Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wanderer replies to Flat-Earth Society's questions...

 The Wanderer replies to the Flat-earth Society’ s questions,                                                            the homeland of Skeptics
1. Does God exist?
         Simply put, we cannot know if God exists or not. Both the atheists and believers are wrong in their proclamations, and the agnostics are right. True agnostics are simply being Cartesian about it, recognizing the epistemological issues involved and the limitations of human inquiry. We do not know enough about the inner workings of the universe to make any sort of grand claim about the nature of reality and whether or not a Prime Mover exists somewhere in the background. Many people defer to naturalism — the suggestion that the universe runs according to autonomous processes — but that doesn't preclude the existence of a grand designer who set the whole thing in motion (what's called deism). And as mentioned earlier, we may live in a simulation where the hacker gods control all the variables. Or perhaps the gnostics are right and powerful beings exist in some deeper reality that we're unaware of. These aren't necessarily the omniscient, omnipotent gods of the Abrahamic traditions — but they're (hypothetically) powerful beings nonetheless. Again, these aren't scientific questions per se — they're more Platonic thought experiments that force us to confront the limits of human experience and inquiry.
Wanderer’s Reply:        
Oh, my. First, whose God? Why only one? Male or female? The Greeks and Romans, among others, had a pantheon. Neat idea: choose your own. Actually, I prefer placating the Muses, for they appreciate things such as Terra Misu, mocha, Rossini, and sailing the Fjords.
         True agnostics’.  Here I thought only Communists applauded that stance. And we know what happened to those guys---they’re all in Cuba. Hasta la vista, caballero. Get past Descartes, his wishy-washy doubting came from being bottle fed too early. Just ask our cigar craving Sigmund Freud.
         We do not know enough about the inner workings of the universe to make any sort of grand claim about the nature of reality…’ Really.  I know loads  of boys and girls who know a lot about the inner workings of  things by driving  down the highway while texting with their lattes.
         Did our author ever speculate how many mini-prime movers you can count on without spellbinding, absolute, granite-like assurance? Some very cogent surmises, deductions, assessments, inferences, credible estimates, can surface about life in the raw with a little pondering. Many are testable.  Just ask a Minnesotan in July what’s the weather gonna be like in December. You betcha the Casinos would not bet against him, eh.
  Come closer, don’t let this out: the Mid-west hunters who see themselves as  omniscient, omnipotent gods’ of the forests  are so impressed with their deficient common sense that they think the y can ‘control all the variables’ and move the deer toward  them  by wearing orange clothing. If they only knew what pink could do. Shh.
 A ‘grand designer’, you say, maybe he or she resides in one of those abandoned castles on the Moors. And casually casts spells upon the Continents, turning us all into downright  gnostics’. In that way, the hacker demons stay unemployed  and watch Netflix all day.
How dare you conflate ‘Abrahamic traditions’ with ‘Platonic thought experiments’. Socrates never smoked Hashish.

2. Is our universe real?
Wanderer’s Reply.                     
This is the classic Cartesian question. It essentially asks, how do we know that what we see around us is the real deal, and not some grand illusion perpetuated by an unseen force. More recently, the question has been reframed as the Simulation Argument. We're the products of an elaborate simulation. A deeper question to ask, therefore, is whether the civilization running the simulation is also in a simulation — a kind of supercomputer regression (or simulationception).                                                                                                            
This amusing stance is less a conundrum then a new version of  ‘Let’s Pretend’.  Children and politicians play that game all the time. Turn around on the French philosopher and ask him: how can he be sure that life ain’t real?  In case he and others can’t shake their doubts, urge them to saunter onto route 94 at rush hour and walk about their simulated traffic.  Besides, for all you true believers in simulation-reality, just empty your pockets and sign over to me all your worldly possessions right now, and no one gets hurt. After all, what do you care, your loot is just an illusion. For your information, my hobby is collecting illusions for a rainy day.        
3. Do we have free will?
         Also called the dilemma of determinism, we do not know if our actions are controlled by a causal chain of preceding events (or by some other external influence), or if we're truly free agents making decisions of our own volition. Philosophers (and now some scientists) have been debating this for millennia, and with no apparent end in sight. If our decision making is influenced by an endless chain of causality, then determinism is true and we don't have free will. But if the opposite is true, what's called indeterminism, then our actions must be random — what some argue is still not free will. Conversely, libertarians (no, not political libertarians, those are other people), make the case for compatibilism — the idea that free will is logically compatible with deterministic views of the universe. Compounding the problem are advances in neuroscience showing that our brains make decisions before we're even conscious of them. Quantum mechanics makes this problem even more complicated by suggesting that we live in a universe of probability, and that determinism of any sort is impossible. And as Linas Vepstas has said, "Consciousness seems to be intimately and inescapably tied to the perception of the passage of time, and indeed, the idea that the past is fixed and perfectly deterministic, and that the future is unknowable. This fits well, because if the future were predetermined, then there'd be no free will, and no point in the participation of the passage of time."
         Wanderer’s Reply.           
Here we go again. The author reminds me of the interminable bantering whether Ted Williams did more for the Red Sox than Joe Di Maggio for the Yankees. So-called philosophers don’t want to quit debating: it’s too much fun showing off to impress their mistresses.
         As his description wanders back and forth from free will, determinism, randomness, compatibilism, and always in the background our Quantum mechanics-probability world, it reminds me of the incident of three catholic priests enjoying a get together at one of their vacationing hotel rooms.
         Sitting around with Irish whiskey and cigars, discussing sports, theological issues, and why so few want to enter the Seminary, suddenly the lights in the room go out. Silence. An ominous feeling pervades the atmosphere. One of them, solemnly and slowly, announces that this is a dark omen from God: ‘let us kneel down and pray for the light of our salvation.’
         The other freezes in his chair, with pounding heart, and gushes: ‘I need to go to confession; will one of you hear it NOW!’ What his buddies didn’t know is that he was pilfering from the Sunday collections for several months.
         The third one, shaking his head and peering at these two silhouettes in the dark, smilingly stands up and saunters over to the light switch near the door. He tweaks it and the lights are on: ‘Refills anyone?’ Rumor has it he resigned some months later.
         If we don’t have free will, then I am going down to the bank and firmly asking the Teller to withdraw all his money and put it in my Kowalski paper bag. Under my coat, to help persuade him is a Glock 7mm with silencer.
Why? I can’t help it: I’m determined.
         Another assumption is the author’s remark, ‘…why did we evolve Consciousness…’ Apparently our Darwinian cheerleader views big C as some kind of material element. That might make sense if you deny spirit to big C. and keep mind, reason and intelligence down only on the home front of materiality. Oops, there I go again, associating the latter three with big C.
 As for his compatriot, Vepstas, whoever that is, to assert, "Consciousness seems to be intimately and inescapably tied to the perception of the passage of time,” only shows that both need serious counseling.  Wake up, guys, try a little SCM. It can do wonders as you sit in your time-free zone and silently witness the undetermined passing images of your delusional determinism.
You maintain ‘…that the past is fixed and perfectly deterministic, and that the future is unknowable.” Haven’t you ever determined to choose from various choices and thus fix your course of action? Now that’s deterministic. No big deal. Works that way most of the time in life. I love determining to get my Terra Misu. Don’t know where you two live but my future is quite determinable here in winter Minnesota.
Besides, you think the future is unknowable?  Let’s make an appointment at Shangri La cave and have the monks narrate your dreadful future. Slip them a chai or two, and with the right mantra, you might be able to improve those coming days of woe. But that wouldn’t be fair, now would it, for in your proper world your brain in the Alpha zone has already made its decision before you are self-aware of it. So your deterministic neurons would be very upset it you should later change your fixation with a mantra. Horrors!  Life is such a hassle.


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