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Are Most Atheists Here Also Materialists?


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In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 8:50:36 AM PDT
Harry Marks says:
Michael -

"When it comes to understanding how reality works,

* It doesn't matter what what believe
* It doesn't matter what we want to be true
* It doesn't matter what we refuse to believe
* It doesn't matter what we fear is true"

I disagree on two counts.

First, there are barriers created by aesthetics. Einstein's resistance to simple QM is only the most famous. A recent Scientific American cover story tells how a minor adjustment to the completeness of evaluations of all the path integrals created by virtual particles made possible a simplification that put many evaluations within computational reach, and may thereby have made possible the integration of relativity with QM. We had a "preference" for completeness that turned out to be unnecessary and obstructionary, but until someone got over it, it held back science.

Second, there should be barriers created by justifiable fears. We should not investigate topics that might let your proverbial mad scientist work for Osama Bin Laden's successors and destroy us all. It is as crazy as buying a gun, loading it, putting in the hands of a three year old and pointing it at our own head.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 8:50:59 AM PDT
Stan Furman says:
Michael, I think you are missing the point by an infinity at least, this is not about how we *understand* reality, this is about the way we *experience* it. From experience comes understanding of that experience - that is an open ended evolution. If we start with understanding and model our experience on that we are locking ourselves in a closed and limited system constructed entirely inside of our minds. Fortunately reality does not work like that and our sense that it does is only an illusion, an illusion that can be experienced as such. That direct experience of reality of "I" without the illusion of "self" (or ego) obscuring it is called Awakening or Enlightenment. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is this - there are different *ways of thinking* about reality and apparently for some switching between two different ways i.e. moving to a different frame of reference, is proving to be utterly impossible. Sorry, but it looks like you are one of those guys... :))

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 9:21:44 AM PDT
I agree with you. When I said "It doesn't matter", I meant "These things aren't the justification for a conclusion as to how reality works."

In other words, the mere fact that one believes an idea, or that many believe the idea, or that the idea is emotionally satisfying or passionately championed has no bearing on the idea's validity, it's accuracy.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 9:23:40 AM PDT
Stan, you're a brain floating in a vat. I'm not really here. In fact, as you're floating in your vat, you're having this delusion that you're reading words which someone else wrote.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 9:38:40 AM PDT
Stan Furman says:
I don't think "brain in a vat" means what you think it means. The reason why I think you do not understand it is because of yours: "...you'll duck if you see a brick flying towards your head..." and alike. Frankly it is an eyeopening experience for me to see someone with your knowledge and interests (judging by your amazon wish list) to be *not getting it* so profoundly...

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 9:41:22 AM PDT
Oh, I do get it... I just see no merit in it.

No, we can't absolutely prove that the reality we think we're experiencing actually exists, and actually has the characteristics we think it has.

I consider that lack of pure philosophical certainty to be of minor interest at best.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 9:51:20 AM PDT
Stan Furman says:
To Michael Altarriba:

<<Oh, I do get it... I just see no merit in it.>>

If you did you wouldn't use arguments (like the one I quoted) which show that you don't. Whether you find a merit in a thus misunderstood concept becomes irrelevant.
:)

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 9:56:28 AM PDT
All right then... what point is it that you think I don't understand?

Posted on May 25, 2012 10:14:54 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 25, 2012 10:16:51 AM PDT
Brian Curtis says:
For some reason, a lot of armchair philosophers (and theists) come across as absolutely FURIOUS at the strawman of materialism they've concocted in their minds.

To them, materialism means "the assertion that the physical world is all that exists or could possibly exist"--a viewpoint which, admittedly, would be quite narrowminded. For example, if taken literally it would even deny the worth of thoughts and ideas.

In reality, however (there's that word again!), materialism amounts to simply pointing out that the physical world is the only thing we can PROVE exists; everything else is speculation, and should be treated as such. A materialist atheist does not say "your god does not and cannot exist"; he says "there's no _evidence_ that your god exists, so I don't believe in him."

Would you like to talk about a transcendent realm "above and beyond the senses"? Go right ahead!But don't be foolish enough to claim it's a factual reality rather than speculation... or a materialist will call you out with the entirely reasonable question "Where's your evidence?"

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 10:26:06 AM PDT
Well said. You're doing a better job of getting this idea across than I have.

IMO, the evidence I have available is consistent with my being a sentient being whose consciousness is a consequence of the operation of my nervous system, one of many sentient being cohabiting a reality which we each sense via our imperfect sense organs, an objective reality which exists regardless of our existence, and whose characteristics are independent of what we think, experience, or believe.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 10:28:24 AM PDT
Rubedo says:
Brian Curtis says:
To them, materialism means "the assertion that the physical world is all that exists or could possibly exist"--a viewpoint which, admittedly, would be quite narrowminded. For example, if taken literally it would even deny the worth of thoughts and ideas.

In reality, however (there's that word again!), materialism amounts to simply pointing out that the physical world is the only thing we can PROVE exists; everything else is speculation, and should be treated as such.

R:
We can prove thoughts and ideas exist but are they themselves material entities?

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 10:32:13 AM PDT
"We can prove thoughts and ideas exist but are they themselves material entities?"

We can note correlations between mental activity and neurological activity (using technologies such as fMRI). Does that constitute a "Yes" to your question?

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 10:47:39 AM PDT
Stan Furman says:
I think you don't understand how to think of reality from an I-centric frame of reference.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 10:50:17 AM PDT
Stan Furman says:
To Brian Curtis:

<<In reality, however (there's that word again!), materialism amounts to simply pointing out that the physical world is the only thing we can PROVE exists>>

Actually we can't do that. We can accept its existence as a self-evident axiom and then build materialistic worldview based on that, but there is no such thing as "proving existence of physical world"...

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 11:18:08 AM PDT
R:
We can prove thoughts and ideas exist but are they themselves material entities?
--------------------------
Ideas exists as relationships and information.

The material is largely composed of relationships and information, so there should be no surprise that patterns of matter can be the substrate for thoughts and ideas.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 11:19:41 AM PDT
"I think you don't understand how to think of reality from an I-centric frame of reference."

Earlier, I said this:

"IMO, the evidence I have available is consistent with my being a sentient being whose consciousness is a consequence of the operation of my nervous system, one of many sentient being cohabiting a reality which we each sense via our imperfect sense organs, an objective reality which exists regardless of our existence, and whose characteristics are independent of what we think, experience, or believe."

How does what you said relate to what I said?

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 11:51:47 AM PDT
Stan Furman says:
To Michael Altarriba:

<<How does what you said relate to what I said?>>

Inverse what you said and you'll get my point.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 11:52:34 AM PDT
Rubedo says:
Michael Altarriba says:
We can note correlations between mental activity and neurological activity (using technologies such as fMRI). Does that constitute a "Yes" to your question?

R:
No, correlation is not identity.

Then N. Hunt says, "The material is largely composed of relationships and information, so there should be no surprise that patterns of matter can be the substrate for thoughts and ideas."

Matter is not composed of "relationahips and information". It is composed of a tangable substance. Relationships and information are intellectual attributes we read into or interpret from the substance.

Is "Substrate" the same as identity?

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 11:53:14 AM PDT
Harry Marks says:
Ok, I will yes-vote that.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 12:09:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 25, 2012 12:19:26 PM PDT
Rubedo: "Matter is not composed of "relationahips and information". It is composed of a tangable substance."
-------------
I said "the material", not matter, by which I mean everything in the universe. Entropy, spacetime, QM wavefunctions, are all composed of relationships. In the realm of quantum field theory, nothing exists except in relationship to something else. What you call a tangible substance is our sensory experience of reality, not any underlying nature of reality.

If matter is made of a tangible substance, can you tell me what that substance is? What is all of matter made of? Is that substance fundamental? What properties does it have?

Rubedo: "Relationships and information are intellectual attributes we read into or interpret from the substance."
------------
Do we impose mathematical relationships of symmetry, causality, and order on reality? Or do they exist independent of us? Yes, mathematics is a human creation, but it is just logic based on a few axioms, and the universe seems to obey logical rules. I think it would obey those same rules even if we didn't have the mathematics to describe them.

QM requires us to consider that quanta (which contain a maximum amount of information), and discrete events, are fundamental to reality.

I'm not saying that matter doesn't exist -- I'm just saying that your everyday experience with it does not even come close to telling you what "it" is.

I was trying to make the point that those who believe that something "extra", other than matter, is required for consciousness, have no cogent argument as to why matter isn't "enough". I get the feeling that they try to imagine a straw-man consciousness made of gears and machinery - and when that seems absurd, they invent a magical extra ingredient.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 12:29:29 PM PDT
Harry Marks says:
sonictemple -

An interesting viewpoint. You propose an alternate interpretation of what is real, when clearly what you are aiming for is an alternate interpretation of what is important. OK, that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I am pleased to see one of you "the world is consciousness" types actually come out and say what you are thinking. It is a real chore plowing through reams of "you have no proof that material life is the nature of life" and "consciousness has something that matter doesn't have" without ever hearing what in the world you guys are saying.

Still, when it gets down to why anyone else should believe your alternate interpretation of the ultimate nature of things, I think you guys might want to recognize that it is mostly appealing to people who have put in a lot of time already on a program of meditation, mindfulness and letting go of attachment to material things.

So you might want to consider the possibility that what is appealing about your interpretation is a combination of values interpretation with interpretation of your particular experience. You have explained the values implication very well: letting go of ego-derived constructs such as clan and nation will relieve unnecessary conflict and free the self from strife. The experience which is also explained is the experience of transcending, not just dangerous social constructs, but the ego that lies at the root of them.

However, be careful. It is obvious to the rest of us, the non-meditators, that you guys dig this stuff in part because it has a certain kind of esoteric appeal. It creates the feeling that you understand things on a deeper level than others. (I am not saying you don't - just pointing out the appeal of that).

This could be functioning like the wonderful double-double agent knot in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, in which Karla has created a double agent from the Russians whose activities mask the double agent within MI-6. Any suspicion of a British double agent is put off by the obvious cover story that the Russian double agent accounts for the source of suspicion.

In much the same way, any call for evidence that your interpretation of reality 1) makes any material difference, and if so 2) can be shown to be a valid source of this difference, gets explained away by the "servants of Durga" cover, so that it is not legitimate because it is motivated by egoistic attachment and thinking.

I am not saying that evidence should be the final determinant of the legitimacy of your interpretation. But in my view a strong interpretation usually has some implications for reality. If such implications are only in the realm of values, then perhaps all other aspects of the interpretation should be treated as useful only to the initiates, and not claimed to be valid in discussions with non-initiates.

Otherwise I fear you appear to be sort of "ffishing" for initiates: dangling the bait of esoteric knowledge without accepting any obligation to justify it, so that those who are more interested in esoteric knowledge than in evidence will be attracted, and if they follow the course of meditation and have experiences that this esoteric knowledge provides an interpretation for, then they will be confirmed in agreeing with the interpretation, but not because it is the only or even the best explanation, but rather because it provides a highly satisfactory combination of values with esoteric knowledge.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 12:39:06 PM PDT
Rubedo says:
N. Hunt says:
I said "the material", not matter, by which I mean everything in the universe. Entropy, spacetime, QM wavefunctions, are all composed of relationships. In the realm of quantum field theory, nothing exists except in relationship to something else. What you call a tangible substance is our sensory experience of reality, not any underlying nature of reality.

R:
OK, maybe you already said that somewhere in the prior 79 pages. It almost seems though, that your understanding of "material" involves a seemless view of reality, an interconnectedness that can take us very far from tangible substance, at times to the point of not being material at all. You yourself make that distintions when you say, "the material, not matter.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 1:20:58 PM PDT
Scooping...,

Yours: "So what are a,b,c,d composed of? This goes on indefinitely."

Mine: This is a pretty little puzzle of logic, Scoop, nothing else. You are taking my pragmatic limit somewhere it needn't go. In essence, you're proposing a version of Zeno's paradox: motion is impossible because one must traverse half-of-a-half-of-a-half-of-a-half.... Sorry. It's an unnecessary distraction.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 1:26:30 PM PDT
L. Brzezniak,

Yours: "... you would never find a bunch of balls..."

Mine: Yes, I'm well aware of this. Not being a professional physicist and no kind of mathematician, I use the terminology that is still popular and continues to be used in the literature of popularized science. The least awareness of the two-slit experiment offers the knowledge that no standard particle could behave this way.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 1:38:54 PM PDT
Mr. Furman,

Yours: "If you did you wouldn't use arguments..."

Mine: Let me get this straight... you're claiming to know more about what's in Mr. Altarriba's head than he does himself; and this without aid of long interviews, exams, history, etc.?
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