Can Everything be Reduced to Pure Physics?

  • Thread starter Philocrat
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In which other ways can the Physical world be explained?

  • By Physics alone?

    Votes: 144 48.0%
  • By Religion alone?

    Votes: 8 2.7%
  • By any other discipline?

    Votes: 12 4.0%
  • By Multi-disciplinary efforts?

    Votes: 136 45.3%

  • Total voters
    300
  • #26
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Imparcticle said:
You mean of course the basic laws right? (I have complexity/chaos in mind)
Does it make any difference? The fact that chaos and order are co-referentially substitutive renders this entirely irrelevent! And besides, complexity/chaos is apparent only in observation and explanation and not in the process, .......and more decisively, the process remains structuarally and functionally sufficient and efficient. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that you shoulld abandon your current mathematics and logic....hold on to them until progress is made elswhere, if any!

And Balkan talks of there always being quantitative and representational deficits.... and things running into infinities. But in what mode of account or representation? Infinities are limitations, not in the real world but in the visual faculty. The question now is which visual faculty is superior enough to be able to quantify and explain? Is it the human's? If it is, can it be redesigned and improved to do so?
 
  • #27
selfAdjoint
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Philocrat said:
And besides, complexity/chaos is apparent only in observation and explanation and not in the process, .....
There is no objectively chaotic process (in the technical sense)? That is nominalism gone wild!
 
  • #28
Tom Mattson
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Les Sleeth said:
Surely you aren't saying that because you can dream up a physical explanation for everything, that we should accept it is "explained" whether you can prove it is true or not?
I would think that it means that, as we learn more, the definition of what it means to be "physical" will change. At one time, it meant that material bodies were infinitely indivisible. Later, it meant that they were made of indivisible building blocks called atoms, that should in principle follow Newton's laws. Later still, it was found that those atoms have a structure, and that the constituents behave according to an entirely different set of laws than we had originally supposed. Then, we got to look inside the nucleus, and saw that those constituents behave according to a different set of rules, and so on.

The only reason I claim there may be something more is because of what exists which is exhibiting unphysical-like characteristics, and because I am not attached to having a physical explanation for everything.
And it is also the case that consciousness exibits characteristics that are physical-like. Even if you are of the persuasion that consciousness or free will (or whatever you want to call it) is "in charge" in that it dermines our brain states, instead of the other way around, it is still the case whatever this nebulous thing is, it has a physical effect on material bodies. That makes it physical, too. Now the problem is to develop a physical model that accounts for it, which I think is what SelfAdjoint was getting at.
 
  • #29
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selfAdjoint said:
There is no objectively chaotic process (in the technical sense)? That is nominalism gone wild!
Perhaps so. But it does one thing though: it reinforces my reason for looking for a new exit out of the nightmare!
 
  • #30
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Philocrat said:
Indeed....and even more so, invisibility never undermines the physical existence of anything....it merely signals to the natural limitation of the observer, especially the human kind.
I agree up to this point, but I take issue with a couple of the statements made afterward:

That's why I have declared in all my writings that GOD is not only compatible with Logic but also analytically indestructible.
But, if the concept of God were unfalsifiable and unprovable, then it would also be logically useless.

Both science and religion are in the same boat when it comes to the total understanding and explanation of God.
Not exactly. You see, science cannot (by virtue of the philosophies on which it's based) even address unfalsifiable concepts. They can never become theories, and they are not taken seriously, since investigation and collection of empirical data are clearly useless in such cases (and those are some of the things on which the scientific method rests).

Religion is in the boat it's in because it makes an a priori assumption, and then looks for any data that could be interpreted to fit that assumption. In other words, with regard to most religions, absolute belief precedes observation; while, in science, observation of indicative phenomena comes first, and absolute belief is never reached.

And dualism is one issue that I very much wish to avoid in this debate, but if I am pressed or presurised harder I will have to produce my own verdict later on.
I admire the fact that you realized the possible invocation of dualism, and would also like to avoid it. That's why I made the point of God's needing to be physical.
 
  • #31
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Does it make any difference? The fact that chaos and order are co-referentially substitutive renders this entirely irrelevent! And besides, complexity/chaos is apparent only in observation and explanation and not in the process, .......and more decisively, the process remains structuarally and functionally sufficient and efficient. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that you shoulld abandon your current mathematics and logic....hold on to them until progress is made elswhere, if any!
After reading an article on self organising systems, a conclusion was made by the author(s) of the article which indicated that complexity is a dirivitive (sp? I can never spell that word) of simple systems. Once simple laws of order are being followed, eventually, complexity will arise, and finally, it would reach a point of unpredictable levels.
Now consider our present discussion here (i.e., the original idea of this thread). The universe is chaotic, disorderly and unpredictable in many circumstances (hence an origin of chaos theory). Essentially, the basic laws of the universe would be the only laws we will be able to understand fully such that we could predict/ determine certain things. Though some theories/facts ( proven theories) may seem complex, it could be that they are really simple, but relative to our mental compacity and our ability to understand, it may seem complex. What do you think? I am really unsure of what I have just stated.

Infinities are limitations, not in the real world but in the visual faculty.
Can you do the honors of expanding on this idea? What do you mean by "infinities" exactly? And "visual faculty"?
 
  • #32
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loseyourname said:
I think we're referring to a complete accounting of the laws by which reality operates, not the exact position and momentum of every single material particle in the universe.
yes, but since all our measurements are subject to the uncertainty principles, we could only get complete accountability by a pure chance of luck...
since our measurements will inevitable be unprecise, so will our models... that was my basic message...
 
  • #33
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Philocrat said:
Therefore, I am in the opinion that we combine numerical preservation with any other type of action which also allows us to ACTUALLY and PHYSICALLY progress. And one of such possible action is probably for ust to stop pretending and start thinking and acting like proper mutants - PHYSICALLY WRITE THE STRUCTURE OF THE WORLD INTO OURSELVES!
i think at some point it will be inevitable... rigth now we're messing up our own evolution anyway... and at some point in the near future, pennicillin will have to be replaced with a new kind of antibacterial medicin and who knows how long this can go on... at some point, we will probably have to start mutating humans in order to preserve our species... although, i'm not sure i'm very fond of the idea...
 
  • #34
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Imparcticle said:
After reading an article on self organising systems, a conclusion was made by the author(s) of the article which indicated that complexity is a dirivitive (sp? I can never spell that word) of simple systems. Once simple laws of order are being followed, eventually, complexity will arise, and finally, it would reach a point of unpredictable levels.
Now consider our present discussion here (i.e., the original idea of this thread). The universe is chaotic, disorderly and unpredictable in many circumstances (hence an origin of chaos theory). Essentially, the basic laws of the universe would be the only laws we will be able to understand fully such that we could predict/ determine certain things. Though some theories/facts ( proven theories) may seem complex, it could be that they are really simple, but relative to our mental compacity and our ability to understand, it may seem complex. What do you think? I am really unsure of what I have just stated.


Can you do the honors of expanding on this idea? What do you mean by "infinities" exactly? And "visual faculty"?
Well, the formal definitions of 'infinity' in physics, mathematics and philisophy remain what they are and I have no intention of intervening with what they are. Although I respect formal procedures, but I tend to avoid them as much as I can. Where I have a problem with formal definitions of infinity is not only where such definitions may deceptively appear conclusive but aslo where the problems which accompany them may appear persistently irresolvable.

I defined infinity as:

'limits of perceivable quantities'

Hence, if formal definitions are worth their claims, the only sensible thing that I always do is to treat them as convenient quantitative and representational devices in any given analysis. I know you are going to hate me for this: I always assume infinities to be quantitatively and analytically finite in my weird future anticipation of the human ability to subsequently perceive and comprehend them.
 
  • #35
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On the issue of what constitutes the term 'visual faculty', I have done as much as I can to steer clear of the schools. All I can say now is that I have given the term a wider interpretation....and I do not think it's a good idea for me to disgust you by its scope. However, if you do insist, I would drop as much hints and clues as I can as to its exact scope later.
 
  • #36
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Mentat said:
I agree up to this point, but I take issue with a couple of the statements made afterward:



But, if the concept of God were unfalsifiable and unprovable, then it would also be logically useless.
For havean's sake, stop pressurising and making me sweat. The Logical device that I devised was not to give an absolute guarantee of God's existence, but merely to preserve the idea. All it did was to make it penetratingly difficult for anyone from any discipline to completely dispose of the idea of God altogether. The device also made it possibe to exonerate God from any blame for all the errors in the causal and relational structure of the world.
 
  • #37
Tom Mattson
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Philocrat: That's why I have declared in all my writings that GOD is not only compatible with Logic but also analytically indestructible.

Mentat: But, if the concept of God were unfalsifiable and unprovable, then it would also be logically useless.

Philocrat: For havean's sake, stop pressurising and making me sweat. The Logical device that I devised was not to give an absolute guarantee of God's existence, but merely to preserve the idea.
First off, I for one have no idea of what "compatible with logic" means. I know what it means for two statements to be compatible (aka consistent), but logic is not a statement. Second, Mentat's objection should not be brushed aside: What do you mean when you say that the concept of god is "analytically indestructible". Does that mean that you can formulate a statement regarding god that is analytically true? If so, then what is the statement? And what's the point of formulating a noncontingent theory of god? I can easily formulate an "analytically indestructible" statement about cockroaches (eg: "That cockroach is either alive or it is dead."), but I don't find any philosophical value in it.
 
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  • #38
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To address the original question, IMHO, everything physical may one day be described by physics. I don't think that it will be in the foreseeable future nor do I think that it will be reduced to physical law but the physics will have to expand to encompass all of physical reality.
There is however more to reality than the physical universe and that I am afraid is irreducible to any physical laws. Such simple mundane things as life, consciousness, mental activities such as memory, thinking and ideas as well as mental images and imagination are outside the purview of physics. Then there is the whole realm of metaphysics, the spiritual realm for want of a better term. These things are still considered in the realm of philosophy and not science. Maybe some day they will fall under the topic of science but that will only be because science expands to encompass them rather than they being reduced to science.
 
  • #39
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balkan said:
yes, but since all our measurements are subject to the uncertainty principles, we could only get complete accountability by a pure chance of luck...
since our measurements will inevitable be unprecise, so will our models... that was my basic message...
hmm.. would like some thoughts on this... are there people out there who think these problems somehow will be solved in the future?
personally i can't see how...
 
  • #40
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I'm not real sure exactly what this thread question is asking. The title is:

"Can Everything be Reduced to Pure Physics? "

and the body of the post consistently ask the same question:

"How true is the claim that everything in the whole universe can be explained by Physics and Physics alone? How realistic is this claim?"

But then the poll asks this question:

"Which other ways can the physical world be explained?"

These are not the same questions. The first question seems to get into the whole physical versus non physical debate. While the poll question(which changes the word "everything" to "physical" things) seems to be asking an epistomology question about whether we can completely know the physical world we live in. So I didn't answer the poll because my answer is different depending on which question is being asked.

As for the whole physical vs non-physical discussion, I really do wish we could all agree on what these terms mean. I think that everyone defines these things differently. I can agree with some people that everything is physical or I can agree with some that there is "something more" than physical. It all depends on how we choose to define these words. So I could agree with everyone in here but what do you know about my beliefs? Nothing. You only know this by learning how I define the word physical. Tom's last post seems to suggest that the definition changes. I think that the definition should not change but rather the things that fall under the physical classification should change as we gain knowledge. If we change the definition to encompass everything that we can prove to exists then the term really is meaningless because there is nothing else to distinguish physical things from.

What does it mean to be physical? I'll take a stab at it. I'll propose the distinction is not a property of the thing itself. But rather is a property of how we relate or gain knowledge about the thing. If something is exclusively unavailable for examination through the "objective" :wink: tools of science, then it is non-physical and there's no need to ask the question in the title. If you want to argue that such a thing does not exists, then why do we bother to call anything physical? The term is meaningless because everything would be physical.
 
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  • #41
Tom Mattson
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Fliption said:
If we change the definition to encompass everything that we can prove to exists then the term really is meaningless because there is nothing else to distinguish physical things from.
What about the distinction between concrete and abstract objects? We get a great deal of utility out of all kinds of the latter (numbers and letters, for instance).
 
  • #42
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Tom Mattson said:
What about the distinction between concrete and abstract objects? We get a great deal of utility out of all kinds of the latter (numbers and letters, for instance).
I'm not saying it isn't useful. I'm saying that in order for it to be useful then we must believe that non-physical things do have a distinguished existence from physical things. Sounds like you think abstract things fall under this category. I'm fine with that. I'm just not sure everyone here agrees with that definition. Yet we debate physicalism versus "something more" as if it is something other than a semantic debate.
 
  • #43
Les Sleeth
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Tom Mattson said:
I would think that it means that, as we learn more, the definition of what it means to be "physical" will change. At one time, it meant that material bodies were infinitely indivisible. Later, it meant that they were made of indivisible building blocks called atoms, that should in principle follow Newton's laws. Later still, it was found that those atoms have a structure, and that the constituents behave according to an entirely different set of laws than we had originally supposed. Then, we got to look inside the nucleus, and saw that those constituents behave according to a different set of rules, and so on.
Sorry, I just saw your post.

I have to agree with Fliption's point of needing to distinguish between physical and non-physical. One difference I often see between physicalist and non-physicalist perspectives is which came first. I would guess your view would tend toward saying that first came the big bang, and then everything else followed from the potentials created by that event.

I don't know if you followed my thread on panpsychism (BTW, thanks for the intervention), but at one point I posted a short contemplation on "substance monism" https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=30762&page=6&pp=15. It is a very common idea among non-physicalists that there exists some base substance (which I labeled illumination -- if you don't mind, I'll continue to use that term for the base substance), which was never created and cannot be destroyed, which is light-like in essence as well as possessing an energtic temperment, and which exists in an infinite continuum (illumination is not baseless speculation, there is some evidence). The idea of substance monism, then, is that everything is a form of this basic, most fundamental "stuff" of existence. In it is all the potentials needed to create a universe (out of itself) and everything we find in the universe.

Now, the physicalist will say the universe began with the physical event of the big bang, but he cannot explain what caused the big bang, nor where all the stuff composing it originated. He can explain how energy moves things, but he can't explain what energy is. We can quantify oscillatory rates, but cannot explain why particles are such determined oscillators. In the end, the answers to those questions (and lots more) for the physicalist seem to boil down to "that's just how it is."

Okay, return to the primordial illumination concept. There we only need to say "that's just how it is" about one thing: illumination (or whatever the base substance is). Ockham's razor! :smile: In terms of a theory, the final step is to infer that illumination is the potential for what is most prevalent in and necessary to the existence of the universe, and then try to figure out what illumination would have to be like in order to take the "form" of a universe.

So it seems to me your answer that the definition of physical keeps expanding will only work if we don't look before the big bang. Yet we do have two origination theories which adherents attempt to make reasonable (I'm discounting supernatural possibillities; also, if I could have my way I'd also eliminate any purely rationalistic argument or model unsupported by evidence). One origination theory puts a physical event first, the other puts something we might conservatively label "absolute potentiality" first. We cannot explain the origin of the big bang or the stuff of matter. But we don't need to explain the origin of illumination.


Tom Mattson said:
And it is also the case that consciousness exibits characteristics that are physical-like. Even if you are of the persuasion that consciousness or free will (or whatever you want to call it) is "in charge" in that it dermines our brain states, instead of the other way around, it is still the case whatever this nebulous thing is, it has a physical effect on material bodies. That makes it physical, too. Now the problem is to develop a physical model that accounts for it, which I think is what SelfAdjoint was getting at.
It is very true that consciousness affects matter, and is affected by matter. But if you can temporarily accept the substance monism concept, then one can say that there is no essential difference between the two. What is different, in that theory, is the conditions which define them. In the panpsychism model I used the analogy of how a mist sits on a warm lake at night. Right at the boundary between water and mist is some common point, yet there is also a point where water is liquid and mist is gas. So although identical in essence, conditions determine how H20's potentials will be manifested.

I don't think their (physical-consciousness) mutual influence must mean consciousness is physical; it could mean the physical, at the foundation, shares the same nature with consciousness and so allows a certain temporary compatibility (entropy ensures that it is impermanent). But if so then we still have the question of which is most fundamental, physicalness or consciousness.


Tom Mattson said:
Now the problem is to develop a physical model that accounts for it, which I think is what SelfAdjoint was getting at.
I agree that's what he is getting at, and I still maintain that is based on an a priori assumption about first cause. I've been trying to argue that it is actually easier to explain the universe if we have an uncaused first cause. Explanation "ease" also seems relevant to the question of which comes first, matter or consciousness? In the infinite ocean of illumination we are imagining, and considering the "hard problem" of consciousness, which would be easiest to first develop? Also, if consciousness developed first (and I don't mean some progeny of dogma, i.e., forever existing, all powerful, all knowing, supernatural, etc.), and we assume it has evolved far longer than the age of our universe, then doesn't that also add to the ease of explaining the development of our universe, especially when it comes to the evolution of life and consciousness?

The way I look at it, if neither the physical or non-physical side can offer convincing evidence of our origins, then all that's left is what most naturally accounts for the most unexplained things.
 
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  • #44
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Tom Mattson said:
First off, I for one have no idea of what "compatible with logic" means. I know what it means for two statements to be compatible (aka consistent), but logic is not a statement. Second, Mentat's objection should not be brushed aside. Second, what do you mean when you say that the concept of god is "analytically indestructible". Does that mean that you can formulate a statement regarding god that is analytically true? If so, then what is the statement? And what's the point of formulating a noncontingent theory of god? I can easily formulate an "analytically indestructible" statement about cockroaches (eg: "That cockroach is either alive or it is dead."), but I don't find any philosophical value in it.
You may be right…I could be using these terminologies in a very naïve or misleading way. But for me, I used the term ‘analytically indestructible’ to merely indicate that I personally find one or two of the premises used in both the religious and scientific arguments inconclusive. That is, in religious terms, it does not allow the nature and existence of God to be ascertained and in scientific terms as well it does not allow the whole idea of God to be completely disposed of either.

Infact, some people have argued that one of the ways to analyse anything out of existence (including the cockroaches that you mentioned) is to render all the premises in the given argument completely false. Well, from my own detailed examination of both arguments (scientific and religious), some of their premises behaved so badly that they left God hanging in a logical space, neither fully proved nor disproved. Well, people, including Mentat, say that this leaves the logic behind it in a limbo. True, perhaps. I know you do not like me to use the term ‘Logic’, but I still wish to claim that God is ‘logically’ preserved when the direction of the argument about him/her is reversed.

On the issue of what the term ‘God is compatible with logic’ implies, well, this is my own opposite view to the general claim in philosophy that ‘God is incompatible with logic’, or in a very restrictive and non-technical sense, that God has no logical explanation. The phrase ‘God is incompatible with logic’ is just one amongst many similar phrases that usually fly by in public and classroom philosophy lectures, and all I did was pick this one out and reversed its declaratory and quantificational consequences by reversing the general approach to the interpretation of God.
Equally, you could say that I used this term merely as a heading of my invitation to scholars to start the inevitable process of converting some of the declaratory, existential and quantificational claims about God from past tense to present tense. Also, I am fully aware that many participants in this forum are versed in several branches of logic, and what I am saying here may not necessarily be about logical proofs, but mainly about consistency of reasoning and approach to directing the train of our thoughts and deeds, especially on issues of this monumental magnitude.

The key problem that I have about the entire enterprise of God is that when people make declaratory, existential or quantificational claims, they tend to dive straight into the so-called logical proof with little or no attention paid to the equally necessary element of consistency of reasoning and approach. Now consider these two sentences:

1) God created the world
2) God is creating the world.


The first sentence, loaded with so many presuppositions, created the impressions from outset that not only does God exist but also that God created the world and left it in its current problematic state (at least within the human frame of reference), and that the actual process of creation itself is complete. Done and dusted! It also gives the impression of a God that finished his/her duty and went on a very long vacation or permanent early retirement. And if you look all around you, nearly all the religious books ever written, all the sermons and public lectures ever given tend to always create and labour under these nightmarish impressions. If this is correct, I argue that this is the single fundamental source of all the contradictions and inconsistencies found in declaratory and existential claims about God. This first sentence gave philosophers of all ages the ammunition to launch intellectual onslaught and destructive arguments of all kinds not only against religious arguments but also against scientific arguments about the entire nature and existence of God.

For the purpose of simplicity and explanatory convenience, I have labelled this ‘The Principle of finished Creation’ (or 'The Principle of finished Business’, as one of my friends jokingly renamed it).

The second sentence on the other hand is based on what I call ‘The Principle of Unfinished Creation’ (equally jokingly renamed by my friends as ‘The Principle of Unfinished Business). But for the purpose of widening the scope of its meaning and increasing its declaratory and quantificational significance, I have renamed it ‘The Principle of Continuing Causation’. According to this principle, the slightest error or defect found in the structure and function of an outcome of any given action renders its inconclusive, therefore continuous both in substance and in scope.


If you accept this principle as it is so defined, then the naïve notion that God could create the world and leave it in its present chaotic and problematic state and walk away, soon becomes a pointless route to ply. Now the BIG question that will return to haunt the human conscience for a very long time to come is this:

How could God take an early retirement or go on a holiday when there is still so much work to be done to take the human race out of its misery?

This is the problematic question that the principle of continuing causation is attempting resolve. Therefore, the second sentence ‘God is creating the world’, quite rightly endorsed by this principle, does the following things;

1) It renders the Principle of finished creation incompatible with
the way things really are in the world.
2) It returns God from an early retirement back to work. Hence, when
Einstein once said; “God does not play dice with the universe”, I ague
that this should be taken to imply ‘God is in active service to the world
and to the wider universe.
3) It declares God blameless of all errors in the causal and relational
structure of the world.
4) And until further notice, God is happily and wholeheartedly working
towards bringing his/her creation to a safe and perfect conclusion.
 
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  • #45
vanesch
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Les Sleeth said:
The two biggest obstacles to a 100% physicalist model are life and consciousness.
Life isn't an obstacle, if you understand by life its biological definition. We more or less know what life is, on the molecular level.

However, I think that you are right that consciousness IS the open question. For the moment, physics isn't there yet, and I think it is an open question whether consciousness will, one day, have a materialistic (hence physical) explanation or not.
The funny thing is that conciousness seems to play a role in the major difficulties in modern physics, namely the interpretations of quantum mechanics (it is at the end of the day the concious observer who needs probabilities) and problems with the arrow of time. Of course this fact may mean several things: it might be simply indicating that the theories leading to these questions have to be modified ; or it might indicate that there is a physical role for consciousness. This is, I think, an open question as of today.

cheers,
Patrick.
 
  • #46
Les Sleeth
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vanesch said:
Life isn't an obstacle, if you understand by life its biological definition. We more or less know what life is, on the molecular level.
Hi Patrick. I realize we can explain much in the way of life's chemistry. But what I meant when I referred to life as an "obstacle" to physicalism is that we cannot explain the quality of its organization. By "explain" I mean demonstrate the truth of assertions about biological causes of life; it is not enough just to offer a theory in place of an essential "something" needed to complete a physicalistic life model.

I have argued the "organization quality" point many times here a PF, so I will make this as brief as possible. Let me try an analogy. Say you and a friend are aliens who accidentally stepped in a bubbling quantum fluctuation and were instantly transported to Earth. The two of you find no humans around, but you do find a car in perfect working condition and decide to see if you can explain what caused it. You take it apart, study all the relationships between the parts, come to understand combustion, the concept of a transmission, suspension, the electrical system, etc. Finally you declare to your friend that since you can explain how all the parts work to create a working car, you fully, 100% understand what causes a car. Your friend is skeptical. He wants to know how all those parts got organized that way. After pondering that question your answer is that since all the relationships between the parts are physical/mechanical, then it must be that physical/mechanical forces brought all that stuff together. Your friend says okay then let's put all the parts in a pile and see if they come together, and of course they never do.

Similarly, as deductionists we start with an intact system of life, and as reductionists we study it intrasystemically (I'm leaving out evolution for the moment since I am just pointing to systems). With chemistry you can get a little further than the auto theorists if you put life's constituent chemicals in a vat, but not much further before chemistry turns repetitive. What is missing is what I call "progressive" organization where we can observe chemistry kicking into the sort of organizational gear that will lead to essentially perpetual system building. The very furthest we've gotten is the Miller-Urey experiment, which only demonstrates my point: self organization only can be shown to occur for a few steps before turning repetitive (even PCR, impressive as it is, is merely repetitive, plus it starts out with materials already established by biology's organizational quality).

Some say, "evolution has taken billions of years to create life." Actually it took billions of years for evolution to shape life. Life itself apparently came into existence fairly quickly. But I am not even insisting we need to observe life created from chemistry; I would consider an abiogenesis theory reasonable if progressive self-organization could be shown to be possible in any circumstances (i.e., whether it leads to life or not). So long as it can't, I will continue to see life as a problem to any purely physicalistic model.
 
  • #47
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Les Sleeth said:
Life itself apparently came into existence fairly quickly. But I am not even insisting we need to observe life created from chemistry; I would consider an abiogenesis theory reasonable if progressive self-organization could be shown to be possible in any circumstances (i.e., whether it leads to life or not).
I will just give my personal view on these matters, which are what they are, and are open to criticism. In fact, I also felt that there was kind of a problem: if the essential "spark" that got life started (whether it are replicating dna molecules, or replicating proteins before they "discovered" DNA, whether this happened on earth, or whether earth was, in its early history, "inseminated" by exobiologic fragments, for example from another planet whose star underwent a supernova doesn't really matter here) was "easy" to reproduce, then the universe would be full of life and we don't seem to observe that. So it is kind of a hard problem if you consider life to have happened *by chance* because that probability is SO low that it shouldn't have happened in the visible universe.
However, inflationary cosmology gave me the idea that the antropological principle could have a meaning. Indeed, inflationary cosmology (and there seems to be more and more indications that inflation is true) makes the universe "much more infinite" than it already seemed to be: our observable universe is only a tiny bubble in an infinitude of bubbles. This enhances enormously the probability that a very improbable event, such as the development of life, can happen somewhere, in some universe. The reason why it is ours is then simply dictated by the anthropological principle.
The implication of this is that we should be alone in our visible universe, as living beings ; at least if life developed first on earth. If exobiology is true, it should then be confined to our "neighbourhood" of space, because the probability of having this extremely rare process to happen twice by chance is too small.

cheers,
patrick.
 
  • #48
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vanesch said:
Life isn't an obstacle, if you understand by life its biological definition. We more or less know what life is, on the molecular level.QUOTE]

We know, to a degree, how life works, how it replicates and metabolizes. This however is not knowing what life is or knowing how it came about.

We can look at a living cell or being and know that it is alive and some of the chemical processes within it that keeps it alive; we can also look at a dead cell or being and know that it is dead and that nearly none of the life processes are at work; yet there is nothing that we can identify that is present in the living cell and absent in the dead that is life nor can we transfer this life from one living cell into another and make that cell live as we can do with DNA. We do not know what life is. We cannot tell what changes take place that causes the living suddenly to become nonliving. It just stops living. We can determine why it died but not what left it when it died other than an undetectable undefinable quality that is life.
 
  • #49
selfAdjoint
Staff Emeritus
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Royce said:
vanesch said:
Life isn't an obstacle, if you understand by life its biological definition. We more or less know what life is, on the molecular level.QUOTE]

We know, to a degree, how life works, how it replicates and metabolizes. This however is not knowing what life is or knowing how it came about.
....
We cannot tell what changes take place that causes the living suddenly to become nonliving. It just stops living. We can determine why it died but not what left it when it died other than an undetectable undefinable quality that is life.
This undervalues what we DO know about cells. Quite often we can tell what specifically is different in the killed cell, that apoptosis has operated or some protein has accumulated blocking metabolism or some other specific condition. This is all well known science; it is wrong to deny it.
 
  • #50
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Royce said:
We can look at a living cell or being and know that it is alive and some of the chemical processes within it that keeps it alive; we can also look at a dead cell or being and know that it is dead and that nearly none of the life processes are at work; yet there is nothing that we can identify that is present in the living cell and absent in the dead that is life nor can we transfer this life from one living cell into another and make that cell live as we can do with DNA. We do not know what life is. We cannot tell what changes take place that causes the living suddenly to become nonliving. It just stops living. We can determine why it died but not what left it when it died other than an undetectable undefinable quality that is life.
maybe you can't, because you wish to see "life" as something more that just neurological impulses and cells dividing...
it is quite possible to tell what has changed when something dies, the "life" you're talking about though, is a quality that you put there, and you recon that it has somehow left the body since the body is no longer moving...

the quality of life imo, is the experiences we gain through our lives, which is what makes us who we are (yes, yes, and of course our genetic code)... it is what governs the way we move, the way we act, and the look we have in our eyes... all those things shuts down along with the body, and that is why it feels like something has left it...
it is also because that living being had a place in your mind just before dying, and that is contrasted with the dead, stiff body...

of course, no matter how much the operation of conciousness, mind and life is proven to work by biological mechanisms, alot of people will still believe that there "is something more"... perhaps because it is more comfortable to believe, and who are we to take that comfort away, really?
 

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