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Choose Your Own Topic / Re: Why do we matter?
« on: May 28, 2020, 07:04:15 am »
Why do we matter as individuals, and as a species?

In what sense?

First, in the least fundamental sense, to others.

Spoiler alert - third act reveal:

In one of my recent conversations with Tom, handing out my usual circular butt-kicking, (see, I can’t control the comedy!) he happened to mistakenly swerve into a meaningful statement that called to mind an issue that, to me, is something atheists would pounce on with all four paws if they had any idea how critical it is.

To me, the PoE, and God’s hiddeness, aren’t problems at all.  They are the trivial outcomes of the real problem - our own selfishness, which seems to be a fundamental trait of humanity.  So I’ve spent a lot of lurk time thinking about that without actually sharing.  It seems to me that it isn’t a consequence of the fall, since we see examples from the beginning.

Hence my question, why do we matter, to others first of all.

Righto then, well we matter to others because we are a highly social species who have evolved to care about each others wellbeing, because we are stronger as a coherent group working together to survive, rather than as a bunch of lone wolves.

If instead we were a bunch of smart polar bears or tigers or something then we would probably care somewhat less about each other.

Hmm well I think it is your view of quantum fields that is backwards ;). Yes, in the macroscopic world you need a magnet to generate or "source" a magnetic field, but a classical magnetic field is a very different thing to a quantum field. We use the same word "field", but the word "field" is used to describe lots of things in physics and mathematics, basically a field is just anything that can take on varying values at different points in space.

But this is precisely why I think quantum fields are just nominal. They describe/model what is there, they don't instantiate it.

Well yeah QFT is just a description/model, sure, but I think we are well justified in believing that it is describing something that is really there.

If I am wrong, then it follows that our Universe does have a "mother" field so to speak, or some kind of substrate that "gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."

Haha well yeah something like that. QFT basically restores the old idea of an aether, just in a relativistic, quantum mechanical form. Early physicists weren't wrong to think that where there is a wave, there must be a "thing" which is waving. Their mistakes were in thinking of the aether in terms of classical matter, and in not knowing about relativity, or quantum mechanics. Nowadays we don't talk about the aether, we talk about the quantum vacuum, but the basic idea isn't so different. The quantum vacuum isn't emptiness, or nothingness. It is a physical thing occupying all of space. Of course nowadays we even know that space itself is a physical thing that can "wave", in the form of gravitational waves. Probably there is some relationship between these two things, maybe they are just different aspects of the "mother field" (which is kind of the idea of string theory), but that's a matter for the quantum gravity theorists to work out.

Well I only hesitate to say yes to the quantum field dress because I imagine them to be similar to any other field we deal with. It's hard to imagine a magnetic field without a magnet, or an electron field without an electron, and so forth. If I can divorce these fields from that which instantiates them, then I would find it more plausible to think of quantum fields as being more fundamental than energy, but that seems backwards to me. It seems more reasonable to think that quanta instantiate fields, quanta of what? Energy. If fields really do instantiate energy, this would entail that our Universe has a kind of "mother" field that all of our energy came from, no? If not, I think it's still reasonable to ask: where did all of the energy come from? What quantum behaviors led to the Big Bang? Why have these behaviors ceased and we have not seen another Bang? Why is there entropy at all if a "mother" field can instantiate energy for free?

In taking "pure" energy as more fundamental, there are fewer of these unanswerable questions.

Hmm well I think it is your view of quantum fields that is backwards ;). Yes, in the macroscopic world you need a magnet to generate or "source" a magnetic field, but a classical magnetic field is a very different thing to a quantum field. We use the same word "field", but the word "field" is used to describe lots of things in physics and mathematics, basically a field is just anything that can take on varying values at different points in space.

So indeed, the quantum field known as the "electron field" can exist without electrons. Electrons do not "generate" electron fields. Electrons "pop out" of the electron field, as quantized excitations of it. That is, electrons are the quanta of the electron field.

As for the magnetic field, the fundamental quantum field here is the electromagnetic field, or "photon" field if you prefer. Photons are the quantized particle excitations of this field, however particles are not the only possible configurations that quantum fields can adopt. You can also get large-scale coherent phenomena occurring, and this is what a classical magnetic (or electric) field is. There is a bunch of technical jargon you might see about them being composed of large numbers of "virtual" photons and such, but really they are just a kind of large-scale non-particle configuration of the electromagnetic field. The force you feel from magnets repelling is still described in terms of the exchange of virtual photons, at the fundamental level. So in some sense a classical magnetic field is much more analogous to a particle than it is to a quantum field. It is just another way that one particular quantum field can be configured, one that requires the existence of a "sourcing" excitation with a magnetic moment to exist somewhere.

And if you want a classical "magnetic"-type field that exists without a magnet, well, we do have those. We call them electromagnetic waves, i.e. radio waves, light, etc. Which are again analogous to quantum particles, just lots of them acting together coherently.

Choose Your Own Topic / Re: Why do we matter?
« on: May 27, 2020, 08:01:53 pm »
Why do we matter as individuals, and as a species?

In what sense?

Thanks for taking the time to write this up.  It fits my mental picture well.  Although I could never have stated it nearly so well.

No problem :). I could go slightly further and say that I think this picture provides a good argument that energy is not in fact fundamental at all. I would put it in a similar category to entropy, as an emergent property of systems of interacting particles. Instead what is fundamental is simply quantum fields and the ways they move, e.g. the positions and velocities of particles, and how they interact with each other. From these things we can then derive higher concepts like energy.

Admittedly, the fact that we observe such things as conservation of energy is a bit curious on this view; it seems like kind of an emergent "accident" of the particular interaction rules that particles happen to follow. But not quite: since the discovery of Noether's theorem it became clear that conservation of energy is a consequence of the time-translation invariance of the laws of physics. And indeed in fundamental physics symmetries like this have become much more prominently thought of as the fundamental components of a physical theory, and indeed it is other (stranger) such symmetries of a theory that determine all the interaction rules of quantum fields. So, rather than energy being fundamental, it is the time-translation symmetry of the laws of physics that is fundamental.

Quote from: Tom
I just wonder what reason there is to think {quantum fields} are not fundamental.

On my view, quantum fields are no more fundamental than particles or waves... all of which are just forms of energy, or ways that the behavior of energy can be described. So there's your reason: energy is more fundamental than the forms it takes. If the form really is more fundamental, then we're flirting with Platonism.

This is very strange and doesn't really make any sense. Quantum fields are quite clearly more fundamental than particles or waves. Quantum fields are like the "substrate" in which particles and waves "happen". Particles and waves are just particular states that quantum fields can "be" in. It's very analogous to waves in the ocean. Also, quantum fields are not a "form" of energy, they are more like a "substance" that *carries* energy. Energy is transferred between different parts of a quantum field, and between different fields, via particles/waves. Again, pretty similar to how ocean waves carry energy around the ocean.

That's kind of how energy always works. There is no such thing as "pure energy", energy is always a property of some sort of substance or other, in fact it is a property of collections of interacting substances. For example the kinetic energy of a bullet is frame-dependent, which means that it only defined with respect to some other reference objects. All energy is like this when you get down to the particle level, even mass energy, which is associated with the interactions between particles and the Higgs field, and/or motions of quarks inside nucleons*.

*At least in the Standard Model with massless neutrinos. There is scope in QFT for truly "fundamental" mass-energy as an intrinsic property of particles. Many proposed extensions of the Standard Model make use of these "exotic" types of mass. But I think it is ugly ;), and to my sense of aesthetics it makes more sense if such forms of mass would not exist in Nature. So far they do not ;). And they don't exist in e.g. string theory either.

Now I would feel it was unjust, but I couldn't make the case very well that it was. It could very well be there isn't any, but then that would probably reduce the motivation down to simply doing what you felt was right under the circumstances, which is what most people do anyway.

What do you imagine that the existence of an afterlife would motivate you to do differently, exactly? It seems to me that the only thing it is really good for is getting people to accept death more readily, as in the case of suicide bombers (or even just regular soldiers) and such, or for comforting those for whom death is inevitable and imminent.

The physical universe that we live in is only our perception. Once our physical bodies die, there is an infinite beyond, according to scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich. Some believe that consciousness travels to parallel universes after death. “Our body dies, but the spiritual quantum field continues. In this way,” they suggest, “we are immortal.”
Video below text on link.
I did not watch the video, but the article seems dodgy so I googled it. The story is published by a few publications, all of them are kind of dodgy. Note that the reference to what the people at Max Planck Institute allegedly said, is never cited. Is it clear from the video that this is an official Max Planck Institute stance on the matter? Another article mentions Dr Robert Lanza and that, imo, is a woo give-away.

Yeah I haven't watched it either yet, so maybe it's not as bad as it sounds, but I'd be pretty surprised if the Max Planck Institute would officially endorse such woo-sounding stuff as this. On the other hand, "according to scientists at the Max Planck Institute" may just mean that some random scientists at the institute said this, which is perfectly possible. Individual scientists occasionally go off half-cocked with their private ramblings on such matters, and sometimes people take these wild speculations seriously just because some scientists said them. It's not going to do their scientific reputation any favors though...


And what makes you think that private individuals would have a better success rate?
What makes you think they wouldn't?  Sure, experts make mistakes - but those are notable because they are not the norm.

It seems likes you guys are taking opposite horns of a false dichotomy.

It seems to me that some people are competent to make such decisions for themselves and some people aren't.  I would guess that most of those competent to make such decisions for themselves, are also competent to talk their doctor into agreeing with their position.   And pragmatically, it seems the only sensible way to resolve things to me, is to leave it a matter of doctor patient relationship.

It can be difficult sometimes to get doctors to prescribe within accepted guidelines, let alone e.g. get them to prescribe off label *even where there is evidence for safety and effectiveness* and the medication is already used in other countries for a condition.

It doesn't matter how "competent" you are, or that you have a reasonable case, you could speak to a hundred doctors, and they could all just refuse to prescribe because it's off label.
Has this actually occurred, or is this just a hypothetical?

It's pretty plausible, they have legal obligations to prescribe in a certain way. If something goes wrong with the drugs they prescribe you, then you might try to sue them for malpractice, and you might have a case even if it was you who insisted on that drug, especially if those drugs weren't approved to be used in that way. So, in this hypothetical system we are discussing, the doctors would need to be protected from this kind of litigation.

In a study of 3,100 Americans who watched either a civil or an uncivil news clip, Sydnor found that those who watched the uncivil clip were far more likely (33% vs. 11%) to offer opinions after watching the clip. “In other words, incivility can get people to pay attention, get involved and offer their own perspectives,” Sydnor writes. While she repeats that incivility can also damage a democracy, she still concludes that, “at times, name-calling and vitriol can promote democratic discussion.”"

Sounds more like a flame war than democratic discussion. Yeah, people do respond more when they read dumb stuff that outrages them, that's why many media outlets of questionable integrity do their best to manufacture outrage, but I have never seen any evidence that this leads to anything productive.

I’m not opposed to that, but the issue here is that “Nature” and “God” can balloon into each other’s explanatory categories to such an extent that any meaningful difference between  a natural and theistic cosmology will vanish. In which case cosmology in general becomes an arbitrary issue and undecidable by any arguments.

Only if you use such an abstract de-personalized concept of God that it is not recognisable as the God of anyone's actual religion. This might be a problem for deists or Taoists or some such, but for theists it shouldn't really be an issue. If you can't distinguish your notion of God from a mechanistic process then I don't think you are talking about theism any more.

And yes, people may harm themselves with meds. But lots of people harm themselves with alcohol and tobacco already, and that's purely recreational, and we still let adults decide for themselves if they want to accept the risks. Or again, mountain climbing has risks, various sports have risks.
I draw a distinction between being reckless and being stupid.  Tobacco use and alcohol abuse are reckless behavior, and those who do this have earned the consequences.  I'm referring to people who take a medicine because they falsely believe it will help them, and I think it's a good idea to protect people from their own stupidity in this regard.

We falsely believed that salt increased blood pressure and that dietary cholesterol was causing serum levels to go up for years. We falsely believed that stress caused ulcers as well. Many well meaning professionals right now imagine all sorts of things may be beneficial only later to find out they weren't necessary and even harmful.

I'm 100% against the nanny state.

And what makes you think that private individuals would have a better success rate? It seems obvious to me that they would not. Experts making mistakes sometimes is not a good argument for letting non-experts do things.

Also, excess salt consumption *is* associated with high blood pressure... I think we start to see why doctors need to be involved in these decisions. Laypeople cannot read the medical or scientific literature properly.
No salt is only an issue w/a small group. The bulk of high blood pressure comes from other factors. Never mind that I don't care about success rates as much as I care about free will. God clearly isn't intervening as the state does in a busy-body fashion, but he allows us to screw up our own lives in whatever manner we do or don't as the case may be, and I find the very urge to dominate other people legislatively to be abhorrent. Every law is either an accusation of ill intent, or an accusation of incompetence on the part of the individual.

People demonstrably *do* have ill intent and *are* incompetent in a great many cases. Maybe you have the attitude that people should be freely able to do harm to themselves and others through incompetence or malice or just plain ignorance, with no state regulations to protect anyone from anything, but I find that idea morally abhorrent.

Quote from: kurros
So why would we call such a thing "God" or even "God-like"? The agency aspect seems absolutely essential, otherwise we just aren't talking about God.

We would call such a thing God because it is providing a foundation for reality as we know it. And the agency aspect does seem essential, but keep in mind the ACA is not trying to go for the whole hog of monotheism, it's just trying to provide an alternative to natural cosmology. For the record, I'm treating a natural cosmology as a claim that the Universe - so instantiated by all space-time, energy-matter, and field-forces - is fundamental. I think if I am successful in arguing for an alternative to natural cosmology, then we're talking about a cosmology that is explicitly non-natural and thus implicitly theistic, hence my "God" talk.

The problem is that I don't see why you would choose that definition of "natural". This "foundation" of reality that you are looking for sounds to me like a perfectly fine candidate component of "natural" cosmology, so long as it doesn't have any kind of will or agency etc. If it just operates "mechanically", whatever "it" is, then I don't see why we would exclude it from a natural cosmology. Most naturalists would be perfectly happy with the notion that we haven't yet reached the "bottom" later of reality in our scientific journey (if such a thing exists). Physics isn't "finished" yet.

First lets look at number 2.

Objective means something is true or it exists independent of human opinion,preference and desire.

Lets apply this definition to morality via en example.

Child rape is wrong regardless of any humans opinion, It was always wrong, it will always be wrong. It is wrong even if a child rapist says it is right.

Defenders of the moral argument such as myself, will argue that p2 is correct. Using the example i gave, my intuition is so strong that the above example is true/factual. It is as strong if not stronger than other intuitions or sensory experiences i have, such as the existence of other minds, the reality of the external world etc.

This leads me to believe that P2 is true.

Others kind of said this also, but reading what you have said again, your intuition is really only that child rape is wrong. It is not that child rape is "objectively" wrong. The notion of objectivity that you are relying on here is way too abstract to reasonably claim that you have any sort of primal intuitions about it.

The existence of flaws in human cognition does very little to support the EAAN. That's one of the big problems with the EAAN in the first place. We already know of many other flaws in human cognition, so this extra one with regards to morals doesn't change the picture much. You don't need a 100% perfect cognition system to have a pretty solid general trust in your brain.

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