possible and yet it seems quite probable today that none of that is true. People can hold out hope for make-believe if they want, but I maintain that's not helping humanity, or anything. At this point, it seems to be a hindrance. And we may never know because we give such space and preference for people throwing all they have into one invisible bag with holes in it.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

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Rivendale wrote:
Sat May 07, 2022 7:44 pm


I have never been ever to articulate my world view any better than this description. It reminds me of Rod Decker a long time news reporter in Utah. Dehlin interviewed him and asked him why he never became religious. He said he looked around the world and things didn't operate as if there was a supernatural. For me it was a long hard road reading evolutionary biology, physics and numerous debates with Hitchens, Dawkins ,Carrol and others. For me it didn't take away the awe an inspiration that the universe's secrets hold, it added to it. Writings like this are helpful to people trying to understand their journey.
Thank you. I'm glad someone else here isn't insane. JK PG and Kish...you guys are great.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

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Kishkumen wrote:
Fri May 06, 2022 5:07 pm


That's cool, stem. I would only observe that the things you take to be make-believe are things that were until recently taken for granted to be real and backed up by numerous personal experiences. It wasn't until materialism and the scientific method developed in particular ways that people started to think that there was no good reason to take any of that seriously. (Very few ancient thinkers, even those who opposed popular conceptions of divinities, dismissed their existence altogether.)

The degree to which you are persuaded that they are right is well expressed above. What you once saw as something worth committing your life to you now dismiss as wishful make believe that people have no good reason to accept as real. What I would say in response to you is that everything you say brings to mind so many complications for me. It is not just that people imagine another, better world; they instead experience, albeit on a subjective level, what they take to be "other worlds." Some of these experiences seem to point to better things, some to neutral things, others to worse. Unfortunately, everyone is locked in a fruitless debate about what one is morally obliged to think.

I don't believe for a moment that one is morally obliged either to believe or not believe in things beyond the reach of current scientific confirmation. What I will say is that I don't think people are bad, dangerous, or stupid for believing that there are things beyond the reach of current scientific confirmation.
I'm not saying they are bad or stupid either. I'm questioning whether it's helpful or not so helpful for humanity. If it's all make believe, as all signs point to yes, then basing one's whole existence on the whims of a made up personally and secretly inspiring God feels problematic to me.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

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dastardly stem wrote:
Mon May 09, 2022 2:07 pm
What you once saw as something worth committing your life to you now dismiss as wishful make believe that people have no good reason to accept as real. * * *What I will say is that I don't think people are bad, dangerous, or stupid for believing that there are things beyond the reach of current scientific confirmation.
I'm not saying they are bad or stupid either. I'm questioning whether it's helpful or not so helpful for humanity. If it's all make believe, as all signs point to yes, then basing one's whole existence on the whims of a made up personally and secretly inspiring God feels problematic to me.
Believing the unscientific can be innocuous until there is action taken. The "oracles" act to twist the unscientific narratives to their advantage--haven't seen the LDS church leaders release the members from tithing, as was predicted by Joseph F. Smith once the church was financially self-sufficient, as it is today. Those that delve into the beliefs, digging deeper and deeper into the implications, take actions like Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell, or like Ron and Dan Lafferty. Indulging foundationless beliefs by others has created large-scale movements in the U.S. in the name of Jesus that are anathema to the NT teachings, and manifest in anti-civil ways such as the 1.6.2021 siege on the U.S. Capitol building. If one wants to start a corporation in America, the best chance for it to grow big is to form it as a "religion" so that you don't pay taxes; if you instead make a product, that growth and the corporation's survival chances agre greatly encumbered by taxation. At the trajectory of the last 25 years, unbridled religion could swallow up and take over the U.S. in the next 20 years.
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley
"The truth has no defense against a fool determined to believe a lie." Mark Twain
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

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I'm not saying they are bad or stupid either. I'm questioning whether it's helpful or not so helpful for humanity. If it's all make believe, as all signs point to yes, then basing one's whole existence on the whims of a made up personally and secretly inspiring God feels problematic to me.
I don’t think “it’s all make-believe” adequately covers what is going on. Humans create stories. All stories are inadequate as a representation of reality, and yet narrating will inevitably continue. I agree that it is important to think critically about everything, but I don’t agree that mythology is as trivial as you make it out to be.
“Academia’s continual campaign to disregard or neglect the classics is a sign of spiritual decay, moral decline and a deep intellectual narrowness running amok in American culture.” ~ Cornel West
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

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Believing the unscientific can be innocuous until there is action taken. The "oracles" act to twist the unscientific narratives to their advantage--haven't seen the LDS church leaders release the members from tithing, as was predicted by Joseph F. Smith once the church was financially self-sufficient, as it is today. Those that delve into the beliefs, digging deeper and deeper into the implications, take actions like Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell, or like Ron and Dan Lafferty. Indulging foundationless beliefs by others has created large-scale movements in the U.S. in the name of Jesus that are anathema to the NT teachings, and manifest in anti-civil ways such as the 1.6.2021 siege on the U.S. Capitol building. If one wants to start a corporation in America, the best chance for it to grow big is to form it as a "religion" so that you don't pay taxes; if you instead make a product, that growth and the corporation's survival chances agre greatly encumbered by taxation. At the trajectory of the last 25 years, unbridled religion could swallow up and take over the U.S. in the next 20 years.
This is unrealistic. You are horriblizing the case relying on extreme examples and failing to acknowledge the good that organized religion does.
“Academia’s continual campaign to disregard or neglect the classics is a sign of spiritual decay, moral decline and a deep intellectual narrowness running amok in American culture.” ~ Cornel West
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

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Physics Guy wrote:
Mon May 09, 2022 9:09 am
Rivendale wrote:
Sat May 07, 2022 7:32 pm
Are you trying to insinuate that there are objective "truths" that will never be known? For instance a dog not being able to read does not invalidate the truth that Shakespeare was real. Is this the place that the supernatural is supposed to be? Like the bumper sticker says spirituality if for those of us who have been there?
I think there may be a lot going on in the universe that we just can't grasp because our little meat brains just aren't up to it. Have you ever read Stanislaw Lem's Golem XIV, or Jack Vance's short story Green Magic (not to be confused with other fantasy stories with similar titles)? In different ways they are good at evoking an impression of things far beyond human ken. Obviously they are fiction, but I find the kind of possibilities they raise hard to rule out for the real world.

Traditional notions of the supernatural usually seem self-contradictory to me, because they don't actually postulate anything non-physical. They just want to call things non-physical. They still want substances and orderly laws, they just want different ones from the ones we know. So they're actually playing the same game as physics, and not playing it well. What to me would be much more plausible, though, would be that things people call spiritual or supernatural are complex kinds of meaningful patterns that we don't normally recognise. There is ample room for that, in principle.

Maybe we are like dogs, and the guru or messiah or whatever is trying to teach us to read. It's inherently hard to prove or disprove that, but not for dodgy reasons. Transcending the limits of human intelligence is kind of bound to be hard. It's not impossible to investigate the possibility that some subtle features in reality exist, though, and gain some evidence for or against them. You can try whatever exercises the prophet or guru or whatever is suggesting, and see if anything at all impressive seems to happen. If you keep trying for a while, you may be able to hedge against chance and placebo effects.

On the other hand there isn't enough time in life to make serious investigations of all the potential messiahs. You have to do some kind of triage. Maybe in doing it you'll be too hasty about something and end up overlooking the real meaning and purpose of life. Oops. I don't see any obvious way to avoid that risk. Simply dismissing it all as obvious nonsense, though, seems like wishful thinking. The fox can't manage to get hold of the grapes so it consoles itself with the assurance that they were assuredly sour anyway.
Thanks for the reading, I had not read them. I like the way Dawkins describes quantum mechanics. He said quantum mechanics is counter intuitive because it didn't have survival value on the African savanna. These realms seem a bit like the deistic claims of a god. Indistinguishable from a non existent god but able to ease the person's mind that there is a greater power or something that explains any aspect of reality that is currently a mystery. From "goo to you" leaves a distaste in many people's minds that seems to be a genetically driven survival mechanism that caught hold early on. I still have problems with the depth of theistic truth claims which is why I push back so much on their value.
Steven Fry once asked Sam Harris to explain the benefit of meditation. He asked does it help you make better paper clips? Similar to my question does Green magic develop or deplete ? If objective truths disappear in spirituality and become the potter's wheel for the guru, don't you see this as a cascade of obstacles for humanity? I do.
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Physics Guy »

Religion isn't a monolith.

It can seem like one big stone rolling, all right. There are a lot of stupid things that have a certain kind of religiosity in common. It's not just a straw person. I really think, though, that the active ingredient in stupid religion is the stupidity and not the religion.

The No True Scotsman fallacy is crouching like sin to devour us when we start trying to distinguish one from the other; but that does cut both ways. If you define "religion" to mean "stupid things", to the point where any religious thought which isn't entirely stupid must have been no true religion, then you're really just advocating the redundancy of having two words for stupid.
What if fire is only the first of a million such things?
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Physics Guy »

Rivendale wrote:
Mon May 09, 2022 8:59 pm
I like the way Dawkins describes quantum mechanics. He said quantum mechanics is counter intuitive because it didn't have survival value on the African savanna.
I had sort of gone off Dawkins because he seemed to be getting ahead of his data, but I think he's quite right on that point, as far as it goes. It doesn't go all that far, because the big question then is why quantum mechanics can be fundamentally true and yet not be useful for surviving on the savanna. If we understood that, then the evolutionary preference for classical physics intuition would be an obvious corollary. I have to admit, though, that Dawkins's point is fair enough for a biologist. The big point is up to us physicists to resolve. We're still working on it.

If objective truths disappear in spirituality and become the potter's wheel for the guru, don't you see this as a cascade of obstacles for humanity?
The promise of revealing a code that turns noise into signal is the charlatan's stock in trade, all right. Charlatanry works because humans are primed to look for patterns that can give us an edge by letting us know in advance how things will go. Humans are primed that way, though, because it gives a survival advantage. There really are patterns and they really do help. Knowledge is power.

Should we buy into this snake oil thing? Or invest in that steam engine? They both sound pretty sketchy.
What if fire is only the first of a million such things?
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Rivendale »

Physics Guy wrote:
Mon May 09, 2022 9:22 pm
Rivendale wrote:
Mon May 09, 2022 8:59 pm
I like the way Dawkins describes quantum mechanics. He said quantum mechanics is counter intuitive because it didn't have survival value on the African savanna.
I had sort of gone off Dawkins because he seemed to be getting ahead of his data, but I think he's quite right on that point, as far as it goes. It doesn't go all that far, because the big question then is why quantum mechanics can be fundamentally true and yet not be useful for surviving on the savanna. If we understood that, then the evolutionary preference for classical physics intuition would be an obvious corollary.

That seems to imply the universe had us in mind. For all practical purposes the universe has black holes, stellar nurseries and cold barren moons as its top priority. We seem to be froth on the sea watching the next wave headed our way and wondering where it came from.
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