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    jlnaginey

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    The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Mon Sep 13, 2010 9:18 am

    I think some would say we can't know - that it's just happening - "thoughts without a thinker" - a book I read recently said when you meditate that this is confirmed, i.e., that you cannot find a subject doing the thinking and verify its existence - you can only find the thoughts. She doesn't believe in free will either, and I can't see how you could if you completely disallow a subject.

    I think this is radical - I can't see how you can get away from something unique and individual - as Emma said, perhaps a part of the whole. But I also think if you really look at what you're experiencing internally it IS hard to find a separate self - everything we know consciously is at least influenced by, if not determined by, our experience in the world. As Thich Nhat Hanh is constantly saying, everything is "interdependent."

    Emma, I think you're responding to what I just wrote as I write this - I want very much to enjoy the feeling of being the last person to respond for at least 5 minutes please.

    tnaginey

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  tnaginey on Tue Sep 14, 2010 9:14 pm

    I guess this flies in the face of all my notions of thought. What is thought without a thinker? A thought, to me, is a unique property of something that thinks, and that's what restricts rocks from having them. If you don't need a thinker to have thoughts, then what is a thought and what does it come from?

    lol...Emma's pretty quick on the draw, huh?

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:25 am

    You're going to have to read some of the buddhist stuff Tim (I'm not sure I want you telling your father I suggested it, however ...). As I understand it they might say that thought is a property of some manifestations of a kind of underlying substrate as it is embodied in this world. I think what they're wanting to say is that it is an illusion that each person is an entirely separate thing somehow responsible for thinking. That when certain things (I'm so clear ...) are present thought happens as a result - it is a property of certain types of manifestations, not a choice being made by a separate entity. (Now I'm repeating myself- it is really good for me to have to try to express this so I can know how unclear I am - just wish I had more time to spend on all this). I was really impressed that you had mastered some of the free will arguments - they have always seemed complicated to me - and I'd bet if you remember some of them you can get to some understanding of "thoughts without a thinker." Let me know .... (and tell Brandi I promise I'll look at the jewelry as soon as I get a chance - hope her business takes off!)

    Actually I was just thinking that while it is buddhist stuff I'm reading that I immediately thought of, there are other trains of thought that reach something of the same conclusion: As I understand some of the theorists of consciousness they're saying that consciousness is kind of an artifact - that it is my sense of my self is really an illusion designed by evolution to maximize my ability to survive. So it wouldn't really be thoughts without a thinker but the thinker would become life's effort to survive through my body (or something) rather than "me." I think the whole point is that the existence of a separate "self" is, like Truth, not something we can know/define, be certain of - but that it works quite well pragmatically to get us through day-to-day.
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    Re: The Universe

    Post  Dracotorix on Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:53 pm

    So all the thoughts that could ever exist are already there, floating around in the substrate of the universe, waiting to be discovered or manifested by a sufficiently intelligent being? An individual is nothing but a channel, so there really aren't any original ideas?
    Speaking if Buddhist stuff, I read one of my mom's books the other day- a little book by a Buddhist nun about "practicing peace in times of war". I'll have to post about it later.

    Alright-- so the sense of individual consciousness is a mechanism of evolution that leads individuals to do things beneficial to their own survival. I'm willing to buy that. However, if all of consciousness is one big mass that is really non separated at all, then why would we need to survive? If our consciousness exists regardless of whether certain individuals exist in physical form, then why would we have the instinct to survive at all? Or is it that we have to survive in order to evolve better brains and thus the ability to process/channel more of the "thoughts" around us?

    tnaginey

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  tnaginey on Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:30 pm

    I will have to read some of that Buddhist literature--I won't tell Dad Very Happy . But that does sound fascinating! I also have to look more into the evolutionary theory of consciousness. I tend to gravitate toward evolutionary explanations. And I wouldn't quite say I've mastered arguments about free will, but I was obsessing over that question for a time. Did we ever get to talk about that in Lurray? I've also wondered how consciousness and free will interact, and as of now, I don't think that the absence of free will means the absence of consciousness. We still percieve...Oh I get it! You're saying that if there is no free will, then thoughts are not "created" out of our will to create them, but rather products of the various stimuli put into--and processing power of--our brains. Thoughts are automatic, and so are the "thinking faculties" of our brain. Whoever we are, we have no control over our thoughts, so the thinker is not a free agent, but more like an automatic computing agent. See, I'm still getting used to applying the idea of determinism to a lot of the human experience.

    @Emma- I think you're mixing the evolutionary theory of consciousness with the Buddhist one a little bit. But it could work, kinda like mixing peanut butter and chocolate: the Evo-Buddhist theory of consciousness, like the Reese's cup of consciousness theories...

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:14 am

    I'm curious about your Mom's book, Emma, author Pema Chodron by any chance?

    And I like the peanut butter cup .... I don't think I meant to say that the theory is that all the thoughts are floating out there waiting to be brought into this dimension or whatever - I think we can assume that to at least some extent each thought is unique just as each manifestation is unique - a unique embodiment of a functionally infinite potential? I did mean to way that we may not really choose our thoughts - that they happen as a result of the potential in combination with our unique biology and experience.

    I like the notion that we have to evolve in order to process more of the thoughts of the infinite something. Tim - have you ever read Pierre Teilhard de Chardin? He was a Jesuit and a paleontologist and talks about Jesus as the alpha (not wolf, Emma) and omega, i.e., that from which we emerge in some sense or that which gives us being - and that toward which we evolve. I am not doing his ideas justice - they are wonderful and inspirational and represent about the only Christianity I can buy into.

    Relevant to this discussion is my desire to know more about the recent experiments that suggest our brain starts to process a subsequent behavior before we are consciously aware of deciding to perform that behavior. Somebody needs to read about those if you haven't.

    I don't know if I believe in free will or not. Just so you know. I want to though.

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  tnaginey on Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:14 pm

    I chose Benjamin Libet's free will experiment as my topic for a paper I had to write in psychology. It was fascinating, and honestly sent me down the road toward determinism (not determinism in a fundamental sense, because quantum physics has proven that pretty much impossible, but determinism on a larger, more human scale, where quantum uncertainty is kind of blurred out). It was the one where he had people flick their wrists and then report at what time they became conscious of the decission to flick their wrists, and he could see the impulse originating in the brain before the person became conscious of that impulse. So crazy!
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    Re: The Universe

    Post  Dracotorix on Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:35 pm

    But they could have decided subconsciously. Just because we aren't conscious of every decision we make exactly when we make it doesn't mean it was determined by an external force. We do a lot of things subconsciously, but we still do them. We still chose to do it, it's just that the choosing was done in a part of our brain that we aren't always conscious of.

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Fri Sep 17, 2010 12:36 pm

    I don't think it makes any sense to say that we have free will but we just aren't conscious of it. I think free will by definition has to be conscious or it's determined - regardless of whether it's determined by our unconscious or by some other thing it is still not us deciding in any meaningful way. I read this morning about free will being conscious but just a step or two back - in other words we can decide what kinds of things to experience and then know that, for example, if we generally try to experience good things our immediate decisions that are determined by what we experienced in the past will be good - or at least we stack the deck that way. But I don't really think that works either - I think it just moves the issue to another point in the process but it's the same issue. Tim, haven't there been efforts to use the uncertainty at the quantum level to speculate about a kind of free will? I would love to know what you're thinking about this - we need a scanner to read your paper maybe.

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  tnaginey on Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:15 pm

    I would agree that if we're not rationally weighing out the options and consciously choosing based on those considerations, then it's not much of a choice at all. But then again, if rationality is what gives us free will, then we are bound to choose according to the laws of reason, which doesn't seem very free. So maybe the capacity to act irrationally is the only way to truly have free will.
    For a while I thought the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics made a truly deterministic universe impossible, and therefore made room for free will. I still believe that a truly deterministic universe is not the one we live in. But quantum mechanics is just as fatal to the argument of free will that deterministic physics is. It's because the outcomes of certain quantum physical processes are fundamentally random and unkowable. Only probabilities can be applied, but nothing is certain. So that would mean the laws of quantum mechanics make everything random. If our behavior is controlled by the randomness of QM then our behaviors are fundamentally random, not willed. The inherrent randomness of QM cannot be controlled or manipulated by us, because it is fundamentally random and uncertain. But a lot of people make the argument that since QM primarily acts on such a tiny tiny scale, that it doesn't apply in any noticable way to the function of such a large system as a human being.

    jlnaginey

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Sat Sep 18, 2010 4:18 pm

    I can't find free will. It certainly feels like we have it and I certainly want to have it, but I can't find it. I agree that chance is just as deadly to free will as absolute order or rationality. Can it be rational to sometimes behave irrationally? And if irrational behavior is the only "free" choice we can make then how free is it? Actually now that I think about it I guess I believe that there can be any number of choices in a given situation that could be argued to be rational, and probably the same for irrational choices. So the question is whether or not there is any "wiggle room" - whether when a given choice has to be made there is someTHING that can make its choice in a way that is not completely determined by anything including chance. Hm. I have been here before and never reached any certainty - at the moment I am thinking that I have to first figure out what exactly I am talking about when I talk about the self making the choice. I don't know what a self is anymore. I'm reading this book called The Ego Tunnel - if it continues to be as good as it is at the moment I will buy it for you for your birthday, Tim, and you for advance on Christmas, Emma. BTW: Can you give me a current address Tim? And one for JJ too - I still owe him for his birthday. Do you see him regularly enough that I could just send something to you for him?
    The Ego Tunnel is talking about consciousness as a tunnel (!), i.e., an at least somewhat unique perspective on reality created by our brains in order to survive and do it well. So as a species we've evolved to pick certain things out of the essentially infinite field of reality and call them individual things, including our"selves." We see and interpret what's in this tunnel and put it together in a way that makes sense - it is "reality" as constructed by us - really there but not necessarily given the way we understand it. Obviously it begs all kinds of questions and I'm only on p. 42. Now I'm thinking maybe we really ARE just billions of ways for God to experience the universe. She/he/it watches through our eyes. There is no free will - God is trying to see what happens with just this combination of genetics plus environment. We're his/her/its personal television channel.

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:22 am

    P.S. Forget "The Ego Tunnel" - at least for me. He's a material reductionist, doesn't believe in free will at all - it just begs too many questions for me. Defines absence of free will as belief that if my genetic double had experienced everything in exactly the same way I have she would make exactly the same decisions; if we could know the complete state of the universe at the present moment we could completely predict the next state, etc. Then the whole last chapter is spent on what we need to do to use all the new findings in the science of consciousness ethically - which seems to me to be pointless unless you believe in free will. Anyway, unless it sounds good to either of you the book won't be your birthday present, Tim, or your early Christmas present, Emma.

    tnaginey

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  tnaginey on Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:50 pm

    Hahaha I guess a lot changed since page 42? I'll shoot ya an address or two on facebook. I want to reply to some of that stuff, but I gotta go to bed, I've been working on a single physics problem for about the last 5 hours and I finally got it, but now my brain needs rest.

    jlnaginey

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:28 am

    So I'm wondering about what that physics problem was .... I'm also wondering just what it is that keeps people from "believing in" or endorsing (or whatever other word is acceptable to you, Emma) evolution. I read somewhere that less than 20% of Americans surveyed feel "quite certain" that evolution is true. I don't get that. Yesterday I found myself trying to formulate an argument AGAINST evolution just to see if I could do it - to TRY to understand how others think. Or perhaps don't. Tim, in your travels through Christianity, have you heard arguments against it?
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    Re: The Universe

    Post  Dracotorix on Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:04 am

    Yeah... it's probably something I can't do (our class just started 2D kinematics), but you should still post it as a challenge of something Razz

    The only arguments I hear from people are "because it's in the bible". I can't convince them of anything because to me, the bible means nothing, and to them it means everything. Evolution, gay people, whatever- some people just won't even think about anything that isn't in the bible.
    Other than that, I can't think of any arguments against it. I can't recall that anything like this happened with gravity.
    And out of all developed nations with freedom of religion, the U.S. is the only one where people still haven't accepted evolution. I don't get it either. I blame Texas.
    And it fits with Christianity too! My mom's a Christian, but you don't hear her denying observable facts like some people... yeah. I'm basically befuddled.

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Thu Sep 30, 2010 1:10 pm

    What are 2D kinematics? You know I've never taken a physics course?? Everything I know is from what I've read, starting with "The Tao of Physics" ... pretty pitiful, as Micah would say, "Don't judge!"

    I agree that evolution really CAN fit with Christianity - it's not a contest - I HATE that Gabriel was called an atheist because he argued for evolution.

    I actually, however, do think that some "creationists" have what they would call scientific arguments against evolution - holes in the theory - my brother, Tim's father, said recently something like he thought most people had discarded evolution - didn't believe in it anymore - he said this sincerely, having read things that say it - didn't they present arguments like that at that forum we went to with Russell, etc.?

    What amazes me is that people can just block their minds to anything threatening. It has pretty much ALWAYS been my experience that when I look as directly as I can at something I've been afraid of it gets LESS, not MORE frightening! Am I ranting?

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  Dracotorix on Thu Sep 30, 2010 1:33 pm

    I'll judge you if I want to, whalefish. Razz

    And who said Gabriel was an atheist just because he argued for evolution????

    And I agree about the 'fear of the unknown' thing... but I don't see what's "threatening" about the fact that species evolve. It's just obvious- the observations were there. All it took was a few people like Darwin and Wallace who took the time to put the observations together into a theory that has been being tested and built upon ever since they first published it.
    Random tangent: Have you read The Darwin Conspiracy?
    Anyway, what holes are in the theory? And even if you can disprove the current theory of evolution, you just can't prove creationism. It doesn't work. We KNOW species change because of our observations: all evolution is is a theory explaining HOW they change. The fact that they do change is not really up for discussion.
    But what's threatening? Just because creationists don't want to have to admit that they're wrong?
    That's the difference between religion and science. A scientist is always willing (and even happy) to be proven wrong. Disproving a hypothesis is just as important as proving it.

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:30 am

    Maybe the whalefish is destined to become my spiritual guide or something - I seem to be permanently connected with it. It SHOULD be called a whalefish!

    Kids at lunch at least once when he went to Park and was willing to take Noreen on. By the way, apparently Alexis DePaolo is willing to be vocally on Micah's side whenever things like evolution and Obama come up in class these days. Nice for him to feel like he's not the ONLY one ....

    My theory about what's threatening about evolution is that if one thing in the Bible is not true it makes people think other things might not be true and then that could mean that when they die they won't go to heaven and be with all of the people they love. And don't say what difference would that make because they're dead because I know it isn't logical but I think it's pretty deeply rooted.

    No, I've never read The Darwin Conspiracy - should I?

    I read in National Geographic that whale evolution was once thought to be a hole in the theory of evolution generally because there were large periods of time they couldn't account for - I'm pretty sure creationists could give you a list - I'd be curious to see it. And I don't think scientists are exempt from distorting things, denying things, etc. - remember the researchers who supposedly distorted the statistics on global warming? I certainly agree that GOOD scientists wouldn't do that - perhaps neither would good theologians?



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    Dracotorix
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    Re: The Universe

    Post  Dracotorix on Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:26 am

    Do I know who Alexis DePaolo is? Probably. Anyway...

    Nothing supports the 'heaven' thing anyway!! grr...

    Maybe. It's a speculative/alternate history book about the voyage of the Beagle. Want me to bring it to Audubon?

    It depends. The purpose of scientists is to find out the truth. The purpose of theologians is to randomly speculate. Some "scientists", if they know they're trying to prove a certain point for political reasons, etc, may manipulate the facts a bit; and some theologians (which have always, historically, been tied to politics) would do the same thing. But with theologians they're just making things up for a purpose, when they're supposed to be making things up for no purpose. Scientists are supposed to report the facts. Theologians have no facts, but scientists have specific true facts that they have to reveal and if they don't, it's an obvious bending of the truth. With theologians it isn't so obvious.

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:05 am

    Wait a minute! Theologians do NOT just "randomly speculate" - many if not most of them are, from their perspective, trying very hard to find the Truth - they are speculating, perhaps, because they are trying to talk about what everyone always says can't be talked about and is somehow "beyond words," but they are still working hard to remain rational and true to their experience. You seem to equate "fact" with collectively observable and verifiable - are there no "facts" that are experienced subjectively and individually? Are we to discard all of our inner experience simply because it isn't "provable" through the scientific method?
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    Re: The Universe

    Post  Dracotorix on Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:24 am

    Does anyone really have enough confidence in their inner experience to label it as true?

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Mon Oct 18, 2010 8:55 am

    Absolutely. It is true that I love my kids.
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    Re: The Universe

    Post  Dracotorix on Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:59 pm

    Is that an inner experience?
    And the only things you can prove through that are things that apply only to the person in question.

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    Re: The Universe

    Post  jlnaginey on Mon Oct 18, 2010 3:33 pm

    Yes it's an inner experience. And I guess it's true that I can only know for myself that I love my boys - others can only guess that it's true based on my behavior, etc. But that doesn't make it less True.
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    Re: The Universe

    Post  Dracotorix on Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:59 pm

    Okay... but that's not the sort of inner experience we were talking about in the context of theologians! Is it?

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