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A universe from nothing… BS
Posted: 21 January 2012 03:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]  
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Posted: 21 January 2012 03:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]  
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srrr - 21 January 2012 03:32 PM

ill reply more later, but first i want to say im not a female, cus i got something hanging between my legs wink

LOL! I got that one wrong too.  Sorry about that Chief!

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Posted: 21 January 2012 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]  
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srrr - 21 January 2012 11:40 AM

Interesting.  So does that mean you believe consciousness necessarily has a physical aspect, including primordial consciousness?  Wonderful!  But then you have the hard problem of matter weakly emerging.  Would you agree that matter could have weakly emerged from “fractal topological defects” in a “quantum foam”?  Great!

That entirely depends on what “physical” means. For example, the paper argues that it is all just information. Some people (i think Dennett is one of them) often say that consciousness is a vague term, that noone really knows what it refers to, and that upon closer inspection, it cant even be found at all. Well if thats true for consciousness, then it is 100 times more true for “physical”. All we really know about “the physical” is what our senses and math tell us, and upon closer inspection and analysis, it becomes ever more empty and abstract. Each physics experiment tells us that our previous knowledge of the physical was incomplete or innacurate, and there’s no telling what it will turn out to be.

Largely agreed - in a weakly emergent cosmos the paper does highlight the problems with many of our definitions or taxonomies doesn’t it?  Where matter begins is like the problem of where life begins or where primordial consciousness begins or where experience begins.  It seems to me they can all begin in something we would not recognise as matter/life/consciousness/experience, respectively, by normal definition or taxonomy.  Very much points to the idea that semantics arise with reality’s emerging patterns and order, just waiting for fallible moral agents to perceive that order, create their own taxonomies and semantics, perceive more order, adjust their taxonomies and semantics to better reflect objective reality, etc., etc.  So now we arrive at a time in history when some are willing to say philosophy and its accepted truths are not necessarily so.  Hawking even said “Philosophy is dead”.  Why did he say that?  Because our need to validate our taxonomies with good science is more important than ever before.  If we are to have a philosophy to help us make decisions about the future, then it must be a naturalistic one (uncompromised by the naturalistic fallacy).  It has to be an overtly emergent philosophy.  A philosophy that learns from science and nature’s inherent order and drive to self-organise, rather than preach to both how it is to be!  So there is no “philosophy of science” (without a feedback path).  Science is not the child of some parental philosophy - this is ridiculous.  Wisdom (philosophy) emerges from understanding and understanding from knowledge (science) with obvious feedback loops involved.  So I would suggest you submit your philosophical PC to scientific investigation and its reductionism and then allow its definition to evolve and emerge rather than allow your idea to petrify in a forgotten past.

Now its your turn ... Please quote where the paper makes such distinction between data and information.

Yeah - it’s a good quote, worthy of its own discussion, but your point here is a minor one not worth pursuing.  The important point was that information arises from order and patterns in data points of some description, or more succinctly information emerges from data.  So anywhere there is new information or order there is a new arrangement of data.  So to the extent the paper models (weak) emergence of matter or space it implies a new arrangement of data.  That’s all.  This too is a small point.  Let’s move on, because I am not challenging your rejection of your own definition of strong emergence anyway.

How did primordial consciousness (PC) arise?  Or better still, explain to me why PC didn’t arise through normal weak emergence just like everything else.  Remember - you accept the notion of weak emergence.  But if PC is the one thing that didn’t weakly emerge, then doesn’t it stand to reason that PC is the absolute example of the thing you categorically reject - strong emergence as you define it?

Remember, weak emergence is about quantitative differences. So yes, PC has quantitative differences. Examples are humans and rabbits: both conscious, but differently.

No - this doesn’t count as a valid answer.  I didn’t ask you to enumerate the various incarnations of PC to me.  I already know they extend from rocks to humans by your definition.  I want to know about the essential nature of PC.  Most importantly it seems from what you have said PC must be incarnate in the widest sense.  So PC or experience gets a little fuzzy at the same point where matter gets a little fuzzy.  Ok - this is good.  I can agree with that!

As we have seen, weak emergence is now about more than simple “quantitative differences” if it applies to something without objects, laws, space and semantics then emerging into something with matter-space-time and self-generated semantics. We would have to think very carefully about how to exactly define those “quantities” and those “differences”.  Again it seems I have shown that ‘how primordial consciousness came into existence’ is a question you cannot or will not tackle.  Like I said long ago in the other thread, it is an axiom of your “belief” (and thus subject to Gödel limitations and therefore error).  You believe in the mystical eternity of consciousness as a brute fact, like religious believers believe in an eternal god.  In this sense you are a mystic.  Not only that, but it seems you reject any attempt at a reductionism beyond primordial consciousness as a kind of heresy.  I think this is the essential problem with your philosophy.  I am willing to accept that reductionism may fail to produce a scientific understanding of e.g. what happened before the “quantum foam”.  That is, I do not hold a belief in “reductionism” - I just recognise it as something useful in the dance of life.  You say you agree there is an objective reality, but if anything in that reality challenges your belief in primordial consciousness then you seem to reject it out-of-hand.  By this means your philosophy seems to be reduced to the solipsism that Eucaryote has suggested from the beginning.

Its simple: just quote the paper where it argues in favor of strong emergence, and then you can claim the paper supports strong emergence. So far we have seen that the paper instead talks about a panexperientist information system. You coming up with this paper is like richard dawkins saying that he believes in the bible.

I’ve already agreed with you that the paper doesn’t support your idea of strong emergence!  And yes the paper does say that its ideas do include a panexperientialist character - but then it goes on to describe how semantics emerge with the emergence of matter-space-time in its self-organising system.  Knowing your utter disdain for your concept of strong emergence - or something from nothing, and only a begrudged support for weak emergence and reductionism, my reply was that this position in the paper would suggest only a passing support for panexperientialism and in fact a deep support for panprotoexperientialism.  Agree?

Ok - Panprotoexperientialism means experiencing can weakly emerge from earlier, simpler versions of experiencing to the point where we would no longer recognise it as what we would call experiencing (and beyond this point too).  Just like the human species emerged from much simpler species.  The really interesting point in this scenario is life’s abiogenesis.  Can we say for instance that non-life is life? Not in any usual taxonomy we might employ.  Why is this?  Because emergence is fractal - it happens between the cracks of any usual or classical taxonomy.  Similarly the emergence of experience or three dimensions or matter.  What does this all mean?  That we may never get to the actual point of something from nothing in the classical sense of zero becoming non-zero, but that we will probably get closer to that point with an ongoing exploration of the objective reality through science.  That’s all.  And along the way we will strike many points where under a classical but slightly faulty taxonomy we would be perhaps right to conclude a ‘something from nothing’ (such as life from non-life).  Semantics are self-generating in an emergent, self-contained and self-organising system, so meanings and taxonomies will come-and-go along with everything else.  I think this is the only form of materialist monism that is not reliant on a fallible axiom or belief…

The difference between life and non-life is exactly the same as the heap in Sorite’s paradox. You have 1000 grains of sand, and call it a “heap”. Then you take 1 grain of sand away, is it still a heap? At what point does it stop being a heap? The answer is that “heapness” is an arbitrary definition (label) that we humans assign to the grains of sand. “Heapness” is not a physical property and therefore “heap” does not have a physical starting point. Physically, any heap or nonheap is just a collection of elementary particles and fundamental forces, and those have been around since at least the big bang. The same goes for non-life and life. Physically its both just chemistry, and that in turn is just elementary particles and forces. The same goes for the “species”, which are just human classifications given to the quantitative differences between organisms.

I think Lexie has addressed this point well: Does 1+1=2 no matter what?  We don’t even disagree with what is being said here by you in its own right.  I am now asking you to apply the same logic to PC as well.  Where does PC begin?  Is there a point at which subjective PC will cease to exist with the removal of one more data point?  Or are you claiming that PC, unlike life, is above such subjective wranglings?  Is PC every bit as objective as 1+1=2?  Does PC pass Lexie’s test for objective knowledge, i.e. it truly matches reality, in a way that life cannot?

Btw, you say that experience emerges from simpler experience (you are correct so far), “until we no longer recognise it as experiencing”. You see the problem with that? It implies that the very first experience exists because we recognise it as an experience. But recognising is an experience in the first place, so where did that come from? So yes, weak emergence allows the experiences to get ever more different, simple and abstract as we go back in time towards PC. But thats it. You cannot just say “oh the experience so simple now, lets make it go away altogether”. It may be tempting (especially for people who think consciousness is some unnatural thing that doesnt belong in this physical universe) but really it is the equivelent of creationism.

Experience does get so simple that “we” can subjectively make it go away altogether.  How/Why?  Because your PC is subject to our fallible taxonomies just like everything else.  As I have already agreed, “something from nothing” & “strong emergence” are useful concepts only in a limited, classical and subjective sense but not in an absolute sense.  Under our normal taxonomies, quarks don’t have molecules, molecules don’t have rocks, rocks don’t have life and rocks don’t have consciousness either.  If you want to have your own special taxonomy that’s fine - but a worthy taxonomy needs to be supported by reality & limited science rather than dogma.  Why does the simpleness of experience stop sharply at PC and “that’s it”?  Seems more correctly from what you have said that PC/experience is coexistent with emergent space-matter-time and thus weakly emerged from something simpler just like space-matter-time did.  Otherwise you would be claiming your god (PC) was always there.  In which case, I’m not the one believing in creationism or something from nothing or strong emergence - you are LOL!

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Posted: 22 January 2012 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]  
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Michael Kean - 21 January 2012 07:07 PM

No - this doesn’t count as a valid answer.  I didn’t ask you to enumerate the various incarnations of PC to me.  I already know they extend from rocks to humans by your definition.  I want to know about the essential nature of PC.  Most importantly it seems from what you have said PC must be incarnate in the widest sense.  So PC or experience gets a little fuzzy at the same point where matter gets a little fuzzy.  Ok - this is good.  I can agree with that!

You dont want to hear about various incarnations of PC, but that is exactly what weak emergence is: quantitative differences. There is a quantatitive difference between the consciousness of rabbits and the consciousness of humans, and this is as good an example of weak emergence as can get. PC is no different.

I’ve already agreed with you that the paper doesn’t support your idea of strong emergence!  And yes the paper does say that its ideas do include a panexperientialist character - but then it goes on to describe how semantics emerge with the emergence of matter-space-time in its self-organising system.  Knowing your utter disdain for your concept of strong emergence - or something from nothing, and only a begrudged support for weak emergence and reductionism, my reply was that this position in the paper would suggest only a passing support for panexperientialism and in fact a deep support for panprotoexperientialism.  Agree?

The paper doesnt even mention panprotoexperientalism…. similarly, it never says information arises from data…


As for weak emergence, i fully support it. All of nature tells us that it happens. And it is exactly why i think PC exists. Weak emergence tells us that only quantitative differences occur. So the very existence of conscious beings implies that some quantity of C has been around since at least the big bang. I just think “emergence” is a misleading term. It confuses many people (including you) to think that something entirely new pops into existence. Why not just call it “getting more complex” or “changing over time” or “increasing/descreasing over time”. Even now that i have explained weak emergence a few times, you seem to think it can make consciousness go away. I think the verb “to emerge” is responsible for that. When you bend your knee, you dont say that your knee emerges do you? Yet that is what weak emergence is, nothing more.

 

I think Lexie has addressed this point well: Does 1+1=2 no matter what?  We don’t even disagree with what is being said here by you in its own right.  I am now asking you to apply the same logic to PC as well.  Where does PC begin?  Is there a point at which subjective PC will cease to exist with the removal of one more data point?  Or are you claiming that PC, unlike life, is above such subjective wranglings?  Is PC every bit as objective as 1+1=2?  Does PC pass Lexie’s test for objective knowledge, i.e. it truly matches reality, in a way that life cannot?

Look at what i wrote: life has no physical starting point. It only has a definitional starting point. A definitional starting point is a starting point that exists because of how a conscious being decides to define “life”. A definitional starting point is nothing more than inventing some new name for a particular physical structure, and then pretending it is something completely new, while physically it is merely a (large or small) quantative change. Thats what happened in the case of the 2 planets i mentioned (please read it again if its unclear). So, if the same is true for PC, then PC has no physical starting point. And it sure cannot have a definitional starting point, since definitions require consciousness in the first place. If you think that a definitional starting point can bring PC into existence, then you end up with the idea that the first consciousness was brought into existence by a previous consciousness.

Experience does get so simple that “we” can subjectively make it go away altogether.  How/Why?  Because your PC is subject to our fallible taxonomies just like everything else.  As I have already agreed, “something from nothing” & “strong emergence” are useful concepts only in a limited, classical and subjective sense but not in an absolute sense.  Under our normal taxonomies, quarks don’t have molecules, molecules don’t have rocks, rocks don’t have life and rocks don’t have consciousness either.  If you want to have your own special taxonomy that’s fine - but a worthy taxonomy needs to be supported by reality & limited science rather than dogma.  Why does the simpleness of experience stop sharply at PC and “that’s it”?  Seems more correctly from what you have said that PC/experience is coexistent with emergent space-matter-time and thus weakly emerged from something simpler just like space-matter-time did.  Otherwise you would be claiming your god (PC) was always there.  In which case, I’m not the one believing in creationism or something from nothing or strong emergence - you are LOL!

PC cannot have started because of some taxonomy, because a taxonomy is a conscious activity in the first place.


The idea of “PC having always been there”, is no different from “the physical having always been there”, or “panprotostuff having always been there”.

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Posted: 22 January 2012 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]  
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Lexie_99 - 21 January 2012 02:31 PM

See, I think that’s a perfect example of intersubjectivity. We come up with definitions that we agree upon as a group (of peers, people who share a language, citizens, and whatnot). What constitutes a “house”? Does a collection of hastily nailed together boards in the shape of a box qualify? What if it has two rooms? When does it reach a state of “house-ness”?


I think the question on the table is, do we resign ourselves to saying that everything must ultimately be subjective?  Does 1+1=2 no matter what? Or is this just another subjective fact that isn’t really “true” if looked at another way? To that end, I think the definition of “objective knowledge” in this thread means knowledge that truly matches reality (if you believe this is possible).

Thats where physics and science comes into play. It tells us that the world consists of elementary particles and fundamental forces. It tells us that every physical object is made of those ingredients.


So we ordinary humans may invent all kind of arbitrary definitions, such as heap/nonheap and life/nonlife, and we do so because its useful to communicate with eachother that way. But physics doesnt care about all those arbitrary definitions (i call them higher level descriptions), because it tells us that both the heap and nonheap, and both life and nonlife, are just collections of particles and forces. Those particles and forces are the objective foundation of “the physical”. It means that the difference between any two physical objects is therefore always a quantitative difference (a difference in those ingredients). What other difference would there be, if not a physical one?


A good way to get rid of all the higher level descriptions (arbitrary definitions), is to imagine a time 4,5 billion years ago when no conscious beings and no life existed (im putting myself in the shoes of a physicalist here). The universe at that time consists of large collections of particles and forces, forming all kinds of different configurations (planets, stars, rocks, water, etc). There is no taxonomy, no definitions, no higher level descriptions, because no conscious being exists. Now lets say life “starts” a few years later, what does that entail? It simply means some of those configurations of particles and forces have changed. It is no different from a rock that erodes because raindrops hit it, because that too is just a change in the configuration of particles and forces of the rock. Do we say the rock “started” when the raindrop hit it?


Now what Michael suggests is that life (and later consciousness) started because of some classification. You can probably see the problem with that: where the hell did the classification come from? Werent we just in a universe that consists purely of particles and forces? Who is classifying anything in there?


The classifying only starts billions of years later, when humans evolve and start using language. Only then do we invent all kinds of arbitrary definitions, and we end up with misconceptions like that the universe is divided into two different domains “life” and “nonlife”, and that life must have “started”. But as we have seen, physically speaking, life and nonlife are both just collections of particles. Instead of seeing them as two entirely different phenomena, physics tells us they are just quantitative differences in the ingredients, ranging from simple configurations (water, rocks) to more complex ones (life).

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Posted: 22 January 2012 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]  
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srrr - 22 January 2012 06:35 AM

The idea of “PC having always been there”, is no different from “the physical having always been there”, or “panprotostuff having always been there”.

So starting with the last thing you said first, I now understand clearly that you think PC has always been there.  Wow! Something from nothing!  BTW I never said or even semantically suggested that the physical or panprotostuff has always been there.  The concept of anything always being there is totally contrary to the idea and philosophy of an emergent universe.

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Posted: 22 January 2012 04:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]  
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srrr - 22 January 2012 06:35 AM

As for weak emergence, i fully support it. All of nature tells us that it happens. And it is exactly why i think PC exists. Weak emergence tells us that only quantitative differences occur.

If you fully supported weak emergence then you would agree that PC also weakly emerged.  So you don’t fully support weak emergence.  This is the contradiction in all your thinking.  You ridicule reductionism but also accept it.  You ridicule science but speak as though today’s fundamental particles are irreducible and that PC was always there: This is something science would never do.  You reject mysticism but mystically stand on the rock of your PC.

So the very existence of conscious beings implies that some quantity of C has been around since at least the big bang.

No it does not - it just implies that some quantity of fundamental particles has been around since the emergence of space-matter-time.  Fundamental particles are not consciousness just like bricks are not a house.  It is in the arrangement of fundamental particles that consciousness arises, just as the arrangement of bricks can form a house.  This is a forming process rather than a creative process - so nothing new is involved.

I just think “emergence” is a misleading term. It confuses many people (including you) to think that something entirely new pops into existence. Why not just call it “getting more complex” or “changing over time” or “increasing/descreasing over time”.

  You couldn’t be more wrong here - emergence implies more from something through arrangement - not something from nothing.  It was your idea of strong emergence that misled you.  Remember I always insisted on a non-magical version of strong emergence which I conceded is nothing more than weak emergence in your terms.  So I’m happy to call emergence “getting more complex (and orderly)” or “changing over time (towards greater order)” or “increasing/descreasing over time (but increasing in order)”, as you suggest.

Look at what i wrote: life has no physical starting point. It only has a definitional starting point. A definitional starting point is a starting point that exists because of how a conscious being decides to define “life”. A definitional starting point is nothing more than inventing some new name for a particular physical structure, and then pretending it is something completely new, while physically it is merely a (large or small) quantative change.

Yes life has a fuzzy, fractal beginning, just like everything else.  And in terms of fundamental particles it is not new.  And yes there are inaccuracies and a certain arbitrariness in our taxonomies.  As you suggest, which added brick is it that finally makes a house?  But this slighly arbitrary starting point of a house in no way suggests that the pile of brick still in the wheel barrow are also a house of some description; they’re not: They’re a different arrangement of fundamental particles.  Likewise a pile of rocks are not life or consciousness of any description.


I’ll get to the rest later…

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Posted: 22 January 2012 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]  
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srrr - 22 January 2012 06:35 AM

And it sure cannot have a definitional starting point, since definitions require consciousness in the first place. If you think that a definitional starting point can bring PC into existence, then you end up with the idea that the first consciousness was brought into existence by a previous consciousness.

I haven’t tackled this confusion for a while, so I will try to do so now.  Everything we share in language is subject to fallible taxonomies and definitions, including “C” or “PC” or “truth” or “values” or “fundamental particles”.  The medium of exchange of ideas has nothing to do with the objects or circumstances those ideas imperfectly represent.  And these partly faulty definitions & knowledge can come a long time after objective reality happens.  Your error is like saying the tree didn’t fall in the forest just because we have no knowledge of it or we don’t as yet have the concepts of tree or forest or falling. If consciousness determines reality in your mind then you have slipped back into solipsism.  PC is an arrangement of fundamental particles just like everything else.  And it is subject ot weak emergence just like those “fundamental” particles (represented in your diagrams) that aren’t fundamental anyway.

PC cannot have started because of some taxonomy, because a taxonomy is a conscious activity in the first place.


True that PC cannot have started because of some taxonomy later applied - this would again confuse language’s concepts of reality with reality itself.  But it is not true that PC cannot have started because “a taxonomy is a conscious activity”.  This is irrelevant.  What consciousness does today in creating faulty taxonomies has nothing to do with the starting or initiating of PC.  Unless we’re talking about anti-matter, causality runs forward in time in our expanding universe, not backwards or both ways.  So PC causes taxonomies but it is not true to say that taxonomies cause PC.

[ Edited: 22 January 2012 06:14 PM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 22 January 2012 06:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]  
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[ Edited: 22 January 2012 09:25 PM by rammaq]
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Posted: 22 January 2012 06:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]  
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[ Edited: 31 January 2012 06:05 PM by ...]
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Posted: 22 January 2012 07:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]  
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Michael Kean - 22 January 2012 04:22 PM

Fundamental particles are not consciousness just like bricks are not a house.

A house is nothing over and above the bricks it consists of. The house is the bricks. There aren’t bricks AND a house. Everything the house is has been around as long as the bricks have been around. Of course, you may not have called them ‘house’ before they were arranged in a way that fits your definition of ‘house’, just as you may not have called some dozens of bees a ‘swarm’ before they were close enough together to fit your definition of ‘swarm’, but this is merely a matter of your arbitrarily classifying reality. The bricks are merely bricks and the bees are merely bees, regardless of their configuration. There are no ‘house’ or ‘swarm’ entities on top of that.

It is in the arrangement of fundamental particles that consciousness arises, just as the arrangement of bricks can form a house.

There is nothing arising in any arrangement. Bricks remain bricks, regardless of how you arrange them or how you call their configuration.

This is a forming process rather than a creative process - so nothing new is involved.

If nothing new is involved, then nothing new will emerge. It’s quite logical and simple. You apparently want to have the best of both worlds, i. e. no magic and yet an emergent consciousness, but this doesn’t work. You cannot get something out of a base that is entirely devoid of it. Just as you cannot build something from nothing, you cannot build consciousness from ingredients in which it is entirely non-existent.

[ Edited: 22 January 2012 09:32 PM by rammaq]
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Posted: 22 January 2012 07:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]  
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I know this post was to Lexie, but I am mentioned so I feel I have a right to respond.  Apologies to Lexie…

srrr - 22 January 2012 07:15 AM

Thats where physics and science comes into play. It tells us that the world consists of elementary particles and fundamental forces. It tells us that every physical object is made of those ingredients.

More correctly, this is how some in science modelled reality in the past, but the ground is very quickly shifting, as it has always done (and as Reg Cahill’s paper demonstrates).  Not so long ago nothing was more fundamental than the atom.  Then the atom was split using a theory that suggested this was possible.  Then neutrons were further split, etc., etc.  So far scientific knowledge of “fundamental particles” has advanced in steps akin to peeling back the layers of an onion.  We have no way of knowing whether this process will continue indefinitely or whether the menagerie of 248 fundamental particles in the Extremely Simple Theory of Everything will be it.  My guess is that this won’t be it - but the next step after our first successful Theory of Everything will be a doozie!

So we ordinary humans may invent all kind of arbitrary definitions, such as heap/nonheap and life/nonlife, and we do so because its useful to communicate with eachother that way. But physics doesnt care about all those arbitrary definitions (i call them higher level descriptions), because it tells us that both the heap and nonheap, and both life and nonlife, are just collections of particles and forces. Those particles and forces are the objective foundation of “the physical”. It means that the difference between any two physical objects is therefore always a quantitative difference (a difference in those ingredients). What other difference would there be, if not a physical one?

Sorry - this is inaccurate.  Particle physics at best only tentatively suggests that the current set of fundamental particles (which include “forces” BTW) are “foundational”.  They are subject to testing and falsification just like everything else.  This is how science works.  Nothing in physics is foundational in the sense I think you mean it here and in the sense you might subjectively apply it to PC.  And many areas of science, such as biology, are based on those arbitrary definitions, such as a definition of life.  This is well acknowledged but unfortunately unavoidable for fallible agents such as ourselves.  Finally, as we advance in our knowledge of the fundamental constituents of our universe we get closer and closer to concepts quite alien to us.  Will we even think in terms of fundamental particles in 1,000 years time?  Who knows?  So your use of the word “physical” in your last sentence is ill-advised.  A physicality that incorporates all the non-physical “forces” is already tricky enough.  But I agree perceived differences will always be around.  How we will characterise the most basic “differences” would be anybody’s guess.  Will we all casually characterise matter as simple “topological defects embedded in the quantum foam” and space as those defects that are not “topologically preserved”?  Doesn’t sound, in the ordinary sense, solidly “physicalist” to me.

A good way to get rid of all the higher level descriptions (arbitrary definitions), is to imagine a time 4,5 billion years ago when no conscious beings and no life existed (im putting myself in the shoes of a physicalist here). The universe at that time consists of large collections of particles and forces, forming all kinds of different configurations (planets, stars, rocks, water, etc). There is no taxonomy, no definitions, no higher level descriptions, because no conscious being exists. Now lets say life “starts” a few years later, what does that entail? It simply means some of those configurations of particles and forces have changed. It is no different from a rock that erodes because raindrops hit it, because that too is just a change in the configuration of particles and forces of the rock. Do we say the rock “started” when the raindrop hit it?

Agreed that everything is made up of arrangements of the fundamental constituents of the universe (that we can’t properly conceptualise as yet).  So what we normally and really conceptualise is the arrangements, not the fundamental constituents themselves.  Nothing wrong with doing that!

Now what Michael suggests is that life (and later consciousness) started because of some classification. You can probably see the problem with that: where the hell did the classification come from? Werent we just in a universe that consists purely of particles and forces? Who is classifying anything in there?

Again this is really silly.  Michael didn’t and wouldn’t suggest that anything begins with its classification.  That would be pure solipsism.  It is you who seems to mistakenly insist that PC must be fundamental because we can now classify it.  Or would you like to retract this notion now?

The classifying only starts billions of years later, when humans evolve and start using language. Only then do we invent all kinds of arbitrary definitions, and we end up with misconceptions like that the universe is divided into two different domains “life” and “nonlife”, and that life must have “started”. But as we have seen, physically speaking, life and nonlife are both just collections of particles. Instead of seeing them as two entirely different phenomena, physics tells us they are just quantitative differences in the ingredients, ranging from simple configurations (water, rocks) to more complex ones (life).

Life and non-life are two different arrangements of fundamental constituents that have a fuzzy and fractal border between them, just like the border between the USA & Canada - or just like the borders between all other pairs of things and their fallible concepts.  When we split the holistic, self-organising and self-contained universe into bits and pieces we always end up with incomplete reality and concepts - this was the great insight gained from Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems!

[ Edited: 22 January 2012 08:00 PM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 22 January 2012 07:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]  
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[ Edited: 22 January 2012 09:22 PM by rammaq]
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Posted: 22 January 2012 09:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]  
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Michael Kean - 22 January 2012 07:54 PM

Life and non-life are two different arrangements of fundamental constituents that have a fuzzy and fractal border between them, just like the border between the USA & Canada - or just like the borders between all other pairs of things and their fallible concepts.

‘Arrangement’ is merely a shorthand term for what we find at a given region in space. It is not an entity on its own.

Let’s look at this picture:
http://img217.imageshack.us/img217/2301/patt.png
What we have there are two fundamental particles at a given region of space. 

Now you can either subsume all that the picture shows under the label ‘arrangement XY’, or you can describe it in terms of the particles and the space. Regardless of which option you choose, both the term ‘arrangement XY’ and the low-level description will refer to the same things, namely to the particles and the space.

So if you talk about the arrangement, you only talk about the particles and the space, not about something in addition to them. The arrangement simply IS this:
http://img217.imageshack.us/img217/2301/patt.png

As for the border between two arrangements:

It doesn’t exist.

There is no physical boundary or ‘area’ that specifies what belongs to an arrangement and what doesn’t. These boundaries are arbitrarily set by humans. For example, there is no rule or law that tells us that the blade of grass next to your house does not belong to your house anymore, or that China doesn’t belong to Europe anymore. There isn’t even a physical justification for saying that the air around our bodies doesn’t belong to our bodies anymore (when does the air you breath, or the water you drink, stop to be an external thing and begin to belong to you?).

It surely seems to us, when we look at the world, that there are configurations which are sharply distinct from each other, but if we zoom in a bit more (on the subatomic level), then we cannot identify a boundary between these configurations anymore.

[ Edited: 22 January 2012 09:14 PM by rammaq]
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Posted: 22 January 2012 09:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]  
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rammaq - 22 January 2012 09:00 PM
Michael Kean - 22 January 2012 07:54 PM

Life and non-life are two different arrangements of fundamental constituents that have a fuzzy and fractal border between them, just like the border between the USA & Canada - or just like the borders between all other pairs of things and their fallible concepts.

‘Arrangement’ is merely a shorthand term for what we find at a given region in space. It is not an entity on its own.

Let’s look at this picture:
http://img217.imageshack.us/img217/2301/patt.png
What we have there are two fundamental particles at a given region of space. 

Now you can either subsume all that the picture shows under the label ‘arrangement XY’, or you can describe it in terms of the particles and the space. Regardless of which option you choose, both the term ‘arrangement XY’ and the low-level description will refer to the same things, namely to the particles and the space.

So if you talk about the arrangement, you only talk about the particles and the space, not about something in addition to them. The arrangement simply IS this:
http://img217.imageshack.us/img217/2301/patt.png

As for the border between two arrangements:

It doesn’t exist.

There is no physical boundary or ‘area’ that specifies what belongs to an arrangement and what doesn’t. These boundaries are arbitrarily set by humans. For example, there is no rule or law that tells us that the blade of grass next to your house does not belong to your house anymore, or that China doesn’t belong to Europe anymore. There isn’t even a physical justification for saying that the air around our bodies doesn’t belong to our bodies anymore (when does the air you breath, or the water you drink, stop to be an external thing and begin to belong to you?).

It surely seems to us, when we look at the world, that there are configurations which are sharply distinct from each other, but if we zoom in a bit more (on the subatomic level), then we cannot identify a boundary between these configurations anymore.

Exactly right, you take the words right out of my mouth. Heres an image i once made to explain it:


http://i40.tinypic.com/111q8zq.jpg


Situation A and B are both different configurations. Yet the only difference between the two situations is a quantitative difference (in the spacetime between the orbs). The same goes for any other physical configuration.

[ Edited: 22 January 2012 09:49 PM by srrr]
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