Comments

  1. says

    First of all, shout-outs to the call screener for really making sure I wasn’t a troll. I don’t blame them for being more cautious after last week’s episode, and it seems like it paid off yesterday.

    I only realized after the call that I didn’t get to talk about Max Tegmark’s work. Here’s an excerpt from his wiki page that sums it up nicely:

    Tegmark has also formulated the “Ultimate Ensemble theory of everything”, whose only postulate is that “all structures that exist mathematically exist also physically”. This simple theory, with no free parameters at all, suggests that in those structures complex enough to contain self-aware substructures (SASs), these SASs will subjectively perceive themselves as existing in a physically “real” world. This idea is formalized as the mathematical universe hypothesis,[12] described in his book Our Mathematical Universe.

    I personally don’t agree with his model exactly (although I don’t know the ins and outs of it either), but I agree that the distinction between mathematical and physical reality is somewhat of an illusion and the universe can be described as a mathematical object. I also don’t believe his version of the multiverse specifically, but his use of independent mathematical structures comprising the multiverse is something I agree is plausible.

  2. Nathan says

    We create models to describe the world such as mathematics and physics. That doesn’t make the universe those things. That is why all these arguments about the universe is math, or a computer or an AI all fail every single time.

  3. Mobius says

    Tegmark has also formulated the “Ultimate Ensemble theory of everything”, whose only postulate is that “all structures that exist mathematically exist also physically”.

    My graduate work in mathematics was in the field of topology, and I assure you Gerard that there are mathematical structures which CAN NOT exist physically.

  4. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard
    That “theory” (it’s not, it’s a wild-ass guess) reads like nonsense. There’s a book called Sophie’s World where the characters in the book seem to become self-aware and dick around with the author. It’s of course merely making a point and I believe taking an extreme view of Platonism, as the entire book is basically a walk through the history of philosophy. Tegmark seems to be implying that someone could dream up a mathematical system and the “dream” abstractions would suddenly become self-aware. It’s hot garbage, IMO.

    In other words…what Nathan said. Mathematical models don’t “exist” by any coherent, meaningful definition of the word.

  5. ironchops says

    The 10 commandments are simply just a set of rules, in fact so are the current laws (US). Should you worship them? You say there is most likely no intelligent designer but that mathematics itself is the god you are trying to understand? You lost me dude!

  6. Monocle Smile says

    Also, Gerard, are you planning to answer the questions from before? Like why you argue for theistic positions that you find compelling? And which positions you think are correct? (Note: “not conclusively incorrect” is not the same as “correct”) We went back and forth quite a bit in a previous thread and didn’t really seem to get around to these.

  7. ironchops says

    I have to say that I admire Phil’s calm steadfastness and straight shooting approach. He seems to be getting much more comfortable being on the show.

    To Cameron – To me it is not so important to convert people or convince them that their belief is wrong. It is more important to understand if weather or not we can live, work and accept each other for who we are regardless of whatever esoteric knowledge we may think we hold. The conversation usually goes off the track and into the weeds once the shields go up. At that point no one will be convinced of much and it’s usually a waste of time to keep on. It would be better to talk about the weather or football or something else real.

  8. MV says

    @Gerard if you were the first caller, I am not sure why you don’t like the term atheist?
    You don’t believe in a god at present time, you are an atheist.
    You don’t know if a god does or does not exist, that makes you agnostic in terms of knowledge.
    Couple together you are an agnostic atheist, whether you like it or not.

  9. Murat says

    @Mobius #3
    Can you give an example to what you call “mathematical structures that can not exist physically”?

    And, to clarify what I understand as a mathematical structure existing physically: “Pi” does exist physically, simply because it comes from an observation / calculation of what exists as a circle and its physical features like area and diameter.

    Are we talking about different things?

  10. says

    @Mobius #3
    I believe what is meant by “physical” in that quote isn’t what is commonly thought of as physical.

    You might be thinking of physical as existing materially within our universe. In Tegmark’s case, “physical” does not apply just to our universe, but his hypothesis of a multiverse. That is, there are other universes, which are just mathematical structures, that have their own set of rules that are just as real, or “physical”, as the universe that we live in. Because those universes follow different rules, they may follow rules that allow your abstract topological structures to exist “physically”, not just abstractly as they do to us.

    I don’t necessarily believe Tegmark’s theory of the multiverse (I don’t currently think that there’s reason to believe that every mathematical structure has to exist), but there are things within it that are interesting and I agree with.

  11. Murat says

    About Matthew’s call:

    Maybe this will sound somwehat irrelevant to the point he was making, but… Whenever I hear “God’s plan” in the kind of context Matthew was using (like, how come he returned from war abroad without a scratch while some of his buddies died) I feel like a very crucial part of the “chain of fate” is being missed:

    In the case of an army being deployed, a mechanism of political power (mostly coming from voting individuals) is in the works. So, before arriving at the idea of God, there’s a whole bunch of different agencies that take part in whatever is going on, how destinies are being shaped.

    Let’s think of a Christian soldier in the US army: If he/she considers any kind of well-being Or an injury OR death itself as “part of God’s plan”, then, is he/she the protagonist of this particular plan (“what God has planned for ME”) or, are people okay with the idea that there is just one single HUGE plan being executed ever since the beginning of time, that every single decision-maker is merely an actor, that the plan is NOT about INDIVIDUALS but about something beyond people?

    Is it “God has a plan for ME” or “God has a plan and I will have my part in it”?

    One might ask what the difference is, as long as both come with the claim about one supreme being controlling everything. But I do believe that there is a crucial difference: As Russell noted in one remark, the idea of the “plan” makes individuals feel “special”. That is one very popular aspect of it.

    But, how can you be “special” if it is latter kind of plan? You!re just an extra in a single shot of a seeminly endless movie the director of which you haven’t even met.

    In the case of a soldier being deployed, there really is a “plan”. But it is one that comes as part of international affairs, world politics, economy, security, etc. Those who make the plan are humans. For it helps many to think that their probable death will be the result of a higher authority than some lousy politician, things like the idea of martyrdom have always been popular.

    “You will die not because of what just another human being decided to do, but because there is this cosmic plan and…”

    This works. People buy it. This is the ultimate software application for the kind of hardware we call “hard power”.

    There is something honorable about getting a a bullet in the head. People who loved you can tell about this to future generations and say it was “God’s plan” that took you away.

    But how about the guy that survived many wars and then one day fell into the sewer and drowned in shit? Is this a punchline from a joking God?

  12. Murat says

    @Gerard #9
    Isn’t this a slightly concealed example to a “circular argument”?

    Some mathematical structures may not exist physically in “our” universe, but we can “think of” other universes which would be based on those structures, hence, creating the bases for them to exist also physically.

  13. says

    @Nathan #2
    I’ve heard that a million times at this point, so just stating it isn’t convincing me. If you want to start convincing me, try answering the question of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics, which seems to counter your argument that math is just a tool (I’m pretty sure that’s basically what you’re saying anyway). For example, if arithmetic was just a human invention to count sheep, how come those same principles are powerful enough to describe the force of gravity?
    There are plenty of examples of pure mathematics concepts that became applicable in much later in fields that you would never think. Logic is the underpinning of discovering truth, moreso than empiricism, because using logic you can predict truths that you have yet to observe, like Einstein predicting gravitational waves which were only just recently observed.
    The fact that Einstein could reduce the relation between gravity, time, and space, to some abstract equations shows that there is an underlying structure to the universe, and we discovered that structure using the same principles that we used in ancient times. Anyway, I’m ranting. I’d like to hear your explanation for all this and then we can consider which view makes more sense.

  14. says

    @Murat #11
    I’m not sure of your intention but the emphasis on “think of” makes it sound like you think that our mental processes cause these universes to exist.

    It’s not that when we create some math that the math suddenly exists physically. I think the idea is that any mathematical structure that we can construct, given our rules of logic, already exists out in the multiverse, and we are just discovering that this structure exists. It really is kind of like a neo-Platonism, in that we are discovering the nature of mathematics which exists beyond our physical universe, but that doesn’t mean our universe is any less real or that there are “ideal forms” like “redness”.

    I hope that makes sense, I’m not sure if I fully understood your point.

  15. Murat says

    @Gerardo #13
    Actually, I didn’t have an intention, just wanted to check if I got it right, and your reply suggests I have.

    Still, my point remains unchallenged: I don’t understand what it is that proves those other universes to exist – other than our / Tegmark’s mental process. (I’m not saying they don’t exist.)

    So, basically, there are not TWO claims here, but just ONE.

    Tegmark does not claim that 1) other universes do certainly exist 2) mathematical structures that don’t correspond to anything physical in “our” universe do correspond to such in those “other” universes.

    No. There is indeed just ONE claim, and it is simply that, through mathematics we can reach the idea of non-physical universes (reminds me of modular maths, what we use is mode 10 but mode 9 or mode 7 or mode X will work as well) which would directly make maths work in tune with “their” reality.

    I got the feeling that you are attributing to Tegmark’s approach something more concrete than he meant.

  16. Nathan says

    Your ignoring that it has been told to you is your problem not mine. You haven’t demonstrated an underlying structure, you just made it up. Provide evidence for you claim rather than just saying it must be there.

  17. says

    @Monocle Smile #4 #6
    Jesus Christ, you are not letting any of this go (I’m talking to you, Monocle, not Jesus). I already answered the first question, and as for the “correctness” you’re right and I should revise and say that there are “not incorrect” (“proved” false) positions that theists take, but taken that way I already answered that so I’m not gonna repeat myself again.

    I don’t know if this has anything to do with your point, but it’s interesting that you bring up a novel, especially a break-the-4th-wall-y one. Matt and John had a call back around October I think where they were talking about the “existence” of Game of Thrones or something like it. Russell also brought up the vague sci-fi notions of us being a game played by some supernatural beings.

    The thing is, those concepts of worlds in relation to our universe are very messy. The world of Game of Thrones is comprised of a mish-mash of thoughts that try to stay cohesive and consistent, but they aren’t formal at all. The universe being a “game” specifically is also a bit messy because games generally have a pragmatic purpose of enjoyment for players which doesn’t seem to be analogous to our universe. Program and simulation are a bit better because they are more formal and objective ideas, but they still seem to imply the use of a computer which is more of a physical thing.
    So what about the universe as a mathematical structure?

    The universe as simply a mathematical structure is different from the above examples because it is completely formal, objective, and consistent. To go back to the games, which I started the discussion with, I mentioned how games relate so well to the universe. Although games have a pragmatic nature within them, they are ultimately just a set of rules–that is, games are mathematical structures (read Alon Amit’s post here. Also, I wouldn’t take his final comments too seriously; that’s not where I got the idea from. Although it seems to literally be what I’m arguing for, I don’t know Alon’s philosophical beliefs and I just assume he’s being poetic). Similarly, the universe seems to be, at its most fundamental, a set of rules that govern the functioning and operating of the universe which are described by our equations of physics. And for further evidence of the universe being mathematical inherently, I’ll point you to the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics for now.

    Anyway, your summation of Tegmark’s thoughts are very ill-informed and you seem to be dismissing it based on that strawman. I would suggest, if you want to make a more informed decision, you read a little more into the theory before making claims about it.

  18. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    And, to clarify what I understand as a mathematical structure existing physically: “Pi” does exist physically, simply because it comes from an observation / calculation of what exists as a circle and its physical features like area and diameter.

    I generally restrict “exist physically” to physical things whose existence or non-existence is a matter of falsiability based on on observable evidence. Pi is not a falsifiable matter. I can calculate the value of Pi using pure logic, with zero need to refer to any observation. Example:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leibniz_formula_for_%CF%80

    It strains my credulity to see phrases like “exist physically” to apply to physical existence claims that are not scientifically falsifiable via contradicting evidence and observation, and also for claims that deal with pure logic and not physical observation.

    If you want to start convincing me, try answering the question of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics, which seems to counter your argument that math is just a tool (I’m pretty sure that’s basically what you’re saying anyway). For example, if arithmetic was just a human invention to count sheep, how come those same principles are powerful enough to describe the force of gravity?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

    It’s not that when we create some math that the math suddenly exists physically. I think the idea is that any mathematical structure that we can construct, given our rules of logic, already exists out in the multiverse, and we are just discovering that this structure exists.

    I don’t know what you mean by “exist” in this context. I understand the word “exist” in two distinct senses: 1- A “physical” “object” exists when there is evidence and observation that makes the tenative, falsifiable claim that the object exists. Such existing objects can have direct impact on my body, such as impact me in the leg, causing a sensory experience. 2- A solution to a mathematical constraint exists. This is a question that deals with pure logic and math, and appeals to evidence and observation of physical reality are irrelevant when answering these kinds of questions.

    It’s unclear which meaning of “exist” that you mean to use, and it’s uncear if you mean to use a different meaning of the word “exist”.

  19. says

    @Murat #14
    Well, I’d agree, there is no proof that the other universes exist. Clearly Max thinks there is enough reason and evidence to believe, but I don’t think he’s trying to prove it and if he is, he certainly hasn’t done so for me. Also, again, I was just guessing as to what was meant by “physical” in the article because I hadn’t heard that specific quote. I’ve heard him describe his model of universes and the such so I just tried to reason what physical would mean in this sense. Sorry for being lazy but I’m just going to rip another quote from another Wiki article that I think shows my reasoning to be correct. I mean, if you want to know more, unless you already have and I’m missing something, you can look up his stuff.

    Tegmark’s [Mathematical Universe Hypothesis] is: Our external physical reality is a mathematical structure. That is, the physical universe is mathematics in a well-defined sense, and “in those [worlds] complex enough to contain self-aware substructures [they] will subjectively perceive themselves as existing in a physically ‘real’ world”.[3][4] The hypothesis suggests that worlds corresponding to different sets of initial conditions, physical constants, or altogether different equations may be considered equally real.

  20. says

    @Nathan #15
    You spoke in opposition to my claim by stating mathematics is just a model we use, which I assumed meant you were trying to argue against me and convince me of your claim. So I said, if you want to convince me, just stating your opposition won’t be enough, I need some reasons. Then I gave you a possible starting point, followed by my reasons for why I believe what I believe. You didn’t address any of those reasons, just dismissed them without any consideration, and then asked me to provide evidence, which is what you just dismissed. I don’t see any reason to continue.

  21. Murat says

    @Gerard #18
    Well, that quote exactly matches with my primal perception.

    Aside from how Tegmark’s ideas match with reality, do you at this point agree / see that your particular phrasing in #9 was “circular”?

  22. says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #17
    Um, that wasn’t an argument. I was stating the problem of “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” and asking how he would answer it. I then went into a good bit of detail into why I think there is more to mathematics than it being a human construct, which you seemed to ignore completely because you didn’t mention any of it at all.

    I’m not using your first definition of existence at all and I don’t quite understand the second one. It seems very limiting in scope as when I tried looking up “solution to mathematical constraint” I got some references to optimization problems, which seems like only one part of mathematics.

    What I mean when something exists is this: Anything that can be defined from a set of axioms. Games are math, so let’s use chess and minesweeper as examples. Do pawns exist in chess? Well, the rules of the game defines “pieces” and one such piece has a unique set of properties (move one space, attacks diagonally, etc.), and we call that piece the “pawn”. So, yes, pawns exist in chess because it is inherently derived from the rules. The same could be said for minesweeper: the rules define the properties of what we call “mines”. Now, we know pawns exist in chess and mines exist in minesweeper, but what about the other way around? Pawns in minesweeper and mines in chess? No, because the set of rules in each game don’t allow for the properties of the opposite game’s objects. Notice, this means that existence is a relative concept: existence is relative to mathematical systems. One last note: do pawns and mines both exist in our universe? Yes, because the games themselves exist in our universe (which I’m assuming is a mathematical structure as well) and if the games exist, everything within them exists. There is also an idea of the difference between an “abstract” idea like a “game” exists and a “physical” idea like gravity exists, but let’s just assume that they both exist in the way I’ve described, though in different ways.

    So when I talk about existence in reference to Max’s multiverse, it’s literally analogous. The different games are the different universes, and the multiverse as a collective is the medium in which all universes exist, like how are universe is the medium in which chess and minesweeper exist.

  23. favog says

    The whole math thing … for the universe or anything in it to actually exist, it seems to me, requires it to have describable and consistent … qualities? Attributes? Whatever. When these qualities remain consistent, things in the universe interact in consistent patterns. Human brains are organs that specialize in pattern recognition and analysis. Some individuals have been talented enough that they’ve abstracted the basis of these patterns to where it’s allowed us to study it separately. That’s mathematics.

  24. says

    @Murat #21
    No, I still don’t see it. Mobius was objecting to the quote by saying that certain mathematical objects can’t exist physically, and I was saying they had a different meanings of physical. It seemed like he thought Max was saying all math exists within our universe, when that isn’t what he was saying. He was saying was all math exists in some universe, and he defines existence in any universe as physical. I don’t know, I see where how there possibly could be circularity but I don’t see it. It just seems like I’m describing a consistent model.

  25. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Gerard
    Ok. Your post is quite clear and reasonable. I believe that I agree – except for the last paragraph. IMO, you’re still abusing language and introducing confusion for no good reason. The multiverse hypothesis of inflationary cosmology makes real, physical, existence claims, which are categorically different than talking about mathematical existence. I don’t understand your purpose in continuing to use terms in this way. It seems as though you’re doing it precisely because of the calculated confusion that it will cause, and I don’t understand why.

  26. says

    @MV #8
    Wow, I did not see your comment at all, sorry about that. Here’s my brief history of my beliefs:

    I was raised Catholic, though neither me or my family took it very seriously
    I found The Amazing Atheist on Youtube back in like 2010 and it took one or two videos to make me an atheist
    For the next 5 years or so, I stayed an agnostic atheist; I didn’t know if a god existed, but I didn’t believe in one.
    When I theorized about all this math and reality stuff, it was such a blow to my worldview that I didn’t feel like an atheist anymore, I felt agnostic
    It wasn’t until the next year that I watched Matt’s video on agnosticism and atheism and I realized what the change was (yes, Matt helped me become comfortable with my agnosticism, how about that?)
    What I thought when I was an agnostic atheist wasn’t just “I don’t know if a god exists or not, but I don’t believe he does”, it was “I don’t know if a god exists or not, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t”.
    What made me switch from calling myself atheist to agnostic was when I was no longer “pretty sure” (which is a form of belief) that a god didn’t exist. I found that there was pretty good reasoning for the plausibility of god’s existence.
    However, as it stands, I do not hold a belief in god, which I simply define as “an intelligent cause of the universe”, so I am not a theist. If I can no longer call myself an atheist, because it doesn’t match what my atheism was, and I’m certainly not a thiest, then how do I identify myself? Well, I found agnostic made the most sense, for more reasons than just the idea of middle-ground.

    Anyway, as for you and Russell and so many other atheists I’ve talked to trying to claim me as an atheist, I recommend you go watch Matt’s video that I linked above. He makes it clear how words, especially labels, seldom have an objective definition, rather they have usages. I don’t use the common atheist definition of “not theist” because it doesn’t fit my experience. I’ll even take a risk and go further and say it’s not the best or most accurate meaning of “atheist”. So, sure, by your definition of atheist, I’m an atheist because I lack a belief in gods, but, uh, I don’t care about your definition. You don’t have to care about my definition either and call me an atheist all you want, but just realize that your definition isn’t an objective fact that makes me an atheist, whether I “like it or not”.

  27. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Gerard
    Regarding “atheist” vs “agnostic”, I generally don’t care how you self identify, as long as you don’t take a proverbial shit on others for how they choose to identify. Thus far, you seem in the clear IMO.

  28. says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #25
    Well, first of all, which multiverse hypothesis are you talking about? I was specifically talking about Max Tegmark’s, although I concede that he does believe that his multiverse theory is testable and such, so my analogy isn’t perfect. I realize that most multiverse models do claim that it is observable, testable, etc., and I don’t necessarily disagree.

    Although I don’t get your accusation of abusing language. Sure, my definition of existence isn’t a typical definition and it might be confusing but does that make it wrong? I think it is far more accurate especially since I don’t think there is a true distinction between what we perceive as the difference between physical and mathematical reality which doesn’t undermine empiricism and science in any way, by the way. One thing I certainly agree with Tegmark is the concept of “self-aware substructures” that can perceive the world and subjectively think it is physical.

  29. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Well, first of all, which multiverse hypothesis are you talking about? I was specifically talking about Max Tegmark’s,

    Understood. Also, I believe I specified it sufficiently with “multiverse hypothesis of inflationary cosmology”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_inflation

    I think it is far more accurate especially since I don’t think there is a true distinction between what we perceive as the difference between physical and mathematical reality which doesn’t undermine empiricism and science in any way, by the way.

    Ok. Thanks for the answer.

    Having said that, this doesn’t really make any sense to me.

    For example, back in Newton’s day, we thought that the geometry of actual space and time was described by Euclid, and that physics was properly described by Galileo’s coordinate transformation. Today, we know that all of that is wrong: Euclidean geometry of spacetime is an incorrect description of our space and time, and speeds do not add according to the Galilean coordinate transformation.

    Just to be explicitly clear: Imagine being a spaceship in space, “at rest”. Then, drop a rock, rock #1, out an airlock. Accelerate for a short time, then stop accelerating, and measure your new speed relative to rock #1, called it speed #1, and drop a second rock, rock #2. Accelerate again in the same straight line for a short time, then stop accelerating, and measure your speed relative to rock #2, call it speed #2, and measure your speed again relative to rock #1, call it speed_total. With sufficient accuracy in your measuring devices, you will find that:
    speed #1 + speed #2 =/= speed_total.
    Speeds don’t add. The Galilean coordinate transformation that you learned in school is “wrong”. (It’s still correct, but only an as approximation in normal scenarios.) Instead, the proper way to “add” speeds, where full accuracy is required, is the Lorentz transformation.

    So, in this situation, we have a single question: Which models of reality are correct, and which models of reality are incorrect? Newtonian physics according to the Galilean coordinate transformation is incorrect, and Relativity according to the Lorentz coordinate transformation is correct. That’s a physical, empirical, scientific question.

    Newtonian physics (with the Galilean coordinate transformation) is entirely self consistent. There’s no reason why it couldn’t describe some world. However, it doesn’t describe our world, and most crucially, I don’t see why it should be the case that Newtonian physics accurately describes any “other” world. That is the difference between the empirical and the mathematical. I see a very bright line here. Assuming that I can create mathematical models of reality which are wrong and which do not describe any physical reality whatsoever, then quite obviously there is a very bright line.

    Which I think brings us to the point of contention: On what empirical, scientific, falsifiable basis do you believe that there is a world out there, with thinking creatures such as us, where the world operates according to Newtonian physics? It seems to a giant asspull with no justification whatsoever, except for a particular elegance and beauty that is completely detached from proper scientific thinking.

  30. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard

    What made me switch from calling myself atheist to agnostic was when I was no longer “pretty sure” (which is a form of belief) that a god didn’t exist. I found that there was pretty good reasoning for the plausibility of god’s existence.

    What? How can you complain that I’m not “letting this go” when you say crap like this that doesn’t match your first post to me whatsoever? Please back up that last part. I don’t accept “not technically impossible” as the same thing as “plausible.” You’re committing what I call the “99=0” fallacy; you are arguing that 99 and 0 have equal value merely because both fall short of 100. I find this laughable. Not every “not demonstrably incorrect” idea is worthy of consideration, let alone belief. Do you disagree? Bend a spoon with one of these ideas and get back to me.

    As for the rest…EL’s doing a good job, but I want to address the novel thing. Take Lord of the Rings. Tolkein put a great deal of effort into creating a cohesive, coherent universe. The rules may not be explicit, but they can be formalized by anyone with too much time on their hands. The Harry Potter world is another one; you can question the consistency, but that’s only because the entire picture is not explicit. The books themselves make it clear that “magic” operates with its own set of rules, just not the set that we experience in reality. You seem to be saying that any random “set of rules” that someone can throw together somehow “exists,” when that is both not relevant to the show and awfully mistaken. Nathan was correct in his first comment and EL has elaborated magnificently in his last post.

    @EL
    When Gerard first started posting on this blog, he described his intent to browbeat the hosts of AXP for using the term “atheist” and how they’re wrong for using the label. At least, that’s the clear impression I got.

  31. Monocle Smile says

    But how about the guy that survived many wars and then one day fell into the sewer and drowned in shit? Is this a punchline from a joking God?

    A guy in my high school graduating class got back from Afghanistan about two months ago. Some people called his survival after a number of IED and combat incidents “miraculous.”
    When he got home, his fiancee’s best friend (also a soldier at the same base) stayed with him due to domestic violence issues. Her husband tracked her down, murdered them both, and kidnapped his child. He only got about a hundred yards away from the house.

    Words cannot describe the burning contempt I feel for any godbot who bleats pathetically about “God’s plan.”

  32. Devocate says

    “For example, if arithmetic was just a human invention to count sheep, how come those same principles are powerful enough to describe the force of gravity? ”

    If you think that the same principles that let you count sheep will also let you describe the force of gravity, you need some math and physics classes.

  33. Murat says

    Sometime during the show, a caller made a reference to “The Rock” with Nicolas Cage & Sean Connery. Does anyone remember what that was about?

  34. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @EL
    When Gerard first started posting on this blog, he described his intent to browbeat the hosts of AXP for using the term “atheist” and how they’re wrong for using the label. At least, that’s the clear impression I got.

    Mmm, I don’t remember. I was just commenting on what I read (and remember) in this thread.

  35. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Murat #34:

    a caller made a reference to “The Rock” with Nicolas Cage & Sean Connery. Does anyone remember what that was about?

     
    Episode: AXP – 21.10 (56:32):

    Matt: Is it possible for you to feel love for a fictional character? Or even to feel hate for a fictional character? Like do you hate Voldemort? And to you love Harry Potter?
     
    Jeff: I will say I hate Ed Harris’ character on The Rock. He’s planning on gassing San Francisco. And of course that’s Ed Harris; he’s an actor. And I understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction.
     
    Matt: Well, that’s the issue here. The fact that you have feelings for something – for a god – doesn’t tell us whether or not the god is real, does it?

  36. Murat says

    @Sky Captain

    Thanks 🙂 Obviously I was confused about which episode for having watched the latest ones in a row.

    And for me, this is among the weirdest dialogues ever between a caller and a host of AXP. How can one think of THAT particular movie when asked this question? He must’ve seen it the previous night or something… AND Ed Harris’ character is not THAT evil, at a point we understand that he had been bluffing all through. His deputies are serious, though.

    Such unlikely a track has caused Matt to lose his point, no wonder.

  37. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #35:

    @Monocle Smile #30:
    When Gerard first started posting on this blog, he described his intent to browbeat the hosts of AXP for using the term “atheist” and how they’re wrong for using the label. At least, that’s the clear impression I got.

    Mmm, I don’t remember.

     
    Comment: AXP – 20.42, Gerard’s “Reflections of an ex-atheist” blog excerpt

    I think if most, if not all, atheists were honest with themselves, they would recognize that what drives their actions is their belief that no gods exist.
    […]
    Even on a lighter level, take people like Matt Dillahunty for example. He does not let up on the slightest amount of any argumentation for a god if it does not prove its existence and will argue entirely against the idea. This is not the behavior of one who simply lacks belief in a god, this is the behavior of someone that believes it is ridiculous to even hold a position, because they are fairly certain that the opposite is true.

  38. says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #29
    Okay, let me make one thing clear. I do not believe in Max Tegmark’s theory, hypothesis, idea–whatever you wanna call it. I brought it up because he is a fairly well-regarded physicist who does have some ideas similar to my own that I expressed, but I do not agree with everything, such as his Level 4 multiverse where all mathematical systems exist. Sorry if I haven’t been clear with my use of his work.

    Now I will say that I do believe in some kind of “higher reality”, which you can intuitively think about as analogous to us living in a higher reality compared to our own invented systems (games, for example). The reason for that is because I think it is a more elegant, refined, powerful model of reality, which is based in my somewhat Platonistic view of mathematics as natural and fundamental. It allows for all the regular scientific and empiric methods for discovering knowledge as well as explaining, much to the presuppositionalist’s pleasure, why logic, mathematics, etc. work so well and how we can have true knowledge. In other words, “how chemical states can produce proper logical inference.” For example, going back to Tegmark, SAS, you could say we are self-aware substructures; we ourselves are a mathematical object derived from less complex logical truths (neurons, cells, atoms for example) that have the property of recognizing the mathematical world that it’s made of.

    So in this framework, to discuss the models of Newton and Gallileo, they both have recognized certain truths within the mathematical universe and they formulate it. They create their own model. However, it turns out to be incomplete, because there are deeper truths that they have overlooked. It doesn’t that math is inconsistent, it’s that their system was flawed. Later, in comes Einstein and the way he sees the rules governing the world, he comes up with his own model which happens to fix inconsistencies from the Newtonian model.

    (This is somewhat of an aside) Now, all that being said, looking back I think your actual point was to say “why does Tegmark say Newton has to be right about some other universe when, like I described, he simply has the wrong model?” Well that’s actually a misunderstanding of Tegmark’s reasoning. He’s not saying once we come up with a model, it then exists in some world. He’s saying that any mathematical system that can possibly be conceived based on logic already exists as some world, so any theory that any physicist as come up with or has not yet come up with or will never come up with, as long as it is mathematically possible, exists as some world.

    Again, I don’t necessarily agree with this, but I’m just clarifying his theory.

    Anyway, I went on that tangent and completely forgot what the purpose of this post was. But I think its meaty enough anyway, although perhaps it doesn’t really provide much reasoning for it being true, more than just me expressing what makes me believe it. Have at it.

  39. says

    @Devocate #32
    I could be mistaken/oversimplified in this particular example but my point is this:

    F = Gm1m2/r^2

    What’s in this equation? Integrals? Tensor functions? Complex numbers? Some highly complex (although still very expressible) mathematical equations?
    No. There’s multiplication, division, and real numbers. That’s it. These mathematical concepts were known since ancient times and they accurately describe the orbit of planets, which are beyond the Earth, our immediate reality where all our knowledge originally came from.

  40. RationalismRules says

    @Gerard #26

    I don’t use the common atheist definition of “not theist” because it doesn’t fit my experience. I’ll even take a risk and go further and say it’s not the best or most accurate meaning of “atheist”. So, sure, by your definition of atheist, I’m an atheist because I lack a belief in gods, but, uh, I don’t care about your definition. You don’t have to care about my definition either and call me an atheist all you want, but just realize that your definition isn’t an objective fact that makes me an atheist, whether I “like it or not”.

    You have this exactly backwards. The point is not whether you fit within our definition of atheist, the point is that you fit within a definition of atheist.

    “I don’t believe in any god, but I’m not an atheist” parallels church-going praise-the-lord crucifixion fetishists saying “I’m not religious” because to them ‘religious’ means robes and processions and Latin mass.

    Like EL, I don’t care how you choose to self-identify – that’s entirely up to you. But when you argue that ‘usage’ precludes objective assessment of whether or not you fit a label, you are wrong. If a label has multiple definitions/usages and you fit within one of those then that label can objectively be applied to you.

  41. says

    @Monocle Smile #30
    I don’t know, man, it just sounds like you’re speaking nonsense to me, I really don’t know what to do with it.

    But as for your accusation that I was trying to “browbeat” Russell and Tracie for using the term “atheist”, uh, why don’t we have a look at what I actually said? Which anybody can go see here:

    I’m a little surprised though, I was marked as an atheist caller? I know that the show interprets agnostics as atheists (and believe me, one week I’m going to get on you guys about that 😛 ), but the last time I called in supporting the god concept (and it wasn’t like playing devil’s advocate, it was honest argumentation that I agreed with), I was filed under theist. How do you guys personally view it? Would you rather file agnostic under atheist at all times no matter what, or would you prefer any calls in support of theistic claims filed under theist, or something else?

    I even had a 😛 in there!

  42. RationalismRules says

    @murat #37

    Such unlikely a track has caused Matt to lose his point, no wonder.

    He didn’t lose his point – that was exactly where he was heading with the original question.

  43. says

    @RationalismRules #42
    Having an entire label objectively apply to somebody because one single definition applies is really stupid. So all egalitarians and the like that don’t call themselves feminists are feminists because one definition of feminist is “believes in equal rights for men and women”. That’s stupid. It’s not useful at all. You could say objectively that one definition applies to them and not the label as a whole, but then you can say I don’t care about that definition and discard the label. That makes sense. It sounds like you’re just trying to corral me into the atheist group as most people do.

  44. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    Mmm, didn’t notice our resident agnostic (hold the atheist) called in, not surprised as I crammed him into the “%%%$$$@@” region of my mind. He sounds like I thought he would (this is not with snarky intent, fyi.)

    Matthew realized how reality punches his “god cares about me specifically and is also a gud dewd” claim and thus resorted to one of Christianity’s prominent trump cards; Gawd’s Plan. The card allows for any theist to escape having to hold their god/s accountable for any event that doesn’t add up to a just, totes moral, all around kewl guy/gal.

    I have a faint feeling that he called in before though.

    Kevin needs to try concocting his own way of dealing with theists, the work of prominent scholars should be guides not your entire practice.

    Oh, Joseph H. Smith, Jeff returns. We get it, you feel stuff, just like (enough) of everyone else. Not checking out that play.

    Nothing to note for Cameron’s call.

    Was that last Adam recent Adam, I wonder?

    Phil was good this ep and poor Rus, those, “Stop being arrogant!” posts danced in his head.

    QT episode, thanks to bts crew for making it pop.

  45. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard
    If you’re just content to lazily troll me because you’re butthurt about my uncomfortable questions, then I guess I’ll stop trying to have an honest discussion from now on.

    What’s in this equation? Integrals? Tensor functions? Complex numbers? Some highly complex (although still very expressible) mathematical equations?

    See, some of us have actually sat through the derivation of that equation and many others. And lots of the tools we use had to be developed; we’re standing on the shoulders of giants who got loads wrong in their endeavors.

    Thanks, I didn’t know that specific detail. Does that negate the entire argument though?

    Yes. Yes it does. I’m not sure why this is hard to understand.
    Your whole “higher reality” thing seems to be entirely tautological. I hold an extremely dim view of Platonism, if that wasn’t obvious. If we destroyed all copies of “Moby Dick,” there wouldn’t be some Platonic form of “Moby Dick” floating around in the aether.

  46. Al Sharpton says

    Who is this Gerard and what’s he trying to do here? I can’t seem to understand the goal of this guy.

  47. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Thanks, I didn’t know that specific detail. Does that negate the entire argument though?

    Not really. However, I have already made a rebuttal.

  48. marx says

    I hope Matthew keeps asking skeptics and atheist questions about his religious beliefs.
    To me he seems like a relatively reasonable and rational guy,and in time will become more and more skeptical of his beliefs.
    Matthew,I advise you not to give credit to a deity or higher power just because of a fortunate or coincidental out come.
    Keep doubting and critically examining your ideals!

  49. RationalismRules says

    Having an entire label objectively apply to somebody because one single definition applies is really stupid.

    What “entire label”? We’ve already agreed that words have different meanings/usages, now you appear to be attempting to argue that if you fit within one of those meanings, suddenly all of them apply. That’s just nonsense.

    So all egalitarians and the like that don’t call themselves feminists are feminists because one definition of feminist is “believes in equal rights for men and women”. That’s stupid. It’s not useful at all.

    Yes, of course they are. ‘Feminist’ is a broad category, as is ‘atheist’. The “stupid and not useful”-ness comes from people attempting to co-opt a broad label and claim that it is specific to their narrow agenda. (sound familiar?)

    You could say objectively that one definition applies to them and not the label as a whole

    Again, there is no “label as a whole”. If a word has different meanings, fitting within one of those meanings does not suddenly cause all the other meanings to also apply.

    but then you can say I don’t care about that definition and discard the label.

    “I don’t care about that definition” is not how language works. It’s a shared construct where different usages/meanings are shared across all participants, not specific to each individual speaker. Sorry, but you don’t get to specify which meanings can be used to apply to you.

    It sounds like you’re just trying to corral me into the atheist group as most people do.

    I couldn’t give a flying toss what group you belong to. The issue here is language, not ideology.

  50. John Iacoletti says

    If you tell the call screener that you are a theist (or that you believe in a god) then you get marked as a theist. Otherwise you get marked as an atheist. Agnostic isn’t a separate thing. “Getting on us about that” will do you no good, because it’s our show! 🙂 If you prefer different definitions that’s your business and it’s neither here nor there. We’re more interested in discussing what you believe and why you believe it than we are in quibbling over word definitions.

  51. John Iacoletti says

    @33, Sp00ky BedHair :

    Vern is not just the Non Prophets sound guy. He is the ACA Master of sound, time, space, and dimension. And the Youtube live chat will be enabled on the shows for the foreseeable future.

  52. Max says

    Still waiting for the podcast to show up in iTunes. Any estimate on when it’ll go up? Thanks!

  53. Monocle Smile says

    Listened to Gerard’s call.
    Gerard, I’m guessing you’re quite a bit younger than myself, and I’m pretty young myself. Maybe I should change my tone slightly, but it doesn’t really change any of my responses.

    I liked Russell’s first shot: “maybe the universe is just a big game, man.” Gerard, you’re not going to find lots of people on this blog as fascinated by random-ass stoner ideas as you seem to be. Lots of us deal with understanding reality at a rigorous level as part or all of our profession, so random brain farts and tenuous connections like “the universe has rules, a game has rules, therefore the universe is a game” do not impress us in the least. I don’t even find that interesting.

    You also have your analogy exactly backwards. Human inventions imitate nature, not the other way around. Games have rules because the universe has rules. The reverse is not the case. You’re far from the first person to bring this up; it’s a favorite of intelligent design proponents. What I don’t understand is why people get this backwards time and time again. The universe was here first, dude. Parsimony is your friend.

  54. Murat says

    @RationaismRules #44

    I think a “truly fictional” character would serve the point better and Matt was expecting to hear something in that line. When the caller skipped Voldemort or Darth Vader (who would be more in line with God in the sense that they have supernatural features) and focused on that character of Ed Harris, which was, yes, fictional, but could as well really exist (nothing “incredible” about what he is doing) the point inevitably lost its impact.

    A similar moment in a previous episode was seen when Matt asked a caller whether he was into rock music (for he was going to give examples to how drugs can ignite artistic creativity) and the caller simply said “no”. 🙂 Matt did make his point in both dialogues, yes, but such instances where responses fail to serve the intent well are funny in a way, and they provide us a certain kind of smile. It’s good that the show is almost totally unscripted, unpredicted.

  55. Murat says

    @Gerard @MS

    By the way, does the universe really have “rules”?

    Yes, there is an order and a pattern to how physics work, but the term “rule” implies something further than that when applied to “the universe”.

    There is constant chaos all around. What rule?

  56. Sp00ky BedHair says

    @55 John Iacoletti.
    Thanks for the response John.
    I had little doubt of the awesomeness of Vern (or indeed yourself).
    Though I didn’t know he was the new Dr. Who. 😉
    I’m very glad to hear that the chat will continue for the foreseeable future.

    I won’t clog up any future comments section with my ‘Thanks’ comments, but be assured that they still exist.

    Warmest greetings from Stoke on Trent, UK.

  57. says

    @Chancellor of the Exchequer #48
    I don’t know what “%%%$$$@@” means, but I will tell you that I hate the sound of my voice. It’s got that annoying, nasally, adolescent slurry thing going on, and the poor quality of the call didn’t help with that. By the way, I feel like I should mention my age–almost 19–since it seems like an elephant in the room, to me anyway.

  58. says

    @Al Sharpton #50
    Well, my experience on this forum started with the post I quoted earlier about me supposedly “browbeating” TAE on definitions. Some people (I forget who exactly although you can go see for yourself) wanted to take me to task on it so I elaborated on my position and argued over it for a while. I know Monocle at least wanted to know why I believed what I believed, although I didn’t want to get into it at the time, which brought the point of me liking to defend certain theistic-like positions, such as “first cause”, so I then started defending those things. Another thing, at some point people started looking into my personal blog that I started on a whim to express my ideas and noticed my claims of “atheist” being more accurately described as “belief in no gods”, a position on which I’m certainly not convinced of and I can’t strongly support, but my experience forces me to take as plausible.

    TL;DR I’ve said controversial things or things contrary to the norm, so I’ve been defending them.

    So I’m not really sure what there is to understand. It’s a pretty standard internet argument thing. For this thread in particular, I’ve finally come around to talking about the beliefs I have that lead me to becoming agnostic. If you want to know my purpose for posting in the first place, it’s primarily for intellectual exercise, but also to try to spread ideas that I think are interesting and worth considering to anybody that may happen upon them as well as looking for compelling counterarguments (which hasn’t happened yet) or points that make me expand my thinking (which has happened, so this certainly hasn’t been a waste).

  59. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard

    I know Monocle at least wanted to know why I believed what I believed, although I didn’t want to get into it at the time

    I think someone, perhaps myself, pointing out that you failed to understand the whole point of the blog at this point. I certainly hope you’ve come around, though you do continue to ignore my questions.

    You’re 18? I will say that I didn’t glean that from your first two threads, so good for you. However, some of your latest posts and how you approach “new” ideas that aren’t at all new or interesting to people who care about actual reality and not “cool-sounding possibilities” make more sense now.
    Protip: there are basically an infinite number of ideas about reality. Most of them are pure dogshit. Bad ideas exist for one purpose: to be destroyed. Ideas are disposable entities. I have a working bullshit filter for the most part, and I find it a colossal waste of time to explore the entire design space of “not technically impossible.” I have higher standards.

    He’s not saying once we come up with a model, it then exists in some world. He’s saying that any mathematical system that can possibly be conceived based on logic already exists as some world, so any theory that any physicist as come up with or has not yet come up with or will never come up with, as long as it is mathematically possible, exists as some world

    I think you’re massively misunderstanding Tegmark. Physicists often have this happen; they don’t rigorously define terms in context, then suffer gross misinterpretations later. Tegmark says “world” when he really means “castle in the air.” It’s just a fiction that can be used as a tool for making hypotheses. Cosmologists do this all the time to run simulations. He doesn’t mean an actual subsection of reality, at least I don’t believe he does.

    we ourselves are a mathematical object derived from less complex logical truths (neurons, cells, atoms for example) that have the property of recognizing the mathematical world that it’s made of

    This reads like nonsense. You got upset over the use of “word salad,” but it applies here, too. Seriously, it’s like you’re just stringing together random words. The ONLY meaning I can pick out of there is an obvious tautology. We are composed of bits of the universe, so we can recognize other bits of the universe. Big deal. Are you impressed by this?

    We evolved as pattern-seeking animals. Most math beyond algebra is extraordinarily counter-intuitive, which you might learn if you take advanced calculus, differential equations, or any higher physics course.

  60. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Gerard
    Again, in short, I take the following as a statement of your beliefs and claims, and I’m also asking you to justify it, as it’s nothing more than naked, wild-ass assertions, with no justification of any kind yet given.

    He’s saying that any mathematical system that can possibly be conceived based on logic already exists as some world, so any theory that any physicist as come up with or has not yet come up with or will never come up with, as long as it is mathematically possible, exists as some world.

    Until then, that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence. -Hitchens’s Razor.

  61. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Meh. I should be more clear. There are two possibilities: Either there exists some world out there with thinking creature such as ourselves, where the world operates according to Newtonian physics, or there is not. You claim that there is such a world. I haven’t yet made a claim regarding that question, and I’m asking you to justify your claim. I further note that this is a scientific question, an empirical question, a question that demands evidence to justify an answered. I also note that it is conceivably testable in practice: we might discover some way to detect or even interact with the other world.

  62. says

    @RationalismRules #53
    Just fyi, I wrote that response a few minutes before I went to bed, so it was rather sloppy and lazy. The reason I say “entire label/label as a whole”:

    (You) “If a label has multiple definitions and you fit within one of those then that label can objectively be applied to you.”

    We are in agreement that if a label has a definition, and you fit that definition, then that label, as defined in that way, can be applied to you logically (which is objective, in a sense). Sure, but the point of labels is to, in one phrase, describe something, usually significant if you want it to be meaningful, about a person. There are two (or maybe more) dimensions of labels, though: use for yourself and use for others.

    For example, Matt calls himself (personal use) an atheist to describe that he “does not believe/has seen no evidence/does not have reason to believe in god claims”. What is important to him is the burden of proof for the god claim, which can be accepted or not accepted, and so he defines his terms based on this idea: accepted=theist, not accepted=atheist. So when he evaluates others’ (use for others) positions on the issue, he uses this same standard because it’s important to him, and he would, for example, label me atheist.

    So he can label me an atheist, if you have the same usage you can label me an atheist, but does that make me, objectively, “an atheist”? You could say “yes, because you fit a definition, but I argue that that isn’t useful. It’s not useful because if that makes me “an atheist”, then other people, who use the idea of atheist differently, such as “one that hates God” (which, even if its dumb, its still a usage, and a not insignificant one at that), see that I’m “an atheist” and apply their subjective reasoning to this objective idea. That’s what I mean by saying a “label as a whole”: you’re inflating your personal interpretation of a particular label to an objective description of a person as “a(n) [label]”.

    So, I’ll ask again: does you labeling me an atheist according to your definition (which is valid) make me “an atheist”? No. As long as there is no universally accepted meaning for something, such as concepts in physics or mathematical systems, which complex labels like those of politics or aesthetics are not, then there is no “a(n) [label]”.

    And just after writing all of that I realize you never specifically stated that I am “an atheist”. However, I do believe that that intention is implied in your responses. For example, in response to me mentioning the idea that egalitarians “are feminists” (same form), you said:

    Yes, of course they are.

    This is you creating that objective “a feminist” statement which would be reasoned inconsistently by others’ subjective definitions. And don’t try to justify that by saying “I was saying they are according to the definition you just stated.” If that’t the case, then by sloppily saying “yes, they are feminists” and not “yes, they are feminists by that definition”, you have just enforced the slipperiness that comes with the mistake, otherwise you would have, or at least should have, been more careful in your wording. This is a common mistake that we need to get rid of, and I advocate for this by denying the idea of the objective nature of labels, as I’m doing right now by arguing with you about it.

    I could go on even further, but I think this is plenty. This, by the way, should show anybody that the topic of semantics is hardly a simple or pointless issue. Often, it isn’t the focus of the discussion, the ideas are, which is why we say “it’s just semantics”, but when the purpose actually is to argue about semantics, it is a very difficult discussion due to the subtlety, messy, and complex nature of language and communication.

  63. tonyinbatavia says

    Shorter Gerard Moledo: Calling me an apple when I am a Granny Smith and not a Red Delicious or Gala or Fuji or Braeburn or McIntosh or Jonagold or Honeycrisp is useless. So I call myself a fruitgnostic, which is clearly far more useful because reasons.

  64. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    @#62(Gerard Moledo):

    I understand, I’m 20, so the feeling isn’t lost on me. Much like MS, I didn’t take you for a fellow youngin’ due to your prior posts. I should’ve stuck with the initial thought of asking you.

    The part of the mind that I put the needless thoughts of cookie cravings in, is what I was referring to.

    Honestly, I had a lengthy drawn out post about your call but it got lost in internet connection mishaps and failure to copy phone thingies, so my post here is rather dismissive (due to my own, “I’m over this” feeling.)

    I’m not much of a gamer(outside of NFS and my adoration for the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro franchise) so the universe and game “lookie here’s” were taken as a “so what” by me. I’m not a math enthusiast, so I didn’t delve into that side of the discussion much.

  65. Murat says

    Another thing about Matthew’s call:

    “God’s plan” and “free will” are often mentioned within the context of the same religion. What is the (supposed) relationship between these two? Is the “plan” for something that will go uninterrupted regardless of how the individuals use their free will? If so, in no way can the individual harm the plan. The plan is the script for the movie. The individual is an extra on the set. And what he/she has as “freedom” is nothing other than making a decision about something that is totally irrelevant to the aim or the means of the plan.

    These two phrases can not really and truly co-exist in any realm. Either the “plan” may not work in the end, or what is called a “will” is but a snow flake in a storm.

  66. RationalismRules says

    @Gerard #68
    Tonyinbatavia #69 has succinctly and superbly made my point for me. I can’t really improve on it.

  67. says

    @Monocle Smile #65
    I’m sorry Monocle, but the servers shut down on me so I lost my lovely, gargantuan word salad of a post to the void. I’m just gonna run down some quick points:

    -The Newton gravity argument thing isn’t debunked by that detail. Here’s the point: if elementary arithmetic is simply a tool, which was developed in 2000 B.C., how come that same arithmetic is capable of describing something so completely out of the range of what the tool should do like describe gravity accurately enough to predict with great precision (though not perfect, and it doesn’t have to be perfect) the orbit of planets? By the way, I’m not saying arithmetic as we formulate it is the nature of math, but rather the underlying truths the our formulation expresses.

    -The “game” thing is irrelevant at this point. It was just the starting point to this more abstract and robust way of thinking. I’ve also described why the game thing has the interesting but fallible nature of being an analogy for the universe.

    -I think your misunderstanding Tegmark. Have you read up on him besides the stuff I’ve posted? If so, I’d like some evidence from those other sources that shows my interpretation is wrong.

    -It’s not word salad cuz you figured out the meaning. The part you quoted was just me creating a consistent model, not arguing for the truth of the model, which my other posts and arguments were for.

    -I don’t know what “advanced calculus” is. I took multivariable calculus last year in high school which was called advanced calculus, or are you talking about analysis, which I know hardly anything about. I’m taking differential equations now, although to be honest the class far less intellectually stimulating as my high school classes. None of this really matters anyway because you’re telling me learning more math will show me wrong when the majority of mathematicians are of the view that mathematics is natural.

  68. says

    @John Iacoletti #54
    Thanks for the response, John. Neither Russell or Tracie actually responded to that comment so your the first host that I’ve gotten feedback from. I’m still gonna bring up the semantic discussion on the show someday because I do think it is an interesting and important issue that still causes confusion, but I have no intention of forcing the show to change or shaming the show for not following what I think is correct or anything malicious like that. The fact that it’s being argued in this forum should be proof of that!

  69. says

    @Murat #59
    Sorry for the wait.

    You’re right, I’m sort of mixing up the words here. “Rules” does have some extra connotation, I just used it as an analogy for the pattern or structure that defines games, which are commonly referred to as rules. Really, the “rules” I’m talking about are more akin to axioms, order, etc., like what you’ve described.

  70. JD and Co says

    I wish I could tell Matthew that it’s okay to feel grateful to have survived, and humble to know how close he might have come to not surviving, without having to address a cosmic deity.

  71. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard

    Here’s the point: if elementary arithmetic is simply a tool, which was developed in 2000 B.C., how come that same arithmetic is capable of describing something so completely out of the range of what the tool should do like describe gravity accurately enough to predict with great precision

    If a trowel is simply a tool for gardening, why can I also use it to easily break your trachea? I have absofuckinglutely no clue what you mean by “what the tool should do.” It’s like you don’t understand the idea of a tool. Tools get developed and undergo iterative design and “evolve” over time, to use the word colloquially. There are a vast number of mathematical models that don’t apply to reality. As in, they are straight-up wrong. Why is that? Take the Rayleigh-Jeans law for blackbody radiation. It was derived from earlier math. But it’s wrong. Why is it wrong?

    By the way, I’m not saying arithmetic as we formulate it is the nature of math, but rather the underlying truths the our formulation expresses.

    In that case, it’s all just proportions, ratios, etc. Why do you find this to be profound? Could it be any other way? Is a universe where nothing affects anything else even possible?

    The part you quoted was just me creating a consistent model, not arguing for the truth of the model, which my other posts and arguments were for

    You’re doing a shit job, then, because there’s nothing in any of your posts approaching EL’s requests for evidence. It’s all just sophistry. Words on a page with no referent in reality. I don’t give a fuck about sophistry.

    None of this really matters anyway because you’re telling me learning more math will show me wrong when the majority of mathematicians are of the view that mathematics is natural.

    Citations, please, and I have no clue what “mathematics is natural” even means anymore, since you’ve done a terrible job conveying a precise and rigorous definition.
    I have a bad feeling you’re once again thinking backwards. Math wasn’t just randomly pulled out of an ass one day. Most mathematical progress was based on empirical observation. People spotted the patterns in the data and figured out how to beat their models into submission. That’s why there are extra terms added as the models develop and we use fudge factors and approximations.

    I’m still desperately trying to figure out what’s so “interesting” about anything you’ve said so far.

    The fact that it’s being argued in this forum should be proof of that!

    No, it’s just evidence that you’re willing to argue over things that don’t matter very much. Nobody is taking your side here. Self-identify all you want, but don’t get butthurt when someone remarks that you’re using a non-standard definition. And yes, your definition IS non-standard, as the vast majority of people who use the “atheist” label use the term like the show does, and that’s where the standard use comes from.

  72. tonyinbatavia says

    Yeah, I know, not much of an argument, Gerard @78. But, to be fair, I thought someone such as yourself could plainly see that I wasn’t really making an argument so much as I was being snarkily and casually dismissive about how dipshitty your argument is. I mean, come the fuck on, you can’t really be that dense, can you?

    Meanwhile, reading your words since, oh, about your fifth of 25 posts on this thread, has become the low grade buzz of nonsensical white noise in my head. I suspect you think you are really fucking brilliant. Meanwhile — and this is the part you are completely missing — you are totally incapable of communicating any of that brilliance in a way that sways anyone here. Why is that, do you suppose? Everyone else here is just not as intelligent as you?

    In your own head, do you sound smart or do you have to try to convince yourself? ‘Cause to me, it seems that you are trying way too fuckin’ hard to convince others of your brilliance. And to be completely honest, it just ain’t working.

    You should really do something about that. Maybe communicate better? Maybe think better? Maybe communicate what you think better? Or maybe do none of the above and just try out your shit in another corner of the Internet where folks will bow down to fuckin’ thread-hogging blowhards such as yourself. Regardless, your shit ain’t flying here.

    But, nice tries. All 25 of them.

  73. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    In your own head, do you sound smart or do you have to try to convince yourself? ‘Cause to me, it seems that you are trying way too fuckin’ hard to convince others of your brilliance. And to be completely honest, it just ain’t working.

    Damn.

  74. says

    @Monocle Smile #79

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_mathematics#Mathematical_realism

    This link says “many” and not “most” and its a wikipedia article so do with it what you will, but that’s a quick thing I found after a google search. Interestingly, one of the examples is Kurt Godel, who was responsible for almost destroying the notion of mathematics as being a perfect thing.

    Also, I’m just going to drop this thing here which is a good summation of my views: https://goo.gl/sBpPIJ

    lol I can see tonyinbatavia’s reaction now…

  75. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard
    You should have posted this as a summation of your views instead: https://xkcd.com/774/

    Dude, get over yourself. The anti-religious “fervor” of myself and most atheists isn’t some ideological war borne of juvenile petulance like that letter implies. I’m against religion and poor, dogmatic thinking in general because it is breaking the fucking planet. Are you truly ignorant of the immense harm that religion has always done in our history and continues to do today?

    As for the Plantonism thing…you still have failed at every turn to provide any empirical evidence that Platonism is in accordance with reality and didn’t actually respond to my post in any substantive way. You’re too interested in “what” and not interested enough in the “why” of your beliefs. Of course, you’re going to do your normal Gerard thing and claim that you don’t actually believe any of this stuff for the sole purpose of avoiding having to defend it. It’s rather pathetic, really.

  76. Murat says

    @Gerard #76
    Yes, exactly. And this is what creates the blunder about the reason for stepping from atheism to something else:

    Do we have an example to how a universe without axioms could work? Anything that does exist and anything that we can think of as a probable structure for existence eventually does come along with those axioms, orders etc.

    When we state that there is a similarity between games and our existence, as noted somewhere above, we are creating the analogy bakcwards. Furthermore, I believe it makes a hell of a difference whether we are talking about video games OR sports game OR board games. To build something on that (backwards or not) analogy, the elements need be better defined and the resemblence narrowed down.

    Like, if we are opening the gate to a WATCHMAKER kinda god as kind of a PROGRAMMER and placing the characters of the game where HUMANS of our existence are, then, who is the PLAYER? If we, humans, are the PLAYERS (with free will), then to what do the characters of the game match?

    If the god in the analogy is not limited to being a watchmaker, then let’s go with sports: How did the rules of football come about? They got formed through myriad forms of contributions. They eveolved into what they are today. No single person at one point put the rules and introduced it to the humankind as a game to play.

    Is there a concrete reason to why we can make the analogy using computer game programmers and not sports games? how do we know that the “rules” of our physical existence lean more towards one and not the other?

    AND there is this character called the REFEREE. For some, many features of god matched that of the referee.

    The main question is: If we are using the concept of axioms, order, or more strictly “rules” as a stepping stone to further investigate how our existence might have come into being, then why are we avoiding the fact that there are many different kinds of “games”, some of which require referees, some are bound by probabilities (chess), most of which have actually EVOLVED to their current point by various interferences, etc.

    Yes, it is understandable that today people think more of computer games when trying to figure out how their very existences might have come about, but hey, a GAME is basically a much broader concept. If not us, our fathers did actually play “hide and seek”. It has rules, too. Not all games were “constructed” initially to become what they are.

  77. Murat says

    @ John Iacoletti

    Hi John. It was interesting to hear on the show that you have a daughter who goes to the church. Is there a background story to this? Like, by the time you outgrew religion, the children of the family had already taken a parent’s previous path, or, they grew up in a secular household but got introduced to religion externally and become theists later?

    The way you embrace the difference of opinion among family members is brilliant and adorable, so, just wondered if any more details about that would be available to the show’s followers.

  78. Monocle Smile says

    @Murat
    I’ll let John answer, but I believe he related lots of that information in one of his very first episodes. John is/was a Unitarian Universalist, FYI.

  79. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    You’re doing a shit job, then, because there’s nothing in any of your posts approaching EL’s requests for evidence. It’s all just sophistry. Words on a page with no referent in reality. I don’t give a fuck about sophistry.

    Agreed. I still haven’t seen anything resembling a citation of particular evidence and argument that attempts to justify the claim that there is a world of thinking creatures such as ourselves, where the world operates according to Newtonian physics. I grant that there’s nothing logically inconsistent about such a proposition, but neither do I see any particular reasons why I should believe that it is true.

  80. Murat says

    @EL #90
    Is this what his claim is? I have difficulty understanding what this whole thread comes down to.

  81. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Murat
    As far as I can tell, his claim is more encompassing, but it includes this smaller claim, yes. I’m trying to focus the discussion, and make it clear. As far as I can tell, his actual claim is that any logically consistent and conceivable system of reality, actually exists in reality, as a separate “parallel world” of reality.

  82. Murat says

    @EL #92
    Then, as an extension to this, can we say that “any system that is logically inconsistent can not exist in any way or anywhere”? If that is what the claim is, then it ties strongly logical consistency to physical existence. I have various problems with that. Logic is something that works for us and within the boundaries of our known existence. If there are other systems of realities, we can not know if THEIR logic will correspond to OURS. Even if they have that concept that explains their existence of axioms through a set of premises and outcomes, we can not go anywhere from that before stepping into the teritories of those realities / realms.

    Think of it like Columbus stepping in America. Yes, there are similarities to tha nature and social constructs that he knows of, but no, the LANGUAGE is different for starters, and sides get to learn more about each other as the conqueror s and natives reach a common ground of knowledge, trade and conflict.

    Applying the logic of THIS universe to a probable OTHER REALITY would be like Columbus directly speaking European languages to American natives as he sees them, and with the expectation of being understood.

    This analogy is theoretical, of course. I do not say other realites can not exist, but for them to seem as likely to us as “an alternative route to India” did to Columbus, we need some concrete data.

    The other problem being HOW we can outrule the probability of a LOGICALLY INCONSISTENT alternative reality. If it is bound by the same logical rules, then what is it that has pushed it OUTSIDE ours?

  83. says

    Gerard bored me to tears. Russell should have cut his losses after making the hilarious stoner crack, man.

    Re the police officer from New Orleans: Statistics and probability, officer, statistics and probability.

    Seems to me that if a theist is claiming that anything and everything must be taken on faith, since none of us has perfect or complete knowledge of the universe, then the atheist should proceed by putting forth various “faith” claims and inquiring how the theist knows (or doesn’t know) them to be true.

    For example:
    “Humans require water to live—true or not true, and how do you know that?”
    “Barring clouds, the sun will appear on the eastern horizon tomorrow morning—true or not true, and how do you know that?”
    “Your spouse is faithful to you—true or not true, and how do you know that?”
    “Neil Armstrong landed on the moon on July 20, 1969—true or not true, and how do you know that?”
    Etc., proceeding up the scale toward truly baseless claims such as, “Vampires exist” or “God is watching over me all the time.”

    Without expecting that the theist will actually have a light bulb come on, this would at least be a way to proceed that might get across the idea that “faith” comes in radically different degrees.

    The Mormon guy: I’d like to know why he converted. Good bet it’s because he married someone who is Mormon.

  84. Monocle Smile says

    @Clay
    This is going to sound extremely condescending to theists, but be mentally prepared when asking those questions you listed. You might get some extra-stupid answers that threaten to derail your train of thought. I don’t think theists are stupid, but I don’t have a high opinion of the “everything must be taken on faith” crowd.

    The Mormon comes across as a bit of a bumpkin. Based on his last two calls, he just doesn’t seem to know very much in general. Such people are rather easily hoodwinked. I feel bad for him more than anything; this shortcoming may not be his fault entirely.

  85. gshelley says

    For the callers at the end, if someone is claiming they are using faith as trust in the same sense someone might say “I have faith in my wife”, I think they can be told that in that definition, there is no objection to faith. Though we would probably disagree that they had actual good reasons. If they try to argue that their definition is the one usually meant, we could perhaps ask if they had ever hears someone say “you just have to have faith” in response to another person having doubts – I’ve heard this argument on the show often enough

    For the how do you respond to someone who says the know there is a God, it probably depends on what they mean by know. If they mean justified certainty, then their evidence can be discussed, If they mean 100% sure, with no possibility of being wrong, we could ask how they solved the problem of hard solipsism.

  86. Murat says

    @gshelley #96

    There’s a grave difference between having faith in (the fidelity of) someone and having faith in (the existence of) someone. This is just a lingual trick. I’m amazed how frequently this comes up during discussions that are obviously about the “existence” of a deity.

  87. says

    Last post (Yay!)

    I was going to respond to some of the latest posts, but I got too lazy. Instead, I’ll say this: looking back at everything I’ve posted, I’ve found that I haven’t made my point in regards to the “mathematical universe” as clear as I wanted to make it, if clear at all. It’s why I haven’t talked about my beliefs until now because I’m not sure how to communicate them and I think they are fairly abstract and difficult to explain.

    First of all, I fucked up royally by not describing what I mean by “mathematics”, distinguishing between the “language” of mathematics (our symbols, fields we outline like calculus, operations) and the concepts or “nature” behind mathematics (what do the symbols, operations, fields mean?) , which is what I, perhaps unwisely, refer to as “mathematics”.

    Secondly, I brought in Tegmark and the idea of “games” as a starting point to the discussion, where I probably didn’t need to and mostly confused people. I do not believe in Tegmark’s Level 4 Multiverse and I do not believe that the universe is analogous to a game.
    I brought up Tegmark in the call to respond to a point that Russell had made to make the conversation more clear, but Phil wanted to know about my agnosticism so I put it to the side, adding it to the blog just to complete the idea.
    I brought up the game analogy as a starting point to the conversation to illustrate how the somewhat intuitive idea of the universe being a “simulation, game, program, etc.”, and I described this a bit way back in post #17, becomes more rigorous when you realize both a game and the universe are mathematical in nature (the latter of which would have to be argued for further which I tried to do, but didn’t get far).

    Thirdly, about my agnosticism I failed to realize . . . no, wait, I’m still completely right about that.

    Speaking of being right, my worldview remains largely unchanged from this conversation simply because I personally didn’t hear anything new against me, not that I haven’t learned things. I’m actually going to be looking through this with a friend tomorrow to see where I’m wrong, though. I’m pretty sure he agrees with the common person here more than he agrees with me.

    ‘Til, next time.

  88. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard
    Flouncing? Oh, well.

    I brought up the game analogy as a starting point to the conversation to illustrate how the somewhat intuitive idea of the universe being a “simulation, game, program, etc.”, and I described this a bit way back in post #17, becomes more rigorous when you realize both a game and the universe are mathematical in nature

    No, it does not. It’s not rigorous at all. This is both backwards, like I said before, and also a bit of a hasty generalization fallacy and fallacy of composition. “Games are mathematical, the universe is mathematical, therefore the universe is a game” is neither valid nor sound. You haven’t even bothered to defend the second premise despite a number of requests; you just keep repeating your same assertions.

    I fucked up royally by not describing what I mean by “mathematics”, distinguishing between the “language” of mathematics (our symbols, fields we outline like calculus, operations) and the concepts or “nature” behind mathematics (what do the symbols, operations, fields mean?) , which is what I, perhaps unwisely, refer to as “mathematics”.

    Yes, this was a fuck-up, but you’re still not getting it. Your reasoning is once again backwards. Math was derived from empirical observation. This is going to sound weird because the last word has several meanings, but the universe is not mathematical. Math is universal. Better example: a scene from a movie where a man displays a trait that he shares with his son.
    “Oh, you’re just like your son.”
    “No, he’s just like me.”
    Math didn’t come first. The universe came first and math was developed from observing the universe. Why are you so surprised that the tools we developed to model the universe…can model the universe?

    Thirdly, about my agnosticism I failed to realize . . . no, wait, I’m still completely right about that.

    Your teenage angst is showing.

    Speaking of being right, my worldview remains largely unchanged from this conversation simply because I personally didn’t hear anything new against me

    I think you have quite a bit of growing up to do.
    I find your unwillingness to divulge what you actually believe and what you think is merely “interesting to discuss” (note: nothing you’ve brought up in any thread has been interesting) to be extremely disingenuous and you need to fucking knock it off. We’re very lenient here in general (though it gets annoying after a bit), but most people you meet will at best grudgingly tolerate your nonsense for the sake of politeness. Be honest and people will be more willing to engage. Also, “but but but I haven’t been proven completely wrong” will not win you many friends.

  89. Murat says

    @MS #99

    The father / son thing: I was trying to make him see that when talking about a circular argument.

  90. tonyinbatavia says

    (I sure hope this is the reaction Gerard was envisioning @85.)

    Twenty-eight brain-static-inducing, weak sauce attempts here by Gerard, in all, and the very best argument in the books was “I share an opinion with a long-dead, really-smart famous fella (on a topic about which neither of us is an expert).” That’s the best he had.

    Everything until then was useless fly-buzzing drivel. His adept deployment of the Let-Me-Hop-On-the-Coattails-of-Albert-Einstein’s-Reputation Strategy, though, man, that was good. In a brief instant ol’ Al brought Gerard’s average up so high that it almost reached the Mendoza Line. I mean, c’mon, he shares a belief with Albert! Freakin’! Einstein! Doesn’t that instantly make him right?

    Sadly, no. It was just a pathetic, bald-faced appeal to authority, so textbook in nature that you would think he could actually do something to avoid it, like maybe read a goddamned textbook or something.

    And now he declares that he intends to flounce. Let’s hope he can stick it.

    Of course, he’s always welcome to try out a new argument, a good argument, a worthy argument once he has located a fuckin’ clue. Until that happens, here’s hoping the flounce takes.

  91. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    Nnnnn.

    I’d be hospitalized from lung failure if Gerard calls in again this upcoming ep.

  92. Murat says

    Gerard has the appeal of Donald Trump. 🙂

    Throughout the history of the show, never was so huge an objection made by so many to an argument so poorly advocated.

    But that is remarkable in a way. Really.

    I like him. He has a unique way of sucking people into something that would otherwise be dumped in the first moment.

    He’s a natural politician. The show needs personalities like Gerard.