Mod+ Limitations of Mechanistic Assumption [Resources]

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
Like other resources threads, idea here is mostly to provide material for people wishing to investigate the topic.

Some commentary/debate is useful but please, if such discussion seems to be getting long [over 3-5 posts] create a separate thread and link to continue.

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Farewell to determinism

It is a fantastic achievement of human knowledge when it becomes apparent that a set of experiments can conclusively resolve an ontological question. And moreover that the resolution turns out to be in sharp contrast to the intuition of most people. Outside of superconspiracy theories and “brain in a vat”-like scenarios (which can be dismissed as cognitively unstable), experimental results tell us that the world around us is not deterministic. Such a conclusion, in addition to being fascinating in itself, has a multitude of consequences. For one, it answers the question “Is the whole Universe just one big computer?” with a definite “no.” Also, it opens the door for the compatibility between the laws of physics on one side, and a whole plethora of concepts like free will, strong emergence, qualia, even religion — on the other. But these are all topics for some other articles.
Marko Vojinovic is a theoretical physicist, doing research in quantum gravity at the University of Lisbon. His other areas of interest include the foundational questions of physics, mathematical logic, philosophy, knowledge in general, and the origins of language and intuition.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#3
Do Physical Laws Make Things Happen?

The conviction that laws somehow give us a full accounting of events seems often to be based on the idea that they govern the world's substance or matter from outside, "making" things happen. If this is the case, however, then we must provide some way for matter to recognize and then obey these external laws. But, plainly, whatever supports this capacity for recognition and obedience cannot itself be the mere obedience. Anything capable of obeying wholly external laws is not only its obedience but also its capability, and this capability remains unexplained by the laws.

If, with so many scientists today, we construe laws as rules, we can put the matter this way: much more than rule-following is required of anything able to follow rules; conversely, no set of rules can by themselves explain the presence or functioning of that which is capable of following them.

It is, in other words, impossible to imagine matter that does not have some character of its own. To begin with, it must exist. But if it exists, it must do so in some particular manner, according to its own way of being. Even if we were to say, absurdly, that its only character is to obey external laws, this "law of obedience" itself could not be just another one of the external laws being obeyed. Something will be "going on" that could not be understood as obedience to law, and this something would be an essential expression of what matter was. To apprehend the world we would need to understand this expressive character in its own right, and we could never gain such an understanding solely through a consideration of external laws.

So we can hardly find coherence in the rather dualistic notion that physical laws reside, ghost-like, in some detached, abstract realm from which they impinge upon matter. But if, contrary to our initial assumption, we take laws to be in one way or another bound up with the world's substance — if we take them to be at least in part an expression of this substance — then the difficulty in the conventional view of law becomes even more intense. Surely it makes no sense to say that the world's material phenomena are the result — the wholly explained result — of matter obeying laws which it is itself busy expressing. In whatever manner we prefer to understand the material expression of the laws, this expression cannot be a matter of obedience to the laws being expressed! If whatever is there as the substance of the world at least in part determines the laws, then the laws cannot be said to determine what is there.

All this gives you some indication why so many scientists, when stepping back from the rather messy reality of their daily work and considering the character of their science, show such great reluctance to reckon with the substance of the observable world. They much prefer to conceive the explanatory value of science in terms of abstract laws — equations, rules, algorithms — which naturally remain gratifyingly lawful in an uncomplicated way. The world disappears into a vague notion of "whatever gives material reality to the laws".

But a willingness to consider this reality in its own terms immediately reveals the impossibility of the all-explaining laws with which science supposedly has to do. We come to realize that a physical phenomenon and its lawfulness must be considered as a unity — a syntactic-semantic unity of a sort that receives little recognition within science for the simple reason that physical phenomena (as opposed to their "governing" syntax) receive little recognition.
 
#7
The determinism/realism issue seems to be resolved if the paradoxes of quantum physics are largely understood by analogizing the universe to a cosmic virtual reality simulation. Science fiction? Maybe, but conceptually this approach seems to explain a lot of mysteries.

In this concept there is no ultimate physical reality, but there is an ultimate non-physical reality which is pure information. This information is being processed by some sort of cosmic CPU with a iteration time of say the Planck time, like the virtual reality of a computer game. The computer game is being rendered into consciousness as an interactive display by a complex series of algorithms that are recalculated many times per second. Our world would be the product of a hyper-process analogous to this, and the paradoxes of quantum physics like the realism/locality question would just be the arbitrary results of how this data processing "program" happened to be designed. The experienced and measured world may not be deterministic, as Voginovic argues, but the underlying hyper information processing existence would be.

There is no physical space or physical world here, only information rendered into human subjective virtual realities. The rendered "physical" images are really just experiential constructs, analogous to avatars or icons on a computer screen.

I don't see how this sort of concept can be totally or easily dismissed as brain-in-a-vat "cognitive instability". It is, however, difficult to see how it could be tested.

Ross Rhodes presents the idea in his web site, http://www.bottomlayer.com/bottom/argument/Argument4.html :

This paper surveys evidence and arguments for the proposition that the universe as we know it is not a physical, material world but a computer-generated simulation -- a kind of virtual reality. The evidence is drawn from the observations of natural phenomena in the realm of quantum mechanics. The arguments are drawn from philosophy and from the results of experiment. While the experiments discussed are not conclusive in this regard, they are found to be consistent with a computer model of the universe.
Six categories of quantum puzzles are examined: quantum waves, the measurement effect (including the uncertainty principle), the equivalence of quantum units, discontinuity, non-locality, and the overall relationship of natural phenomena to the mathematical formalism. Many of the phenomena observed in the laboratory are puzzling because they are difficult to conceptualize as physical phenomena, yet they can be modeled exactly by mathematical manipulations. When we analogize to the operations of a digital computer, these same phenomena can be understood as logical and, in some cases, necessary features of computer programming designed to produce a virtual reality simulation for the benefit of the user.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#8
What does it mean to have information without consciousness?

As I recall even Rhodes presents the idea that conscious entities transcend the physical in that they are free-willed "users" of the "program"?
 
#9
What does it mean to have information without consciousness?

As I recall even Rhodes presents the idea that conscious entities transcend the physical in that they are free-willed "users" of the "program"?

It wouldn't be information without consciousness. The underlying cosmic information matrix would presumably have to be originated by and maintained by some sort of vastly higher conscious source(s) or entity. There would have to be a designer. Human conscious entities would indeed have to transcend the physical to be "users". I don't know if Rhodes goes into this thorny metaphysical issue.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#11
If something informational comes in, gets processed, and goes out altered. With conscious perception arising from the processing, why is it even valid to ask your question?
What does it mean for something to be "informational"? How do you know conscious perception arises from processing?
 
#13
The determinism/realism issue seems to be resolved if the paradoxes of quantum physics are largely understood by analogizing the universe to a cosmic virtual reality simulation. Science fiction? Maybe, but conceptually this approach seems to explain a lot of mysteries.

In this concept there is no ultimate physical reality, but there is an ultimate non-physical reality which is pure information. This information is being processed by some sort of cosmic CPU with a iteration time of say the Planck time, like the virtual reality of a computer game. The computer game is being rendered into consciousness as an interactive display by a complex series of algorithms that are recalculated many times per second. Our world would be the product of a hyper-process analogous to this, and the paradoxes of quantum physics like the realism/locality question would just be the arbitrary results of how this data processing "program" happened to be designed. The experienced and measured world may not be deterministic, as Voginovic argues, but the underlying hyper information processing existence would be.

There is no physical space or physical world here, only information rendered into human subjective virtual realities. The rendered "physical" images are really just experiential constructs, analogous to avatars or icons on a computer screen.

I don't see how this sort of concept can be totally or easily dismissed as brain-in-a-vat "cognitive instability". It is, however, difficult to see how it could be tested.

Ross Rhodes presents the idea in his web site, http://www.bottomlayer.com/bottom/argument/Argument4.html :
Very interesting, Nbtruthman. If this information paradigm is correct, psi may be intervening in reality from its source code and not from the user interface, which would be the ordinary way of intervening in the world.
 
#14
Concerning the problem of somehow testing the hypothesis that the physical universe is actually a virtual reality simulation, it occurs to me that this may have already been accomplished by the many physics experiments that have demonstrated various quantum phenomena that would otherwise be illogical, mysterious and inexplicable. It is very interesting that the paradoxes seem to disappear if the VR model is employed, as explained by Rhodes in his online book The Reality Program.

An example is the uncertainty principle, in Chapter 3 at http://www.bottomlayer.com/bottom/reality/chap3.html :

Computer programming as a model of complementary properties. Suppose we think of (quantum units) not as solid, substantive "things," but as images produced by a computer. .....What step-by-step procedure could the (cosmic CPU) be using to produce its images according to the uncertainty principle?
Suppose that, when the computer needs values for a property, it can assign a temporary value for the purpose of tracking the quantum unit as a "virtual" object (that is, potential information that can be presented to the user if necessary). The computer can continue to deal with the temporary value until the user needs a value.
...Suppose further that, from the computer's point of view, the user "needs" a value for the property whenever he or she does anything that would reveal the property. At that point, the computer must make a choice from among the range of values at which the property can be pegged, so that a definite value for the property can be displayed. So the computer assigns a value to that property, generates and displays the image in a form that the user can "read," and stores the properties of the image for future reference.
Suppose further that --- if there is no stored value for a property needed by the user, the computer randomly assigns a value for the property from among the range of possible values (in the either/or case, this range consists of 0 or 1, so the computer only needs to do something like flipping a coin);
in the case of complementary properties...., the values are stored at the same memory location (labelled location A/B)....;
whenever the computer stores a value for property A, any value previously stored at location A/B (i.e., a value for property B) is erased - replaced by the value for property A;it follows that the next time the computer checks for a value for property B, there will be none; and since there is no stored value for property B, the computer again will assign a value from among the range of possible values (0 or 1). This program design will yield the results embodied in the uncertainty principle.
Another example: non-locality (the apparent connectedness of quantum objects regardless of distance, even cosmic, as if all calculations were in the CPU regardless of the location of the pixels on the screen), at part V of http://www.bottomlayer.com/bottom/argument/Argument4.html :

The computer analogy. The non-locality which appears to be a basic feature of our world also finds an analogy in the same metaphor of a computer simulation. In terms of cosmology, the scientific question is, "How can two particles separated by half a universe be understood as connected such that they interact as though they were right on top of each other?" If we analogize to a computer simulation, the question would be, "How can two pictures at the far corners of the screen be understood as connected such that the distance between them is irrelevant?"
In fact, the measured distance between any two pixels (dots) on the monitor's display turns out to be entirely irrelevant, since both are merely the products of calculations carried out in the bowels of the computer as directed by the programming. The pixels may be as widely separated as you like, but the programming generating them is forever embedded in the computer's memory in such a way that -- again speaking quite literally -- the very concept of separation in space and time of the pixels has no meaning whatsoever for the stored information.
 
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#15
Very interesting, Nbtruthman. If this information paradigm is correct, psi may be intervening in reality from its source code and not from the user interface, which would be the ordinary way of intervening in the world.
The author of the universe VR simulation could have made it possible for participants under certain unusual circumstances to become aware of the "matrix" data and even directly influence the operation of the CPU by bypassing the normal user interface. Psychokinesis, including the Princeton PEAR lab random event generator experiments, would be an example of the latter. In NDEs the discarnate consciousness may be tapping into the data and programming code of the
VR simulation. All the information is stored into the data base, so the self could move effortlessly to any point of interest, even if it is hundreds of miles away, or review the past life from multiple perspectives.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#16
Thanks to Don Salmon for this link:

Anti-determinism, Tychism, and Evolutionism


Against powerful currents of determinism that derived from the Enlightenment philosophy of the eighteenth century, Peirce urged that there was not the slightest scientific evidence for determinism and that in fact there was considerable scientific evidence against it. Always by the words “science” and “scientific” Peirce understood reference to actual practice by scientists in the laboratory and the field, and not reference to entries in scientific textbooks. In attacking determinism, therefore, Peirce appealed to the evidence of the actual phenomena in laboratories and fields. Here, what is obtained as the actual observations (e.g. measurements) does not fit neatly into some one point or simple function. If we take, for example, a thousand measurements of some physical quantity, even a simple one such as length or thickness, no matter how carefully we may do so, we will not obtain the same result a thousand times. Rather, what we get is a distribution (often, but not always and certainly not necessarily, something akin to a normal or Gaussian distribution) of hundreds of different results. Again, if we measure the value of some variable that we assume to depend on some given parameter, and if we let the parameter vary while we take successive measurements, the result in general will not be a smooth function (for example, a straight line or an ellipse); rather, it will typically be a “jagged” result, to which we can at best fit a smooth function by using some clever method (for example, fitting a regression line by the method of least-squares). Naively, we might imagine that the variation and relative inexactness of our measurements will become less pronounced and obtrusive the more refined and microscopic are our measurement tools and procedures. Peirce, the practicing scientist, knew better. What actually happens, if anything, is that our variations get relatively greater the finer is our instrumentation and the more delicate our procedures. (Obviously, Peirce would not have been the least surprised by the results obtained from measurements at the quantum level.)

What the directly measured facts of scientific practice seem to tell us, then, is that, although the universe displays varying degrees of habit (that is to say, of partial, varying, approximate, and statistical regularity), the universe does not display deterministic law. It does not directly show anything like total, exact, non-statistical regularity. Moreover, the habits that nature does display always appear in varying degrees of entrenchment or “congealing.” At one end of the spectrum, we have the nearly law-like behavior of larger physical objects like boulders and planets; but at the other end of the spectrum, we see in human processes of imagination and thought an almost pure freedom and spontaneity; and in the quantum world of the very small we see the results of almost pure chance.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#17
Interesting assertions by F. David Peat:

Time, Synchronicity and Evolution


While the principles of symmetry or antisymmetry may appear rather abstract, it turns out to have enormously practical implications. It is because of antisymmetry that electrons are prevented from all occupying the same energy states and forced to take up characteristic energy patterns around an atom. Thanks to the Pauli principle atoms corresponding to each element are chemically different, matter is thus distinct and the cosmos exhibits all its wealth and diversity.

This is a truly staggering result for, up to this point, physicists would have assumed that the reason electrons, or any other particles, are kept apart, or patterned in particular ways, is because of forces operating between them. But Pauli's result arises purely out of the principle of antisymmetry. It involves no physical force but is the direct consequence of the overall forms of nature.
Pauli had discovered that "an acausal connecting principle" that governs the fundamental patterns of quantum matter. Electrons behave as they do because they conform to overarching forms - a new conception that echoes that of medieval notions of correspondence, sympathy and harmony within the earthly and celestial worlds. And, according to Carl Jung, such archetypal patterns also operate deep within the collective consciousness of the human race. Synchronicities therefore indicate the possibility of deep cooperative engagements with the cosmos.1

It appears that within nature principles of pattern and form are the deepest of all, and precede physical laws associated with causality, force and energy. Perhaps we could call the Pauli Exclusion Principle "an archetype of matter". At its deepest level, synchronicity is therefore the experiential and symbolic representation, in terms of objective patterns, of mental and physical archetypes. It opens the door to the suggestion that one may be able to participate, in a direct way, with the inner workings of matter. Or suggests the possibility for the individual, and society as a whole, to enter into a cooperative relationship with the movements of nature and the cosmos.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#18
Consolidating some stuff from other threads:

Wigner, in discussing the unreasonable efficacy of math, noted that 'it is not at all natural that "laws of nature" exist, much less that man is able to discover them.'

We're at the point now where people actually do wonder about this:

Frozen Accidents: Can the Laws of Physics be Explained?

Is the Search for Immutable Laws of Nature a Wild-Goose Chase?

The physicist Lee Smolin argues that the laws of nature are mutable, which leads us to ask what holds those laws up and accounts for their orderly change? Meta-laws? And those meta-laws in turn are contingent on meta-meta-laws...and so on...

Yet even if we just keep with the laws of physics, we're still faced with the realization that there is nothing that assures they must hold indefinitely. They could change today, tomorrow, or even moment to moment.

The atheist Nancy Cartwright thus, as noted in No God, No Laws, abandons the concept of natural laws and simply accepts the existence of regularities that may or may not be universal.

On the other side of things Feser's argues the laws exist and point to some kind of theism as otherwise IHO you run into inexplicable brute facts.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#19
PHYSICS AND THE REAL WORLD
George Ellis
Mathematics Department, University of Cape Town

"Physics and chemistry underlie the nature of all the world around us, including human brains.Consequently some suggest that in causal terms, physics is all there is. However we live in an environment dominated by objects embodying the outcomes of intentional design (buildings,computers, teaspoons). The present-day subject of physics has nothing to say about the intentionality resulting in existence of such objects, even though this intentionality is clearly causally effective. This paper examines the claim that the underlying physics uniquely causally determines what happens, even though we can’t predict the outcome.It suggests that what occurs is the contextual emergence of complexity: the higher levels in the hierarchy of complexity have autonomous causal powers, functionally independent of lower-level processes. This is possible because top-down causation takes place as well as bottom-up action, with higher-level contexts determining the outcome of lower level functioning and even modifying the nature of lower level constituents. Stored information plays a key role, resulting in non-linear dynamics that is non-local in space and time. Brain functioning is causally affected by abstractions such as the value of money and the theory of the laser. These are realised as brain states in individuals, but are not equivalent to them. Consequently physics per se can't causally determine the outcome of human creativity, rather it creates the possibility space allowing human intelligence to function autonomously. The challenge to physics is to develop a realistic description of causality in truly complex hierarchical structures, with top-down causation and memory effects allowing autonomous higher levels of order to emerge with genuine causal powers."
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#20
BREAKING THE GALILEAN SPELL

Even deeper than emergence and its challenge to reductionism in this new scienti?c worldview is what I call breaking the Galilean spell. Galileo rolled balls down incline planes and showed that the distance traveled varied as the square of the time elapsed. From this he obtained a universal law of motion. Newton followed with his Principia, setting the stage for all of modern science. With these triumphs, the Western world came to the view that all that happens in the universe is governed by natural law. Indeed, this is the heart of reductionism. Another Nobel laureate physicist, Murray Gell-Mann, has de?ned a natural law as a compressed description, available beforehand, of the regularities of a phenomenon. The Galilean spell that has driven so much science is the faith that all aspects of the natural world can be described by such laws. Perhaps my most radical scienti?c claim is that we can and must break the Galilean spell. Evolution of the biosphere, human economic life, and human history are partially indescribable by natural law. This claim ?ies in the face of our settled convictions since Galileo, Newton, and the Enlightenment.
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/12/causality-and-radioactive-decay.html
 
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