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Robin Craig

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Everything posted by Robin Craig

  1. The arguments as presented in that link show nothing. At best they show the total gravitational energy of the universe is zero. But again, as presented, they don't even show that, except by assuming what they purport to prove (e.g., stating that the far away object has zero energy, rather than a positive potential energy). I have seen one other argument, more logical and I believe from Richard Feynman, but it was not only of the same type, but got its conclusion by relying on infinite distances. Since the universe is not infinite, the argument falls down. Or to put it another, complementary way, once you allow infinities you can prove anything. Even that 1+1=3.
  2. Whether Hume would accept Rand's explanation is not really relevant to whether she correctly answered his is-ought problem: for the same reason that no truth can be held hostage to the acceptance of individual people. For example, that creationists refuse to accept evolution isn't the fault of evolutionary science. Hume may well have not believed it: but he would have been forced to accept it, had he been dumped on a desert island. As anyone who has observed modern philosophers would note, philosophers are quite capable of believing any amount of nonsense - as long as their comfortable way of life doesn't require them to actually live by it. BTW I have attempted to inject Rand's solution into the broader atheist world in my chapter "Good Without God" in The Australian Book of Atheism (my chapter is now available as a stand-alone purchase too).
  3. I have been disappointed by the skeptics on this issue. As Ryan said, these are issues honest people can disagree on, but the skeptics society has quite explicitly come out to say that basically "expert scientists say this, we are not experts, therefore we can't be skeptical" - ignoring the fact that anyone who thinks can point out inconsistencies in public pronouncement and demand answers. The biggest flaw in the whole AGW case is that it is all based on computer programs which all impose an arbitrary multiplier on the base effect of extra carbon dioxide: and all of these computer programs have failed to predict the future and even the past when they've been applied to that. The secondary flaw is the evidence (apparently countered in just one case) that past rises in temperature have routinely followed CO2 rises and then, while CO2 was still rising, fallen again, upon which CO2 falls have followed. These are not questions that require a PhD in bad computer modelling to ask, and I have yet to see them answered by the global warming "establishment". For the skeptics to just shrug and say "who are we to question?" is in my view a dereliction of their own purpose.
  4. I wouldn't swallow a blue pill yet. First, there is no evidence that string theory is actually anything to do with reality - indeed, there are so many versions and possible versions that it can explain anything, therefore predicts nothing. Second, here is my prediction: when other scientists look at it, it will be shown to be one of these: (1) A mistake; (2) Statistically insignificant; or (3) A logical consequence of how the equations were generated or processed, not anything to do with "deeper reality". I hang my reputation as a prognosticator (!) on this :-)
  5. I would go about Zeno's paradox in a somewhat different way. While Achilles never reaches the tortoise in the scenario, neither does time ever get past the limit. And in fact if you wanted to put in the work, you can calculate how long it takes Achilles to catch the tortoise (in reality) by the limiting series of distances. So I would put it as Zeno's paradox is true in the relative context of finite time defined by the limits. In terms of physics, the wave nature of quanta means you can't keep subdividing distance down to infinitesimals.
  6. Hi. Australia is not exactly a hotbed of Objectivism and given its size, Tasmania isn't likely to have many options! There are groups in Sydney and Brisbane (and we run philosophy events here on the Gold Coast) but you will probably find more joy in a place like this :-) You can also link to many Objectivists on Facebook where you can also have some useful conversations and information.
  7. I don't think Objectivism says there is no influence of genes and environment, but rather that whatever influence they have does not determine what we are but merely influences us. You must be careful with modern psychology and read between the lines for what their data show and how they're interpreting it. For example, in The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker "shows" that (from memory) half the variability in personality etc comes from genes and environment and the other half he assigns to "peer group influence." He leaves out the mind entirely. As peer groups are chosen, it is at least equally valid from the data to say "the other half comes from choice." And further, most people do not really think: they just drift with their culture (as shown by the prevalence, and "heritability", of religion). You also have to beware of other sweeping conclusions. For example, social scientists will find a correlation between genes etc and voting patterns. But my interpretation of that is simply that (rather obviously, I'd say) your genes and environment influence such traits as risk taking vs conformity - and such broad personality traits in turn influence other things like how you vote. The key thing philosophically is that any psychological or social science research that does not consider the role of the mind and its thinking cannot be taken at face value - because they have left out the fundamental part of being human. And related to that, except in the case of psychosis or severe neurosis, you are always free to think and choose your values. That might be made harder by your psychology: but "normal" people always have the option to think, to act on their thinking - and seek help, if necessary. On the general topic of how free will is derived from having a thinking mind, you might be interested in what I have written here: http://www.monoreali...s/freewill.html
  8. Would you believe I have discovered the One True Religion? Since so many theists have a problem understanding the concept of an arbitrary claim, I wrote the following blog post as a concrete example of why "lack of disproof" is not a valid excuse for believing. However it is also relevant to this thread, in that the view of God expressed (or revealed!) in it does not violate the law of identity, or any other metaphysical no-no. So perhaps it will help concretise that issue as well: monorealism.com/blog/2012/the-one-true-god/
  9. Indeed. Recently I've been irritated by theists trotting the usual "you can't disprove God therefore there is one", and such people seem to have an inordinately difficult time understanding what an arbitrary claim is and how meaningless they are. So as a public service, I have had my own revelation, and can now reveal the nature of the One True God! Really! Feel free to pass it on to any bothersome theists and refuse to talk to them until they have disproved this God. Indeed, of all the religions in the world, this one fits the evidence the best! It doesn't contradict any scientific knowledge and has never killed anybody! monorealism.com/blog/2012/the-one-true-god/
  10. I think there is another layer to that: it is not rational to do something just because you find subjective personal value in it - your values need to be rational too. There are subtleties in the Objectivist ethics because of such layers - which fundamentally arise because the "objective" derives from the relation between reality and your mind, and you are not infallible. I think the simplest way to put it is like the above with the rider that: and make very sure that your values are in fact rational. However while you do believe those values are rational, and if acting on them doesn't violate the actual basis of morality, then it is moral to act to achieve them (indeed, can be immoral not to). For example, I recall Harry Binswanger once telling someone that if they had "green" values they should act on that: but they should examine their premises. However no Objectivist would say that kind of thing to a Nazi setting out to kill people, because it doesn't matter how sincere their belief is, it violates fundamental morality about the initiation of physical force. Ayn Rand's view on this particular topic might be best summed up by here comment: "The question is not whether I give a dime to a beggar; it is whether I have a right to exist if I don't." There is nothing wrong with giving dimes to beggars or setting up a foundation to do so: as long as it is entirely voluntary, and I would add: runs on the principle of justice not mercy. (Note that justice does not exclude giving someone the benefit of the doubt).
  11. Note that unless you worked very quickly, there is already a Wikipedia entry on "Rational Egoism" redirected from "Rational Selfishness", which includes a section on Ayn Rand and links to related topics.
  12. But you don't have to logically disprove the existence of God, any more than you have to logically disprove the claim that you are an alien in disguise hell-bent on destroying Earth and we'd better shoot you first. As there is no objective evidence for the existence of God (not that nobody claims there is such objective evidence, but that their claims fail the test of objectivity and evidence), any claim that God exists is arbitrary. And an arbitrary claim is meaningless: it is in fact worse than wrong because it has no bearing on the facts of reality. And for every arbitrary claim, there are any number of equal and opposite arbitrary claims, which further makes the point of how meaningless they are.
  13. As Veritas says, the law of identity only contradicts the existence of some versions of God. It doesn't even contradict the God of most of the Bible (to turn fundamentalists on their head, if one takes Genesis literally, the God therein could be considered a powerful but limited being who created the solar system and the life therein - but has identity, attributes and limits. He even comes down to chat with Adam in the cool of the evening, like any other bloke. If I keep this up I could start a religious war :-D ). The curious thing about monotheism, especially in its Abrahamic (Judeo-Christian-Islamic) forms, is as time has gone by its God has become increasingly powerful, increasingly invisible, and increasingly limitless. However even the God of Christianity doesn't necessarily violate the law of identity: he doesn't actually have to be "infinite" in any way. Really, barring God via the law of identity only applies to certain theological constructs of an extremely abstracted God - taking the "my God is bigger than your God" to ridiculous extremes. I'm not sure you actually find that God in the Bible, and if you do, such passages can be explained away by the same mechanisms other idiocies and contradictions are explained away. Personally I am hesitant about trying to monster-bar the concept of God via metaphysics: because it is too easy to get around it and say "well that doesn't apply to my version of God". "You can't have an infinite God? Really? Oh, that's OK, he isn't actually infinite, just really really big." (I have followed this train of thought in more detail in On Gods and Spaticons). This is not to defend religion: just to suggest the battle should stick to more certain terrain, namely epistemology: the fatal weakness of religion is that in fact (if not in the minds of its adherents), there is no valid objective evidence for any of it, which makes the whole thing an arbitrary claim and therefore not worthy of any consideration, whatsoever.
  14. I don't think the term "disproportionate response" is applicable. A disproportionate response is slugging someone who sneers at you. Stating the truth in response to slander is not disproportionate. Assuming your assessment of Joe is accurate, any disproportion comes from Joe. You are not responsible for another person's reactions.
  15. Wikipedia has its formal and informal rules. The main formal rule is that any statements should be justified by reference to independently published work - i.e. something "notable" enough in the world at large that somebody felt it worth writing about and somebody else felt worth publishing. So no matter how brilliant your ideas, they aren't going to be allowed on Wikipedia unless someone else has already found them worth publishing. Einstein is not welcome until he's published elsewhere! This rule makes sense - most people who think they have brilliant maverick ideas are crazy; and Wikipedia is meant to be an encyclopaedia not a journal of original research. Another formal rule is that only things that are "notable" should be included. "Notable" means "notable in the field", not "what someone thinks of this field when they are notable in quite another". Unfortunately that can be a matter of opinion. The main problem with wikipedia is that any hot topic has gatekeepers who will remove your edits as soon as you add them if they don't fit their understanding of the state of knowledge. And of course Objectivism is not exactly popular among most intellectuals. A case in point is Hume's "is-ought" problem - I was surprised to find no mention of Ayn Rand's solution to that there, even though it is original and true - and published independently. That, however, is not enough for the gatekeepers - if you look at the "discussion" history of the topic you'll see why. The irony in this case is the main excuse for excluding Rand's solution is she isn't a "real" philosopher in the sense of having membership in the club - and she despised academic philosophy, and they are keen to return the favour. It is ironic because the same was true of Hume himself in his time. So Hume, a maverick "amateur" philosopher, introduced an important problem in ethics - but its solution is barred from Wikipedia by the article's gatekeepers, because the solution is proposed by a maverick "amateur" philosopher. And her work is not "notable" enough on this topic because academic philosophers aren't interested. The problem is the same as the problem in philosophy in general: the majority of people in the "club", by grace of the bell curve, are second-rate thinkers. By the way, there is an indirect pointer to Rand's solution to the is-ought problem in the Wikipedia article - under implications (for secular ethics) is a link to my chapter Good Without God in The Australian Book of Atheism. (That chapter is now also available on its own from Amazon as a Kindle download (you don't need a Kindle, there are free readers for most devices). But I imagine that's as much as will ever make onto that page until Rand's influence seeps further into the mainstream.
  16. Let's try again using the full editor. You had the meaning of "irrational" right the first time: can't be expressed as a ratio. It's not an insult. The utility of pi (and other irrational numbers) is that they allow for an arbitrary level of precision in calculating what you're trying to calculate. Just as "real" infinities don't exist in reality, neither do "complete" irrational numbers - but you can go to as many decimal places as you need. Given what you're trying to do, you might be interested in my comments on maths and reality here: http://www.monoreali...ions/maths.html (especially part B under the heading "Abstract Maths", where I discuss how the different types of numbers relate to what's in reality given their increasing levels of abstraction). For example, it is interesting that you'd only need 30 decimal places of pi to calculate the upper and lower bounds of the circumference of a circle drawn with a line the width of a hydrogen atom at the diameter of our galaxy (ignoring the physical impossibility of a "perfect circle" in space-time)!
  17. <p>Geez, why does just writing a reply as two paragraphs ended up as literal HTML? Maybe I need to read the instructions...</p> <div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;"> </div>
  18. <p>You had the meaning of &quot;irrational&quot; right the first time: can&#39;t be expressed as a ratio. It&#39;s not an insult. The utility of pi (and other irrational numbers) is that they allow for an arbitrary level of precision in calculating what you&#39;re trying to calculate. Just as &quot;real&quot; infinities don&#39;t exist in reality, neither do &quot;complete&quot; irrational numbers - but you can go to as many decimal places as you need.</p> <p> </p> <p>Given what you&#39;re trying to do, you might be interested in my comments on maths and reality here: http://www.monorealism.com/reflections/maths.html (especially part B under the heading &quot;Abstract Maths&quot;, where I discuss how the different types of numbers relate to what&#39;s in reality given their increasing levels of abstraction). For example, it is interesting that you only need 30 decimal places of pi to calculate the upper and lower bounds of the circumference of a circle drawn with the width of a hydrogen atom and the diameter of our galaxy (ignoring the physical impossibility of a &quot;perfect circle&quot; in space-time)!</p> <div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;"> </div>
  19. In many ways I think it is like life in general. While civility is an admirable goal, it can take two to be civil. But It think the best response to feeling one's blood start boiling is just the same as in real life: don't punch the other person, just walk away, with as simple and neutral parting statement as you can muster. Of course it is much easier to be civil when everyone is being honest (which one would hope for on a forum like this!), and giving people the benefit of the doubt ("this person is not an idiot/evader/troll - this is an honest disagreement between two people both seeking an objective truth") always helps. But if you can no longer give the benefit of the doubt - give enough benefit to just walk away.
  20. I am afraid this topic is going round and round in circles. I believe that's what I said would happen :-) And since all questions raised have been answered directly or indirectly at the start + 2 iterations, I now move on to more interesting things.
  21. Gaaa, sorry, the way the HTML works and doesn't work in this forum got me again. Can't find how to delete it either. Oh well, you can still see what I said :-(
  22. <p> </p> <p> </p> <p>Most Dawkins books are good, though I haven&#39;t read that one specifically. Any book against ID/creationism by a working biologist is likely to be good - I&#39;d check out Amazon and read the reviews.<br /> <br /> </p> <p> </p> <p>Sorry to have to say this, but much as I like to give people the benefit of the doubt you are making me think you&#39;re just trolling. You can&#39;t have searched very high or low if you think <em>anyone</em> gives an reason like &quot;photosynthesis evolved because grass is green.&quot; That&#39;s the kind of bizarre parody not seen outside the most klutzy creationist pamphlet.<br /> <br /> </p> <p> </p> <p>All the reasons I gave, where the backup data is in the places I&#39;ve mentioned. You are not convinced because you don&#39;t know the evidence, as you have stated.<br /> <br /> </p> <p>I believe the book &quot;The Panda&#39;s Thumb&quot; discusses this kind of thing. But there are plenty of examples. One that springs to mind is the male reproductive system. Fond as I am of it, the way the tubes curve up, down, round and about (purely because of how things shifted around during evolution especially when mammals became warm-blooded and the testes, rather than simply becoming heat-resistant instead migrated outside the body) has resulted not only in its legendary vulnerability, but in otherwise unnecessary medical problems like Inguinal hernia and prostate problems. &quot;God hates men&quot; doesn&#39;t cut it as an explanation :-)<br /> </p> <div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;"> </div>
  23. In case you're interested, in addition to Frankensteen (near-future science fiction) I have now published Petit Four - a collection of short stories (click here for info). Here is the description: Four short stories where things are rarely what they seem. Each story has a different theme: a fable set in the land of the lotus eaters (Genesis), the investigation of a mysterious death (Fade), tragedy in a forest (Requiem) and the sadness of a decaying mind (The Old Man). Each is written in a poetic style that enhances the mood of the story. These are stories meant to enthral and entertain while making you think - and feel. I hope you like them and if so would welcome reviews and recommendations. And of course constructive feedback!
  24. Re Daniel's specific questions, I refer you to the suggestion I made in the beginning of my post for the reasons I gave then: if you really want the details, read the books by evolutionary scientists. If you are influenced by creationist/ID literature: go to a university library and look up the original literature. Really, you need a book to answer the details. As for the general questions, the evidence in Darwin's day was incomplete but pretty convincing. Now it is absolutely convincing. It comes from the whole convergence of fossil evidence, comparative anatomy, comparative biochemistry (including comparative gene sequences), molecular biology (the actual basis of heredity and its variability - unknown in Darwin's day), experiments on many aspects of evolutionary theory that happen on a short enough time span to be experimentally studied. The evidence "against" design is primarily the evidence for evolution (in that because there is a natural explanation, there is no need for a "designer") and secondarily the weird and wonderful ways in which organisms have evolved which make perfect sense if they evolved (where x is co-opted for y and good enough is good enough) but would require a criminally negligent designer. Again - read the books.
  25. I want to throw this out there because I'm interested in comments. If the thinking mind is the origin of rights, then an infant has no more rights than a foetus. However unlike a foetus, an infant is partially independent: it breathes for itself, eats for itself, interacts with the world, etc. It is still dependent on others for its survival: but unlike a foetus it is not absolutely dependent on any one person, just "some person", and just some (much) of the time. To honour its nature, then, you don't have a right to actively kill it. More specifically, if you yourself don't want to look after it, you divest yourself of all interests in the matter, and have no right to stop someone else who does want to look after it. The rights of the newborn, then, are not the same as the rights of an adult. In a sense it has the same right - the right to be "let alone". While being literally let alone would be fatal to it, that right does mean that it has the right to be looked after by someone else (who is willing). There may however be circumstances (kinds of severe deformity) where the child has no hope of leading anything but a short miserable life: in which case I think the parents may well have the right to put it out of its misery.
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