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Cosmology, Quantum Mechanics & Consciousness Message Board › About this Meetup Group

About this Meetup Group

A former member
Post #: 172
It seems that your meeting, Jazz, was a great success, with 113 turning up and paying £5 a head. I've looked at your slides and your video and I see that you have a business in personal coaching. I thought your video was good and I wish you good luck and success with this business.

But Jazz, you know enough about science to acknowledge that your references to E=mc squared and quantum physics were pure marketing hype. The same kind of thing as the product ads that go: "contains gulibulifab - always read the label". Of course all your references to science are marketing gimics, but marketing does work with a lot of people. The organiser of this group does not discern such mattters so we now have a Meetup group with over 600 members, about three of whom sometimes contribute on the message board to discussions on science while the others keep quiet or go to meetings which are mostly about something other than science.

I have only attended two meetings of this group and the first was the best, held by Paul in a pub with about eight of us. We watched a bit of video and discussed the science over a pint. Is there anyone out there who would like to get back to that sort of meeting, to discuss science? As this group has now been hijacked by commercial and spiritual factions we would need to set up a new Meetup group if there is enough interest. By the way I am out of London and not offering to be the organiser! I do however expect to leave this group if it continues to morph into something unscientific.
Andrew
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 268
Quite. As one of the few groups which originally actually aspired toward the realistic discussion of scientifically serious issues, it does seem a great pity that we too are now -- like the acceleratingly expanding cosmos, apparently, itself -- becoming increasingly diluted out of existence by ever-increasing amounts of absolutely nothing.

Come on, there are zillions of "spiritual" groups out there (particularly Meetup groups) all promulgating divergent "techniques" and -- dare I say it, Andrew? -- ontologies, all conflicting, all by turns encouraging the naive initially, later fleecing the multitude, and all ultimately turning the avaricious business gaze on each other in the final analysis as the numbers of prey dwindle exponentially as the result of the painfully unilluminating lack of genuinely interesting experiences.

Like the Giant Panda, serious discussion groups are in serious danger of extinction. Please leave at least one of us virgo intacta!

(Alright, I exaggerate a little. As Andrew observes we're not exactly inundated with uninformed correspondence!)
!)

A former member
Post #: 58
You guys! What's the matter with you? So a whole bunch of people have joined on the say so of some snake oil peddler; have you forgotten that there has been a perfectly respectable turn out for all the perfectly respectable Meetups there have been this year? Are we not Cosmology, Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness? Are we not steadfast under the weight of mock scientific gobbledygook? Let them have their mumbo-jumbo and we can have ours, but as I have pointed out before, it does take will. Andrew, you seemed disappointed in another thread that we agree, tragically on some issues that is true, nonetheless there is plenty of scope within the more scientifically minded members for some proper debate. We have clashed over the status of maths in science and I still think it's a great topic, so I should like to propose Quantum-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom: What has maths got to do with science? And at the slightest sniff of interest I shall formally propose it; 8 people in a pub sounds good to me.
Camilla M.
user 7151822
London, GB
Post #: 40
What Has Maths Got To Do With Science?

Yes, this interests me, too. I have been thinking about á priori knowledge / statements from maths and logic, as they relate to empiricism.

Its history is littered with swerves; for instance, some early mathematicians insisted there was no such thing as negative numbers, ontologically they meant and then complex numbers got them hot under the collar. But soon, the sheer utility of both concepts led to their unexceptional adoption, so both became absorbed into the norm. For the early philosophers it was empirically derived knowledge as distinct from rationally deduced (prior) truthful statements that exercised them. Descartes thought we had innate ideas to reflect upon for such axioms, Hume thought whilst ideas informed they were not innate and others then speculated about our direct relation to being able to carve nature at correct joints in the world's states of affairs.

I daresay, the predominance of operationalists here will eschew such reckonings as strictly non useful, much as the epistemological / ontic divide has failed to resonate with them. I noticed in the most recent thread one tendency to bypass discussion of whether anything is there between the known emission of a quantum event and it's subsequent interaction. Fair enough, for workings out, we only need bother with the mathematical probabilities in this case but for me, a realist, there is still the ontic matter of what, if anything, is going on between the emission and absorption? It can't be nothing - as the logical laws must be applying either to something of some kind or at least maintaining record of entropic consistency - but of at least which sub system? - But were it applying to nothing, what does that mean ontologically? For how long can subvenient systems pause in their realism and what is it about interaction that makes for their conditions to stop and restart? Isn't this winking in and out of existence just as problematic? Even logically - does only having permutational knowledge indicate some missing deductive knowledge, Heisenberg not withstanding? These are questions I'd have pursued but of course talk of utility shuts those down. Maybe we'll have another thread, plus I'd come to that pub discussion.

To start us off though, I used to rebut Quine's relational view of our epistemological framework chiefly for physics, on Puttnam's basis that we definitely require certain basic premises such as momentum to get the ball rolling so to speak. So that, whilst we might loosen and tighten outer concepts in the network, the inner ones would have to remain firm, that is to say had better be á priori on any deductive account. But I am persuaded that Quine was not attacking the status of logico-mathematics, which still leaves the question of its standing as Will asks. For my part, I think it's perhaps helpful to consider the á priori as meta rules deduced á posteriori from the empirical connections and thus proximate rules that we initially observe. I'm sort of hoping this provides a challenge for the positivists amongst us, since as far as I know they don't agree with á posteriori logic of any stripe.

(Edited a glaring grocer's apostrophe.)
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 269

What Has Maths Got To Do With Science?

(Arf!)

Yes, this interests me, too. I have been thinking about á priori knowledge / statements from maths and logic, as they relate to empiricism.

Ah! The analytic/synthetic divide. Believe it or not, during the past 60 years or so there has been a pronounced swing amongst professional philosophers against this obviously clarificatory and commonsensical division of meaningful statements – in the logical positivists’ lingo – stemming largely from the mischief-making of that patrician American logician Willard Quine, his destructive thesis having been advanced (incomprehensibly, in my view) within his short 1953 essay Two Dogmas of Empiricism.

Its history is littered with swerves; for instance, some early mathematicians insisted there was no such thing as negative numbers, ontologically they meant and then complex numbers got them hot under the collar.

Just to clarify for the benefit of those who might feel offended at the perceived obligation to swallow wholesale chunks of alien philosophical terminology: mathematical platonists believe that numbers and other more complex mathematical expressions and formulations – even entire theorems – somehow “exist”, independently of the human brains embedded within the various cultures which have truck with them. “Exist”, that is, in the same sense as, say, oxygen or Mount Everest exist. I.e. the belief is that they exist in their own right, independently of any human cognition.

But soon, the sheer utility of both concepts led to their unexceptional adoption, so both became absorbed into the norm. For the early philosophers it was empirically derived knowledge as distinct from rationally deduced (prior) truthful statements that exercised them.

Yes, after the extinction of the Presocratics they were almost unanimously rationalists – ugh; stupid bunch of people; as Hans Reichenbach pointed out: “the rationalist believes that the empiricist is morally inferior; the empiricist believes that the rationalist is devoid of common sense” – although at least Aristotle’s early interest in biology and dissection introduced a smidgeon of empirical thinking into his worldview.

Descartes thought we had innate ideas to reflect upon for such axioms,

.. thereby anticipating Kant ..

Hume thought whilst ideas informed they were not innate and others then speculated about our direct relation to being able to carve nature at correct joints in the world's states of affairs.

Yes. Apart from his unfortunate mistake in regard to the nature of causality, Hume was solidly mid-20th century positivist in his outlook. We could have done without the unfortunate mess which in the early 19th century spewed over into philosophy as a consequence of Kant’s unfortunate but well-meaning blundering!

I daresay, the predominance of operationalists here will eschew such reckonings as strictly non useful,

.. Camilla is here employing a somewhat pejorative term as she generally sees the genus; that of strictly “engineer types” – or even, perhaps, gasfitter-types – who quite often approach matters of intellectual abstraction in a clunkily and inappropriately literal way, entirely missing the interesting, important and ultimately paradigm-advancing nuances ..

much as the epistemological / ontic divide has failed to resonate with them.

I.e. the division between the (attempted) justification of what we take to be knowledge, on the one hand, as opposed to what actually is the case, independently of human consideration, on the other.

I noticed in the most recent thread one tendency to bypass discussion of whether anything is there between the known emission of a quantum event and it's subsequent interaction. Fair enough, for workings out, we only need bother with the mathematical probabilities in this case but for me, a realist, there is still the ontic matter of what, if anything, is going on between the emission and absorption? [

color=orangered]Obviously sympathetically inclined toward Will’s school of thought, then. I tend to sympathise, as long as we don’t make the clumsy mistake of “prepackaging” our initial theoretical guesses within Kantian-like a priori tinsel such as “particles” because it just “must be the case” (!) (!)

It can't be nothing - as the logical laws must be applying either to something of some kind or at least maintaining record of entropic consistency

.. forgive me Camilla; I’m pretty sure that here you’re referring to physical reality keeping, as it were, an account of all the toings and froings of the most microscopic bits of the cosmos such as small dust particles and anything smaller still (?) ..)

.. but otherwise, I of course agree that the aspiration of physics and the other true sciences indeed is to describe the encompassing generalities of the natural world as they stand independently of human thinking, although one appreciates that some philosophers – particularly “Berkeleian mutants” (and I have actually met one!) would deny even the mind-dependent existence of what we take to be physical states of affairs ..

but of at least which sub system? - But were it applying to nothing, what does that mean ontologically?

(Absolutely nothing, as far as I am able to see! biggrin )

For how long can subvenient systems pause in their realism and what is it about interaction that makes for their conditions to stop and restart?

.. Which is yet another way of expressing perplexity at the task of accurately interpreting quantum mechanics. Here “subvenient” means “underpinning” or “compositional”. (Being a philosophical term of art, it also has a bewildering subtle wider range of interpretations, as the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy makes clear within the scope of Brian McLoughlin’s compenious entry on “Supervenience” – the “inverse” of “subvenience”, and such terminology is particulartly rife within Philosophy of Mind.) ..
)

[ .. Continued .. ]
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 270
[.. Continued .. ]

Isn't this winking in and out of existence just as problematic?

Well in my view it should more properly be considered a “winking in and out of the appearance of classical-like measurables." We shouldn’t be misled into thinking of “existence” as being exactly coterminous with “classical modellability”. After all – as Roland Omnès repeatedly stresses: “Quantum mechanics dictates its own interpretation” and it is precisely the fact that because of our everyday-informed physical prejudices we are continually tempted to regard QM as some sort of irritating bolt-on to “real” physics that we continue to be unable to accept what QM itself says as being the actual truer, deeper physics.

Even logically - does only having permutational knowledge indicate some missing deductive knowledge, Heisenberg not withstanding?

Sorry but I’m not quite clear at this point. The Uncertainty Principle is an empirical statement. (Of course, just like everything else in physics it’s expressed algebraically.)

These are questions I'd have pursued but of course talk of utility shuts those down. Maybe we'll have another thread, plus I'd come to that pub discussion.

To start us off though, I used to rebut Quine's relational view of our epistemological framework chiefly for physics, on Puttnam's basis that we definitely require certain basic premises such as momentum to get the ball rolling so to speak.

(Quine and Ullyan co-authored a book called The Web of Belief in which knowledge and theory-formulation and interpretation are viewed “holistically”. In some senses I’m sympathetic, but in others not. He was in any case simply generalising a logical point from the Popperian realisation that no amount of data can ever logically prove the truth of some theory or other, even if that theory is in fact correct. Certainly, I can fellow-travel with holists in agreeing that semantics is entirely contextual. Russell’s early-on fondly held belief in logical atomism is simply silly.)

So that, whilst we might loosen and tighten outer concepts in the network,

(Lakatos’s so-called auxiliary hypotheses)

the inner ones would have to remain firm,

that is to say had better be á priori on any deductive account.

Yes. Such a move would be unacceptably ad hoc. All statements about nature – which compass necessarily includes our own “minds”must be founded on the basis of someone’s actual, sensorily-mediated experience at some moment or other!

But I am persuaded that Quine was not attacking the status of logico-mathematics,

.. as a logician, certainly not! ..

which still leaves the question of its standing as Will asks. For my part, I think it's perhaps helpful to consider the á priori as meta rules deduced á posteriori from the empirical connections and thus proximate rules that we initially observe. I'm sort of hoping this provides a challenge for the positivists amongst us, since as far as I know they don't agree with á posteriori logic of any stripe.

Well it would be clearly ridiculous to cavil with logic. What we don’t like is the dodgily “derived” metaphysics, which looms clunkily into view like some lopsided Zeppelin whenever talented mathematicians choose – for some quixotic reason or other – to abandon their professional calling and evidently prefer to pursue a career of uttering and writing drivelling nonsense instead. (I am of course reminded inexorably of von Neumann at this point!)

Otherwise I agree with what Camilla has just said. Of course, one can never deduce any such meta-rules. Rather, one simply posits them, as a genus of “suck-it-and-see” gambles. (Reichenbach again. Boy those early 20th-century Mitteleuropäischer Jewish philosopher-scientists were shit-hot!)

(Edited a glaring grocer's apostrophe.)

(Forgiven.)


Camilla M.
user 7151822
London, GB
Post #: 41
Otherwise I agree with what Camilla has just said.
Of course, one can never deduce any such meta-rules. Rather, one simply posits them, as a genus of “suck-it-and-see” gambles. (Reichenbach again...)


The question is, if it's not deduction, on what basis to posit broader meta rules?

Actually, deduction and also any form of surveying strikes me as post fact.

Isn't rendering all emerging metaphysics clunky rather running the risk of conflating existence posits with the methodology (above) of distinguishing between them? Such as the logical positivists' verification principle closing down potentially interesting avenues of investigation before they can even take off?

If you can defend that, what are the á priori fundamentals relied upon for establishing that verificaction principle - and, more importantly, for any physicalist, wouldn't these nevertheless have to be deduced after the empirical facts? [I haven't read The Web of Belief but could appreciate the idea from Quine's Two Dogmas of Empiricism essay (the synthetic vs analytic,) even though that relies too heavily in my opinion on linguistic semantics.] Thus, couldn't we argue for logic as an á posteriori attribute at one and the same the same time as then becoming reinstated as á priori via logical necessity, again by logical necessity itself? This is the nub of my question to logical positivism.

(QM) Well in my view it should more properly be considered a “winking in and out of the appearance of classical-like measurables.

Whether Classical is taken as the benchmark from apparent everyday acquaintance, is one point. Requiring a definition of the basis for existence: property based or relational? Or, taking QM as fundamental, in virtue of Heisenberg's UP, shifting to probabilistic potentials in combination, then what's our warrant for saying at times there is "nothing", or if you will between measurement times, as opposed to later interactionally available descriptions? Aren't we muddying waters, mixing the epistemological and ontic?

That was why I brought entropy into the discussion, less from a universal ledger perspective, than as some way of holding onto realist 'existence', whether for particles/wave forms or any other mathematical description. I see a danger in failing to notice when we take a mathematical treatment as identical with realist states of affairs - a difference perhaps (usually in physics) between descriptions of specific changes of states and at the Classical level at least ascriptions of what seem to me more generally persisting appearances that include certain measurable properties.

[Breaking off to listen to The Infinite Monkey Cage - just covered 'time'.]

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 271

Sorry. I will address Camilla's points but there's inadequate time to do so here, now, and with appropriate comprehensiveness. Meantime, here's are some quotes supporting me from the following website:

http://journalofcosmo...­
y.co
m/Consciousness1
39.ht
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"The notion that the interpretation of quantum mechanics requires a conscious observer is rooted, I believe, in a basic misunderstanding of the meaning of a) the quantum wavefunction ψ, and b) the quantum measurement process. This misunderstanding originated with the work of John von Neumann (1932) on the foundations of quantum mechanics, and afterwards it was spread by some prominent physicists like Eugene Wigner (1984); by now it has acquired a life of its own, giving rise to endless discussions on this subject, as shown by the articles in the Journal of Cosmology (see volumes 3 and 14)."

(I don't know why the writer, Michael Nauenberg, says "1984" when the famous Wigner's Friend paper was first published in 1964, though.) Nauenberg follows with a beautifully incisive insight -- which hadn't previously occurred to me -- that quantum decoherence follows from a generalisation of von Neumann's paradigmatic 2-state measuring dervice (= 2 degrees of freedom) to the enormous and indeed hyper-astronomical number of internal, quasi-thermodynamic degrees of freedom of some measuring device. It's interesting that decoherence flows from the appreciation of one of von Neumann's own insights (but which of course implicated a consequence which would have made him shudder).

I find myself also bound to agree with the following (with which Nauenberg disagrees):


"In quantum theory there is no atom in addition to the wavefunction of the atom. This is so crucial that we say it again in other words. The atom's wave-functions and the atom are the same thing; "the wave function of the atom" is a synonym for "the atom". Since the wavefunction ψ is synonymous with the atom itself, the atom is simultaneously in both boxes. The point of that last paragraph is hard to accept. That is why we keep repeating it (Rosenblum and Kuttner, 2006)."

There is also lovely quote from Anthony Leggett (of SQUID fame). Here's one in the eye for the "quantum consciousness mysticians":

"It may be somewhat dangerous to explain something one does not understand very well [the quantum measurement process] by invoking something [consciousness] one does not understand at all! (Leggett, 1991)."

And from John Archibald Wheeler, coiner of the term black hole and Feynman's PhD supervisor:

"Caution: "Consciousness" has nothing whatsover to do with the quantum process. We are dealing with an event that makes itself known by an irreversible act of amplification, by an indelible record, an act of registration. Does that record subsequently enter into the "consciousness" of some person, some animal or some computer? Is that the first step into translating the measurement into "meaning" meaning regarded as "the joint product of all the evidence that is available to those who communicate." Then that is a separate part of the story, important but not to be confused with "quantum phenomena." "(Wheeler, 1983).

.. And from John Stuart Bell, formulator of the infamous Inequalities named after him:

"So I think that it is not right to tell the public that a central role for conscious mind is integrated into modern atomic physics. Or that `information' is the real stuff of physical theory. It seems to me irresponsible to suggest that technical features of contemporary theory were anticipated by the saints of ancient religions... by introspection.

The only 'observer' which is essential in orthodox practical quantum theory is the inanimate apparatus which amplifies the microscopic events to macroscopic consequences. Of course this apparatus, in laboratory experiments, is chosen and adjusted by the experiments. In this sense the outcomes of experiments are indeed dependent on the mental process of the experimenters! But once the apparatus is in place, and functioning untouched, it is a matter of complete indifference - according to ordinary quantum mechanics - whether the experimenters stay around to watch, or delegate such 'observing' to computers." (Bell, 1984)."

.. And now for some lovely Reichenbach quotes in my next posting!




lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 272

Reichenbach (p8 of The Rise of Scientific Philosophy):):

""it is an unfortunate matter of fact that human beings are inclined to give answers even when they do not have the means to find correct answers. Scientific explanation demands ample observation and critical thought: the higher the generality aspired to, the greater must be the mass of observational material, and the more critical the thought." (From if I remember rightly the section The search for certainty and the pseudo-explanation.)"

" "... Ontology is supposed to deal with the ultimate grounds of being." And philosophers at least since Aristotle have used misfocused concepts to prevent the advance in understanding. "The form of the future statue, Aristotle argues, must be in the block of wood before it is carved, otherwise it would not be there later....Form, therefore, must be something. It is obvious that this inference can only be made by the help of vague usage of words."(p. 12)

"Pernicious errors through false analogies have been the philosopher's disease at all times."(p. 11)

"It has been the tragic result of such analogism that philosophic systems, instead of gradually preparing an approach to a scientific philosophy, have actually barred its development. Aristotle's metaphysics has influenced the thought of two thousand years and is still admired by many a philosopher of our time."(p. 14)

I find it somewhat ironic that Andrew actually thinks that I am supportive of philosophy-in-general. Know your enemy!

"The philosophy of Plato (427 - 347 BC) is based on one of the strangest and yet most influential philosophical doctrines -- his theory of ideas, so much admired and so intrinsically ontological, arose from the attempt to give an account for the possibility of mathematical knowledge as well as of moral conduct."

.. And on the synthetic/analytic distinction:

"statements [involving measuring or otherwise testing the real world] are called synthetic, an expression which may be translated as informative.... Statements [where the implication does not add anything to the condition] are empty, they are called analytic, an expression which may be translated as self-explanatory."(p. 17)

.. On supposed a priori knowledge a la Plato and Kant:

"Geometrical knowledge, [the mathematician of an earlier age] would argue, stems from the mind, not from observation....Geometrical truth is a product of reason; that makes it superior to empirical truth...."















A former member
Post #: 173
About your suggestion, Will, of a discussion about the maths/physics connection. Apologies to Camilla and Ian, but that preceding exchange is alien to the sort of discussion in which I would wish to participate: indeed it actively alienates.

I would discuss this topic in a scientific framework. I’d focus on the well publicised writings of Max Tegmark (who is a professional cosmologist) about his Mathematical Universe Hypothesis. The best one is this: http://arxiv.org/abs/...­. It is very readable for those with enough background. Other writings can be found on his own website. He adopts an extreme position (that the physical universe is essentially the same thing as mathematics) but he argues it very well, thus giving everyone else a good opportunity for disagreement. The interest then lies in identifying where Tegmark’s arguments and his absurd-looking idea might seem to fail. But it’s an arcane topic - better suited to the message board?
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