Can we ever know that?

This should be a place where you can work ideas. Sometimes it helps to say when you are speculating and when you are deriving from a source.

Yes that is a possibility. On the other hand I don’t feel in anyway that I was predetermined to respond to your post. There may be something about time and space we don’t understand where determinism only works in the present not in the future. We can’t observer randomness because we are always looking at the past. I’m not saying the future is unpredictable but that the changes are so small we can’t detect them. A tiny ripple in time and space. That is a far fetched speculation and I think that is the point we need to focus on. We just don’t know.

I know a fairly famous physicist and I asked him and he said that at large scales the universe is deterministic but at small scales it has uncertainty. That doesn’t even make sense to me. It’s like saying the universe has a split personality. Oh well I’m moving on.

Thanks for the conversation, it is nice to know that other people think about the same sorts of things.

I think it is safe to say there are no authoritative sources for some of the things we have been discussing. It seems to me everyone is speculating but I get your point. Authoritative speculation is probably more interesting.

I have participated in forums where any speculation by someone without credentials was deleted and the person without credentials reminded to always provide sources.

Here is my take on that. It’s fine to a point but when you start a conversation you are trying to tease out enough information about the person you are talking with to decide if it is worth your time and energy to start providing sources because it can be tedious. For example when I was working as an engineer I would get questions from lawyers that I really didn’t feel like taking the time and energy to answer. On the other hand if I had a relationship with them in which they took the time to explain the intricacies of the law then I was happy to take the time to answer any question they had. In the market place of ideas you have to have something to trade. In a way what we have been doing here is negotiating a trade. You give me an interesting idea and I will try to give you one. It takes time to work out the value of what is being traded. Providing sources is a value added sort of things. It saves the other person the time and energy to find them on their own.

Some people will decide I’m an idiot with nothing worth trading for. It doesn’t bother me because I understand that time is our most valuable asset. Values however are subjective. I like to hear peoples stories of their lives that would boor other people to death for example. The other day I started a conversation with a homeless man who was clearly not operating on a full deck but it was very interesting because he knew a lot about what was happening in the community that other people would never see . Once I was able to sort out the crazy stuff the rest was interesting.

I’ve been trying to keep up with this post. It’s been interesting, though I have a slightly different perspective. I’ve even started some responses, but times are really crowded, and I get pulled away and it falls to the wayside, plus it’s so challenging to write about this constructively.

For me that’s been as easy as accepting that I couldn’t imaginal all of this around me, and nothing could have created such complexity on the fly.
Evolution’s evidence fills in the rest.

Sounds like evolution.
Evolution, there “truth” is meaningless and close enough is often good enough.
Along with: doing the best you can, with what you have.
Which segues into you question of “Can we ever know that?” - be it scientifically, or personally.

If you start with the proposition that we are evolved sensing creatures, and that our consciousness is in fact a reflection of your body/brain communicating with itself.

After all, literally billions of uninterrupted generations have gone into the creation that is your particular body/brain. We humans inhabit one of the most exquisite body plans Earth has ever achieved, with physical attributes and manipulatory ability that enhance our ability to observe and learn and remember.

But the thing is realizing that’s how it works for all living creatures, from first complex cells onward, living entities require awareness, observation, processing, action, rewards, punishment, memory. It’s not just us humans

The point I’m trying to make is that all of us Earthlings are observing entities with a mind, it’s a requirement for survival in complex environments - the level of mind that we achieve depends on the particular suite of physical attributes,… our observation, processing, manipulatory tools that we have at our disposal, be we germs, bugs, dinosaurs, dish, or mammals. or the process of science.

We can never observe everything, so we can never know for sure.

But I do know that there’s only one physical reality, and that reality proceeded down one specific pathway to arrive at today. The future is full of potential and possibilities, and the past is what it was.

And we are animals living in this moment doing the best we can with what we have.

Oh, another key to any of this making sense is also realizing that, all we know, including our Gods, are the products of our mind, doing the best it can with what it has.

I don’t have a problem with God or religion, with the understanding that it’s all about our mental landscapes, and not physical reality.

Science seeks to objectively learn about our physical world, but we should still recognize all our understanding is embedded within and constrained by our mindscape.

Religion is all about the human mindscape itself, with its wonderful struggles, fears, spiritual undercurrents, needs and stories we create to give our live’s meaning and make it worth living, or at least bearable.

What’s the point?

Religions, Science, political beliefs, heaven, hell, even God they are all products of the human mindscape, generations of imaginings built upon previous generations of imaginings, all the way down.

{That’s not to say they are the same thing, they are not!
> Though I think they’re both equally valid human endeavors,
> but fundamentally qualitatively different.
> Religion deals with the inside of our minds, hearts and souls,
> Science does its best to objectively understand the physical world beyond all that.}

I used buy into that thought. Then I saw a TimeLifeBook of the 100 most basic organic molecules (that collectively includes most of what goes into the building blocks of life), beautifully laid out in various description parameters. It’s really amazing. Looking at evolving biological chemical structures, sure seem to me that nature has doing exactly that: “playing dice” with chemistry & Evolution.

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This is what the head mechanic of the Mars Rover landing said as well about the exactness of the science employed.
He said something like; " We don’t need to be perfect. We need only be good enough."
And they were, the landing came off without a hitch.


The reason I’m moving on from this topic is that we all seem to be on the same page, more or less. Your comment is an example. It is probably better written than mine. For example I didn’t mean to imply that I agreed with Einstein that god doesn’t play dice. In fact it is hard to say what he meant by that. Einstein was an atheists. The people he was addressing were atheists. My guess is he was just trying to address the need for humility and the importance of imagination. We take quantum physics for granted. It is hard to even imagine that it is not authoritative. Which may be the central issue of this topic. Who is the authority on what we can know not what we know? How do you make that a scientific question not a philosophical question? I tried to address that by pointing out that one of the new tools of science is “bottom up design” or the mimicking of the evolutionary process. The problem of course is I have little expertise on the subject. At this point about all I can do is recommend Stephen Wolfram’s “New Kind of Science”.

I think Wolfram is as under appreciated as Daniel Dennett for the same reason. There work isn’t emotionally and intellectually satisfying. They are trying to tell us what we can know which turns out isn’t very interesting. What is interesting and emotionally satisfying is the idea that geniuses are born not created through hard work and unusual intelligence. The reality seems to be that things are more discovered than invented. That we are not god’s who can create.

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You know I forgot to like your comments. I think we are here for the same reason. At least in part because we reject the way social media works to encourage “likes” not interesting conversation. I have enjoyed all the comments here so far because it definitely is a different atmosphere than what I’m use to. I also note the lack of “popularity” of this forum. That is not necessarily a bad thing :slight_smile:

I believe that Einstein was making the point that there is no “irreducible complexity” of any kind.
Even if there was a god he’d have to obey his own physics (mathematical functions).


That is pretty clever.

I would only add that Einstein was keenly aware that languages all languages are abstract. Not to be confused with the thing itself. I would substitute reflect for obey.

I’m a pretty unfocused thinker sometimes it is useful and sometimes not. More often than not it is not. I appreciate your patience.

Yes, but one can also make an argument that having a language suggests a “shared understanding” of what it is you are describing .

But as Sabine Hossenfelder observes, spoken language differences can affect the POV
of the observer, i.e. it is not deterministic.

Mathematics is also an abstract language but there is no room for interpretation, its describes the mechanics of determinism.

Rickey Gervais: "Destroy all bibles and try to rewrite them a 1000 years later. They would be different, no?
Now destroy all of science and rewrite it a 1000 years later, It would be exactly as it is now. The concept of mathematical order is infinite in scope. All other models are restricted to local conditions.
David Bohm speaks of “non-locality”.

Nonlocality Gets a Boost – David Bohm Revisited

There is, however, an alternative view, pioneered by Louis de Broglie in 1927 and developed by David Bohm in 1952 which came to be known as Bohmian Mechanics or pilot-wave theory. It reconciles particles with our usual classical understanding. The catch: everything in the cosmos influences everything else. The universe is essentially non-local.

Well again a wonderful thought provoking post.

Where I think we fundamentally disagree is over how deterministic cultural evolution is. Yes the bible would never be written the same way a thousand years later but the environment has changed. And no a science book written a thousand years from now will not be the same. The environment will have changed.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding of religion. Religion doesn’t define the culture the culture defines the religion. It is hard to see because religion appears very abstract. The way a bible would be written today would reflect the new cultural environment but what hasn’t changed is human nature. Physical evolution is much slower than cultural evolution. Those aspect of the Bible that are confined to human nature will not have changed much. Not even science will have changed that. Were the people that wrote the bible keen observers of human nature? That is worth discussing but I do think that the relatively simple society they lived in made it much easier.

I prefer evolutionary psychology to explain human nature than the bible. But one of he keys to evolutionary psychology is cross cultural studies. There is virtually nothing more culturally alien than the world two thousand years ago so I study the bible to see what hasn’t changed. It is a pretty poor record but it’s the best I have. Of course I also study Chinese religions etc. etc.

I need to go back to my original statement. It is true that modern physics didn’t replace Newtonian physics only the way it is used. You can think of it in terms of focus. As the focus becomes narrower the accuracy and precision increases. If you don’t need a lot of accuracy and precision Newtonian physics is preferable. The fact that Newtonian physics doesn’t describe the universe very well is irrelevant. If you don’t need a good description of the universe it simply doesn’t matter. The same is true of the bible. If you don’t need a very accurate description of human nature then it simply doesn’t matter. It was good enough for purpose which was social cohesion when social cohesion was critical to cultural survival. The focus was extremely broad and lacking in detail but it subdued the instincts to keep civilization together. Today we need a better understanding of human nature because societies are extremely complex. We need to know exactly what instincts we are dealing with and how they function.

In any case you are not wrong and that is not my point. My focus is just broader than what we would general like for such a discussion. I want to know what is the same before I try and figure out why things are different. Just like they still teach Newtonian physics today. I’m not sure we need to be all that accurate and precise. I will get to that if I start applying evolutionary psychologist in some other thread. I will start posting studies instead of dabbling in philosophy.

I could be wrong :slight_smile:

Very interesting thought.

I use to say that man build his gods according to its one’s image.

For me, your idea is evidently partly true.

But, once religion is created, it shapes the people and the culture as much it is used.

The interaction between religion and culture is not one way

For instance, the medieval ideology of the three orders, those who pray, those who fight and those who labor result from interaction between culture and religion, society being seen ans the reflection of the heavenly order .

[quote=“wolfhnd, post:31, topic:10817”]
Where I think we fundamentally disagree is over how deterministic cultural evolution is. Yes the bible would never be written the same way a thousand years later but the environment has changed. And no a science book written a thousand years from now will not be the same. The environment will have changed.

That is true, but mathematical mechanics will not change. Only the input values will change. The result will always be deterministic. That is what mathematical functions do.

Maybe by religious people, or even some mainstream opinion of people who haven’t thought about it much.

I think you are misunderstanding the thought experiment. The fundamental laws of nature won’t change, so that part of science will either be exactly the same, or maybe a little more or less right, but the laws themselves won’t change. There won’t be new chemicals that appear in the next thousand years. The average global temperature will be different, but the reasons for it won’t change.

I’m going to assume you didn’t think that one out too much. Maybe more thinking and less typing would be good.

You might selling physics short a bit
This is the most important equation in cosmology - Big Think

The chicken or the egg problem exists for everything. But if you are looking at it from an evolutionary perspective the egg came first. Depending on how you define egg it may be older than sexual reproduction. A lot of the evolutionary history is lost to us.

When making a comparison between physical and cultural evolution the process of reproduction is different. New religious forms popup constantly some out compete others and the old forms disappear or get isolated on cultural islands. Once a population is established it becomes harder for new forms to compete. Where the analogy breaks down is the reproduction of deleterious mutations can rapidly outpace the selection process. The selection process takes place at the group level not the individual level. The group itself can rapidly expand or contract independent of the selection process. The selection process is the survival of the group both physically and culturally. The definition of a dead civilization being one that didn’t physically or culturally reproduce. We lose sight of the process to some extent because in the modern world physical survival of a group is decoupled from cultural survival as group on group violence has dramatically reduced. As communication both physical and cultural has speed up group identity has weakened. Religious identity and it’s advantage of group cohesion has weakened. As the advantages of group cohesion have weaken so has religious affiliation.

I’m not going to pretend that the above narrative is comprehensive. The complexities involved are mind boggling. However the definition of a dead civilization is one that doesn’t physically and culturally reproduce. As the advantages of group cohesion have weaken so has the importance of physical reproduction but we can go back in history to simpler times to get an idea of how it worked in the past.

Perhaps the best example of the process is Islam. Islam evolved in a semi nomadic tribal environment of constant tribal warfare. An environment that lack fixed fortified environments in which religious reproductive fidelity could be protected. One of the features of tribal societies is that divisions of labor are less pronounced than in more complex settled societies. Often religious and military leaders are one in the same. An example would be the the Ghost Dancer cult among Native American tribes propagated by the Northern Paiute spiritual leader Wovoka. Mohammad was one such leader. My reading of the history of Islam suggests that the religion evolved along with the tribal warfare. Islam it turns out evolved into an almost perfect religion for a tribal society to spread militarily. Sexual access is denied to young men unless they become warriors and even in death a warrior acquires sexual access. The women are kept as warrior producing machines. It is no coincidence that current Mullahs are saying they will conquer the West through the wombs of their women. Many factors play into the decline of Islamic culture the Mogul invasion being a good example. One possibly overlook factor however is that over time technology became more important than warriors. When the Turks adopted modern technologies they over came the other Islamic tribes and dominated the Middle East for centuries. Keep in mind that technologies primarily develop in settled societies. Fast forward to the modern era and the ability to produce large numbers of warriors becomes even less important in the defense of religion.

Now I have received the appropriate critique in this thread that I’m doing more typing than thinking. I’m not actually suggesting that it is a one way process. The religion does determine the culture as the culture moves forward once the religion is established. What I’m suggesting is that once a trait becomes fixed in a population it’s harder for competing mutations to take hold. I’m primarily concerned with how the original mutation takes hold. If it isn’t compatible with the original cultural environment it will have little fitness advantage. It’s my idea so I have to defend it but I don’t have a lot of time. I’m doing the best I can to keep up with valuable critiques. :slight_smile:

Where did that come from?

I appreciate your response but I’m trying to respond to multiple comments. It is getting hard.

I think where we may disagree is in making religion a special case. What you may find wrong with religion is common to many aspects of culture. Cults popup all the time some religious and some secular. What defines a cult more that any thing else is the attempt to isolate the group from competing ideas. Cults become religions when the competing ideas are mostly suppressed and the ideas of the cult evolve within their own environment. Of course all religions exist within a common environment. If you go back in time far enough the environment was fairly uniformly survival in nature. That uniformity allowed for religious simplicity to maintain social cohesion. As civilization advantaged the environment became more complex and so did the ways in which social cohesion could be gained and so did the religions. Social cohesion operates independently of the physical environment until something happens to threaten survival that stress causes the rate of cultural mutations to increase. There are a lot of competing cults today because the culture including religion is under attack. I’m not here to defend religion I’m just suggesting that religion didn’t just happen it served a social function or it wouldn’t have survived. Exploring that function seems to me to be worth doing.

I have dragged this conversation so far off topic chaos has set in. The irony is that one of the functions of religion is to prevent social chaos. We have a “religion” called the scientific method that also fights chaos. The original question however is more philosophical than scientific. The answer is actually pretty simple. You can’t know what you don’t know. What you know can give you hints of what you don’t know but the answers are in the poorly defined future.

I still think the problem is we confuse the mathematical model with the thing itself. The thing itself is complex and irreducible. I’m not going to argue that the universe is not reducible to a relatively simple formula. The universe will still not be the formula. The formula will be just another tool applied to the specific and not the general. We still won’t know what we don’t know.

As I said in another post the original post is more philosophical than scientific. The discussion rapidly descends into a language game where logic displaces experience. Science works the opposite of philosophy where experience defines the logic. In philosophy the logic defines the experience. Philosophy is not about getting the right answer but in how you develop the logic to derive the answer. I wouldn’t go so far as Steven Weinberg and say the use of philosophers to science is to argue against the bad ideas of other philosophers but it is often the case. There is a place for the philosophy of science. I’m just not sure exactly how.

[quote=“wolfhnd, post:38, topic:10817”]
I still think the problem is we confuse the mathematical model with the thing itself. The thing itself is complex and irreducible.

It is now, but it cannot have started that way. IMO, there is no such things as an “irreducible complexity” . That’s Intelligent Design (see Kitzmiller Trial)

I’m not going to argue that the universe is not reducible to a relatively simple formula. The universe will still not be the formula. The formula will be just another tool applied to the specific and not the general. We still won’t know what we don’t know.

Yes, a mathematical formula. That is the only model that can logically replace the concept of a motivated creator sky-daddy. That concept goes back to our common ancestors.

That’s why I have dubbed my universe as a “quasi-intelligent” geometry, where mathematics has been responsible for an orderly evolution of dynamically functional patterns over time.

I see Mathematics as the collection of formulas and equations that allows regular patterns to emerge from chaos.

Physical expression of is dependent on size and density of the pattern. The mathematics are clearly expressed in the fractals of mineral crystals as well as plants in biology. David Bohm called mathematics of the Pilot Wave, the “guiding equation”

I wasn’t going to respond because communication seems to have broken down. Perhaps I wasn’t clear.

What you left out is the key part of my comment which is if the universe is deterministic how can cultural evolution not be deterministic? In a previous post I illustrated how physical and cultural evolution are tied together. No doubt there are a lot of deleterious mutations in the culture space that from our perspective are not corrected by selection and interfere with fitness but that seems to be a matter of what time frame you focus on.

Many people have come to believe that the scientific “mutation” itself is a threat to fitness. I’m not one of those people. Again it is a question of what time frame you are using. Over a very long time frame the only way the species will survive is through science. That takes us back to the subjective nature of values which is a philosophical not scientific discussion. I have to restate a fundamental problem here and that is that nature is amoral. Morality only becomes real in how the abstract space interacts with the physical space. The point being that you can’t derive values or a morality from a naturalistic perspective. Since this is philosophy there are no right answers only chains of abstraction with internal consistency. You can go around and around here because philosophy does effect physical reality.

I respect your epistemological framework I just don’t think that the answer can be derived within it.

I have been wrong before :slight_smile: