Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Proof" That "God" "Exists"

I like this quote.

Anyway, I guess I'll bite, since erryone's got to respond to this Sye business.
Let's do this.

I think imma spend most of my time on this question, since my answer probably differs from most people's, and since my answer kinda breaks down Sye's whole agenda here.

As a side note: if you pick the option "I Don't Care If Absolute Truth Exists," it takes you to, and I find that really offensive. I think the implication is that if you don't care about "absolute truth," you might as well be living in a fairy tale, but connecting that notion to Disney suggests that Sye doesn't really appreciate Disney movies. Despite the fact that Disney is god-awful as a company, some of the best movies out there come from the Disney Renaissance (my absolute favorite Disney movies are Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and their greatness doesn't come from the fact that they provide some sort of delusion or escapism bullshit.

Anyway, to the point: my answer to this question is "Absolute Truth Does Not Exist," and I'll explain why.

Two caveats should be noted before I explain: first, I do not deny that reality exists. The undeniable fact of my own existence necessitates that some sort of reality exists in some way or other.

Second, I do not hold that the nature of reality is contingent on people—that the nature of reality is somehow dependent on what people think of it, and therefor is different for different people. I have no reason to think that.

My contention is that the propositions that people hold to be "true" don't somehow "tap into" the actual nature of reality—the one that isn't in anyway contingent on people. Rather, these propositions that we hold as "true" merely represent the actual nature of reality in a way that all humans can agree upon.

Let's take the proposition "my hand is made of cells." I don't want to answer whether this proposition is actually "absolutely true"—I'm not interested in the metaphysical question—I want to answer whether this proposition even could be "absolutely true." I do indeed hold this proposition to be true for all human purposes, but Sye seems to want truth to be metaphysically true, and that's what I want to explore here.

When we take the human observer out of this question, we immediately start to run into problems when we try to define what exactly counts as "my hand" and what doesn't—what counts as "just the rest of my arm." If you try to mark a line anywhere on my wrist to determine where my hand ends, you require a fundamental unit of measurement. To demonstrate this, let's take a picture of a hand and throw it into everyone's favorite image editor, MS Paint!


So let's draw a line on the wrist, and it won't matter where for me to demonstrate my point.

However, even if a proposed division between the hand and the rest of the arm lies within this line, this line is only an approximation. Since I'm using an image editor, I'm limited to a resolution of pixels. We can see the limitations of this resolution when we zoom in.
(If I can ever disable anti-alias on this pic) then you will see the grid of pixels this picture is forced into, and that this line has a width. If a boundary, e.g. this line, has a width at all, then it is not a "true" boundary, because we could theoretically draw a line thinner than this one I drew. In other words, we can't map anything with 100% certainty if our unit of measurement is pixels, or if our unit of measurement is divisible at all.

If we want to label what counts as my hand in a way that's "absolutely true," we'll need a fundamental unit of measurement—one that cannot be divided. This is slightly controversial, but for the sake of argument, I'm gonna assume the Planck length (not defining it here; look it up) as a fundamental unit of length. Even if we assume this, we'd be hard-pressed to find a definition of where my hand ends. Will some 1.62 × 10^−35 meters really make a difference? If yes, what is the precise length of my hand? How could one know? If no, then how could a definition of the length of my hand be "absolutely true?" Our language is equipped to define where my hand ends at everyday resolutions, but if there is any resolution in which a difference in length doesn't affect the definition of my hand's length, then there is no definition of where my hand ends that can be considered "absolutely true." If the subject "my hand" can't be defined in "absolute" terms, then the phrase "my hand is made of cells" can't be "absolutely true." Obviously, this is just one example, and extrapolating a deductive conclusion from one example I made up would be fallacious. The purpose of this thought experiment was to demonstrate—in an admittedly convoluted way—language's relationship with metaphysics. The phrase "my hand" doesn't map to any metaphysical reality in some "absolute" way, nor does it denote any "absolutely" specific configuration of matter. The kind of "absolute truth" Sye seems to be referring to is that of metaphysics—metaphysical "truths". These are the kind of "truths" Sye claims he is sure exists because of his god, and the kind of "truths" he thinks science is out to find. And by "metaphysical 'truths,'" I simply mean "metaphysical propositions." The philosophy of language is relevant to this discussion, because any metaphysical proposition that a person could dream up—any one that could be considered "absolutely true"—must be able to be expressed in language. And if the relationship between language and metaphysics is as indirect as I've demonstrated it can be, then any metaphysical proposition expressed in language isn't a "true" representation of metaphysical reality.

Again, I haven't demonstrated that language can't tap into the true nature of reality and become "absolute truth." So far, I've only sought to arouse skepticism toward language's ability to map reality, and I intend to take it further.

Let's go back to the whole Planck-length and building-blocks-of-matter thing. The idea that all matter can be divided into fundamental units is called "atomism." The credit for this idea usually goes to the pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus, but he and his mentor Leucippus developed the idea of atomism to reconcile the conflicting metaphysics of Heraclitus and Parmenides. So, while atomism seems obvious to us, natural philosophy existed without it, so it couldn't have been obvious to the pre-Socratics.

While the idea of atomism gained acceptance (after a decline that lasted through the Enlightenment and a controversy that lasted into the 20th century), the exact nature of what these fundamental units of matter are took some time to figure out. When this idea was first being subjected to scientific experimentation, scientists discovered the elements of the Periodic Table, and they were called "atoms," because they were believed to be the fundamental units of matter. However, in the 20th century, scientists discovered that these "indivisible" atoms were further composed of electrons bound to a nucleus, and that the nucleus could be further divided into protons and neutrons, and that these protons and neutrons could be even further divided into six different types of quarks. And now, even though scientists recognize that matter can be created from energy and vice versa, scientists consider electrons and quarks to be fundamental particles.

Genius professional mathemusician and prolific YouTuber, Vi Hart, touched upon a point that I've been trying to express for a while. In her video "Twelve Tones," a long video about dodecaphonicism and its relation to math and other things, she talks about the human mind's ability to pick out patterns in the notes of music and compares it to picking out patterns in stars to make constellations, like Orion. Here's a long-ish quote from that part, but it's worth reading in its entirety:

...the part where you take the randomness—that is, the eternally separate stars—and connect them into shapes your brain can hold onto. . . . Makes me wonder what other meaningless things we pretend to have meaning by sticking them into patterns with context. I mean, that's not a dude, that's a harsh vacuum of empty space punctuated with giant balls of nuclear explosion times. But then I wonder if a proton plus an electron making a hydrogen atom or a huge pile of nuclearly-fusing hydrogen making a star is any more real than these stars making Orion. I mean, is it an atom, or does it just look like an atom? Constellations and Rorschach tests tell us that it takes nothing for us to make sensible patterns out of randomness.

To take this train of thought further, is it an electron, or does it just look like an electron? Is it a quark, or does it just look like a quark?

The history of science is a history of people getting it wrong. Part of that wrongness is mistaking what was really just a pattern of smaller building-blocks for something pure and essential. Humans are an arrangement of organs are an arrangement of tissues are an arrangement of cells are an arrangement of organelles are an arrangement of molecules are an arrangement of atoms are an arrangement of so-called "fundamental particles." What makes us think we've now, finally, reached the end and found the fundamental building-blocks? If the trend of scientific progress is to continue, then we shouldn't be surprised if we find the rabbit-hole goes deeper, and what we once thought was fundamental is just another pattern of something else.

What's worse, is that we may never find the fundamental units of matter. There may be some epistemelogical barrier preventing us from discovering the metaphysical foundations of our reality.

Even worse, it may be the case that there is no metaphysical foundation of reality. What we now consider to be fundamental particles may be just patterns of patterns of patterns of patterns, and the universe could just be a pervasive field of patterniness. It may just be patterns all the way down.

Is it "absolutely true" that my hand is made of cells? What are cells but patterns? Made of patterns? Made of patterns? We give these patterns labels, but it doesn't change the fact that they're patterns, and the patterns need us to give them labels. Things may have the illusion of being elemental, but that effect is a fact about us the observers of things, not of the things themselves. Cells may appear to be a meriologically significant unit, but it's because of us that they appear that way. Assigning these labels isn't metaphysics, it's linguistics.

If we can't consider the labels we give things "absolute" because they're merely assigned by our pattern-seeking minds, then any metaphysical propositions formed with those labels—any metaphysical "truths"—can't be any more "absolute" than the labels themselves. I do in fact believe that any label assigned to any thing in nature is merely a result of our pattern-seeking minds, based on the track record the history of science has given, and thus any propositions formed with them cannot be "absolutely true." You can interpret my conclusion as either "'absolute truth' simply does not exist," or "'absolute truth' is incoherent, therefor it cannot exist," and I tend toward the latter, simply because, again, I don't know how it's possible for our language to "tap into" metaphysical reality. The nature of reality may exist without minds to observe it (indeed, I hold that it does), but any "truths" about reality—i.e. propositions that are true—require linguistic thinkers to exist.

So, after I pick the "Absolute Truth Does Not Exist" option, I'm given the most retarded false dichotomy ever.
I mean, I'm pretty sure I've proved my point beyond a reasonable doubt, but it's not my fault if Sye won't define his terms well or GIVE ME A FUCKING "I DON'T FUCKING KNOW" OR "I THINK SO" OPTION. So really, I've no need to go on. 

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