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Letter to an Atheist by Michael Patrick Leahy
Posted: 04 May 2007 05:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 646 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]
[quote author=“waltercat”]
Burt,
Please explain the nature of the error that one would be making if he believed that Logic “applied to the world.”  In so doing, please explain what it would mean for logic to “apply to the world.”

If one was a dyed in the wool Aristotelian, one would assume that natural kinds with essences existed in the world and obeyed the catagorical conditions of Aristotelian logic.  To qualify, however, logic does apply approximately in that it allows us to talk about the world using a language with stable identities.

We must distinguish two different claims:

(1) The laws of logic are universally valid. (they must apply in all realms of discourse).

(2) Our concepts mirror nature in the sense that our concepts are accurate and sufficient for classifying all natural phenomena.

Statement (1) is true, but statement (2) is false.  (2) is Aristotelianism.

There is nothing within the realm of logic that ensures that our concepts will be accurate to the task of describing reality.  But that doesn’t mean that the rules of logic are not universal and applicable in all areas of discourse.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 04 May 2007 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 647 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]There is nothing within the realm of logic that ensures that our concepts will be accurate to the task of describing reality.  But that doesn’t mean that the rules of logic are not universal and applicable in all areas of discourse.

It is also true that there is nothing in the realm of philosophy that ensures that it will be adequate to the task of discoursing on discourse. That never stopped anyone, as the postmodernists demonstrated decades ago.

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Posted: 04 May 2007 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 648 ]  
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Burt,
Maybe we should start a new thread on this topic.

Here are just a few preliminary comments:

The law of excluded middle is as follows:

For any statement, S, Either S or ~S.  (I’m using ~ to represent the negation function).

Or, to put it in terms of properties:

For any object, o, and any property P, either Po or ~Po.

In essence, this law tells us that either a statement or its negation must be true (or, either an object has the property or it lacks that property).

Here is my point: Either the law of excluded middle is a good law (it is a true law of logic) or else it is not.  If there is a realm where it does not apply, then it is NOT a law of logic.  Some philosophers think that it is false.  Of course, there is a great deal of uncertainty.  But if it is false, then it is false and it is not a law of logic.


However, I don’t think that Schrodinger’s cat, or the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics more generally, can unambiguously show that the law of excluded middle (LOEM) is false.

Shrodinger’s Cat:

What we want to say is that either the cat is dead or she is alive.  However, because the wave-function has not collapsed until an observation is made, we are told (by some interpreters) that the cat is neither dead nor alive.

I am very skeptical of this interpretation. But I am the furthest thing from an expert.  So, let’s grant that it is correct.  Does it show that the LOEM is false?  I don’t think so.

Note that ‘is alive’ and ‘is dead’ are NOT logical opposites.  The law of excluded middles applies only to logical opposites.

Let A= The cat is alive
D= The cat is dead.

The LOEM does NOT tell us that either A or D. 
What LOEM tells us is, Either A or ~A.  And also, Either D or ~D.

Why does LOEM not tell us that either A or D?  Because ‘is alive’ and ‘is dead’ are NOT logical opposites.  Since they are not, we cannot get from ‘X is not alive’ to ‘X is dead’.  In other words, the following principle does NOT hold in general:

Principle AD: If X is not alive, then X is dead.

Principle AD is NOT true.  There are many things that are not alive but are not dead.  Rocks, for example, are not alive, but nor are they dead.  The sun is not alive, but it is not dead.  And so on . . . 

So, we know that ‘is alive’ and ‘is dead’ are not logical opposites, and thus we know that Principle AD is NOT true.

For the same reasons, we can’t get from ‘X is not dead’ to ‘X is alive.’ Thus the following principle is also false:

Principle DA: IF X is not dead, then X is alive.

Rocks are not dead, but nor are they alive, and so on.

Now, the following principle IS true:

Principle DL:  If X is dead, then X is not alive.

AS is:

Principle LD:  If X is alive, then X is not dead.

Remember, the LOEM tells us that both of the following are true:

Either A or ~A.

Either D or ~D.

Because DL and LD are true, it cannot be that A is true and D is true.  So one or the other must be false. 

The Schrodinger experiment tells us (allegedly) that the cat is neither dead not alive.  So, if this is correct, we know that both A and D are false.  Thus, in order to fulfill LOEM, the only option left for us is for both ~A and ~D to be true.  Can this be the case?

Well, logically speaking, because DA is false, we certainly can have ~D and ~A (my point here is that nothing about LOGIC rules this possibility out).

Now I think that this might suggest to us that there might be states somewhere in between life and death.  Perhaps such states are rare and only occur in such bizarre circumstances as those in the experiment.  But there is nothing that rules out the possibility of such states (certainly nothing logical rules out the possibility).

Suppose the cat were in such a state between life and death.  Would the cat be alive?  No, that is the thing about this state (if it exists); an animal in such a state is not really alive, but nor is it dead.  Is the cat dead?  Here again the answer must be, NO.  The cat, on this theory, is in some kind of limbo (quasi-life, quasi death), in which it is neither alive but nor is it dead.

Thus, if any of this makes sense, then both ‘A or ~A’ and ‘D or ~D’ are true.  The cat is not alive AND the cat is not dead.  (in other words ~A is true AND ~D is true)

Conclusion:  The fact that Shrodinger’s cat is neither alive nor dead (if it is a fact) does not prove LOEM false.  The cat can be neither alive nor dead.  Since this is a possibility that is not ruled out by anything in quantum mechanics (at least as far as I know), we should conclude that Schrodinger’s cat does NOT disprove the Law of Excluded Middle.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 04 May 2007 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 649 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]The cat can be neither alive nor dead.  Since this is a possibility that is not ruled out by anything in quantum mechanics (at least as far as I know)

...do you really distrust your experience that much? Just because Roland Omnes has written a book? Sheesh.

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Posted: 04 May 2007 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 650 ]  
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I think this is applicable to the conversation, but I am not qualified as of yet to proffer an opinion.

What is the difference between quantum and neuro consciousness?

http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/

Does anyone know if this is Sam’s current endeavour?  This is one time I really wish Sam Harris participated in his own forum.

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Posted: 04 May 2007 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 651 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”][quote author=“waltercat”]The cat can be neither alive nor dead.  Since this is a possibility that is not ruled out by anything in quantum mechanics (at least as far as I know)

...do you really distrust your experience that much? Just because Roland Omnes has written a book? Sheesh.

As I said, I am VERY SKEPTICAL of this interpretation of the thought experiment. I was merely showing that, even granting this interpretation, the Law of Excluded Middle may still hold.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 04 May 2007 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 652 ]  
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Waltercat, the thing that strikes me is that perhaps logic is just an imperfect tool and, like all tools, is not able to operate satisfactorily in every task imaginable.

The contention ‘I always lie’ seems (to an undereducated amateur like me, at least) to be anathema to logic, yet it still exists, even if merely as words. To my mind, the cat in the box argument shows that the problem lies with the processes of logic not with the processes of life and death inside boxes.

(Im submitting this with the dual caveats that 1) I’m hardly an expert on logic and 2) this isn’t an excuse for Christians to go ‘Aha! Told yer logic was useless! Neener neener etc etc’)

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All Christians should be sent to heaven immediately.

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Posted: 04 May 2007 06:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 653 ]  
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[quote author=“Occam’s Razor”]
(Im submitting this with the dual caveats that 1) I’m hardly an expert on logic and 2) this isn’t an excuse for Christians to go ‘Aha! Told yer logic was useless! Neener neener etc etc’)

Even without the “yer”, the neener-neener is almost becoming diagnostic. Of what, I will not say more. But I like the “neener-neener”, at least.

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Posted: 04 May 2007 04:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 654 ]  
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[quote author=“Occam’s Razor”]Waltercat, the thing that strikes me is that perhaps logic is just an imperfect tool and, like all tools, is not able to operate satisfactorily in every task imaginable.

The contention ‘I always lie’ seems (to an undereducated amateur like me, at least) to be anathema to logic, yet it still exists, even if merely as words. To my mind, the cat in the box argument shows that the problem lies with the processes of logic not with the processes of life and death inside boxes.

(Im submitting this with the dual caveats that 1) I’m hardly an expert on logic and 2) this isn’t an excuse for Christians to go ‘Aha! Told yer logic was useless! Neener neener etc etc’)

This isn’t a matter of saying “neener neener”.  Even if the laws of logic do not apply in certain worlds, that is no proof that God exists.  But saying that the laws of logic, as we know them in this universe (and Waltercat undoubtedly knows them better than I do), apply in all circumstances (such as in black holes, in the quantum realm, and before the Big Bang) is simply a statement of faith. It’s no different than that of which atheists accuse Christians.

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Posted: 04 May 2007 04:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 655 ]  
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[quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]
This isn’t a matter of saying “neener neener”.  Even if the laws of logic do not apply in certain worlds, that is no proof that God exists.  But saying that the laws of logic, as we know them in this universe (and Waltercat undoubtedly knows them better than I do), apply in all circumstances (such as in black holes, in the quantum realm, and before the Big Bang) is simply a statement of faith. It’s no different than that of which atheists accuse Christians.

That’s ridiculous, Bruce. I know you want to believe that we are all equal in faith but it just isn’t so.

My claim that logic is universally valid is based on good argumentative reasoning.  Faith never enters the picture at all.

Let me say this loud and clear:  Nobody who knows anything about Logic would ever claim that a logical contradiction could possibly be true.  GOD CANNOT MAKE A LOGICAL CONTRADICTION TRUE. 
(And by the way, nobody (including Burt) has every refuted that)

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 04 May 2007 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 656 ]  
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory

Proof that the illogical really does happen in real time.  Sometimes you have to step outside the theoretical and into the practical.  Anything can be shown to be illogical if framed correctly.

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Posted: 04 May 2007 06:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 657 ]  
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[quote author=“MDBeach”]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory

Proof that the illogical really does happen in real time.  Sometimes you have to step outside the theoretical and into the practical.  Anything can be shown to be illogical if framed correctly.

This is really a pathetic post.  I’m sorry, but sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.

I asked you what it would mean for the world to operate illogically and what it would mean for the world to operate logically.  But you didn’t answer those questions.  Instead you link to an (as far as I can tell) irrelevant article in wikipedia on Chaos Theory.

Why don’t you explain how Chaos theory is supposed to show that the illogical really does happen? While you’re at it, you should explain what the expression “the illogical really does happen” means.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 04 May 2007 06:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 658 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”][quote author=“burt”]
[quote author=“waltercat”]
Burt,
Please explain the nature of the error that one would be making if he believed that Logic “applied to the world.”  In so doing, please explain what it would mean for logic to “apply to the world.”

If one was a dyed in the wool Aristotelian, one would assume that natural kinds with essences existed in the world and obeyed the catagorical conditions of Aristotelian logic.  To qualify, however, logic does apply approximately in that it allows us to talk about the world using a language with stable identities.

We must distinguish two different claims:

(1) The laws of logic are universally valid. (they must apply in all realms of discourse).

(2) Our concepts mirror nature in the sense that our concepts are accurate and sufficient for classifying all natural phenomena.

Statement (1) is true, but statement (2) is false.  (2) is Aristotelianism.

There is nothing within the realm of logic that ensures that our concepts will be accurate to the task of describing reality.  But that doesn’t mean that the rules of logic are not universal and applicable in all areas of discourse.

But they are not applicable in all areas of discourse.  Poetry, for example, sometimes deliberatly violates logical criteria.  Most people in the world don’t use the rules of logic, they rely on narrative “logic.”  I would say that the laws of logic are valid for all areas of discourse involving accurate and correct categorical thinking, but that doesn’t cover everything.

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Posted: 04 May 2007 06:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 659 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]Burt,
Maybe we should start a new thread on this topic.

Here are just a few preliminary comments:

The law of excluded middle is as follows:

For any statement, S, Either S or ~S.  (I’m using ~ to represent the negation function).

Or, to put it in terms of properties:

For any object, o, and any property P, either Po or ~Po.

In essence, this law tells us that either a statement or its negation must be true (or, either an object has the property or it lacks that property).

Here is my point: Either the law of excluded middle is a good law (it is a true law of logic) or else it is not.  If there is a realm where it does not apply, then it is NOT a law of logic.  Some philosophers think that it is false.  Of course, there is a great deal of uncertainty.  But if it is false, then it is false and it is not a law of logic.

The only disagreement we have here is your insistence on universality.  Formal logic only applies to propositions—statements that can have a definite truth value.  Not all statements fall into that category.  Excluded middle (along with identity and contradiction) define for us what it means to have a (formally) logical discourse.  (There are also some mathematicians who don’t allow excluded middle in proofs, but they are a very small minority.)  (One area where none of the laws of logic apply universally is in magical discourse.  Now we can say that that’s because magical thinking is incorrect thinking, but try to tell that to an advertising executive LOL .) 

[quote author=“waltercat”]
Shrodinger’s Cat:

What we want to say is that either the cat is dead or she is alive.  However, because the wave-function has not collapsed until an observation is made, we are told (by some interpreters) that the cat is neither dead nor alive.

I am very skeptical of this interpretation. But I am the furthest thing from an expert.  So, let’s grant that it is correct.  Does it show that the LOEM is false?  I don’t think so.

Note that ‘is alive’ and ‘is dead’ are NOT logical opposites.  The law of excluded middles applies only to logical opposites.

Let A= The cat is alive
D= The cat is dead.

The LOEM does NOT tell us that either A or D. 
What LOEM tells us is, Either A or ~A.  And also, Either D or ~D.

Why does LOEM not tell us that either A or D?  Because ‘is alive’ and ‘is dead’ are NOT logical opposites.  Since they are not, we cannot get from ‘X is not alive’ to ‘X is dead’.  In other words, the following principle does NOT hold in general:

Principle AD: If X is not alive, then X is dead.

Principle AD is NOT true.  There are many things that are not alive but are not dead.  Rocks, for example, are not alive, but nor are they dead.  The sun is not alive, but it is not dead.  And so on . . . 

So, we know that ‘is alive’ and ‘is dead’ are not logical opposites, and thus we know that Principle AD is NOT true.

For the same reasons, we can’t get from ‘X is not dead’ to ‘X is alive.’ Thus the following principle is also false:

Principle DA: IF X is not dead, then X is alive.

Rocks are not dead, but nor are they alive, and so on.

Now, the following principle IS true:

Principle DL:  If X is dead, then X is not alive.

AS is:

Principle LD:  If X is alive, then X is not dead.

Remember, the LOEM tells us that both of the following are true:

Either A or ~A.

Either D or ~D.

Because DL and LD are true, it cannot be that A is true and D is true.  So one or the other must be false. 

The Schrodinger experiment tells us (allegedly) that the cat is neither dead not alive.  So, if this is correct, we know that both A and D are false.  Thus, in order to fulfill LOEM, the only option left for us is for both ~A and ~D to be true.  Can this be the case?

Well, logically speaking, because DA is false, we certainly can have ~D and ~A (my point here is that nothing about LOGIC rules this possibility out).

Now I think that this might suggest to us that there might be states somewhere in between life and death.  Perhaps such states are rare and only occur in such bizarre circumstances as those in the experiment.  But there is nothing that rules out the possibility of such states (certainly nothing logical rules out the possibility).

Suppose the cat were in such a state between life and death.  Would the cat be alive?  No, that is the thing about this state (if it exists); an animal in such a state is not really alive, but nor is it dead.  Is the cat dead?  Here again the answer must be, NO.  The cat, on this theory, is in some kind of limbo (quasi-life, quasi death), in which it is neither alive but nor is it dead.

Thus, if any of this makes sense, then both ‘A or ~A’ and ‘D or ~D’ are true.  The cat is not alive AND the cat is not dead.  (in other words ~A is true AND ~D is true)

Conclusion:  The fact that Shrodinger’s cat is neither alive nor dead (if it is a fact) does not prove LOEM false.  The cat can be neither alive nor dead.  Since this is a possibility that is not ruled out by anything in quantum mechanics (at least as far as I know), we should conclude that Schrodinger’s cat does NOT disprove the Law of Excluded Middle.

The three possibilities are (a) the cat is either dead or it is alive; (b) the cat is both dead and alive; (c) the cat is neither dead nor alive.  The first case is the one we would logically assume, throwing out the second as contradictory.  (On your argument, however, taking dead as not the opposite of alive, would it not be correct?)  If the cat is neither dead nor alive, I agree this is strange, but may not violate excluded middle.  But boiling it down to more elementary quantum entities, what about a photon that seems to have followed two distinct paths through an experimental apparatus?  The basic point is not that quantum mechanics rules out excluded middle (or identity, or contradiction) as conditions of our empirical descriptions, but the actual entities seem to operate on a different set of logical principles.  (Identity is particularly disturbing, the inability to say that this electron here is the same electron as the one that we observed earlier, even though we know that it ought to be…). 

I wonder if we are talking across each other.  All I’m saying is that the axioms of formal logic apply to propositional discourse and that is all they apply to; but that is not all there is.  That, I think, is why logically oriented people get frustrated talking to theists.

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Posted: 04 May 2007 07:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 660 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”][quote author=“Bruce Burleson”]
This isn’t a matter of saying “neener neener”.  Even if the laws of logic do not apply in certain worlds, that is no proof that God exists.  But saying that the laws of logic, as we know them in this universe (and Waltercat undoubtedly knows them better than I do), apply in all circumstances (such as in black holes, in the quantum realm, and before the Big Bang) is simply a statement of faith. It’s no different than that of which atheists accuse Christians.

That’s ridiculous, Bruce. I know you want to believe that we are all equal in faith but it just isn’t so.

My claim that logic is universally valid is based on good argumentative reasoning.  Faith never enters the picture at all.

Let me say this loud and clear:  Nobody who knows anything about Logic would ever claim that a logical contradiction could possibly be true.  GOD CANNOT MAKE A LOGICAL CONTRADICTION TRUE. 
(And by the way, nobody (including Burt) has every refuted that)

Wouldn’t even try, even medieval scholastic theologians acknowledged this.

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