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Religion Pascal's Wager converted me from Catholicism to Agnosticism!

Duncecap

Avatar: Abstract Blue Circle
4

[The Airship]

Level 44 Hacker

“Backdoor Bob”

To keep relatively on topic, I refuse to believe in god out of pride.

If god prefers good people, then I do not want someone rewarding me with infinite bliss when I die, because that would trivialise my works on earth. I would rather the good I do be out of the good I want to spread in the world. That is, of myself.

If god prefers only those people who believe in him, then I refuse to believe in him because he does not encourage truly good behaviour.

If god does pretty much anything else, I refuse to believe in him because he’s an arsehole.

Replace ‘god’ with [insert name of god/gods/deities/etc.] to cover all religions.

man-man

Avatar: 156485 2010-01-24 16:36:14 -0500
24

[Harem and Sushi Bar]

Level 69 Hacker

Selfish fine upstanding member of society

If we’re telling “why I don’t believe” stories, mine’s quite simple.

On one level, there’s the absence of any evidence for the supernatural, the rather good evidence for natural explanations of everything so far (if you imagine two baskets, things we cam explain by science and things we can only explain by the supernatural, the migration of things from one basket to the other has been strictly unidirectional). That’s without going into just how unsatisfactory supernatural explanations are (“because God” has never felt like a proper answer to me).

But, I think more importantly, on a personal level I just lack belief. When it comes to religion, no part of my mind believes it or even particularly wants to believe it. A-theist; without-belief, fits me down to the bone. I used to sort of go along with it, because that’s what I was told (not that my parents are very religious) but it never really ‘took’, just faded away as I grew up like all the little myths kids believe in.

Dunatis

Avatar: 78885 2011-11-01 01:20:41 -0400
100

[Cabal Gamez]

Level 69 Hacker

Richard Whittington

man-man Posted:

Somewhere around the internets I read someone describing the low-level hostility between the morning shift and late shift of a fast food place they used to work at; each group thinking the other had less to do or weren’t working hard enough. The person telling this little story had worked both shifts on occasion and could see that it wasn’t all that different.

I can confirm this having worked a lot of shift work in different places and at different hours. The old claim of people being scared of the unknown (Even simple unknowns like “some other guy with the same job”...) and hostile to that which scares them is so very true. Log in to see images!

More on topic. Wouldn’t some sort of definition of what we are talking about when we talk about God really help in people deciding whether or not they are atheist or agnostic? Personally I find the idea of a single being who is all powerful/knowing/present that is without equal so on and so forth ridiculous. But entirely on the principle that anything that can happen will happen given enough time and that if such a being could exist, not only will it, but an infinite number of iterations will exist and also eventually disappear even if at their own hands out of sheer boredom.

I don’t doubt the possibility of such a being as I doubt that we can explain a mere portion of the universe with current knowledge and our limited senses, but I cannot believe that there would be only one of such a being nor that we would ever be able to understand a portion of it’s motives as we more often than not cannot understand our own. And that even were it to tell us, that we would somehow not mess it up as we still go around killing each other over the concentration of pigmentation in our skin which only tells me of the limits of our ability to understand even what simple information we have around us.

Anansi

Avatar: Anansi's Avatar
9

[Arsenal of Ninjacr-
acy
]

Level 69 Troll

Resident Psychoanalyst

Duncecap Posted:

Okay, take that piece of paper declaring “Here is a thought”, and cast it into space. Imagine that long after humanity dies out, (bumume we do), an alien race finds it, and decodes the message.

Now imagine that there are infinite possible meanings, including nonsensical ones.

The message is something external to them. If you want to state it that way, yes, it causes thought in someone else, a thought that would not have occurred if they had not read the message, and it is the same thought as you were thinking when you wrote the sentence.

It causes a thought in someone else, but you cannot be sure it is the same thought you were thinking when you wrote the sentence. How can you possibly defend the claim that there is a one-t

o-one mapping between a sentence and a particular meaning?

Even better, take a really large, really complex computer, and get it to simulate a human brain. Can it think? We do indeed have this technology, and we we can, in fact, with a large enough cluster, do exactly this right now. If any of you have heard about “Blue brain”, a couple of research teams are competing against each other with a simulated cat brain to discover more about neuronal interaction.

Artificial neural networks are still not as good as neurons. I say this not out of the bumumption that hardware is incapable of imitating wetware, but as a statement of fact—we cannot build brains, at least not yet.

But I digress, the point is, would such a machine be able to think?

Now, can a slightly stupider machine think?

If no, then would you say that a very special human is incapable of thought?

And certainly we can think of stupider humans than some animals.

And certainly we can think of stupider animals.

At what point are they incapable of thought?

I ask the same question of a simpler and simpler computer.

At what point is a computer not able to think?

The old “Is a haystack with one strand of hay removed still a haystack?” problem isn’t the core of the issue. Still, in order to begin answering the questions you pose, we would need a definition of thought. In Funes el memorioso, Borges’ narrator describes thought as the collapsing of distinctions. I would add the ability to make distinctions to that. This would be a bare-bones definition, in a sense something a single neuron is capable of. However, human thought (what we mean when we normally say thought) is more complicated. How? We don’t need an interpreter for our thoughts—we can interpret them ourselves.

Now, here’s where I blow your mind:

Don’t count on it.

A computer does not need to be made of silicon or use electricity. A grid of stones in a field could be a computer, and technically speaking, with enough time, space and stones. run exactly the same software as your computer on your desk.

Uh, yeah, it’s called a Turing machine.

So even once a computer becomes too simple to be held in electronics, we can simplify it further into rocks. Or trees. Or the movement patterns of unladen swallows.

True. Yet, it still requires an interpreter.

So the root question is: What is a thought? Having defined that, when is a “mind”, (seeing that ANYTHING can hold, represent, contain, change and create a thought), incapable of having a thought?

That is the root question, but the claim in parentheses is not quite right.

Further if we define something as having a mind if it thinks, than would we have to extend the set of things that have minds to include the universe?

You could say that the universe thinks in a sense, but that sense would be unintelligible—the universe would be thinking mostly nonsense.

So yes, for some interpretation of the period at the end of your sentence, it does indeed contain the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

Now, try to pick an interpretation that makes sense.

The key word in my question was intrinsic. Are the meanings of the period at the end of that sentence inherently part of its makeup, or are they arbitrary possible interpretations?

Duncecap

Avatar: Abstract Blue Circle
4

[The Airship]

Level 44 Hacker

“Backdoor Bob”

Intrinsic meaning is not a real thing.

I’m sorry, haven’t you gotten that far in your philosophy courses?

Meaning is only intrinsic so far as it is intuitive to our interpretation of the universe.

There are infinitely many possible interpretations of the universe that are ‘correct’. The only incorrect ones are the inconsistent ones. There are no ‘non-sensical’ ones that are internally consistent, because they internally make sense. There are ones which our interpreters would view as non-sensical, but that is relative to a part in the system, not the system itself.

(Analogy: In math, I could consider number theory, and graph theory. Both are internally consistent. Using number theory on a node graph, however, would not be consistent, and in fact, non-sensical. It is possible to extend areas of number theory onto graph theory using mappings, however. So an area of math containing both graph theory and number theory with no corrective mapping would be an incorrect interpretation. But as far as the larger system is concerned, both graph theory and number theory themselves are correct,)

In other words, we can only sensibly perceive interpretations that are consistent with our existing interpreters.

(Indirectly: Goedel’s Incompleteness theorem comes into play here)

Our mind, our programming, contains an interpreter. A semi-arbitrary one. Over our lives, this becomes modified to understand the world in somewhat the same way as people around us. (We are able to communicate with other people, (at least, we think we do)).

So how can there be any intrinsic meaning, unless you are judging relative to a particular interpreter/family of interpreters/etc.? There is no universal intrinsic meaning. To anything.

But for some family of interpreters, (to answer your question), the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, is intrinsicly part of the period. I’d wager, without proof, that no interpretation we would recognise as consistent would inherently or intrinsicly contain the meaning of life, the universe and everything n that period.

Also, you did not use the word intrinsic before Log in to see images!

You used the word “inherent”

Inherent: built-in: existing as an essential constituent or characteristic;

Intrinsic: belonging to a thing by its very nature;

Bureaucracy can have an inherent evil side, but have an intrinsic goodness.

(Bureaucracy is meant to organise and make easier the tasks of working together with other people in a large system, but it also enables the inpersonal loss and mis-management of data and whatnot.)

However, bureaucracy is not intrinsicly evil, (one can imagine a corrected bureaucracy that runs perfectly without abuse or accident, bumuming you have infallible clerks), although it is inherently good.

In either case, it stands that there exists no inherent/intrinsic interpretation of anything unless you are speaking relative to a particular interpreter/family of interpreters. Unless you wish to say that the inherent meaning of [anything] is [everything].

By the definition of a thought as a part of a state of a turing machine (Bit incorrect of you to call it that,since a turing machine is a machine that operates on an infinite piece of tape, but I know that you meant anything that can emulate, or is equivalent to, a turing machine), then the piece of paper will carry the same thought, (the same changes in existing state, relative to the system), but the interpreter will interpret it differently for different people.

(They all receive the same input, it means different things to them).

But then, the interpreter itself is also a state of the turing machine; It is also a thought. Existing thoughts in a mind would modify the interpretation of incoming thoughts.

Also I disagree, ANYTHING can be represent a turing machine. Anything. Even abstract concepts. To define a computational device, is merely to define the abstract mapping of the state of something. (To define the methods by which you interpret it).

And also, artificial neuronal networks are exactly as good as real neurons. The methods by which individual neurons work, and the ways they work with their neighbours, are very, very well known.

What we’re missing, is the programming.

Anansi

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9

[Arsenal of Ninjacr-
acy
]

Level 69 Troll

Resident Psychoanalyst

Duncecap Posted:

Intrinsic meaning is not a real thing.

You don’t say.

Duncecap Posted:

I’m sorry, haven’t you gotten that far in your philosophy courses?

Thanks for the compliment Log in to see images!

In other words, we can only sensibly perceive interpretations that are consistent with our existing interpreters.

(Indirectly: Goedel’s Incompleteness theorem comes into play here)

Oh, so that’s where all this is coming from…You must have read Hofstadter’s book.




There is nothing more to say, save that if one acknowledges the arbitrariness of the meaning of symbols, one cannot possibly claim a set of symbols contains a specific meaning and no other, outside the context of a given interpreter. This calls into question the legitimacy of thoughts existing outside of minds in any real sense.

Duncecap

Avatar: Abstract Blue Circle
4

[The Airship]

Level 44 Hacker

“Backdoor Bob”

Ahhh, I see where you’re going now.

Yeah, that’s absolutely right.

No, I’ve never heard of this fellow Hofstadter. He wrote something worthwhile, I take it?

I’m a mathematical programmer by trade, that’s where this is all coming from ;p

The question this all sprang from was the legitimacy of thought: If thought is not necessarily legitimate, then we are not a necessary condition for thought.

But nevertheless, if thought exists, thought exists.

There also exists the possibility that thought also does not exist, but that is entirely outside, and a few provinces away from, the modality of this argument.

Anansi

Avatar: Anansi's Avatar
9

[Arsenal of Ninjacr-
acy
]

Level 69 Troll

Resident Psychoanalyst

Duncecap Posted:

Ahhh, I see where you’re going now.

Yeah, that’s absolutely right.

No, I’ve never heard of this fellow Hofstadter. He wrote something worthwhile, I take it?

Sarcasm? Well, in case it is not, he wrote a number of books including Godel, Escher, Bach, which has become famous among those (both within and outside the field) interested in philosophy of mind and computation. I haven’t looked at it in ages. Couldn’t give a fair appraisal.

I’m a mathematical programmer by trade, that’s where this is all coming from ;p

As in optimization? Or as in, slave to Stephen Wolfram? Log in to see images!

The question this all sprang from was the legitimacy of thought: If thought is not necessarily legitimate, then we are not a necessary condition for thought.

But nevertheless, if thought exists, thought exists.

There also exists the possibility that thought also does not exist, but that is entirely outside, and a few provinces away from, the modality of this argument.

Clearly thought exists in some sense.

I guess what I was trying to say is that thought may be regarded as a form of computation, but that doesn’t mean all computation is thought.

You were right to not privilege it over other forms of computation, though.

Duncecap

Avatar: Abstract Blue Circle
4

[The Airship]

Level 44 Hacker

“Backdoor Bob”

As in, mathematicians and physicists and chemists come to me and say: “We have this really cool model, but we don’t know how to explain it to a computer”. Mostly mathematicians. So I come up with ways to represent the systems in procedural language, and program it for them.

The easiest example is simply using symbolic representation like Maxima or Mathematica. But of course, anything they can do by themselves, they do by themselves, so I never get jobs this easy, although it is within the scope of my job.

The harder stuff is coming up with ways to describe certain mathematical systems, and define the operations between them in a way the computer understands. Stuff that’s already beyond Mathematica/Maxima/Etc. ability to represent and compute.

There’s one job I have hanging now for a couple of months, where the operation between two objects of the same type, cannot be defined in less than a couple hundred lines in english. Wanna bet it’s longer than that in any programming language?

Anyhoo, no, never heard of Hofstadter.

And I would ask what differentiates a thought from other computation? I can think of no computation which is not also a thought.

Anansi

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9

[Arsenal of Ninjacr-
acy
]

Level 69 Troll

Resident Psychoanalyst

Duncecap Posted:

As in, mathematicians and physicists and chemists come to me and say: “We have this really cool model, but we don’t know how to explain it to a computer”. Mostly mathematicians. So I come up with ways to represent the systems in procedural language, and program it for them.

The easiest example is simply using symbolic representation like Maxima or Mathematica. But of course, anything they can do by themselves, they do by themselves, so I never get jobs this easy, although it is within the scope of my job.

The harder stuff is coming up with ways to describe certain mathematical systems, and define the operations between them in a way the computer understands. Stuff that’s already beyond Mathematica/Maxima/Etc. ability to represent and compute.

Sounds like a fun career. It must be nice to regularly do that kind of problem-solving.

There’s one job I have hanging now for a couple of months, where the operation between two objects of the same type, cannot be defined in less than a couple hundred lines in english. Wanna bet it’s longer than that in any programming language?

Log in to see images! At least you have a worthy project.

Anyhoo, no, never heard of Hofstadter.

Well, probably not worth bothering to look up. He wrote quite a bit in the aforementioned book about Godel’s incompleteness theorem, which is why I thought of it.

And I would ask what differentiates a thought from other computation? I can think of no computation which is not also a thought.

Which is not also a thought, or which cannot be thought?

I will add more later—time to get some rest.

Duncecap

Avatar: Abstract Blue Circle
4

[The Airship]

Level 44 Hacker

“Backdoor Bob”

Clarification:

All computation seems to me to also be thought.

I cannot think of a computation which cannot be thought.

It’s interesting sometimes, but most of the time you just end up reinventing the wheel with a different name and a different number of spokes. Everything I do has to satisfy a constructivist . . . it all has to be mathematically provable from the bumumptions. A lot of computer science is like: “Yeah, we can’t prove it, but you can see where it goes, right?”. Indirect proofs are rarely allowed.

So yeah, that guy Dijkstra and his algorithm? That so useful algorithm you could use in every computation ever by defining nodes and edges reasonably? I’m not allowed to use that unless the axioms of choice for graph theory are accepted. Hamiltonian paths/graphs? Same thing.

And what if I run into NP complete? I’m not allowed to estimate . . .

But yeah, looking forward to your answer.

Cheins Sanch-
ez

Avatar: 64305 2010-01-24 16:17:15 -0500
14

[The Airship]

Level 36 Troll

Rex Sacrorum

i believe in past lives

man-man

Avatar: 156485 2010-01-24 16:36:14 -0500
24

[Harem and Sushi Bar]

Level 69 Hacker

Selfish fine upstanding member of society

Cheins Sanchez Posted:

i believe in past lives

Would you like to argue about that, or are you just throwing it out for us to look at but not comment on?

Drakodan

Avatar: 57623 2010-05-29 20:03:09 -0400
13

[Brainfreeze]

Level 69 Troll

Surfing the Tubes

man-man Posted:

Would you like to argue about that, or are you just throwing it out for us to look at but not comment on?

I also believe in something along these lines, but I’m not exactly sure what, yet.

I certainly believe in something spiritual, since I find it almost ridiculous to believe that our fleeting lives are all that there is, but I also believe in a soul of sorts. People can be revived from drowning, or their hearts can be jump-started, and those are states that you could clbum as ‘death’. Yet, when people die good and proper, there’s no coming back. So, what disappears at that point? The consciousness. If heartbeat can be brought back, then why can’t the consciousness?

This is what has always led me to believe that there is a soul, and that it leaves upon death.

man-man

Avatar: 156485 2010-01-24 16:36:14 -0500
24

[Harem and Sushi Bar]

Level 69 Hacker

Selfish fine upstanding member of society

Drakodan Posted:

I certainly believe in something spiritual, since I find it almost ridiculous to believe that our fleeting lives are all that there is

Why? I know it’s hard to conceive of the universe rolling on uncaring without us after we die, but it was all perfectly fine before we were born.

Drakodan Posted:

People can be revived from drowning [...] Yet, when people die good and proper, there’s no coming back. So, what disappears at that point?

The change is brain death. You can survive the oxygen starvation that comes as part and parcel of your heart/lungs ceasing function for a limited period of time before your brain cells start dying. But if that goes on too long, you die ‘for real’.

There’s actually some evidence that brain cells can survive oxygen starvation much longer than we previously thought, but the shock of oxygen returning can kill them… don’t remember if there was a remedy to that though… maybe reintroducing oxygen more slowly, but the whole thing would be fraught with risk – coming back from severe lack of oxygen normally means substantial brain damage, possibly to the point of being vegetative.

Drakodan Posted:

If heartbeat can be brought back, then why can’t the consciousness?

Because we don’t know how to repair or ‘jump-start’ a brain after it’s suffered severe damage. Once too many cells have died, and the connections they made are lost, it’s next to impossible to rebuild the neural web that made your brain function as a brain instead of a big mess of unconnected neurons.

Hearts are simpler – essentially just a specialised muscle, so it can lose some cells, even a lot of cells, and the ones that are left can still do their job. Brains fundamentally break if you kill off too many of their cells.

man-man edited this message on 02/08/2010 11:19AM

Shii

Avatar: 23167 2010-01-24 16:31:18 -0500
27

[Phantasmagoric Spl-
endor
]

Level 35 Emo Kid

I haven't seen a bad idea that I didn't like.

Good discussion. I’ve been reading, but not commenting. Please continue.

Melanin-Enha-
nced Individ-
ual

Avatar: 174541 2012-01-02 15:34:06 -0500

[enjoy GANG]

Level 35 Troll

If I can write this, my whole life has been wasted. I'm worthless and awful.

god is great god is good

Drakodan

Avatar: 57623 2010-05-29 20:03:09 -0400
13

[Brainfreeze]

Level 69 Troll

Surfing the Tubes

man-man, I can certainly understand what you mean, but there have been successful brain transplants, as well as putting people to sleep during operations, which involves switching the body off.

And anyway, as you say, the brain itself switches off and dies. But what is it INSIDE the brain that makes us, well, us? Consciousness, for certain. I’d prefer to call it the soul. Like I say, its not something I’m entirely sure of yet, but something I’m certainly willing to consider.

Duncecap

Avatar: Abstract Blue Circle
4

[The Airship]

Level 44 Hacker

“Backdoor Bob”

There have been successful brain transplants?

“A whole-body transplant or brain transplant is a hypothetical operation . . . ”

(First result in google states this)

Do you know what hypothetical means?

The best available right now, is partial transplants of brain centred nerves on some animals. Which is a far cry from any part of the brain. The most successful has been either the replacement of optical nerves in birds, or the partial replacement of the cerebral cortex in mice, which has so far led to them NOT dying as a result. Neither are very encouraging results.

On another note, some Scientists in Ohio faked some ‘full body transplants’ for fame and funding a while back, but if you look into their papers, they did something wildly different than what they claim in media sources. (What they DID do, is prove that they can keep a brain alive outside of a body, for a few hours, and keep a head alive, and functioning, without a body, for a few days before the head rejected the ‘body’ of machinery. Quite a far cry from a brain transplant)

In any case, there is no need for the ‘soul’ to be non-physical.

The part that makes the brain the thinking centre, as previously stated here in this topic, is the arrangement of the neurons and their connections. The brain is hardware; the part that you identify as ‘you’ is the software, and merely an internal state of the brain.

Lose that internal state, lose that arrangement, and what is left? The blank hardware. No personality, no memories.

Oh yes, still an experimental theory, (read: not enough evidence to conclude it yet), but it deals with a much decreased amount of additional variables that have yet to be observed. (That’s an Occam’s Razor type argument for cogency).

SoronTheBeast

Avatar: 159958 2010-01-24 16:32:03 -0500
17

[Brainfreeze]

Level 69 Hacker

There's your 3 BPs. Now stop ****ing whining about THIRTEEN CENTS you pathetic no-lifer. - Fran

Spiritually and generically religiously, “the soul” means “life force.” As in, its the thing that makes things alive. The native Americans, for example, felt everything had a “soul.” The rocks, the trees, the animals, the people, the sky. It would be the ‘spirit’ that makes that thing ‘real.’ Its also the part of that thing that appears in dreams. Dreaming is more or less how the idea of the soul came into being. How can you go somewhere when you’re asleep and see things like rocks and trees, yet still be in your bed? Your soul leaves your body and goes somewhere and sees the souls of rocks and trees, and maybe people already dead. To many cultures dreams were as real as real life. So, the soul and the souls of objects were also real.

In most of Christianity (generally speaking), “the soul” would be the spark of the divine in humans only that gives us life and free will. Without it we would not have the ability to choose and we would be like animals. It’s what allows you to get around the fact you’re a bundle of chemicals and are subject to physical deterministic effects. As in, it gives you the ability to override your instincts and objectively choose, free will. It’s also the part of you that takes your experiences and “self” up to heaven or down to hell when you die. Like a repository of all your thoughts and memories.

I would say, without this kind of soul, it’s hard to prove free will exists.

Scientifically, “the soul” would be the “spark of life” all living things have. Why can’t you get a dead body to start up again with the right chemicals or something? Because a living thing is so complex that once its harmony is disrupted it can’t be gotten back. That harmony would be the “soul.” Some living things are more complex than others, so there even harder to “get back.” Once the brain is damaged, the unique ordering of chemicals and electronically impulses that makes you “you” is gone. That would be the “soul” scientifically.

Here is the only study I know of that did anything on the soul, weight of the soul. Results were… inconclusive.

Here is the wiki on the subject. I wrote this post from my own flawed memory, so you might want to read the wiki as well:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul

Really, I’m talking about two kinds of ‘scientific soul.’ One being a “life force” the other being a “repository of thoughts and experiences.”

I’m saying that in some sense “brain dead” people have ‘lost’ the second kind of “scientific soul.” As in, the “person” that existed before the damage is gone.

People who are born with a “damaged brain” do have both kinds of souls. They have a personality and remember their past experiences and are, of course, alive. I did not mean to infer otherwise.

If a person gets damage done to their brain so that they now have a different personality, I would say, in some sense, they lost their “soul.” (or at least, their second kind of ‘scientific soul’ was replaced with another one)

But, for both kinds of “scientific souls” we are talking about an unique ordering of chemicals and electrical impulses. One ordering, which I called “harmony” above, keeps you alive. The other I am talking about is the ordering in the brain that gives you (or any animal really) memories and a personalty. For exampled, some dogs are mean and some dogs are nice.

SoronTheBeast edited this message on 02/09/2010 9:19AM
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