Monday, May 27, 2019

Do I exist?

Last week, we discussed what scientists mean when they say that something exists. To recap briefly: Something exists if it is useful to explain observations. This makes, most importantly, no statement about what is real or true which is a question for philosophers, not scientists.


I then asked you to tell me whether you think that I exist. Many of you submitted great answers to my existential question. I want to pick two examples to illustrate some key points.

Fernando wrote in comment on my YouTube Channel:
“When I say “that chair exists”, I am also fitting the data (collected with my senses) with my internal conceptions of a chair. I think that the same is true when I see a two dimensional representation of Sabine Hossenfelder on my computer screen and say that Sabine exists.”
As he says, correctly, he is really just trying to create a model to explain his sensory input. I am part of a model that works well, therefore he says I exist.

And Dr Castaldo wrote in a comment on this blog:
“I believe a single human exists that appears in videos and photographs and authors these blog posts, tweets, and answers to commentary. I am aware of no other plausible (to me) explanation for those artifacts and their consistency.”
The important part of this comment is that he emphasizes the explanation that I exist is plausible, not certain, and it is plausible to him, personally.

In the comments on my earlier blogpost you then find some exchange about whether it is possible that my videos are generated by an artificial intelligence and I do not exist.

For all you know, that is possible. But even with the most advanced software presently available, it would be a challenge to fake me. At the very least, making me up would be a lot of effort for no good reason. Possible, yes, but not plausible.

The simplest explanation is what most of you probably believe, that I am a human being not unlike yourself, in an apartment not unlike your own, with a camera and laptop, not unlike your own, and so on. And simple explanations are the most useful ones in a computational sense, so these are the ones scientists go with.

The important points here are the following. First, explaining sensory input is all you ever do.

You collect data with your senses and try to create a consistent model of the world that explains this data. Even scientists and their papers are just sensory input that you use to create a model of the world.

Second, confidence in existence is gradual.

The only reliable statements about what exists are based on models that you use to explain observations. But the confidence you have in these models depends on what data you have, and therefore it can gradually increase or decrease. The more videos you watch of me, the more confident you will be that I exist. It’s not either-or. It’s maybe or probably.

The thing you can be most confident exists is yourself because you cannot explain anything unless there is a you to explain something. Data about yourself are the most immediate. That’s a complicated way of rephrasing what Descartes said: I think, therefore I am.

Third, how confident you are that something exists depends on your personal history. It depends on your experience and your knowledge.

If we have met and I shook your hand, you will be much more confident that I exist. Why? Because you only know of one way to create this sensory input. If you merely see me on a laptop screen, you also have to use knowledge about how your screen works, how the internet works, how human society works, and what’s the current status of artificial intelligence and so on. It’s a more difficult analysis of the data, and you will end up with a lower confidence.

And this is why science communication is so, so relevant. Because someone who does not understand how scientists infer the existence of the Higgs-boson from data, and also does not understand how science itself works, will end up with a low confidence that the Higgs-boson exists and they will begin to question the use of science in general.

Having settled this, here is the next homework assignment: Does God exist? Let me know what you think.

Update May 29: The video now has German and Italian subtitles. To see those, click on CC in the YouTube tool bar. Chose language in settings/gear icon.

79 comments:

  1. Besides all that was said regarding the very meaning of existence for an object, a person, etc., in my opinion the existence of God is a matter of faith. I wish some day we can prove whether He exists or not, but I think that not finding evidence of his existence is not a proof of his non-existence. The simple question I ask to atheists is "How did everything appear?" How can anything appear from the Nothing? Some scientists could say "well, the were fluctuations in the vacuum, and at a quantum level particles can be created from nothing, etc." OK, but how did this vacuum and these fluctuations appear? Something has to have existed even before time appeared, in a no-time. Another question I ask myself is whether God created the Universe, or He IS the Universe. Best regards!!

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    1. If you posit a “god” with an independent physical existence, one that is capable of affecting, and being affected by, events in the physical world, then no, the existence of that god is empirically testable, and not simply a matter of “faith”. If your “god” is simply a concept of your imagination, or truly “super” natural, then you can faith that up all you want. The reality is that most believers are happy to appeal to evidence-based inquiry when it supports their beliefs, but fall back to the “evidence doesn’t matter, I believe what I believe as a matter of faith” position when the evidence flies back in their face.

      Not finding evidence for something is NEVER “proof” of its non-existence, no matter what you’re talking about, so your argument is a silly straw man. The continued failure to find evidence for the existence of something where it should exists makes its existence increasingly less likely (about as likely as Christians consider the existence of Quetzalcoatl).

      The answering question to yours is “how did your 'god' appear?" In the end, neither side has the answer to the question of infinite regress, but it requires fewer assumptions to conclude that something complex enough to create the universe simply sprang into existence out of nowhere, and then created the universe than to conclude that the universe came into existence on its own, by a process we don’t understand, leaving a “god” out of it.

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    2. Guillermo: Why does something have to exist before even time appeared? Why can't the universe have just existed forever? If one can believe that an animate, thinking being existed forever, it should be even easier to think that an inanimate universe existed forever.

      I find it equally challenging to imagine that time "started" at some point. I don't even have the language to properly describe time starting at some time, it implies there was a "before" time started, and I don't see how an absence of time can support a change into time. But equally, it seems impossible the past has an infinite extent. Although it is for some illogical reason easier for me to imagine the future has an infinite extent. I can't wrap my head around any of these concepts. A Big Bang doesn't help me. Nor does a God, which would have to be a complex being existing before anything existed.

      God doesn't solve anything for me about these mysteries, it just makes God embody the mysteries and then says don't worry about it, just accept that is what God is. Well I have done that one better: I eliminate God and all the baggage that goes with him. I don't worry about it, I just accept that time is what it is, the universe is what it is, and I have no choice but to navigate it. I will remain open to some clever Nelly making a logical explanation I can understand; but I hold out little hope for that.

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  2. The thing you can be most confident exists is yourself because you cannot explain anything unless there is a you to explain. Data about yourself are the most immediate. That’s a complicated way of rephrasing what Descartes said: I think, therefore I am.

    What if this explanation I have of myself is as lousy as Ptolemy’s epicycles?

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    1. Ptolemy's epicycles we're so amazingly good that they lasted almost 2 millennia. General relativity is a joke in comparison. We are only ever wrong. Great leaps in being less wrong are great accomplishments, no matter how wrong they later prove to be.

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  3. Personally I do not believe in God. But I also think God is so illdefined that it can be defined into existance. Which often leeds to pointless God.

    Given the posts in the article God may very well exists but I would argue if we find that God is a plausible explanation we probably are missing something as had been the case for all previous things that we explained with God.

    Reducing existance to a feeling about how plausible something is does not feel right.

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    1. Most of the compelling explanatory uses for unitary transcendent super-person God are idiosyncratic. I have experiences better explained by God than by materialism, neuroscience, and ergodicity You may or may not. The devil is in the details.

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    2. how impolite. I do not believe in you either! and I also find you ill defined

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  4. The term “God,” unlike the term “chair,” does not have a common, shared definition. Nor does it refer to a concept with observable characteristics. Does the *belief* in a “higher power” exist within some people? Yes. Does the concept of “God” as described by Spinoza exist? Yes.

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    1. "God" has a clear definition, until you insist that the "God" in all religions is the same entity. Even worse, when you insist that a whole bunch of phenomena involving human behavior is "religion" you introduce incoherence.

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    2. What's this "clear" definition you speak of.

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    3. Here an attempt a a definition: God is a Being that is acting goal-oriented and that created our Universe.

      Religions will add special aspects and characteristics to that definition, but I think that this definition is compatible with all deistic religions. Do you agree?

      By this definition, God is existing independently of our Universe. Thus, by definition, we cannot design experiments that falsify or prove its existence.

      Thus, by construction there is no point in discussing the question whether God exists from a natural science perspective.

      The questions of deciding to be part of a Religion and to believe in God's existence are not part of the natural sciences, but of social science. They are not questions about building rigorous models of reality, but about defining a community and to what group of people you belong to and to what other groups of people you do not belong to.

      Belief in God has given solace to its followers and has enabled mankind to form large nations and work in close cooperation on huge projects. But it is also dividing us into hostile groups and is causing a lot of suffering.


      You either want to believe in some kind of God and be part of a religion or you don't - and that's fine as long as this is solely a personal matter. It stops being fine when you start to quarrel about God's will with other persons.

      So, believe what you will, but be tolerant about other opinions and beliefs. Hopefully, we will get there some day.

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  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church–Turing–Deutsch_principle

    "The principle states that a universal computing device can simulate every physical process."

    Since God cannot be simulated by any universal computing device, it follows that God does not exist.

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  6. I think that you are creating an artificial and unrealistic caricature when you make statements like "Something exists if it is useful to explain observations."

    God and the tooth fairy explain far more observations than General Relativity - in fact they can explain nearly every kind of observation at all. Our notions of what exists are embedded in the wetware provided by evolution, and scientists are no more immune to that than anybody else.

    Also embedded in that wetware that constitutes our brains is the instinct to test our image of reality against experience. A key feature of science is a sort of hypertrophy of this instinctive behavior.

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    1. CIP,

      God and the tooth fairy are not useful explanations for anything. If you think so, please explain what use they have. (Other than sociological, I mean, in which case it is really the story that is useful, not the concept itself.)

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    2. The only scheme worse than one which explains everything is a scheme that explains nothing. God is the universal explanatory system, which means it is useless.

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    3. Well, you brought in another pluripotent word, "useful."

      The tooth fairy is a useful explanation of how that dollar under your pillow got to where your tooth was - until it isn't.

      Gods have been found useful for thousands of years. They keep the peasants in line, help promote solidarity for forming nations and fighting wars, and explain any old phenomenon you might like. They aren't necessarily very good at prediction, but they have explanation down pat - even better than string theory.

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    4. CIP,

      That someone took the tooth and exchanged it with a dollar is an explanation that has some use because it simplifies the data. That this someone in addition was a "tooth fairy" does not add any explanatory value, is superfluous, and hence not a "scientific" explanation. (Scare quoting this for the hopefully obvious reason that this isn't exactly subject of cutting-edge research.)

      "Gods have been found useful for thousands of years. They keep the peasants in line, help promote solidarity..."

      It's not the Gods themselves that you are speaking about here, but the idea of them. Not the same thing.

      "They aren't necessarily very good at prediction, but they have explanation down pat - even better than string theory..."

      Postulating gods does not explain anything. If you think it does, you do not understand what explanation means. You don't explain something by postulating it.

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    5. I am pretty sure that I know what the word "explain" means - it's part of the language I have been speaking for almost 3/4 of a century. It's a word, by the way, that is little altered in form or meaning from the ancient Proto Indo European. You, on the other hand, have to keep adding new modifiers to your version of "explain" to defend it. I will just go back to my original assertion - your definition of "exist" is a caricature of the way most scientists and most humans use it.

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    6. CIP,

      You are pretty sure that you know what the word "explain" means the same way that so many physicists are sure that they know what the word "exists" means, and you don't want to even think about whether it makes any sense. All right then, I hope you live happily ever after in your bubble of ignorance.

      I'm not adding any new modifiers, I have written about all this several times before eg here. Not that I expect you to actually think about it. That would be expecting too much, I know that all too well.

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    7. One thing that I did learn in my first class of philosophy of science was that arguing about the meaning of words is a fruitless exercise. On the other hand, trying to discover what an interlocutor means when they use a word can clarify.

      I did learn that by "explanation" you meant "useful" and "scientific" explanations (the additional modifiers I mentioned). The quotes, by the way, are not scare quotes but used to indicate words used as words - you can look it up in a standard English grammar. Unfortunately, those modifiers seem to be just general signifiers of approbation.

      I did gather that your conception of "explain observations" means explains them in a way you approve of, or explains them in a way compatible with your worldview. No doubt those who prefer divine explanations feel similarly about their preferred explanations.

      The strength of the scientific world view, in my opinion, is its predictivity and it's resilience in the face of criticism. Clearly you find my critiques merely annoying, so I will desist.

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    8. CIP,

      Excellent, then that makes two of us who dislike arguing about the meaning of words. So let me simply add that what I mean by "explanation" has nothing to do with "what I approve of", but I concretely mean a simplification over just collecting data, which is at least in principle quantifiable.

      The standard model of particle physics, eg, is an excellent explanation for a huge amount of data. Darwinian evolution is a good explanation, though no one has ever bothered to quantify just how good it is. God and the tooth fairy aren't explanations in that very sense. They're superfluous.

      Note that this type of explanation doesn't necessarily require a prediction.

      It's not your 'critiques' that annoy me, it's that you started from the assumption if you don't understand what I say it must be because I don't understand what I say.

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    9. Were not wandering gods Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn useful? Particularly to explain the overly complex periodicity (epicycles) of their retrograde tendencies? The ancients were truly ingenious to pass down such concepts through embodied deities. Similarly the seemingly uncanny ability of scribes to predict Apollo/Artemis eclipses; surely priests made such gilded knowledge useful, to themselves at least. Ultimately, it’s what lead to the Copernican revolution.

      And surely string theory’s ability to ostensibly explain everything without true understanding will be at least as useful.

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    10. Sometimes a missed nuance gnaws at me ‘til I address it: where I said “will be,” it’d’ve been better to have said “will have been.” (Also “guilded” not “gilded” to carry intended meaning, which surely I wrote the way I wanted it but apparently the dumb spell-checker decided otherwise.)

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  7. If by God you mean creator of all things seen and unseen, then yes, ...just one creator. But not necessarily a singularity/big bag type creation. I lean more to the eastern idea of a churning of the pre-existing celestial waters type of creation. Furthermore as creation is a dynamic process, those celestial waters are from time to time churned again. Kali Yuga, if you like.
    And this creator is somehow in touch with all that walketh and creepeth and crawleth, or just sitteth there. :-)

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  8. Rene Descartes wrote in his Discourse on the method "Je pense, donc je suis" or "I think therefore I am." This is an interesting statement for philosophy prior to this did not put the mental observer in any status. Descartes said the one thing I can know is that I do exist because of my inner mental narratives. This statement had an enormous impact, for statements by scientists, and probably this was earlier motivated by Copernicus who argued the Ptolemaic system occurred by a relativity of motion. It is something induced in us the observers. Within the modern age the mental nature of the observer, and that this in some ways exists, has been a motivator of theory. Einstein imagined himself on a frame moving the speed of light observing an EM wave. So instead of describing the world according to some “God”s eye” perspective we work to describe the world according to what we see or measure.

    In a course in existentialism, I did a minor in philosophy, an exam question pertaining to a chair placed up front asked “Comment on the existence of the chair in front of the class.” I wrote “What chair?” I got a complete grade on that. In the end we can't prove that anything exists, or that something does not exist. I can't disprove that C'thulhu exists and is waiting to emerge from the depths to our complete demise. I don't worry about it of course. I can't prove that anyone else besides myself are not just zombie beings devoid of inner life, and I am all there is in some solipsistic world. The problem with a stance like that is it leads to ineffective modes of interacting with the world. I often ask religious people who insist the world is only 6000 years old whether they could disprove my thesis the universe started 10 minutes ago with everything in place including memories. If you think about you can't disprove that, any more than I can disprove the belief a God created the world 6000 years ago more or less as it is now, prior to our scuffing and scaring it up. However, from a scientific perspective this is not an effective idea. You really can't reasonably demonstrate conclusions outside of appealing to some magical force outside the world.

    There are a number of things that seems at least relatively self-evident. One is that Descartes got it right in some ways. The other is that for anything to exist it does so in relationships with other things. It is not possible to say in anyway that something exists if it has no relationship with anything else. This can be some causal principle or something similar to quantum entanglement and so forth. Even dark matter at least we know interacts via gravity if nothing else. This then puts us in some territory that Samuel Johnson noted when asked if he knew something existed, where upon he kicked a rock and said, I know it thus.” If something exists then interacting with it has some feedback; if you kick it it kicks back.

    What about God? If you mention God, Dios, Gott. Вого etc people's ears perk up and they tend to pay more attention. Can anyone disprove the existence of God? Nope!!! At least not in the abstract you can't. The problem is that anything of that infinite nature can't be argued against; the goalposts will always move. Can you prove God exists? Nope!!! Anslem said that God was the ultimate and thus necessarily existed. Modal logic gives for p a predicate □p → p, if p necessarily exists then it exists. However, the converse p → □p, which for p = God is what Anslem argued, is not demonstrable. Something can exist without it necessarily existing. What we can do though is to show various attributes of a believed God are wrong. These can include contradictions between special creation and evolution and so forth.

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    1. Yajnavalkya (many millenia before Christ): "You cannot see the seer of seeing; you cannot hear the hearer of hearing; you cannot think of the thinker of thinking; you cannot know the knower of knowing. This is your self that is within all; everything else but this is perishable."

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    2. We have gone a long way from Medieval theology. Applying St. Anselm’s logic is like quoting Homer to prove Zeus’ existence. We can be more creative by applying math like Pascal’s wager. Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and co-founder of theory of probability. But Nietzsche was not impressed. He said Christianity destroyed Pascal’s mind. Of course we expect that from Nietzsche, the self-proclaimed Anti-Christ

      “The heart knows reasons of which Reason knows nothing.” – Blaise Pascal

      P.S. – Pascal meant God but it works better with erotic love :-)

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    3. (p → □p) or "p is True/False implies that it's necessary that p is True/False" is an axiom of Modal logic necessary to be consistent. Without this axiom the Modal logic is inconsistent. Translation God existence is necessary by logical consistency. Of course in an irrational inconsistent world God existence is not necessary but it is really the case? the answer is "of course No!" then God Existence must be right.

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  9. From a personal or spiritual perspective. I don't belief in God, and I don't know whether she exists or not. Or whether we live a simulation or not, for instance. I am in general modest in assessing human knowledge and even more human wisdom. But I wouldn't call myself agnostic. I am in some way agnostic about all reality. I have only own experiences to really trust. That is as long I am not drunk or too tired.

    From a sociologists or moral point of view I sometimes think She plays the role of an internalized parent. Someone to give us comfort and moral guidance. I can use some comfort now and then, and I am usually weary of other's moral guidance. Not enough to get a 'toy-God' rooted in my brain. And I refuse to be ruled by fear and exclude others based on religious beliefs as many religions do.



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  10. Sabinne,

    When you say,

    "Something exists if it is useful to explain observations. This makes, most importantly, no statement about what is real or true which is a question for philosophers, not scientists."

    I think I agree, except I'm hesitant to completely dismiss philosophy from discussions about physics. I think the entire idea surrounding "what is real" as discussed in your post is a philosophical position, it's a position of pragmatism, but philosophical nonetheless. So we cannot claim that we, as physicists, don't have a philosophy, it's inescapable. It's much like how frequentists try and avoid assigning priors because they want to be as "objective" as possible, but indeed they are assigning priors whether they like it or not. The same goes with philosophy. Experimentalists may try and ignore the philosophy behind the theory they are testing, but they too are adopting "some" philosophy.

    As far as the god question goes, there is no reason to treat it any differently than any other question about the natural world. If we're rational, we will evaluate this question using the tools for inference and assign a belief p(god|I), conditional on some information I. Of course you have to define what the proposition "god" is, and then assign a prior p(god). There's also the problem of determining the likelihood p(I|god). I think that for the most part, the human brain is constrained to conduct inductive inference in a rational way, except that most people somehow assign biased priors to things like p(god), which is why it is so difficult for them to change their mind.

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  11. So far no Judge has ever put him on a most wanted list after reading the Bible,, so I think he does not exist.

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  12. Well Murray Gell-Mann was God, and he no longer exists. But I'm pretty sure you actually exist. If we could see you on Google Maps, it would be conclusive proof.

    -drl

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  13. >explaining sensory input is all you ever do

    However, first you have to say what do you mean by sensory input. And it is a hard task because according to neuroscience you do not sense sensory inputs. What you have access to is just a construction of your brain. Let us have a look at the picture from the Lehar's Website

    http://cns-alumni.bu.edu/~slehar/epist/epist2.gif

    What do you mean by the sensory input at this picture?

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    1. Evgenii,

      Any information that enters from the outside is sensory input. I believe what you mean to say is that what you are consciously aware of is already a re-construction by your brain, which is correct, but besides the point.

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    2. This however raises the question whether by sensory input you mean something that is coming to your brain or to things that you observe from the perceived horizon to the dome of the sky.

      The problem is that the latter is the construction of your brain and you do not have access to the signals that are comping into your brain.

      In general you positions is similar to positivists (Vienna circle) but at the end they were unable to put sensor inputs as a fundament for science. This program has failed.

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  14. Matter is all there is.

    Nuff said.

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    1. It seems more supportable to say that information is all there is. It is certainly all that can be known. Matter, if distinct from energy, is clearly not a reductive cover, but even in the most expansive definition, the problem would remain that matter is not well understood, reductively - it's turtles all the way down, and infinite in all directions.

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  15. @Sabine Hossenfelder
    What do you exactly mean with the term 'God'? Can you be a bit more specific ?

    With the word "God" I associate four completely different meanings.
    a) An unmeasureable/metaphyiscal primordial force of nature which can act out of its own ? --> Creatio ex nihilo
    b) A certain state of transcendent consciousness? (bliss, self-awareness, self-realization, eternal love)
    c) A self-aware metaphysical being who influences the evolution of humans and their civilisations by being a ruler, judge, protector etc ?
    d) A superstitious beliefe-system that was invented by our psyche in order to cope with fears like, 'fear of death', 'fear of the unknown' etc.

    kind regards,

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  16. Is the question of God`existance irrelevant? Is she doesen`t communicate in a meaningful personal way, who cares?

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  17. Which God Sabine? Apollon? Nannar? Oden? The Kami of Fuji?
    Existing where? As a concept in a brain or behind the Ptolemaian spheres or everywhere or in Fuji San?
    Existing how? As the Great clock maker or as Big Brother? Or as someone who helps Josua murder the children and even cats of Jerico?
    I see the question as meaningless since an omnipotent god can create everything including the concept of a god in the believers brain and hide himself completely from the scientist looking for her.

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  18. Homework assignment: Does God Exist?

    I am certain the answer is no. By "certain" I mean I cannot imagine any proof otherwise; even if God appeared to me in person and performed miracles, I still think (with my full faculties now) that it would be an illusion, a special effect, or something wrong with me: drugs, brain damage caused by stroke creating a delusion, or even a lying extraterrestrial with tech indistinguishable (to me) from magic; I would afford even that a remote chance of occurring.

    My reason for this stance is horrific (to me) inconsistencies in the claims of the devoutly religious about who "God" is and what "God" is capable of doing or providing. In a book that is claimed to be the words of an infallible entity, no less.

    There was a specific catalyst for my first doubt about the existence of God at the age of 10. A girl my age from a neighboring school went missing. I did not know her, but her parents with her pastor were on TV every day begging for help. Within a week she was found dead in a ditch, raped and tortured to death.

    So: What sin can a ten year old church-going girl commit for THAT to be her punishment? What happened to "God will protect you"? "God loves you"? "God is omnipotent"? "God is omniscient"? "God answers prayers"? "God is always watching you"? Did she forget to pray for deliverance from whatever evil monster took her off the street? Did her parents or her pastor? Hell No, they held prayer vigils with a hundred people solemnly lighting candles and begging God to keep this girl safe.

    That was the beginning of the end for me. In hindsight I would say the facts in that instance so strongly refuted the claims that I began to see refutations everywhere. Claims that this girl had to die because God has a plan that we cannot know seemed ludicrous, and don't answer to the refutation.

    So is the revised rule that God loves me and will protect me from harm unless His Unknowable Plan for me demands I be raped and tortured to death, or burned alive, or shot in the head so a bank robber can prove a point?

    I fail to see how that means He loves me and will protect me from harm. In my view it is worse than no God at all.

    Nor does the argument that evil did this, not God. Is He all-powerful, or not? Is He all-knowing, or not? Can His great big plan go awry, or not?

    God is a circular argument. Prohibit the circularity, and it is just an assertion by other humans, one for which they cannot provide any evidence except their own astonishment at the complexity of nature.

    The argument mistakenly assumes a beginning or prime mover as an absolute necessity; I don't believe that, or feel that necessity. Nor does it solve that conundrum! Maybe it is hard for me to believe the universe has existed forever, and hard for me to believe that time has not been passing forever, but those difficulties are not solved by positing something Else has existed forever. (And if He has, what was he doing for all of eternity before He got the notion of creating the universe?)

    I went through phases, I read the Bible to see if any of this was explained, and the contradictions only grew. I found God to be a ridiculous hypothesis that explained nothing to me. So I dismissed the hypothesis.

    That girl was raped and murdered over fifty years ago. Back then, I asked my father if he believed in God (I know my mother did).

    He didn't tell me! He said this was one of the things I would have to decide for myself, but I wasn't old enough to decide yet, I had to be an adult, and know how the world works as an adult. He didn't want to tell me what to believe, he wanted me to wait and decide for myself.

    I sort of waited. six years later, I wasn't an adult, but I decided I had seen enough, and was close enough. I was an atheist, and have not wavered. I've learned a lot since then, about people and science, but nothing at all to make me think I am in error on this point.

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    1. Dr. A.M. Castaldo,

      Very moving and consistent thoughts - thank you.

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    2. You may have also noticed that when ever the most right winged or fascist politicians take over the Christians are right behind as ducklings behind mama duck. The Church leaders and laity bearing crosses and Bibles are just ecstatic. The Churches were firmly behind the fascists when they took over European nations in the early 20th century, the Catholic Church was right behind Mussolini and they also applauded right winged junta coups in Latin America --- often installed by the CIA. This runs to the curious state of affairs where Donald t'Rump has about all the religious or holy makeup of a pimp, but the fundamentalists Christians are solidly behind him.

      For a prime mover quantum mechanics serves rather well. Inflation and tunneling between vacua can be argued in a rational way, even if we are unclear about a lot of details. We can calculate things.

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    3. Lawrence Crowell: Has Quantum Mechanics existed forever? Doesn't it depend on time passing? Has Time existed forever?

      I find it mind boggling to envision any state has existed forever; that there is always an infinite count of previous hours.

      I also find it mind boggling that Time began; the very words are paradoxical to me, because "began" implies something happening on a background of time.

      Which means no matter what the truth may be, I am inevitably mind boggled.

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  19. "It is impossible for anything not to exist." Parmenides

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  20. Thanks for the quote! But my name is "Castaldo", with a 'd'.

    :-)

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  21. I doubt that the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Christian god is even logically possible. If we're allowed to relax those characteristics somewhat to avoid obvious absurdities... well, this immensely powerful creator-being is still a pretty extraordinary hypothesis. I don't see the required extraordinary evidence to support it. I find it more likely that leprechauns and fairies exist, than that the Christian god exists.

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    Replies
    1. Using your description, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and may we add omnibenevolent, it is mathematically impossible for God not to exist.


      First if we consider the universe a system made up of billions and billions of smaller systems such as planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies and etc. then the description that the total potential energy of any system plus the total kinetic energy of that system equals the total energy of the total system. Hence omnipotence, first published in 1834 by Sir William Hamilton, known as the Hamiltonian.

      Second, omniscient, all knowing, we will have to relate back to Descartes. If being self aware is knowing, rather than the anthropomorphic concept we have of knowing every possible variable in the time line of each and every individual, then I would have to say this is covered by the Divine Ratio. It is found in every living plant and animal here on Earth as well in the spiral galaxies in the universe. By comparison I would say if almost every living thing exhibits the golden ratio of awareness it is not a far conjecture that the universe is a living system also and that it is self aware or knowing. Is it the personal God that all Christians speak of? Depends on how personal it is to you. Christ simply taught you how to become aware of this energy and be in harmony with it.

      Third is He omnipresent or every where present? I'm going to have to go with the fine structure constant. FSC. About thirty years ago I figured out how to derive all the universal constants from just three pure numbers taken to different exponential values. These three values are the fine structure constant, pi, and the square root of ten. I found that all constants involving mass or matter had the fine structure constant in partial or whole values. Hence omnipresent. The only constants that did not have the FSC in part or partial was the electrostatic constant, e, and the permittivity of space, mu.

      Fourthly, as omnibenevolent or omniphilos, as I call it, all loving, this is apparent in the dispersing of energy throughout the universe equally, omnidirectionally as measured by the residue of chaos we call Entropy. It is not a respecter of persons or places or things, but without it none of us would exist or even be alive.

      Therefore, there are equations for all of these making it mathematically impossible for God not to exist.

      1) The Hamiltonian
      2) The Golden Ratio
      3) The Fine Structure Constant
      4) Entropy

      Delete
  22. Since the US Navy has upgraded their war fighting sensor technology including stealth detecting radars and infrared sensors, the detection of UFOs has gotten to a crisis level. This period of increased UFO sighting frequency began with the so called Tic Tac incident (see Wikipedia: USS Nimitz UFO incident) on the west coast of America

    Now it's happening on the East Coast, the occurrence and subsequent reporting by US Navy pilots of UFOs has gotten to the point that possible collisions with these unidentified objects are becoming a serious safety issue for the fleet.

    Numerous gun site videos have been publicly released by the Navy that show these unidentified objects on the threat tracking screens of Navy aircraft.

    The New York Times writes:

    "The pilots began noticing the objects after their 1980s-era radar was upgraded to a more advanced system. As one fighter jet after another got the new radar, pilots began picking up the objects, but ignoring what they thought were false radar tracks.

    “People have seen strange stuff in military aircraft for decades,” Lieutenant Graves said. “We’re doing this very complex mission, to go from 30,000 feet, diving down. It would be a pretty big deal to have something up there.”

    But he said the objects persisted, showing up at 30,000 feet, 20,000 feet, even sea level. They could accelerate, slow down and then hit hypersonic speeds.

    Lieutenant Accoin said he interacted twice with the objects. The first time, after picking up the object on his radar, he set his plane to merge with it, flying 1,000 feet below it. He said he should have been able to see it with his helmet camera, but could not, even though his radar told him it was there.

    A few days later, Lieutenant Accoin said a training missile on his jet locked on the object and his infrared camera picked it up as well. “I knew I had it, I knew it was not a false hit,” he said. But still, “I could not pick it up visually.”

    At this point the pilots said they speculated that the objects were part of some classified and extremely advanced drone program.

    But then pilots began seeing the objects. In late 2014, Lieutenant Graves said he was back at base in Virginia Beach when he encountered a squadron mate just back from a mission “with a look of shock on his face.”

    He said he was stunned to hear the pilot’s words. “I almost hit one of those things,” the pilot told Lieutenant Graves.

    The pilot and his wingman were flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach when something flew between them, right past the cockpit. It looked to the pilot, Lieutenant Graves said, like a sphere encasing a cube."

    The question then that begs to be addressed: Do UFOs exist?

    This is a case where there is good observational evidence by no possible applicable science to explain multiple reliable observations. Let's role in some physics. Let's get some answers. How does science handle this situation?

    I have my posit and its not extraterrestrials.

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  23. "Having settled this, here is the next homework assignment: Does God exist? Let me know what you think. "

    Kurt Godel, inspired by Anslem, created a theory out of modal logic

    this theory is invoked to explain observations that the Universe exist and has the form it does,

    it makes predictions, and Kurt Godel's version of Anslem's ontological proof shows it could work

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  24. Something exists if it is useful to explain observations.

    By that standard God must exist because he/she/it has long been invoked to explain observations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But God in that sense is not a model. A good explanation allows you to make predictions. God has never been a model that allows for much prediction, in fact Christianity has outright incorporated the whole "works in mysterious ways" thing to just nip the question in its bud. Just roll with it and don't expect to understand anything of what He does.

      Delete
  25. Yes, I think God exists.Too many coincidences aren't.

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  26. Re former

    How causality relates to God I haven't a clue. Maybe that's why He says He is, "I am Who am."

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  27. As Carl Sagan said, it depends on what you mean by God. If you mean an unseen force, he said I believe in it because I believe in gravity. Einstein often refer to God that Bohr said in exasperation, Albert stop telling God what to do. He believed in God, the deeply spiritual and mysterious order of the cosmos. It’s pantheism not theism, “the world is full of gods.”

    As Michael Shermer put it, “So many gods so little time. We are all atheists of all these gods. I’m just an atheist of one God more.” But he prefers to be called “non-theist” because science does not deal with beliefs. A supernatural God is beyond physical laws and beyond science. It cannot say anything about God even if it exists.

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  28. Define god. If you mean an omniscient super being who created everything with intention and intervenes in the affairs of humans by periodically violating the laws of nature. No this does not exist, to very high probability, as it's not a model that fits observations. The data don't show intent or design, instead we find patterns and chaotic evolution of structure/information. We have not observed localized violations of the laws of physics, and we've been looking pretty hard for quite some time. As for creation? If we need an uncaused cause (not sure we do, but whatever), why not stop at the universe itself and avoid creating that infinite stack of turtle gods.

    You might be tempted to avoid my objections and define god in such a way that no current observations are explained by its existence. I that case I just don't care. Sure it might exist. So what? So might the same god with invisible red hair, or hair containing tiny unobservable universes in ever follicle. Go crazy, knock yourself out, create a multiverse full of every possible unobservable god. Meh.

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  29. Since I have no way of knowing whether I am dreaming, I have no way of knowing whether or not you exist, Sabine. Will "you" still be there on the Internet when I awaken? Will the Internet still be there? And if I die before I wake, then at that point nothing will exist, including time. Since time will die when I die then at that point nothing will ever have existed, whether it existed or not.

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  30. Scientists claim to be atheists out of one side of their mouths, then spout absurd anthropic (Deus ex machina) principals to call upon endless multiverses to bail them out of their own calculations which indicate our universe is very improbable in some respects. Most mathematicians are also some kind of platonist, which is technically, a metaphysical belief.

    As to the concept of God/god, it really isn't that complicated or far fetched logically, and is a very relative concept as well. Anything that sets up a system, but is not itself governed by the rules of that system could be considered 'god like'. We take it for granted all the time in fiction, authors create entire universes full of characters and places that don't exist, or that do exist but not like they do in actuality, the rules are all set by the author.

    Online computer gaming programs invoke entire virtual worlds that have their own internal rules of consistency, but which an administrator can overrule or change for their own purposes, and those who interact with the program as a virtual world must do with avatars, as they can not actually enter the virtual world themselves, since they are not based on the rules of the virtual world. Intermediaries between the virtual and real becomes a necessity. A great poke at this philosophically was done in the movie Tron. A user is (magically) transported into the computer world. He at some point says 'oh my god' or some such, and the somewhat humanlike computer program who thinks users (real world computer users) are gods says 'oh my who?' which then begs the question almost like Socrates posed, who do the gods worship? The programs are quite scandalized when the user explains that you don't need to be all powerful or all knowing to create an entire world, and that users (humans) make mistakes all the time, as well as relying on computer programs to help them resolve their problems.

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  31. About God, I believe the real problem is one of definition. All questions in human language are tricky because different people may mean different things with the same words.

    A common argument for God's existence is "the Universe exists, therefore it has to have been created, right? No matter how far you go back, there has to be SOMETHING at the beginning". In this sense, one can be sure that God does indeed exist, if we rule out the possibility of an infinite regression of causes (can we? It seems really dodgy, but I'm not sure either way. I would cautiously suggest that the mere existence of a stable framework of rules on which those causes operate is, in itself, a form of 'prime cause'). However, if we do that, all we say about God is that he is 'the cause without any causes', and nothing else. Not that he's good, or wise, or all-powerful, or even sentient. A God defined that way could be really just as much sentient as the Higgs field, namely, not at all (that we know it. Now THAT is a creepy thought...).

    No, what people usually really think when they say "God", even if we ignore the specific trappings of the various religions is a prime cause to the universe that also has intelligence and purpose, that is, in one word, anthropomorphic. Not a force of nature but someone who thought "let's create the universe" and did so. Such a being would, by definition, exist outside of the boundaries of the universe, and thus beyond the scope of our investigation. All possible considerations about how probable the fact that OUR universe was created with purpose is would require comparing it with OTHER universes, to judge for example how likely it is for certain laws to be arranged in a certain way, etc. etc., netting out the anthropic principle which anyway rules out the possibility of us even asking the question in any universe that's too awful for us to live in. I think all considered the only honest answer possible is: insufficient information.

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  32. The God concept is one similar to what Paul argued with respect to the pot and the pot maker, which is the same the watch and the watchmaker. The idea is that existence is stovepiped upwards to a master controller. Yet what we find scientifically is that things appear very opposite to this. Systems are built upwards from nuts and bolts, and stochastic processes that are by some means "filtered" or selected then result in complex adaptive systems.

    The idea of the universe as a simulation I regard as only slightly less nonsensical than the idea of a supernatural agent behind existence. The problem of course is the being who programmed our world has to exist in some world with more quantum information, or information in general, which means there is a sort of "turtles all the way down" problem. Is the world this coder of this world lives in also coded, and does this continue endlessly. It is not too different from the question, who created God? Well the answer would be metaGod, but who created Him? And so it goes. The whole idea leads to something similar to William V. O. Quinn's recursive structure of a predicate that uses itself as the subject.

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  33. Sadly, as I have gotten older I have come to believe that the only meaningful philosophical system that satisfies what I observe is ethical nihlism.

    The existence of a "God" that is only involved with humanity seems meaningless if that same God created the universe. That meaninglessness incorporates the dilemma of understanding who created God if God created the universe.


    This we are left with our perception of reality and endless questions of metaphysics that are ultimately unsatisfactory.

    ReplyDelete
  34. "Having settled this, here is the next homework assignment: Does God exist? Let me know what you think. "

    Bee,

    how can mathematical theoretical physicists go about answering this question, using a mathematical theoretical physics approach?

    i have in mind deism. what sort of mathematical physics theorem implies God, and could such a theorem be proved using existing mathematical physics

    what would the DNA god look like in mathematical physics, and can this lead to provable theorems and even observation?

    I call this theophysics

    ReplyDelete
  35. "Does God exist?"

    The term "Sabine Hossenfelder" is well-defined, at least by my reckoning, and phenomena attributed to "Sabine Hossenfelder" are consistent with phenomena commonly attributed to other similar entities.

    Therefore, I can with some confidence accept that the entity denoted by "Sabine Hossenfelder" exists.

    The term "God" is not well-defined; at best, it has many vague and self-contradictory definitions, none of which are consistent with any other data of which I am aware. Attribution of phenomena to "God" is generally done poorly compared to more parsimonious and consistent attribution to other sources.

    Therefore, I can with some confidence deny that the entity denoted "God" exists.

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  36. Existence is too broad a concept. I think you are right when you say, "Something exists if it is useful to explain observations.", but it is more useful than that. In essence, existence is an artifact of how we think. At one level, existence is about sensory input. At another level, it is about physical form. In every case, the anchor is the human mind.

    For example, I believe that humor and affluence exist. I also believe that pain and my laptop computer exist. And, I further believe that quarks and square roots exist, though I cannot imagine how I might sense them.

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  37. Hi Sabine !!!
    again
    Ich wieB nicht Wo ich anfangen
    soll.
    - first, to 'infer' the existence of Anything from data alone - does not ' prove' it's existence. This is also
    'how science works'.

    secondly,as a reminder,
    the most popular teachers..
    - give the least homework. lol
    that being said,
    Your question is vague.
    - so vague,in fact, as to be
    almost unanswerable.
    Do you mean: ?
    Do I have scientific evidence of 'God'. (really ?)
    or are you asking what I
    personally 'think' ?
    'feel' ?
    - or 'believe'. ?
    'Defining Terms' is the best
    preliminary to any rational
    discussion or debate.
    - barring that, if you'll permit me, I'll tell a story.

    When I was a kid I was
    given a 'toy' known as
    ' The Ant Farm'.
    (for those not familiar with, look it up)
    So, within a construct
    (that I constructed) they went
    about their days.
    The ants constructed
    'their own' world.
    working hard, storing resources, socializing, etc.
    And as I watched them I wondered if they were aware of me.
    Knew that I created
    the construct.
    Knew that I was watching them.
    (Knew that I 'existed')
    - Now, it doesn't take an
    extremely 'opem' or ' imaginative' scientific mind
    to make a very basic
    extrapolation.
    In the years since, I've had the opportunity to study and
    'understand' the insect mind.
    And to this day,as a human being
    I have two hands..
    + In one I hold knowledge
    of the mechanism and intracacies of the insect mind.
    - In the other still
    questions.. and wonder.

    All the best,

    Oh, and to the question
    ' do I consider the human mind
    'superior' to the insect ?

    - it's always best to
    define terms.
    All love,

    ReplyDelete
  38. Does God exist?

    Karl Popper famously said about the new "science" of psychoanalysis that "a theory that can explain everything explains nothing." Anything people said or did was compatible with psychoanalytic theory.

    Over the course of human history, all the thousands of gods could explain everything, and anything that happened or didn't happen was compatible with them.

    The version of god one believes in is almost always the result of intense indoctrination from an early age. Without constant and intense indoctrination, belief in God would quickly vanish. Indoctrination and cultural reinforcement can induce people to believe virtually anything, no matter how weird and in spite of contrary evidence. This is true even for the most rational and intelligent people. Scientists attempt to overcome bias by sticking to what's observable.

    Without a God that explains everything, people would say "I don't know" a lot more. (Assuming God isn't replaced by some other supernatural mumbo jumbo)

    Even if one believes God exists, there's still the problem of knowing which God is the true God and which religion is the true religion. It's a little too convenient to argue that the religion you were indoctrinated with happens to be the true religion.

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  39. The brain we have has been shaped by evolution to deal with social relations. The concepts needed to describe events within a social groups are ultimately emergent quantities, because ultimately everything is reducible to basic physics, but for our brain it is good enough to stick to using those high level concepts.

    This means that we experience the World as if it has an exact high level description in terms of social concepts. While we can rationally deduce this to be false, it will still feel that way. This is why so many people are attracted to religion and believe in God.

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  40. God is the white color in your mind.

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  41. Count Iblis wrote: This is why so many people are attracted to religion and believe in God.

    I think it has more to do with indoctrination than "attraction" per se. If you consider human history and all the weird things people have been "attracted" to, it can't be explained by attraction alone.

    Religion and God are not universally "attractive." Some nations, such as Norway, Japan, Czech Republic, France and Australia have large percentages of atheists. Atheists are a growing segment of the population, even in the US.

    I agree with your point about humans as a social species. Indoctrination and enculturation are effective because we are a social species. The downside of being social is that even very unattractive ideas can be attractive. There is also mob rule and herd mentality. For some reason, I'm reminded that the Chinese considered crushing a woman's feet extremely attractive. Today women settle for mangling their feet with high heels. :-)

    Without indoctrination, I suspect the number of people who believe in God would be about the same as the number of people who believe in astrology.

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  42. "Not finding evidence for something is NEVER “proof” of its non-existence" and then there is the fact that you can only move from Known to Known and never to the Unknown. Unkown comes into known only through Intution, that is when the mind ceases to funtion out of Known(memory). In otherwords the only form of inquiry that can bring one to this state is through negation (or a form of skeptisism). Hence the question "Does God Exist?" can only be answered through experiencing and not answered as Yes or No but through shared expriencing (as against experience or shared experience) ( similar to the existence of Love, Intelligence, Understanding(not the scientific understanding) and Peace )


    "Why does something have to exist before even time appeared?" Is it the Time that is defined by the cycle of movement or the time as discriminately defined as past, present(now) and future by the mind to make the memory of experiencing into experience. If later is the case then how does inanimate universe's existence or God's existence for ever mater in scientific terms ( except in trying to explain the unkown, and not making it known). It, the Origin of the universe, or God will still be unkown

    The definition, Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient being in the now entails experiencing, which not discriminatory but experiential.Hence one may ask if the Question "Does God Exist?" and truly be asked. One fails to understand why a scientific mind failed check the veracity of the question when one checks the dependence or the independence of the set of equation, may not regulary but at sometime learned of it.

    ReplyDelete
  43. For Apes, God exist and non exist at the same time ...

    As an Ant can not grasp and/or become aware about a Human's Phenomenology ... Human's Existential Spectrum can not grasp and/or become aware of God's Phenomenology ...

    Therefore, For Apes, God exist as a Non-Existent Entities ...

    If Apes wants to know God, then, They must to renounce to be, Apes ... Therefore, Learning about Their Non-Existence ... Once There are not a single Ape in The Universe, What Remains is God's Presence ...

    Of Course, Apes tends to fear that Presence ...

    ... but Entropy Decays and Death is The Fair Lesson deserved by Their Physical Attachments and Futile Self-absorption ...

    ReplyDelete
  44. Does God exist? Yes, he is basically the space of MOUs, of Models of a Universe. This space embeds mathematics (all-math) too, but mathematics is not an entity there; mathematics is overall there.

    So: God exists => Math exists.

    Additionally, God has the possibility to "materialize" a MOU, in fact to draw a model from a MOU. But the MOU is needed in the first place. To create a MOU, some math helps. Not anything of mathematics, of course, but some carefully selected theories - they make the task a lot easier. However, it remains difficult (don't try this at home). Now, a MOU can be written as : [MOU;DT]

    "DT" stands for "Divine Theory". The DT allows a finite specification of the MOU. Is the DT complete? No, this would be counterintuitive. The MOU is too general for a (mathematically) complete theory.

    So, we have:

    [MOU;DT] |- ∃!U

    where "U" stands for a Universe, a materialized model. The "!" stands for: exactly one (Universe). It is a human-like interpretation of the "∃". The "!" could be removed without loss of generality.

    Does every MOU necessarily result in a Universe? We don't now it.

    Smart people (physicists) build some theories of the Universe. They get paid for that. So:

    U |- PT where "PT" stands for physical theories. PT should principally be able to reconstruct the DT. However, since the DT isn't complete, PT will not be complete either. But there is a secret in the DT: The DT allows to construct a function that evolves the universe over states: U[i] |- U[i+1] ...

    So, if God draws a state from the universe, the next state will emerge automatically. He obtains a sequence:

    U[i],U[i+1],U[i+2] ... etc.

    So, the Universe could principally be run in a discretionary mode. But no serious physicist would claim that. The Universe runs perfectly in a continouus mode (differential equations) and is designed to do so, as specified in the DT. The continouus mode uses time. The discretionary mode has (is) a sequence instead. This opens a can of worms, e.g. nonlocality, "jumps" and other unpleasant things. And to get a state of the Universe, God has to remove time completely from it - a cumbersome task.

    However, some other people (me included) find that sideline interesting. Not despite the (many) contradictions, but because of them. It is challenging to obtain a stable model (even for rather simple questions).

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  45. Couldn't existence be relative? A binary relation rather than unary? E.g. the characters in a novel are real w.r.t. each other but not w.r.t. the reader; and the reader is real w.r.t. the world we live in, but not w.r.t. the Creator, i.e. simulation runner; who in turn is not real w.r.t. the creator of the simulation _he_ appears in.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I have seen some of your videos. I am confident that you exist. (Much like, "I blog, therefore I am.")

    ReplyDelete

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