My allegory of the ant
Posted: 20 March 2007 03:36 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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I attempted this exercise yesterday and got absolutely blasted by a member, which I believe allowed people to not see my post. 

I am looking for strong critique here, not personal attacks.  If I am wrong, show me.  I also realize that this could be written a lot clearer, so any suggestions would be appreciated as well.  I can take the heat.

In my world, I have always attempted to assimilate all of my knowledge on subjects into one large behemoth group of knowledge. The only way to do something like that is to reduce my own beliefs down to their core principles. As I find inconsistencies, I have to reevaluate my beliefs, and rethink things through. SO I have been extremely drawn to the theory of relativity. Part of evaluating what we accept deals with taking it to extremes and seing if the theory still holds water. I have attempted to use relativity in the philosophical sense. I know it may sound crazy to some, but it is not the point. The point is, logically it works, or at least to me. Obviously, I have to take a few logical liberties to get to where I go, but please don't confuse me for a details person. In order to make this readable, I'll make jumps in the theory as needed. Please just judge the overall consideration. I have thought about this a great deal though, so I'd be happy to answer any question besides "Have you lost your mind?

I have always loved my own personal theory concerning aliens and relativity. I have always used it to demonstrate to people struggling with what they believe to show that in reality, we will never be quite sure about the existence of god, distant universes, etc.

If you think of an ant crawling on the floor, you may think about two things. How small that ant really is, and how fragile. But to that ant, he is anything but. He knows only that he can lift hundreds of times its weight, and it can hold its own with any of its known adversaries, except those that prey on ants. The ant is therefore limited in its reality to the perceptions it incurs. To an ant, he is large and capable of anything he needs to do. His reality is relative to his position in the grand scheme of things. It would not be a large jump to poster that ants could hypothetically consider humans as "natural disasters", or even gods. Everything is relative. Before you dismiss this idea, consider the movie ANTS itself, or any other cartoon involving very small animals. It would also be logical to assume that ants in North America have no idea that there exists millions of types of ants he has never seen before. No opportunity for any type of enlightenment in nature itself.

If you take that a step further, and perform the same type of analysis on something as small as a germ, you could do the same thing. So small it can't appeciate or even begin to comprehend the size of the millions of things around it, yet fully able to function within it's own percieved reality based on its relative place in existence. Think about it like this: If you took a germ and placed it in a petri dish that was sufficiently large enough to encompass the distance a germ could move within its life cycle, to a human, this glass is relatively small compared to the buildings we inhabit everyday, but to the germ, it is a new universe. To humans, the glass seems silky smooth. To the germ, it is a rather bumpy terrain. We are limited in our understanding of our reality by our relative relationships.

For this board, I'll just cut to the chase:

Using what we know about science, about reality, about time, and about relativity, is it not actually possible that the Earth and our universe is nothing more than a microscopic particle in an "alien" microscope? Could our entire existence be explained as a part of a much larger picture we can't wrap our minds around? Could it not be very possible that relatively, we are so small that we have created our own reality and therefore are limiting our own thought about the subjects? Our entire universe, just using standard scientific principles, could really be just a very tiny portion of the molecular makeup of of something so large we lack the ability to comprehend? Just like an ant or germ? Is it not possible that our universe relatively is just the molecular make up of a paperweight on another unknown species desk? If so, what does that say about us and what we believe in?

I hope this isn't summarily dismissed. I promise it all fits back in with the original conversation, it just is perhaps something many many people have never thought about seriously before. I would love to hear responses.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 04:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I have considered the same thing, only I extended it further to be a case of infinite regression. Our universe could be only an atom or molecule in the matter of another universe the is only an atom or molecule in another universe ad infinitum…

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“We have it recorded in a book called the Bible.”

To be blunt, the Bible records all manner of silly shit.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“dlsmith”]I have considered the same thing, only I extended it further to be a case of infinite regression. Our universe could be only an atom or molecule in the matter of another universe the is only an atom or molecule in another universe ad infinitum…

Same theory exactly.  I agree that it is infintisimal in its scope.  Both ways.  Our next sneeze or step may end the universe as someone knows it.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Using what we know about science, about reality, about time, and about relativity, is it not actually possible that the Earth and our universe is nothing more than a microscopic particle in an “alien” microscope? Could our entire existence be explained as a part of a much larger picture we can’t wrap our minds around? Could it not be very possible that relatively, we are so small that we have created our own reality and therefore are limiting our own thought about the subjects?

Some massive, intergalactic, God-like organism that thinks indepently and creates it own reality? Some sort of “God”? Wouldn’t that make our purpose to fulfill this one beings desire, regardless of what we think we are doing?

Maybe that’s why working independetly of God’s plan (being gay) doesn’t do any harm, yet it doesn’t make any progress either (arguing about being gay/gay marriage/no reproduction).

No, you’re crazy. No one ever thinks that.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 12:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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In the 80’s, I worked for a company in Portland, OR, (Aptec), who marketed a device that provided a high-speed channel into and out of a VAX.  It was used primarily as a data-collection device, but it could also be used to string together a number of array processors for use in image or signal processing.

A network of the damn beasts now could probably give my dual-core a run for it’s money.  Anyhow, I was introduced to fractals, which then required a lot of processing power to do real-time, and was rather fascinated by the constantly repeating patterns in the various sets.

Absolutely the universe could be a fractal of some larger something-or-other, and I think most people who do have contemplated this possibility.

Sure does deflate the old ego, doesn’t it?  Just think, if the known universe was composed of some specs on a charm quark in a neutron in a hydrogen atom in a water molecule in a membrane of a cell in a pimple on the butt of a homeless beggar on the planet skronk.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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okay—this one’s definitely too deep for me.  Back in my inhaling days, I might have had a crack at it… but alas, I have grown old… and shallow, I suppose.  It’s still fun to read, and watch the replies from people whose minds are still somewhat limber, and not as dry and cracked as mine has become.  I just wanted to say that the last paragraph of hampsteadpete’s above reply reminded me of the song “Rattlin’ Bog”—do you know it?  ...the bird in the nest and the nest on the twig and the twig on the branch and the branch on the tree and the tree in the bog and the bog down in the valley-o….  it kind of has the same kind of rhythm. 
    So… do our perceptions limit our reality?  do they limit objective reality?  can we wrap our mind around the biggest of questions?  will the pursuit of knowledge, of science, of truth, answer these questions for us?  Will we learn by instinct and intuition?  dreams and revelations?  Hope you have some interesting responses to your query, my friend.  What interested me the most about the beginning of your thread was that you were “blasted” by a member of the forum for bringing it up in another post.  Salt Creek, I’m guessing?  He attacks people alot.  That’s his style.  Don’t feel singled out—he is an equal opportunity blaster.  No one is safe.  He may have a mighty intellect and an advanced degree in physics or somesuch, but I don’t think he ever graduated from charm school…. don’t let his vitriolic spew discourage you from participating in these conversations.  We all have a voice here, and the freedom to be as angry or as passionate or as mellow as we want to be.

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Posted: 21 March 2007 03:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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“My allegory of the ant”...

In this case it is not an allegory ...but an analogy 8)

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Posted: 21 March 2007 03:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“Hippasus”]“My allegory of the ant”...

In this case it is not an allegory ...but an analogy 8)

It is truly both.  I think it has much deeper implications that some people have a hard time understanding.  It would be most interesting to determine why people react the way they do.  I think of the reactions based on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.  If people haven’t read that before, they REALLY should.

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Posted: 21 March 2007 04:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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MD,

I strongly recommend incorporating relativity into one’s personal philosophy. I also recommend sticking to the essential point and not to worry about the mind-bending stuff. Go ahead and sneeze!
The theory of relativity provides us with some really useful news that anyone can use. While reality is consistent and measurable, the experience of reality changes from different perspectives. All possible perspectives are unique and equally authoritative. That can inspire people to consider what reality might look like from the perspective of an ant or a galaxy or even each other.

Only some sort of omniscient God-like being would be immune to the effect. It is an attractive notion that there is someone somewhere that can be truly objective about everything. A being who is absolutely qualified to judge everything and who has the authority to revise and correct reality as necessary. The question is, does the universe really need one, or do we just need the reassurance of its existence? Or, does this question answer itself? Depends on your perspective.

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Posted: 21 March 2007 05:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“Nhoj Morley”]MD,

I strongly recommend incorporating relativity into one’s personal philosophy. I also recommend sticking to the essential point and not to worry about the mind-bending stuff. Go ahead and sneeze!
The theory of relativity provides us with some really useful news that anyone can use. While reality is consistent and measurable, the experience of reality changes from different perspectives. All possible perspectives are unique and equally authoritative. That can inspire people to consider what reality might look like from the perspective of an ant or a galaxy or even each other.

Only some sort of omniscient God-like being would be immune to the effect. It is an attractive notion that there is someone somewhere that can be truly objective about everything. A being who is absolutely qualified to judge everything and who has the authority to revise and correct reality as necessary. The question is, does the universe really need one, or do we just need the reassurance of its existence? Or, does this question answer itself? Depends on your perspective.

Ahhhh.  Yes grasshopper.  The force is strong with this one.  :idea:

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Posted: 21 March 2007 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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“Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not” - Protagoras

If you look for relativity in philosophy visit the Sophists, you will feel at home if you are a relativist.

Another sample of relativity from the pre-Socratics is that of Xenophanes

“The Ethiops say that their gods are flat-nosed and black,
While the Thracians say that theirs have blue eyes and red hair.
Yet if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw,
And could sculpture like men, then the horses would draw their gods
Like horses, and cattle like cattle; and each they would shape
Bodies of gods in the likeness, each kind, of their own.”- Xenophanes


Your argument reminds me of what Jonathan Swift wrote back in the 17th century , mocking the idea of self-similarity in natural philosophy.

“So nat’ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller fleas that bite ‘em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.”

[ Edited: 21 March 2007 08:11 AM by ]
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Posted: 21 March 2007 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“Hippasus”]“Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not” - Protagoras

If you look for relativity in philosophy visit the Sophists, you will feel at home if you are a relativist.

Another sample of relativity from the pre-Socratics is that of Xenophanes

“The Ethiops say that their gods are flat-nosed and black,
While the Thracians say that theirs have blue eyes and red hair.
Yet if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw,
And could sculpture like men, then the horses would draw their gods
Like horses, and cattle like cattle; and each they would shape
Bodies of gods in the likeness, each kind, of their own.”- Xenophanes

Damn it!  I’m tired of these old ass people stealing my ideas.  Give me some time.  I will come up with something original.  First that Salyers woman and now this.  I’m really starting to think that every thought I have I have read at some point in my life.  Maybe I should just write a couple essays and let everyone on here find where someone else has came up with my theory.  If I wasn’t smart enough to realize that there are no new thoughts, I would think I was crazy.

Seriously though, I didn’t know relativity had been used in philosophy before.  Obviously it makes sense to me though.

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Posted: 21 March 2007 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Relativism is a branch of philosophy starting from the pre-Socratics (mostly from the Sophists)

—-> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativism

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Posted: 21 March 2007 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“Hippasus”]Relativism is a branch of philosophy starting from the pre-Socratics (mostly from the Sophists)

—-> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativism

Well I like it.  Can I get it in red?

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Posted: 21 March 2007 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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I think Tom Hulce and Donald Sutherland pretty much put this argument in perspective during their scene in the movie Animal House…

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Posted: 21 March 2007 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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MDBeach…

I tend to enjoy this kind of perspective shifting philosophy for the enjoyment and mental exercise it provides. To me it’s kinda like running on a treadmill – it may improve your fitness level, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

I think your analogy suffers from some problems (as do many arguments from analogy). And I’d like to throw these out there in case I’m misunderstanding you or on the off chance that they may help you refine your analogy.

I was originally confused by your use of the term ‘relativity.’ For me, ‘relativity’ is closely intertwined with the concepts of gravitation, time and the speed of light. So, on my initial reading, I kept waiting for Einstein’s principles to come into play! But, if I understand you correctly now, you simply mean to be talking about relative points of view. So that was probably my bad.

Your analogy attributes to ants and germs a type rationality that I’m reasonably certain they don’t possess. This notion suggests that there is a continuum of rational capacity from bacteria to ants to monkeys on up to us and, possibly, beyond. However, I don’t think that’s how it really works. Our rational abilities are directly linked to different parts of our brain - many (most?) of which an ant does not have. So it’s not that we just understand things about our world better than an ant. An ant simply is not capable of that sort of thinking. Essentially my point is this: we can conceptualize being “a microscopic particle in an alien microscope” whereas ants can’t conceptualize us at all. It’s not a difference of degree, it’s a difference of ability.

Another issue with your analogy is that ants exist in the same world in which we live and are subject to the same laws of physics. If we are truly “a microscopic particle in an alien microscope,” then that alien world would necessarily have different laws of physics and physical properties. (I’m not a physicist, so, as always, correct me if I’m wrong!)

I vaguely recall a popular question (and maybe someone else can help me out here, too) going something like this: If everything in the universe were to instantly double in size, would there be anyway to know it?

At first blush, the answer would seem to be “No.” But, if I recall correctly, the laws of physics would become completely out of whack if such a doubling were to occur. The universe as we know it is intimately tied to properties like the size of atoms, the strength of the various forces, etc. This would seem to eliminate the possibility of an alien microsope large enough to hold our universe.

This was a long way to go just to say that I think your analogy breaks down when you compare ants in the ant world to us and then us in our world with aliens in a “meta-verse.” But it sure is fun to think about.

Ken

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