Would anything exist if mankind - the observer/participator - wasn't around to see

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Would anything exist if mankind -- the observer/participator -- wasn't around to see

I was reading Wheelers Obituary in the Los Angeles Times. A passage in the obituary piqued my mind. What do the forumites have to say?
 

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This is an interesting question, and one I can see both side of.

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear this though is that obviously things would happen if mankind wasn't around to see it, because obviously events had to occur in order for the earth to develop into a place in which mankind could live on. Considering we weren't around when the Earth was molten (or even at the point of the creation of the universe), we can infer that things do occur and exist even if we aren't around, otherwise our universe itself wouldn't exist, let alone Earth.
 
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You're digging deep into philosophy and metaphysics... :wink:

My personal belief is that nature needs us (and all living creatures) to be witnesses of the existance (of everything).

Kind of evolution of that conviction back when I was a kid that the world would cease to exist each time I closed my eyes. :biggrin:
 
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You're digging deep into philosophy and metaphysics... :wink:

My personal belief is that nature needs us (and all living creatures) to be witnesses of the existance (of everything).

Kind of evolution of that conviction back when I was a kid that the world would cease to exist each time I closed my eyes. :biggrin:
Yes. I concur this borders on metaphysics. The question which is the subject of this thread was raised by Wheeler. I had trouble deciding whether it belongs in the philosophy forum or the cosmology forum. There is a fine line since much of cosmology is theory that is yet to be proven.

I understand your premise in that without us, being all living things, there is no nature as we know it.
 
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I had trouble deciding whether it belongs in the philosophy forum or the cosmology forum. There is a fine line since much of cosmology is theory that is yet to be proven.
I would say that there is a fine line between philosophy and science in general. Well, both are products of our minds and therefore are opinable.
 
Chronos
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A more relevant question, perhaps, is if the laws of the universe are inherent or imposed. Does the existence of observers force the universe to behave logically, or is it a limitation the universe imposes upon us? Perhaps we are prisoners of our own logic.
 
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Perhaps we are prisoners of our own logic.
That sounds like Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem extended to the whole universe... :biggrin:
 
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So we may never know the real truth.
 
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How about "we WILL never know the real truth?" :wink:
Yes Daiquiri, I concur, with Godel's incompleteness we will never know more than the one who created us or from whence we came, i.e: The Universe. But Godel's logic is based on basic answers to questions like True or False. Aren't we more complicated than that? I said may because we seem to be uncovering more secrets as time goes by but as to if we will hit a critical mass where we can't find out anymore and we will reach the limits of our intelligence and knowledge over time. I don't know.

I read your bio. I see your an aerospace engineer in Brescia, Italy. I am an aerospace engineer in Los Angeles, CA. I am also of Italian ancestory. Its a pleasure to talk with you on this forum.
 
Chronos
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I like Daiquiri's version. Godel has a powerful argument, IMO.
 
SF
Did something exist before humans existed?
If not, how did we came to be as if it did?

Answer. Yes, things exist even if no one is watching (why wouldn't they?).
 
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I read your bio. I see your an aerospace engineer in Brescia, Italy. I am an aerospace engineer in Los Angeles, CA. I am also of Italian ancestory. Its a pleasure to talk with you on this forum.
Sorry, I was absent from the forum for some time. The pleasure is mine, though I'm actually not italian. :smile:
 
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Here's a poem i once read in a quantum physics book,

There once was a man who said, 'God

must think it exceedingly odd

if he finds that this tree

continues to be

when there's no one about in the quad.


Dear sir, your astonishments odd

I am always about in the quad

and that's why the tree

will continue to be

since observed by, yours faithfully, God
 
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I am always about in the quad
and that's why the tree
will continue to be
since observed by,
yours faithfully, God
Since observed, but not before observed. Before observing it, we have no proof of it's existance. After we have observed it we create our logical models (which need to be proved, and that's where Godel jumps in and spoils everything) which can tell us whether it will exist after we cease our observation.

Now you could say that we can demonstrate it's existance from an indirect observation, i.e. by observing the effects of it's interactions with the ambient. In the dark, for example, we can sense it's perfume, or we can hear the noise of it's leafs waving in the wind.
Well, that's not a proof. You have once again constructed a logical model which correlates the effect to the cause, but any model can be confuted.

Note that all the world as we know it is a model created by our organism and our mind from the very moment a photon hits our retin or a soundwave bounces off our tympanic membrane.

And, by the way, in my view maybe the tree is not the right subject to argue upon, since it is a biological organism made of cells which can sense (and therefore can observe, in a way) the surrounding ambient and react to external inputs.
In other words, maybe a tree is an observer - just like us... :wink:
 
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Since observed, but not before observed. Before observing it, we have no proof of it's existance.
But surely that is no proof that it didn't exist before we observed it
 
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Imagine yourself in a completely dark room (no photons),
a visible light source in the room flashes on/off once.
The photons leave the light source and after a certain amount of time they hit, say an apple. Then some of them reflect off the apple and hit our retina, we have observed the apple. But the apple must have been there before we observed it because the photons were reflected BEFORE they entered our retina.
 
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But surely that is no proof that it didn't exist before we observed it
And is there a proof that it did exist before we observed it?

Please note that I've never said that things don't exist if we are not watching them. What I've said is that we have no proof of their existance if we are not able to observe them.

Your affirmation quoted above is demonstrating the same thing, but from other way round.
 
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Imagine yourself in a completely dark room (no photons),
a visible light source in the room flashes on/off once.
The photons leave the light source and after a certain amount of time they hit, say an apple. Then some of them reflect off the apple and hit our retina, we have observed the apple. But the apple must have been there before we observed it because the photons were reflected BEFORE they entered our retina.
The flaw in your demonstration lies in the fact that you are putting yourself in a privileged position, where you know what happened before that photon hit observer's retina.

The observer doesn't know what happened, he only has the information carried by that photon. Based on that single information he has to use his physical models to explain how and why did that photon hit his retina.
And not necessarily his conclusion needs to be that there is an apple in the room.

A physical model cannot be taken as a proof of the existance of that apple. The answers it gives are valid only within the limits of validity of the model itself.
 
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The observer doesn't know what happened, he only has the information carried by that photon.
The information that is carried by the photon BEFORE he observes it, is still carried by the photon whether he observes it or not. The information that the apple exists is carried by the photon on its journey to the retina, and as journeys take time the apple must exist before it is observed.
 
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The information that is carried by the photon BEFORE he observes it, is still carried by the photon whether he observes it or not. The information that the apple exists is carried by the photon on its journey to the retina, and as journeys take time the apple must exist before it is observed.
You have stuck to that argument and don't want to admit (or recognise) that it is flawed. I invite you to re-read our whole discussion and sleep on it a little bit.

And while sleeping, try to think about this: what is that makes an apple what it is (i.e. an apple)?
 
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You have stuck to that argument and don't want to admit (or recognise) that it is flawed. I invite you to re-read our whole discussion and sleep on it a little bit.

And while sleeping, try to think about this: what is that makes an apple what it is (i.e. an apple)?

The information that is carried by the photon BEFORE he observes it, is still carried by the photon whether he observes it or not. The information that the apple exists is carried by the photon on its journey to the retina, and as journeys take time the apple must exist before it is observed.

Do you disagree with my above post, if so please tell me why.
 
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The information that is carried by the photon BEFORE he observes it, is still carried by the photon whether he observes it or not. The information that the apple exists is carried by the photon on its journey to the retina, and as journeys take time the apple must exist before it is observed.

Do you disagree with my above post, if so please tell me why.
I disagree, almost completely.
1) A concept of the "information" is (IMHO) meaningful only in presence of an intelligent observer which can give a significance to it, which can encode the "input" (or "signal") to the "information".
2) In this particular case we have an observer, so there is a potential information for him. But that information cannot be used by the observer to definitely prove the existance of the apple. He can only make conjectures about the provenience of the photon and it's possible meaning, and only within the limits of the logical (or interpretative) models he uses.
 
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I disagree, almost completely.
1) A concept of the "information" is (IMHO) meaningful only in presence of an intelligent observer which can give a significance to it, which can encode the "input" (or "signal") to the "information".
2) In this particular case we have an observer, so there is a potential information for him. But that information cannot be used by the observer to definitely prove the existance of the apple. He can only make conjectures about the provenience of the photon and it's possible meaning, and only within the limits of the logical (or interpretative) models he uses.
Your first point is fair as a stand alone comment (that is to say, I agree with it).

But, surely for the photon to be carrying any such information in the first place (irregardless of whether or not an observer can make sense of that information) this implies (at least in my mind) the existence of the apple a finite time before observation (once again, this does not have to be an observation that yields meaningful conclusions*). How else would information about the apple be encoded in the photon?

That is to say; the fact that the photon is carrying information at the time of observation does not assume knowledge of what happened prior to observation, but the observation of such information implies the existence of the apple (or simply 'encoding body') prior to observation.

* Unless you are implying that the apple does not exist unless we understand it to (i.e. by deriving the 'correct' conclusion from our observation and application of physical principles).
 

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