Thursday, 29 November 2012

Continued Musing... Consider this:
If a single miracle occurs it removes all possibility that we have free will.

The question of free will looks different from the dusty pathways of the parched Sudan, the bloody streets of Palestine and Israel, from the banks of the filthy but sacred Ganges, the dizzy heights of the breathtaking Himalayan mountain peaks, or the lush cornucopia of Fifth Avenue in New York City. Did the sixteen-year-old child in the Democratic Republic of Congo holding the AK-47 to the head of the twelve-year-old, and forcing him to rape and then kill a young woman six months pregnant question free will? He thought there was no choice; he was repeating the same horror that had been visited upon him because he knew no other reality.
During the climbing season of 1996 twelve of the people who attempted to scale Everest, did not come down alive. One of those who did return walked out of the blizzard after spending the night in the open – no one survives that. Two of those who died were among the most experienced climbers in the world. Why did he live, why did they die? If they had chosen to not go on the expedition would they have died some other way that spring, or would they still be alive?
If there is some power outside ourselves that has predetermined our fate, should we not all retire to the library for cigars and brandy? If we are in control of our own fate, why should we feel compassion for anyone who is not doing well? It is, after all, their choice, yes?
The question of free will is like the question of reality in that it deals with perception. The reality of any given student at Oxford University is likely to differ significantly from a villager in the Hindu Kush, or does it? Does the student at Oxford have more or less free will than the villager within the scope of his own existence?
If we perceive that we have free will, whether it is true or not, do we live our lives any differently? If we do not have free will who or what has predetermined our fate? Is accepting some form of fate abdicating responsibility or embracing faith?

Miracle is a noun, not a verb, it is a result of action taken. The definitions in one and three have to do with how the act is perceived. Definition two lists a miracle as an unusual event. I would say in order to explore the nature of miracles; you first have to define the phenomena. Is it an event independent of other events, or an event that is the culmination of a series of events? In either case divinity, in whatever shape, can be optional. If one allows “the Church”, and by that I mean any religious organization, to define miracle; the definition is tainted by bias.

1. Determinism: every event is caused by another event.

2. Indeterminism: not every event is caused by another event.

3. Simple indeterminism: some events have no cause at all.

4. Libertarianism: (every event is caused, but) some events are caused (not by events but) by persons.

5. Every event has a cause.

In “simple indeterminism”…if human actions have no cause at all, then we in turn have no responsibility or freedom of action. Libertarian views state there are two causes of actions and events: event causation, and agent causation. This view leaves the door open for “forced” actions with prior events, as well as the intercession of will by the “agent” or person resulting in free will causing actions resulting in events.

Following the determinist, one would have to follow the path she is destined to take. She is “free” in the sense (according to the soft determinist) that this is what she “wants” to do, she would choose no other path, she is wired for these actions alone.
The Libertarian would say she is free to choose any of the paths she chooses.
Responsibility requires avoidability however; if according to the conditions stated the individuals have no choice, they have no responsibility. Does this then set the stage for divine interventions/miracles?

Fatalism follows the line of causal determinism – an event is “forced” by a previous event, which was forced by a previous event, which was forced by..bada bing bada boom, you have yourself a miracle– no choice, no discussion, no dither.

Divine foreknowledge is the concept that the individual is not responsible because his/her “path” has been predetermined by some divine intervention or knowledge. Humans seek the comfort of the divine in fatalism. The “freedom and foreknowledge” dilemma has been eliminated to some extent here, as divine intervention/miracles are reserved for the worthy.

Divine intervention/miracles must take place in a certain agreed upon reality. Indeed there are those people who convince themselves daily that what they want to be true is real, rather than what is in actual fact, reality. Speak with any fundamentalist, be they Christian, Muslim, Communist, or Nazi party member. Those who think that the beliefs of others make him/her so wrong as to require the death of those persons is creating a reality unto himself or herself. The more people in agreement with that version of Reality, the larger the reality ( the film Matrix). I do believe this behavior reaches a level that equates to the Matrix. I have had many opportunities over a span of years to observe and speak to such persons on different continents and it never ceases to astound me – even to the point of me checking my own reality just to be certain!

It is simple to understand. I mean really, the ease of it. A world where you believe in black and white. It is true or it is false. People are either on your side, or they are your enemy. There is a book, or a person, or a group, that tells you what to do – and you believe totally that this is Truth. The level of Justification is real for you; it never has to be questioned again. Do you see the lure of that? You decide once what is True, and you are done. What a relief! Divine intervention/miracles in this reality would be a natural consequence of the actions preceeding it/them.

Thinking, questioning (Socrates), finding (Descartes) what is true for you - is an ongoing, daily, difficult task. If you acknowledge life is an ongoing journey of discovery, that every day is the opportunity to find a better truth, a more expansive Universe, that means you question your reality every day. It means you acknowledge that there is more than one road to the Truth, and you may not have the map. Socrates, Descartes, Nietzsche, Jung, and Wheeler, Hawkins, and Einstein were all chaps poking at the edges of their reality to check that it was not a Matrix. This environment also leaves room for miracles, but would be more likely to question a divine origination.

The question, which has been asked before – are we the dreamer, or are we the dream; are we playing the game, or are we the pieces of the game; are we observing the hologram, or are we unknowingly being observed in the hologram? Just how can one be certain that the knowledge you are in possession of is “the” truth? How much do you want to know what is true, as opposed to what is real, if what is real is not as attractive as what is believed? Is it possible that more than one reality can hold the knowledge leading to what is true? Can there be more than one truth about the same belief? Is there more than one way to get to the reality that holds the knowledge that reveals truth? Is there more than one explanation for miracles, one that would leave free will intact?

What constitutes reality? Is reality a matter of agreement or a matter of fact, or a question of dimensions? I offer string theory and bubble universes, as well as the levels of reality described thousands of years ago in Hindu and Buddhist text, among others. If one is inside the box, and is unaware there is reality outside the box, does that reality outside the box still exist?

What is the sound of one hand clapping? If you cannot comprehend the reality of another, does that physical reality then cease to exist? What about the quantum realities of Schrödinger’s cat, forever at the mercy of the opening of a box? Because one cannot physically observe atoms, quarks, or muons, do we doubt their existence? At present, the scientific fact, truth, and reality is - all we can observe is where quarks have been, not where they are. Reality, truth, belief, and knowledge are indeed, tricky business.

If one believes it, then is it true, so now is it knowledge? Or does one have knowledge of belief, which leads in turn to truth?
Is it as simple as Descartes would have it – “cogito ergo sum”? Why is it important to find our way out of the Matrix? Is not one reality as good as another? Truth is insufficient to stand-alone. If one does not have knowledge of the truth, can one hear that rather infamous tree fall in the wood?

Nietzsche pointed out that “language is the first stage of scientific effort. …it is the belief in found truth from which the mightiest sources of strength have flowed. “ He goes on that Logic is, in and of itself, not anything real in the world, and that mathematics would indeed have had hard going had it been known at the onset there is no “exactly straight line in nature, no real circle, no absolute measure.” It poses the question, are these beliefs, this knowledge, built on straw? Is it all simply an agreed upon reality like - ‘time’? Is the miracle the act itself, or the reality in which the act can be accepted as Truth?

From the concept of realities, how great would it be if (and according to string theory, or more exactly M-theory it is possible) that for every wrong turn you took, there existed a reality where you took the right one? For every time the elevator door closed just before, you thought of the great comeback line, there existed a reality where you nailed it just in time. Where every possibility was a reality - the check did arrive in time, the vaccine did work, the guy got the girl, the peace talks were successful.... Yeah, String Theory there’s a miracle.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Musings on the Universe
What do I think? I think the more advanced and precise machines we can build, as our understanding of engineering and science in general expands, the more we will know, and the more we will become of aware of how much there is we don't know. I do adhere to the tenants of String Theory, even though, yes at present, it is only an elegant mathematical equation, and M-theory. I think there are more layers to our existence than we can be aware of at this time. I think back to when educated humans were quite certain the earth was flat, based on the best data we had at the time. I think that in another century, what we know now may very well appear to be just as limited. Deity vs Accident- I just don't know. I always hold out the possibility that whatever I think, I could be wrong. I have never (I remember quite clearly coming to this view sitting in a small, country church when I was eight!) accepted the idea that humans have only one limited life span and then cease to exist. Given an intellect such as Galileo, Marcus Aurelius, Einstein, Wheeler, or Hawking; or the spiritual effect of Martin Luther King, HH the Dalai Lama, Jesus, and Gandhi; I cannot accept that energy would simply disappear. One of the many reasons my search for a spiritual fit led me to Buddhism is its synchronicity with science. One of the basic tenets of physics is the conservation of energy; energy is never lost but is converted. Buddhism makes that same statement. In early Christianity, reincarnation was not only accepted, but also taught until it became monetarily and politically not as efficacious as the concepts of heaven and hell. I also think it is an ongoing discussion. Once we cease to question, we are lost to the confines of the nearest opaque wall. The further out into space we can see, through the eyes of more advanced telescopes, or space travel; I believe the more we will see. I do think there is life abounding beyond our sight – carbon based, as well as life forms with compositions we have only imagined, but all with purpose and intellect. Have you read The Lensman Series by E.E. Doc Smith? It was written in 1936 and holds forth an amazing view of the possibilities of existence. AND I can’t wait to find out the mysteries of Dark Matter!!!!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Two comments on my Facebook page started me thinking... “Joanna Grey: Does it shock you that I think why does anyone care about this? Why do we assume the security of the nation is at risk because of it. Could he be blackmailed? Not now that everyone knows. OK, investigate the security issues and if there's a problem there then get rid of him. But otherwise, bottom line, does he do a good job? I mean has anyone in public life not had an affair? I think the public is so jaded on this topic no one really cares anymore but the media continue to beat these topics to death." Ian Lidster: "I agree wholeheartedly, Joanna. If interested I have posted a blog about it on my page. Covers similar ground.” Joan and Ian, as re the Petraeus fracas: I agree that I don’t care what the man does regarding his marriage vows, other than I find the betrayal of vows personally repugnant. I have a few issues here, and I think he should most certainly be removed from his position as head of the CIA. Once he began, what is now being reported as a series of affairs, which then set into play a soap opera of emails, threats to other women who may or may not have been involved, and a cascading series of events that left him trapped in a public spotlight with no high ground on which to stand, he needed to step down. If he were not head of the CIA, I would not give the situation a passing glance, but you cannot have someone as head of one of your intelligence agencies who has put himself in a position to be compromised, a leader who has been proven to have poor judgment. What is a fact, is that he lied about his activities, and those are only the lies we know about. It begs the question, ‘What else has he lied about, and would he do it again?’ As to why fire him after the affair was made public: how could his subordinates trust his judgment? How could he have the needed respect from his people and the public to run such an agency? How can we be certain he will not put himself in this situation again? He chose to put himself in that dilemma when he accepted the position at the CIA. The other huge issue for me is the blatant hypocrisy. In 2001, AFTER 9/11, when Arabic translators were at a premium, and there were bloody few of them in the American intelligence community- the CIA fired its two best translators because they were Gay! They were not in the closet where they would put themselves at risk of compromise; they were both in a stable, long-term relationship yet these vital resources were tossed unceremoniously to the curb. The military, and the intelligence community have a desperate shortage of linguists trained to translate invaluable information and convey it to the war zone. The lack of qualified translators has been a pressing issue for some time — the Army had filled only half its authorized positions for Arabic translators in 2001. Cables went untranslated on Sept. 10 that might have prevented the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Today, the American Embassy in Baghdad has nearly 1,000 personnel, but only a handful of fluent Arabic speakers. “I was an Arabic translator. After joining the Navy in 2003, I attended the Defense Language Institute, graduated in the top 10 percent of my class and then spent two years giving our troops the critical translation services they desperately needed. I was ready to serve in Iraq. But I never got to. In March, I was ousted from the Navy under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which mandates dismissal if a service member is found to be gay. “Over 11, 000 service members have been discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’ Tell; more than 300 of them with critical language skills.” Yet, because Petraeus is (male and) heterosexual, his unprofessional and possibly dangerous actions should be shrugged off? I don’t agree. Ian, I shall come over a bit later and read your blog post