The Big Picture: Paperback Day

I presume most readers of this blog have already purchased their copy of The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. If you’re really dedicated, you have the hardback version and the ebook and the audiobook, as well as a few spare copies stashed here and there in case of emergency.

Today we’re happy to announce that you can finally complete your set by purchasing the paperback edition of TBP. The cover is even shinier than before! Paperbacks, as we all know, make great gifts, whether as romantic tokens for the special someone in your life, or gestures of conciliation toward your bitter enemies.

I have to confess that I not only had great fun writing this book, but have been quite gratified by its reception. Of course there were doubters — and regretfully, most of the doubters have seemed to argue against their own preconceptions of what they thought the book would say, rather than what it actually did say. But a good number of people have not only enjoyed the book, but engaged with its ideas in a serious way. Here are some reviews that came out after hardcover publication a year ago:

In case you still aren’t sure what the book is about (it’s about matching the fundamental laws of nature to the world of our everyday experience), here are the brief discussions of the individual sections we had right here on the blog:

  1. Part One: Cosmos
  2. Part Two: Understanding
  3. Part Three: Essence
  4. Part Four: Complexity
  5. Part Five: Thinking
  6. Part Six: Caring

Or if you’re more audiovisually inclined, a talk I gave at LogiCal-LA back in January of this year:

Thanks to everyone who has bought the book and engaged with it in thoughtful ways. It’s been a great ride.

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43 Responses to The Big Picture: Paperback Day

  1. Simon Packer says:

    Paul

    Regarding your first post:

    These examples are interesting and funny, and I agree they represent recursive scenarios which may be self-consistent and true. Regarding the brain, seen as a merely physical entity and attempting to acquire complete understanding of itself, my use of ‘recursive’ is more in the limited sense of it not ever computing, or converging, to a complete and accurate ‘finally true’ answer. My phrasing generates further philosophical issues relating to ‘accuracy’ and ‘truth’, I’m sure.

    “The small differences in a person’s brain state that correlate with different bodily actions typically have negligible correlations with the past state of the universe”. This sounds very ‘Sean’ to me, having read ‘Eternity to Here’! I still haven’t got the new one…can’t find it, perhaps I should ask Nathan from UCT who did the previous post.

    It seems to me that in your betting illustration you are mixing underlying assumptions and are therefore setting out a scenario without internal consistency. The proposition bet upon assumes a deterministic universe. The betting scenario itself however assumes real human choice is possible. If one assumes a deterministic universe, the scenario is self-consistent; no problems. In the non-deterministic universe case, the proposition is nonsensical because it would preclude the possibility and expression of future human freewill. I would therefore say the scenario can be explained away using everyday logic. It does not show that the past can be modified by the present. Whatever turns out to be the correct underlying reality partially expressed by QM need not be invoked as a possible explanation here.

    Regarding your second post on Ethics:

    I don’t really understand this multiple-discourse business set out by Sean and others. If the universe is evolving in a fully deterministic manner, all such discourses, apart from the physics, are essentially devoid of substance in terms of actually affecting anything. I notice Hawking does this multiple narrative thing in one of his popular books (either ‘Brief History’ or ‘Grand Design’), which I scanned last weekend in a shop while looking for Sean’s book. Hawking talks about deterministic physics, and posits a point I have noted myself and expressed around here before; IE that our brain processes, if determinism applies, cannot be relied upon as their accuracy or otherwise is just the corollary of state space in a deterministic universe. There would then be no ability to objectively reason or determine truth. Hawking then did what is for me, a curious flip, and says it is maybe Darwinism that comes to the rescue. It chooses the brains emerging from all this which work best at finding reality. I see very many problems with that. For one thing, nature, we are told, evolved primarily for survival, not veracity. More fundamentally as a problem, we then have an irrational intermingling of mechanisms from the various descriptive layers, all partially responsible for what actually occurs.

    Regarding ethics and how it is arrived at, I agree with your first examples and points set out. To some extent, ethics is contextual and cultural. Knowledge and understanding increase, in bulk if not always in depth, with time, but, I would note, they often do so in a way which does not alter moral and ethical foundations. I have noticed that knowledge and understanding leave foundational Christian ethics and theology more or less untouched. Morality and ethics are often the domain of wisdom, and wise characters from history often still appear wise today.

    I have a fundamental difference of approach and belief with ethics. I believe it (along with physics and all else) derives from the reality of a personal God, a conscious agent. I believe our current existence is not our final existence nor our most significant one. I believe that truly successful ethics center around God and His eternal plans, not around human pragmatism. The latter rarely works even on its own terms, IE for the benefit of man in the here and now.

  2. Ben Goren says:

    zarzuelazen:

    Materialism and reductionism were *implicit* in the book, whereas these issues are open to question.

    I don’t have the book at hand, but I’m sure Sean directly addressed that. We’ve run the experiments and made the observations at every conceivable scale. There are some very significant things we don’t know, but our knowledge of the physics of the everyday world is complete. That Big Equation of Sean’s that would fit nicely on a shirt is a complete no-room-for-addition description of the physics of the human body and everything else in all of human history. The Earth itself, the Solar System, the Sun, and all of space for at least dozens of light years.

    Your particular bugbear, I know, is consciousness. But we can agree that your consciousness is what directs you to type your posts, no? Your keyboard and your fingers are made entirely of quarks and electrons. A claim that consciousness is something beyond the Standard Model is a claim that an hitherto-unknown force is acting on those quarks and electrons — and that claim is as absurd as the “intelligent falling” parody “theory” of gravity.

    It occurred to me that if you add an extra time dimension

    Sorry, but there’s no such thing as “sideways” in time. Were some of the fantasy time travel stories true, such as Star Trek and its “alternate history” stories, then, yes, “sideways” would make sense. And, with that in mind, your decision-making process can subjectively feel something like “sideways,” where you imagine parallel universes, one in which you eat the chocolate ice cream and the other the vanilla. But, if you closely examine your own internal thoughts when making such a decision, it’ll be come obvious that you’re actually context-switching, and the imagining happens one after another serially.

    Robin:

    The illusion of free will is that, when you consider two choices, for example your finger is poised above “OK” and “Cancel” it seems that you could do either. It doesn’t seem that one of those choices is already impossible because you can’t see why either would be impossible. If we have no free will then at least one of the choices is already impossible even when we seem to be deciding between them.

    Could Sam Harris show that we don’t even have the illusion of this choice? I doubt it.

    Yes, actually. The “ok / cancel” model would work but is a poor choice didactically. Instead, he uses the model: “Pick a city.” You don’t even have to tell anybody the city, write it down, anything like that; just commit to yourself that some particular city is the one you have in mind, for whatever reason you like.

    And when you’re satisfied that you’ve picked a city, he walks you through the thought processes that led to that decision.

    For starters, it has to be a city you already know about. It’s exceedingly unlikely, for example, that you picked Yreka, California — and not all that likely that you picked Eureka, California, either. Unless you’ve spent time in far northern California or otherwise have connections to the region, it was literally impossible for you to have picked those cities.

    …and so it continues from there. Follow the path through, and you can see the Rube Goldberg machinations unfolding perfectly deterministically, even if the complexity of the entropic system is such that the only way to reliably predict the outcome is to go ahead and do it — and even if the initial conditions can’t be precisely-enough recreated to replicate the outcome.

    Simon Packer:

    I see Christianity as final all encompassing reality, the eternal Christ having made the physical cosmos, having also defined the mathematical underpinning thereof and probably the math itself (I asked Lennox that one last year).

    That is a perfect example of a paranoid conspiracy theory. Yes, it’s possible it could be true, but you have literally zero credible evidence to support the claim. You have exactly as much reason to believe in the same claim, but with Krishna substituted for Christ — or Quetzalcoatl. And even if Christ, Christ himself would be unable to disprove a similar even bigger conspiracy in which he and his world had been made by Loki…and, worse, as Christ himself made an universe, he’d have far more reason to suspect that his own universe had been similarly made.

    Might as well believe that the reason you think what you do of Christ is because the CIA has beamed the thought into your head using alien mind ray technology that interfaces with your dental implants.

    zarzuelazen:

    But on the whole, this faith/reason divide is something some people have tried to delineate or engineer but it is itself not logical.

    Faith and science are diametric opposites. Science is the process of apportioning beliefs in proportions indicated by a rational analysis of objective observation — of placing your bets within the error bars on the graph, in other words, and working to narrow the error bars (without cheating). In stark contrast, Paul puts it thus in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Damn the error bars; pick the point on the graph you like the best — that’s your answer, and you’re sticking to it.

    Faith is the foundation of religion, yet it is the one-and-only unforgivable sin in science.

    The fact of the matter is that if you can’t predict what I’m going to do next, then you have to say that I have free-will.

    Then the planets themselves very famously have free will to move about their orbits, as they’re known to be unpredictable past a certain timescale. And your computer’s random number generator has just as much free will.

    Paul Torek:

    “No ought from is” says that one cannot deductively derive “ought” conclusions without “ought” premises. That’s quite true, but no big deal. Sean’s whole poetic naturalism is about the fact that we have multiple discourses, whose terms cannot be derived from each other.

    I find the whole “ought from is” entirely irrelevant. The pertinent question is whether or not you can derive “should from want,” which you trivially can. If you want to live a long and productive life, as nearly everybody does, you should seek an healthy society and contribute positively to its wellbeing — as that maximizes your own odds. And that right there is 99 44/100% of all moral codes.

    At this point, many get caught up in the gears of “want” — what if what you want is to murder, rape, and pillage? Well, first, that’s statistically not what you actually want; most people don’t want that sort of horror for themselves. But even if you do want that, you probably also want to live a long and productive life — and the whole “murder, rape, and pillage” thing seriously gets in the way of a long and productive life. Yes, there’re exceptions, some of them notable (such as Genghis Khan, for example), the statistics are overwhelmingly against success. Might as well use the lottery as your retirement savings plan.

    Simon Packer:

    Hawking talks about deterministic physics, and posits a point I have noted myself and expressed around here before; IE that our brain processes, if determinism applies, cannot be relied upon as their accuracy or otherwise is just the corollary of state space in a deterministic universe. There would then be no ability to objectively reason or determine truth.

    Sean would rightly point out that you’re incorrectly mixing explanations of different levels of abstraction. You might as well claim that, since an individual hydrogen atom doesn’t have pressure, there’s no such thing as thermodynamics as it’s all “just” individual atoms banging into each other.

    You can take a reductionist perspective, in which case you can’t say anything meaningful about the emergent states; or you can take an emergent perspective, in which case the underlying elemental reality is irrelevant. The emergent phenomena must be consistent with the fundamental phenomena, but the two are otherwise completely unrelated.

    Consider again thermodynamics. The Ideal Gas Law naturally emerges from gasses, yes…but it would also emerge from BBs in a tin can in orbit, or from a computer simulation of BBs in a tin can in orbit. In any of those situations, you’ve got PV = NRT, with the energy of the system leaking to the outside in the form of waste heat until it reaches equilibrium with its environment.

    When you understand just how far disconnected the Ideal Gas Law is from the electrons in the computer circuits that’s emulating the orbital tin can…then you’ll understand just how irrelevant physics is to human cognition.

    As a final thought…I sometimes find it depressing how many people are terrified of the thought that we might be “merely” “only” “no more than” meat robots. Why does it never occur to anybody to exult in the fact that such complexity, such beauty, such passion is that which emerges from a suitable arrangement of the stuff of reality?

    And the fact that there’s nothing more is something that you can observe for yourself, very readily, simply by doing no more than paying especial close attention to your own breath. We are, fundamentally, hydrocarbon-burning heat engines, and the lungs are the bellows that supply oxygen to the furnaces in the cells. You can feel the physical movement of those bellows quite easily. And your breath naturally regulates its rate and depth to match your momentary metabolic activity. Exert yourself a little and your breath speeds up a little; exert yourself a lot and your breath struggles to keep the fires stoked. Consciously slow down your breathing and you have an urgent, irresistible desire to speed it back up; consciously hyperventilate and you feel anxious and panicky, eager to do something with all that pent-up energy.

    And all those findings of modern cognitive neuroscience? About the brain being a network of fragmented processing centers, of decisions being made before conscious awareness of them, of all sorts of subtle biases and illusions and various failings? They’re all there if you look for them, too.

    Modern mindfulness / insight meditation can guide you to developing skills and habits that make it especially easy to observe these sorts of things — but there’s no magic, no woo involved. It’s like learning to see or see through a particular optical illusion, or learning to memorize a deck of cards, or whatever — simple mental skills that anybody can (and should!) learn.

    As a bonus…one thing you’ll learn is that you’re not who you think you are…or, rather, you are who you think you are, but in a completely different grammatically-correct way of constructing that phrase. Erm…nearly everybody self-identifies with thought; you think, “Gee, I sure am upset with so-and-so.” And your own identification of your self grabs onto that and you become the very essence of “upset with so-and-so.” But all thoughts, like all other phenomena, come and go…and learning to recognize that fact can lead to a much more rewarding and productive life. Simply recognizing that you are not your thoughts is big…but it brings with it a recognition that there isn’t any “self” there at all, any more than there’s an identity to, say, a whirlpool in a stream. We can see the whirlpool persist, but the water is never the same, and different debris flows through. When the stream dries, the whirlpool goes with it. A new rain might make a new stream with a new whirlpool that much resembles the old…but, even moment-to-moment, the whirlpool is never the same and, as such, doesn’t really “exist.” You’re exactly like that, yourself — the you who’s reading these words now exists right now and at no other time. Some future entity, even a few seconds from now, might remember reading these words…but that’s a different entity, not the “you” who’s reading these words, just as the whirlpool is constantly changing.

    Methinks that’s more than enough words from me for today, and for some time….

    Cheers,

    b&

  3. zarzuelazen says:

    haha, Ben,

    you couldn’t resist arguing with us yet again, just as dogmatic as ever 😉

    “Sorry, but there’s no such thing as “sideways” in time. ”

    Yes, there is. Mathematics looks exactly like a ‘frozen’ time-line strangely matching the physical world. Look at the increase in the complexity of math proofs, exactly analogous to the increase in physical complexity from the big bang. Math to me looks just like physics shifted sideways in time (along a second time-axis).

    “That Big Equation of Sean’s that would fit nicely on a shirt is a complete no-room-for-addition description of the physics of the human body and everything else in all of human history. ”

    Again, I think you are completely missing the point of the book, which is that there are multiple knowledge domains describing reality, each requiring their own original concepts and modes of explanation. Particle physics is nowhere near a theory of everything. If you had a time machine, you could provide the ancients with complete knowledge of modern particle physics, and they would still understand nothing about classical mechanics, astrophysics, biology, neuroscience, ecology, chemistry, electronics or mechanical engineering.

    “our knowledge of the physics of the everyday world is complete”

    See previous paragraph. There are huge gaps in our physics knowledge of even the everyday world. Non-equilibrium thermodynamics is poorly understood , no one even understands turbulence!

    “Your particular bugbear, I know, is consciousness.”

    Not at all, I have solved consciousness. I believe it’s a new type of thermodynamic property that appears in non-equilibrium thermodynamic systems. It’s the flow of time itself, defined as entropy dissipation.

    Notice that there is nothing in my above paragraph about the ‘standard model’. The explanation for consciousness is completely independent of that.

  4. Simon Packer says:

    Ben

    Hello again!

    The thing about myths and history we have gone down before elsewhere on this blog. Suffice to say for now, repeated examination of the credibility of religious myth or truth and study through various avenues and disciplines has just re-enforced my belief that Christ is the fundamental and foundational character in human history and represents both the creative agent and the bridge between God and man. Those of us who are his followers, character and conduct -wise, are not always brilliant advertisements for him, sad to say. I’m genuinely sorry about that.

    “You can take a reductionist perspective, in which case you can’t say anything meaningful about the emergent states; or you can take an emergent perspective, in which case the underlying elemental reality is irrelevant.”

    OK

    ” The emergent phenomena must be consistent with the fundamental phenomena, but the two are otherwise completely unrelated.”

    Again, we have been down this sort of road here before. I don’t buy this as a possibility. Think a little about ‘consistent with’. To borrow your example here for starters, ideal gas laws are limited in scope and have low accuracy. I would think they are generally taken as emergent approximations from QFT/QED, though the calculations may well be unworkable at present. Molecular bonding models starting from QM are in their infancy, for example. But the real issue is that there is very probably no parallel mathematical emergent equivalence to be had from the QM layer over to the Gas Law layer. The problem is when you see individual emergent layers of conceptualizing and modelling as having real explanatory power, in the sense of determining, even at their own level, the time-evolution of the state of a system. If a layer does this in a way that is invariably already explained by the underlying ToE physics, then you have genuine equivalence and the two explanatory models are both valid pictures of reality. If not, then one layer or more is only an approximation and not the one which truly determines system evolution.

    The only way of redeeming Sean’s picture as you have described it, into the realm of logic, is if you see the emergent mechanisms and concepts at and within each level of emergent abstraction as having exact mathematical and logical parallels with any other layers and in the underlying ToE physics. Then the explanatory modes within the layers will be rigorously equivalent to each other. A little thought shows that this is rather implausible, and, even if true, utterly impossible to prove in practice. In addition, there must be no mechanistic cross-coupling between layers of abstraction otherwise the idea becomes even more ridiculously unlikely.

  5. Ben Goren says:

    zarzuelazen:

    Look at the increase in the complexity of math proofs, exactly analogously to the increase in physical complexity from the big bang. Math to me looks just like physics shifted sideways in time (along a second time-axis).

    Eh, that’s “not even worng.” All those innovations in math happened at particular dates, and the single-axis Gregorian calendar is perfectly suited to plotting said dates. There’s not only no need to add a second calendar to indicate the dates of those innovations, the very concept of using two dates to pinpoint them in time is incoherent.

    Again, I think you are completely missing the point of the book, which is that there are multiple knowledge domains describing reality, each requiring their own original concepts and modes of explanation.

    That’s only half the story.

    The other half is that, though, yes, the emergent domains are best described in their own languages, they’re aggregate descriptions of the fundamental domains — and nothing in the emergent domains can even hypothetically “overrule” the fundamental domains.

    Flip a coin and you’ll get a series of “heads” and “tails.” From that series various statistical patterns will emerge — such as a bell-shaped curve, if you plot the data in a certain way. But you’ll never get an individual toss that comes up “hearts” — which is what you’re proposing with your extra dimension of time and elementally causative powers of consciousness and what-not.

    There are huge gaps in our physics knowledge of even the everyday world. Non-equilibrium thermodynamics is poorly understood , no one even understands turbulence!

    That’s not the physics domain Sean refers to. In particular, we know that Newton underlies both — no need for either Quantum nor Relativistic mechanics — and it’s simply the scale of the interactions that’s causing us difficulty. Plus, those subjects are already much better understood than you imply. Indeed, it’s fundamentally the same problem as predicting where the balls will wind up in a billiards break; we know it’s a purely Newtonian system, but there’re too many variables to juggle all at the same time.

    I believe it’s a new type of thermodynamic property that appears in non-equilibrium thermodynamic systems. It’s the flow of time itself, defined as entropy dissipation.

    Again, not even worng. Your cup of coffee is therefore conscious as it sits cooling on the desktop, dissipating its entropy as time flows.

    Christ is the fundamental and foundational character in human history

    Christ was originally a Jewish demigod, the architect and high priest of YHWH’s celestial temple, the Prince of Peace, etc., as in Zechariah 11 and elsewhere. Paul’s Christ was a shameless plagiarism of Philo’s Logos — and Philo explicitly equated his Logos with the Christ of Zechariah. After — probably long after — the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 CE, “Mark” invented a biography for Christ in an epic in full Homeric style; almost the entire Jesus story can be traced to him and no earlier, and all later references build on or “correct” or refute him.

    Paul and Philo lived a generation or two after the fall of the Roman Republic and Julius Caesar’s foundation of the Roman Empire. The Old Testament mentions of Christ come centuries earlier, yes, but still centuries after the founding of Rome. The Egyptians had been building pyramids for at least a couple millennia — and they didn’t start building pyramids until a couple millennia after they had perfected the art of brewing beer. Large-scale agriculture itself is yet more millennia old, and anatomically-modern humans predate agriculture by at least an hundred thousand years.

    In other words, Christ isn’t even a last-minute footnote to human history.

    To borrow your example here. or starters, ideal gas laws are limited in scope and have low accuracy. I would think they are generally taken as emergent approximations from QFT/QED, though the calculations may well be unworkable at present.

    No; the ideal gas laws emphatically do not emerge from Quantum Mechanics in any form, save the very indirect one that QM “reduces” to Newtonian Mechanics at the scale of gasses.

    The ideal gas laws are purely Newtonian, and are trivially derived from them. Put a bunch of BBs in a tin can in vacuum in orbit, give it a good shake, and figure the trajectories of the BBs as they bounce off each other and the sides. Now, throw away the trajectories and just look at the aggregate net force of the impacts on the can; there’s your pressure. The volume is simple geometry. The number of BBs you get by counting. What’s the average velocity of the BBs? There’s your temperature. The constant for this particular system you can calculate from the other figures. Add more balls, change the size of the can, shake it harder…Newton says that the system should change according to PV=NRT, and it will. It will also, of course, slow down with time; the friction of the impacts will heat up the balls and the can, which will radiate that heat into its environment.

    The ideal gas laws are an emergent theory, and they’re a superlative emergent theory, because they apply anywhere you have a Newtonian system of confined things bumping into each other but you only care about the overall dynamics of the system. They work just as well for the air you breathe as they do for nasty chemicals in a manufacturing plant that would kill you. Indeed, variations on the theme even have some degree of applicability to very-distantly-related phenomena, such as vehicle traffic patterns.

    But, again, note that individual BBs don’t have temperature nor pressure in this model, and the temperature and pressure of the system isn’t a BB. Which is why you can’t use the language of the one system to describe what’s going on in the other system — which is the problem people keep getting hung up on when they consider the consciousness (or lack thereof) in elementary particles, or the wetness of a single water molecule, and so on.

    As a final note…”single water molecule” is, itself, an emergent theory rather far removed from the underlying Quantum Mechanics. It’s an aggregate of quite a number of quarks bound with the various nuclear forces into a pair of hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, surrounded by a cloud of electrons coupled to the lot with the electromagnetic force — already a very complex system. And, again, there’s no oxygen in an electron, and a water molecule doesn’t have a quark’s charm.

    Or, hell, at the other end of the scale…consider political parties that are made of people. You can describe the individuals in the language of individuals or you can describe the party in the language of parties, but all sorts of confusion ensues when you substitute the one for the other. And what sort of fool would begin attempting to understand election results by plotting the probability waveforms of all the constituent elementary particles in all the brains of all the voters?

    Cheers,

    b&

  6. zarzuelazen says:

    Ben:

    You misunderstood what I was suggesting with the extra time dimension. Remember I’m a mathematical realist. I think all the math is in some sense already *out there* – not a human invention. I should have said ‘math truths’ rather than ‘math proofs’. I was pointing out an analogy between the arrow of time in physics, and the hierarchy of math truths.

    “The other half is that, though, yes, the emergent domains are best described in their own languages, they’re aggregate descriptions of the fundamental domains — and nothing in the emergent domains can even hypothetically “overrule” the fundamental domains.”

    I think you’re drawing an artificial distinction between ‘fundamental’ and ’emergent’ that really can’t be made. How does one decide what’s ‘fundamental’ versus what’s ’emergent’? Seems to me that there’s no clear-cut line. The field of ‘quantum mechanics’ is a knowledge domain with it’s own set of concepts and modes of explanation, just like any other domain of knowledge.

    “Again, not even worng. Your cup of coffee is therefore conscious as it sits cooling on the desktop, dissipating its entropy as time flows.”

    You know I’m a panpsychist. And of course I’m absolutely right 😉 Or at least my story is perfectly consistent. The cup of coffee *is* indeed conscious. Of course the level of consciousness in the brain is vastly higher than that of the coffee. But I maintain that the difference between the coffee and the brain is a matter of degree only (quantitative rather than qualitative).

    To quote myself from earlier in the thread:

    “Consciousness is the flow of time itself, present to some degree in everything (it’s ubiquitous). The rate of entropy dissipation defines a ‘time flow’. Think of time as river – in some parts of the river, the water is flowing slowly – not much consciousness. In other parts of the river, the water is roaring past very fast – lots of consciousness.”

  7. Simon Packer says:

    Ben

    Yes, you’re right, ideal gas laws are derived using just Newtonian mechanics and statistics. Sorry. That bit reads dumb.

    What I was trying to say is that ideal gas laws are well known to be not very accurate, so we need to go to a more fundamental model if we really want to see what gas is going to do. Ignoring the practicalities of computation for the moment, we could use QM for our orbitals etc and model the molecular interactions better, say. Or we could try the ‘core equation’ and try to include all forces. Or we could go to the sought after ToE if we had it and get it all exactly right every time. But each time we swap to higher descriptive layers, we lose accuracy, so we don’t see rigorous descriptive equivalence between them. Therefore if we want final accuracy in our modelling, it is no use going to a higher emergent layer and saying that it models the outcome precisely. Ideal Gas laws are a good example, aren’t they? Gas laws aren’t my point. My point is that emergent layers are not precise parallel models of a hypothetical ToE model. They are therefore not deterministic in the final sense.

  8. Simon Packer says:

    Ben

    Your discourse on Christ and history seems to be limited to OT prophecy and the incarnation. This is not a full Biblical picture. This is common with critics. Spending too much time attacking an incomplete or flat wrong picture of God’s revelation. Which is foolishness because you’re not going to win, eternally speaking.

    If you google ‘hypostatic union’ you will get some basic theology on Christ. Two verses to start you off.

    Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
    (John 8:58)

    Here Jesus is alluding to his deity and adopting the phrase by which God introduced Himself to Moses. The result was that Jews tried to stone him.

    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
    (Col 1:15-16)

    Here the surrounding verses define the completely unparalleled scope of the character and glory of Christ. Creation, physics, redemption, suffering at the hands of the created and more.

    Christ was/is both incarnate man and eternally existing God. In his Deity he was responsible for the simultaneous emergence of space, time and matter; Genesis 1v1. Non of these can be meaningfully described or modeled without reference to the others.

  9. Ben Goren says:

    zarzuelazen:

    You misunderstood what I was suggesting with the extra time dimension. Remember I’m a mathematical realist. I think all the math is in some sense already *out there* – not a human invention. I should have said ‘math truths’ rather than ‘math proofs’. I was pointing out an analogy between the arrow of time in physics, and the hierarchy of math truths.

    Nevertheless, no matter how you want to slice it, you still only need a single time coordinate to pinpoint any moment in history. In stark contrast, you need three coordinates to pinpoint any location in space. That’s why space has three dimensions and time only one. Before you can even begin to propose another time dimension, you have to show an example of some phenomenon that needs that additional time coordinate to differentiate it from some other phenomenon.

    I think you’re drawing an artificial distinction between ‘fundamental’ and ’emergent’ that really can’t be made. How does one decide what’s ‘fundamental’ versus what’s ’emergent’?

    And Simon:

    But each time we swap between descriptive layers, we lose accuracy, so we don’t see rigorous descriptive equivalence between them. Therefore if we want final accuracy in our modelling, it is no use going to a higher emergent layer and saying that it models the outcome precisely.

    Emergence is very closely related to entropy. More than one micro-scale state can have a similar, if not indistinguishable, macro-scale state. Swap around the legs of the table and you might not even notice. Rearrange all the tables in a cafeteria, but make sure they get put into a grid with the same number of rows and columns with the same orientation, and you’ll again not notice.

    When you have that sort of a situation, it’s often — indeed, nearly always — more useful to describe the system in terms of the larger pattern. One of the table legs is wobbly? No problem; put a new leg on and the table is as good as new. The Girl Scouts need 20 tables for their meeting tonight, and the Masons also need 20 tables for their meeting tomorrow, so set them up in the same 4 x 5 array both times after clearing them out to make way for gym class in the middle of the day.

    But when you look at it closely, it quickly becomes apparent, as Sean puts it at the top of the page that, “in truth, [there are] only atoms and the void.” That table with one leg swapped out is not the same table as it was before…and, indeed, when the leg was wobbly it wasn’t the same table as when it had first been made. And what of the table after the parts were finished but before it was assembled? Was it a table then? Clearly not. But what about just before the last coat of paint dried? Was it a table then? And after it’s been disintegrating for centuries at the bottom of a landfill — is it still a table?

    The answer, of course, is that there’s no table — just, again, in truth, only atoms and the void. There’s a very useful pattern that we see repeatedly, and we attach the “table” label to that pattern. But there’s no such thing as a table; all there is are the similar objects and the shared label we agree upon as a good representation of that pattern. And, of course, the label itself is another pattern — even the repeated instances of the word, “table,” on this post are all different.

    The very essence of the idea of low entropy is that you’re in a state where you have patterns. When entropy is maximized, all you’re left with is an homogenized patternless mush.

    So, yes, if you want the ultimate in precision, you have to go at least to whatever layer underlies the one with the patterns you’re interested in. History is emergent from politics which is emergent from psychology which is emergent from biology which is emergent from chemistry which is emergent from atomic theory which is emergent from QM, which may or may not be emergent from something else such as string theory — and that, too, may well be emergent from something “deeper.” But the ways in which chemistry is an imperfect simplification of atomic theory are irrelevant to human history; they’re not even apparent as rounding errors.

    That’s the heart of why you should be so overwhelmingly confident that there aren’t any mysteries left in human-scale physics, why we know that we’re animals and animals are meat robots. You might propose some new below-QM theory with mysterious forces, but we already know that those forces are too insignificant to show up at the level of QM — never mind atoms, never mind chemistry, never mind…and so on. All that’s significant to cognition is electrons and photons and quarks, electromagnetism and gravity — and, if whatever you’re proposing for an explanation of consciousness requires or even merely implies those constituent elements doing things we know they don’t do, your proposal can and should be dismissed immediately with prejudice.

    Simon:

    This is not a full Biblical picture.

    I’m sorry, but any attempt to treat the Bible as a serious explanation of reality is every bit as absurd as looking to Star Wars for history and physics lessons. Go to it for literature, for anthropology, for etymology, that sort of thing…but you know how hard-pressed you’d be to attempt to have a serious conversation with somebody who insisted that Yoda was real and could levitate starships? Your obsession with Biblical fantasy is every bit as unhealthy.

    My analysis is no different from one you’d hopefully, presumably make of any other Classical-era pagan mystery cult with a death / rebirth central figure. Do you recognize the Delphic Oracle’s prophecy that the virgin Danae would bear a son who would kill the king and take the throne as mere storytelling? Are you awed by the fact that Zeus, the Heavenly Father, caused the prophecy to be fulfilled in the person of Perseus? Or, how about all the prophecies in Shakespeare, in The Matrix, in Harry Potter?

    If you can recognize those for the fictions they are but can’t see how the same is so plainly, painfully obviously true for the Bible…then I ain’t got nothin’ for ya. Hell, I’d be nervous just mentioning Santa, wondering what your parents have and haven’t told you about him….

    Cheers,

    b&

  10. zarzuelazen says:

    Ben:

    “The answer, of course, is that there’s no table — just, again, in truth, only atoms and the void”

    Ben, my friend, you’re suffering from an acute case of what Sean calls ‘mad dog naturalism’ 😉

    You admitted you really can’t know whether a level is truly ‘fundamental’ or not, and that fact alone prevents any clear-cut separation between our concepts about reality and reality itself.

    And even if you did have definite access to the ‘fundamental level’ theory, this would simply be a predictive ‘back box’ for the higher levels of emergence : it might in principle be able to always predict what would happen next, but it would convey no actual understanding.

    To understand something in human terms is to be able to provide concepts that neatly summarize phenomenon at the appropriate level of explanation, and to integrate these concepts into a coherent theoretical framework. So a true theory of everything has to be able to tell us how to generate these higher-level concepts for proper understanding of emergent properties. And this is as much cognitive science as it is physics.

  11. Simon Packer says:

    Ben

    While your discourse on entropy is interesting, and not unfamiliar territory to me, I can’t see the bearing it has on my point. Except that entropy might give you a loophole to fudge the results at the next layer. But then you’d have to explain why entropy works for you in this and not against you, which would be far more likely statistically.

    If you are taking a ‘bottom up’ approach to reality, and if final reality is found to be mathematically based, then some form of determinism would apply (although actually, universally, it probably wouldn’t be linear in time).

    If that basic physics model is authoritative, then we can make no definitive statements at any higher levels of modelling abstraction, unless those models are fully mathematically equivalent to the foundation layer. There would have to be a direct transformation over to the parameters and equations of the next layer up, and so forth to the next layer after that. There would have to be functional equivalence consistent with the simplifications involved. Now if you choose to say that these higher level abstractions are generally but not authoritatively accurate (i.e. useful rather than superb, in Penrose parlance), you might be right, but it would be impossible to prove. Seems rather unlikely to me, and it smacks of ‘faith’, using the Dawkins definition of that word. But the atheists shoot themselves in the foot here. If ‘evolution by natural selection’ is a generally valid high level abstraction, permitted by foundational, authoritative physics, then why not religious faith? Here, I’m not talking about high level evidence, like the resurrection of Christ or the history of Israel, though I’d certainly use that in the general discussion. I’m talking about trying to make ‘room to move’ within the foundational physics to allow valid and useful high-level modelling.

    If a high level model is not deterministic to some degree, then it cannot be ‘useful’ either. If it is not ‘useful’, it could not ‘evolve’. Natural selection entails ‘useful’. It is no more than playing with the high level concept called ‘semantics’. This is what people accuse religious people of doing. Now all this is a question of degree, but hopefully you get my point.

    Personally, I believe that God made the cosmos with physics, but it is His physics and we probe it to a shallow depth. We then call it ‘physics’ but it’s our idea of true physics. The fabric He made allows us to model certain things accurately and usefully, the more so as time advances. I’ve spent 15 years of my life in engineering exploiting exactly that. Certain things are hidden by the intent of God, who can see, and has seen to it, that they stay hidden for the time being. The fabric He ordained allows Him to create our cosmos and intervene in our perceptive framework exactly as He sees fit. That fabric has the capacity to host beings who are conscious and have free will. I see nothing in Sean (so far, still haven’t got the new book), Hawking (quite reasonable stuff on the whole) or Dawkins (slightly nuts on the whole) to change my thinking.

    The real problem is that our human thinking is too self-important.

  12. Ben Goren says:

    zarzuelazen, you read half of what I wrote and ignored the rest. The half you read was an elaboration of the quote Sean uses at the top of every page: “in truth, only atoms and the void.” The half you ignored was an elaboration of the equation (on a photo of a tombstone) that Sean also uses at the top of every page: “S = k. log W.” They are two sides of the same coin. There are only atoms and the void, but those atoms make patterns in the void — and it’s the patterns where all the fun things happen.

    Simon:

    If you are taking a ‘bottom up’ approach to reality, and if final reality is found to be mathematically based, then some form of determinism would apply (although actually, universally, it probably wouldn’t be linear in time).

    The whole point of emergence is that — thanks to those patterns that characterize entropy — you don’t need a full accounting of the underlying layer in order to meaningfully understand the upper layer. You most emphatically do not need to know the vectors of all the air molecules in your pressurized tank in order to know its volume, pressure, and temperature — nor do you need to individually count the molecules as they leave when you open the release valve to know how much the temperature and pressure are going to drop.

    In the exact same way, we don’t need to know anything at all about any sort of “ultimate” reality in order to know that the human-scale world is entirely mechanistic. Yes, you can amplify some quantum-scale phenomena in meaningful ways — such as, say, by running a multi-million-dollar lottery with a Geiger counter for the random number generator. But even that is going to play out no differently from a roll of the dice…and Many-Worlds, if, as is very likely, is true, tells us that it’s still deterministic but observers only observe one particular result. Regardless, we also know that none of those phenomena are even remotely applicable to human cognition — brains are far too big, hot, and messy for quantum weirdness to manifest.

    If ‘evolution by natural selection’ is a generally valid high level abstraction, permitted by foundational, authoritative physics, then why not religious faith?

    Because we’ve got evidence that, when rationally analyzed, has a very narrowly-focused set of error bars centered precisely around (the modern synthesis of) Darwin’s theory. Religious faith has zero credible evidence — and that which the faithful point to as evidence is far more rationally explained as nothing more than primitive superstition as told in ancient faery tales. Worse, religious faith claims absolute certainty in its conclusions — “I know that my redeemer liveth!” — whereas scientific claims are always explicitly provisional.

    That leads to the bigger point: “proof” is a fantasy, something that doesn’t even exist in mathematics. Sure, you could think you’ve proved that 1 + 1 = 2, but how are you supposed to eliminate all the paranoid conspiracy theory possibilities that some outside agent has manipulated you into being so confident of an answer that’s actually incorrect? Indeed, you yourself are an advocate of exactly such a conspiracy: “I believe that God made the cosmos with physics that we probe to a shallow depth. […] Certain things are hidden by the intent of God, who can see, and has seen to it, that they stay hidden for the time being.” How do you know that one of those things your god has hidden isn’t a cosmic joke, that what you think is your god is really Loki, and that 1 + 1 really equals 42?

    And never mind that: how do you distinguish your god as a convincingly real character from all the other contemporaneously-ancient pagan death / rebirth / salvation demigods agrarian Sun gods of the time when people first started worshiping your god? Evaluate the means by which you’re certain that Ra is all stuff and nonsense, and you’ll find it all equally applies to YHWH; everything you would cite to support YHWH would apply equally well to Dionysus.

    That’s the heart of the false dichotomy the religious put forth. Basically, all y’all point out that we admit to not being perfect, and trump that with your claims of perfection. When we point out that we have evidence to support 99.99999% confidence in the Standard Model, you point to the 0.000001% room for error in our observations as “proof” that “anything goes,” and your fantasy is “anything,” so you’re equally justified in believing in it — without, again, offering even a pretense of supportive evidence (or, at least, anything that you yourself would consider reasonable evidence in any other context). Hell, you don’t even propose anything other than “My imaginary best friend can do anything he wants, so he can easily squint hard and make magic things happen” as a mechanism to explain why we get the observations we get.

    So why do you pretend to take yourself seriously — let alone expect anybody else to?

    Cheers,

    b&

  13. Simon Packer says:

    Hi Ben

    I’d love to see these error bars on Neo-Darwinism graphs! You’ll have to expand on the entropy thing as covering this layer mapping thing or recommend I read Sean’s book, which is on my to-do list. I still can’t see the entropy argument you present and I still can’t see Sean’s book either. Credibility is often reasonably in the hands of the ‘creduled’. Not sure that’s a word.

    Standard Model and Core Equation is territory we have covered here to my dissatisfaction.

    You have immense confidence in the Standard Model and it is brilliant in parts. The Dirac equation seems to hold up. QED works very well in simple scenarios. Calculations are too intractable for verification in more complex scenarios such as molecular bonding though and seem to throw up anomalies sometimes. QCD as it stands does not seem to be very practical or accurate. There are many instances in many scenarios of it giving very wrong results as presently understood. See for example https://arxiv.org/abs/1203.5278
    Then there is the vacuum catastrophe and renormalization to surely show there is something basic we just don’t get. Dirac thought so. Actually nobody uses the SM to thoroughly model anything slightly big anyway.

    The case for Christ is hardly our domain here I admit; being about what you might consider very high level phenomena in the emergence picture. It’s about Divine revelation and judgment in relational maters. Einstein, according to Issacson, p386, regarded Christ as ‘unquestionably’ a historical figure.

    Physical law was about ‘universal conspiracies of nature’ to Feynman. What about the places where nature doesn’t conspire? The ones we get to see are the ones we can see and can guess the maths. It is obvious there is more, and entirely likely that it would fundamentally subvert our ideas of determinism.

    But hey, maybe you can’t take me seriously. You seem to have complete understanding of everything anyway.

    Cheers

  14. Ben Goren says:

    Simon:

    I’d love to see these error bars on Neo-Darwinism graphs!

    For the best treatment of the evidence and reasoning behind modern evolutionary biology, see Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True. The short version is that there’re a great many independent lines of evidence all supportive of the same conclusion. Everybody thinks of the fossil record, but Darwin himself didn’t focus all that much on fossils; for him, it was the geographical distribution of extant species — and that remains today Jerry’s personal favorite form of evidence. But you’ve also got everything from dentition patterns to DNA sequencing to lab experiments to field observations…and, yes, also those famous fossils.

    You’ll have to expand on the entropy thing as covering this layer mapping thing or recommend I read Sean’s book, which is on my to-do list.

    Read Sean’s book. (Not just The Big Picture, but all of them!)

    Entropy as used by physicists, in the form on the photo of a tombstone at the top of this page, is a statistical count of the microscopic states with indistinguishable macroscopic states. The flip side of that is that, with low entropy, you’ve got a lot of macroscopic states behaving essentially the same despite potentially radically different microscopic states — which is a great summary of the concept of emergence.

    You have immense confidence in the Standard Model and it is brilliant in parts.

    Brilliance isn’t at question here.

    We’ve run the experiments. We’ve done everything imaginable to elementary particles so many brazillians of times that we know every possible way they can interact with each other. Were there some other way of pushing an electron than what is described in the Standard Model, we’d have found it — and, were it something so influential that it played a dominant role in cognition, we’d have found it in the first years of searching. A claim that a soul can influence the motions of your fingers to type different words is exactly the same as a claim that there’s some force we haven’t detected that can move the electrons in your fingers.

    So you’re left with only conspiracy theories if you want to claim that there’s physics not yet accounted for involved in cognition — but they’re all every bit as paranoid as those alien CIA mind ray dental implants I keep banging on. Yes, even (especially!) Christian theology.

    Again again again, this isn’t a claim that all of physics — let alone all of science — is completely understood. But it is a claim that there’s no more cause to search for the soul than there is to search for the cave the Sun sleeps in at night. No, we don’t understand why the Sun’s atmosphere is so hot — but that doesn’t lend credence to the theory that the Sun’s midnight cave is in a geothermal hot springs.

    Einstein, according to Issacson, p386, regarded Christ as ‘unquestionably’ a historical figure.

    Einstein was a physicist with zero expertise in Classical history at a time when the idea that maybe Jesus wasn’t a miracle worker but still undoubtedly a real person was becoming mainstream.

    A positive case for an historical Jesus of any form simply cannot be credibly made. Even take the most watered-down non-magical Jesus you can suggest, and we have contemporary eyewitnesses who must have mentioned such a person who didn’t — including St. Paul! But especially Philo of Alexandria, whose Logos Paul shamelessly appropriated wholesale for his Christ. The very earliest of Christian apologists, such as Justin Martyr, were obsessed with Pagan ridicule of Jesus being a Johnny-come-lately copycat god…and their response was to claim that evil daemons with the power of foresight spread stories of false messiahs centuries in advance in order to trick honest men into thinking Christ was the copycat. Search Martyr’s works for the phrase, “sons of Jupiter,” if you want an exhaustive catalog of the sources Christians “borrowed” when crafting their hero; subtract them out, and you’re left with exactly nothing whatsoever.

    Physical law was about ‘universal conspiracies of nature’ to Feynman. What about the places where nature doesn’t conspire?

    I think you’re intentionally reading into Feynman’s poetic turn of phrase there a personal Conspirator whom Feynman spared no expense in ridiculing. But never mind that — care to offer evidence of an example of a lack of, to use Feynman’s imprecise turn of phrase, universal natural conspiracy?

    Because such an example would be a miracle — such as turning water into wine, as Dionysus did, or raising the dead, as Aesculapius did, or Ascending to the Heavens, as Bellerophon did, or…well, I could continue, but Justin Martyr put it much more exhaustively and thoroughly than I care to right not.

    (Though I will mention…one of his most angst-ridden complaints was that the Mithraists “stole” the Eucharist…but we know from Plutarch that the Mithraists long preceded Paul…and their home base was Silicia, whose capital was — wait for it! — Tarsus, as in “Saul, of”…and the earliest mention of the Christian Eucharist not only comes from Paul but is also the only detailed biographic description we get from him of Jesus…and it’s not presented as the history of the Last Supper, but as instructions of how to perform the religious ritual. And how on Earth do you maintain any sort of historical Jesus when that central narrative was shamelessly stolen from Paul’s Pagan hometown religion?)

    Cheers,

    b&

  15. zarzuelazen says:

    Ben:

    “zarzuelazen, you read half of what I wrote and ignored the rest. The half you read was an elaboration of the quote Sean uses at the top of every page: “in truth, only atoms and the void.” ”

    It makes no sense to single out ‘atoms and the void’ as fundamental reality, since these are also human concepts. A true ‘mad dog naturalist’ would have to claim that reality was pure math or some unknown physical thing corresponding to the quantum wave-function.

    ” The half you ignored was an elaboration of the equation (on a photo of a tombstone) that Sean also uses at the top of every page: “S = k. log W.” ”

    Well, yes, I think we’re in agreement here actually, I do think it’s a good bet that emergent features of reality indeed all arise from thermodynamics and the concept of entropy. Where I’d differ with you and Sean is in terms of the emphasis. I wouldn’t say that the emergent properties are just ‘ways of talking about reality’, rather, I would say that these properties are *features* or *patterns* of given levels of abstraction.

    My main point of disagreement is over the nature of fundamental reality and the scope of the standard model. I tend to view quantum mechanics as only covering about 1/3rd of fundamental reality. What’s missing are a proper accounting of mathematical and mental properties.

    I should be quick to add that I’m NOT claiming that anything about mathematical or mental properties contradicts the standard model. However, I would suggest that the scope of the standard model is limited, and probably doesn’t encompass all of fundamental physics.

    Look at the theory of computation and information theory. There’s an example of entirely new modes of fundamental explanation. Notice that these topics don’t *contradict* the standard model as such. It’s just they’re *different* modes of explanation.

    I would point to quantum computation as an example of the sort of thing I’m talking about. It doesn’t contradict the standard model, but it *is* an entirely new way of thinking about quantum mechanics.

  16. Simon Packer says:

    Hi Ben

    To form a worldview, atheist, Christian or other, I think a person dials in a lot of possible inputs and uses a weighting on them depending on how credible and significant they seem to the particular individual. Those worldview inputs may be related to physics, or they may be related to other evidence such as possible historical records, or personal experience. Emergent layers of understanding are certainly relevant here. If physics were on a totally sound footing, in regard to final computable determinism, there would be good reason to put it first and foremost when deciding upon a worldview. I would hardly be the only person with at least some physics education who has decided that physics is not really in that place now. Roger Penrose for example has a very substantially different perspective on these things to Sean and yourself.

    I don’t see that a core equation or similar is definitive so I wouldn’t dial it into my worldview in a strong way at all. While Sean has said that it hasn’t been departed from on earth, I also would be surprised if it had really ever been applied in totality even on earth. So I don’t think we have a deterministic basic physics model. If we did, it would IMO invalidate higher levels of abstraction as ways to reason meaningfully. Entropy doesn’t get you round this at all as far as I can see. Any macrostate comprises microstates and they still have to be paralleled by the basic physics. To say that basic physics would transfer to an equivalent system based on some set of rules entailing state equivalence to an observer seems a) yet another conscious judgement call b) vanishingly unlikely. So please clarify or show me where to look. Perhaps I’m missing something.

    As you know, my worldview allows me to see a single, supernatural cause for the whole of creation. Things can’t be described without others; any one of time, space or matter, for example. We probe from within that creation and find some things obey mathematical, logical rules pretty well. QED is certainly’superb’ here, QCD is ‘useful’, as per Penrose. There is a ‘universal conspiracy of nature’ at work, as Feynman said. But there are areas we can’t readily compute, such as three body problems. The atomic nucleus is rather poorly understood because of computational problems, but also at a more basic level; I don’t think the core repulsive force (in nucleon-nucleon interaction/residual strong force) is clearly understood at all. The hand off from QM to observable is still up for grabs. Underlying realities may manifest as the laws and concepts we can observe, either mathematically (QM, Newtonian, relativistic etc), or seemingly not mathematical at all (consciousness, freewill, personal identity, 1 Corinthinas 13 style love, etc).

    So basically I don’t see core theory as authoritative or even as a consistent worldview component. I worship God, not our physical understanding of His creation, and therefore I’m happy to see physics progress where that progress is real but see no reason for it to be more than a fractional input into my worldview. I’ll take it that there is an underlying reality, delineated by God for this creation, and which may come under the broad categorization of ‘physics’, which allows conscious entities real room to play out on a stage which sometimes at least appears to us to obeys physical laws. And I’ll accept I’m not smart enough to get beyond that. Nor is anyone else, from what I’ve seen.

    A person can think highly of humanity and our achievements and understanding, and seek satisfaction and worth in that. Or beyond that, think more highly of both God and the potential of redeemed humanity; the higher invitation of the Creator/Redeemer. The first option can appeal because it leaves our pride of life untouched ( 1John 2v16, Luke 17v33 ). But the price is missing the whole point of our existence (Westminster Catechism Q/A 1).

    Jerry Coyne’s books I’ve scanned and responded to here before. All these books leave me waiting in vain for the punchline. In particular there was nothing satisfactory covering the area of statistical mutation viability. There never is. The Feynman quote was not intended by me to indicate that he believed in God.

  17. Paul Torek says:

    Simon,
    (Sorry I’m late getting back to you.) My “Betting on the Past” scenario is internally consistent – you just have to assume a deterministic universe. It’s not necessary for “the past to be *modified* by the present”. That would imply that first the past was one way, then the present acted on it, and then it was another way. But no: all that we need is that the past is *not independent* of the present. And it’s not. That’s why it’s a smart and safe bet, to take the low-payoff-ratio option and pocket a dollar.

    BTW, in your response you use the word “free will” in a libertarian, contra-causal way. That’s a bad habit. You should give it up 🙂

  18. zarzuelazen says:

    Ben:

    “Before you can even begin to propose another time dimension, you have to show an example of some phenomenon that needs that additional time coordinate to differentiate it from some other phenomenon.”

    The distinction between (information/fields/cognition) forms an axis that could be differentiated with a 2nd time coordinate.

    Let’s go back to the famous formula you mentioned again:
    S = k. log W

    As you mentioned, when you aggregate lower-level properties, higher-level (emergent) features appear that don’t depend on the lower-level details (many possible micro-states making up a given macro-state). I agree with that. The key point here is that reality forms a hierarchy of patterns.

    But what makes you so sure that there’s only one way to perform the aggregation? It seems to me that if you aggregated the lower-level properties in different ways, you might end up with different higher-level emergent properties. In that case, there could be more than one arrow of time. Rather than just a linear, one-dimensional hierarchy of emergent features, you could have something more like a tree – with several different hierarchies of patterns emerging.

    There’s a clear distinction between information , fields and cognition that could form the basis for a 2nd arrow of time (information>fields>cognition). That’s my justification for adding a 2nd time dimension.