Reading Lucretius made me realize how long the science vs religion debate has been going on. I was introduced to Lucretius through reading George Santayana, the American Philosopher of aesthetics in particular of literature and poetry. I discovered Santayana at about the same time I discovered E.T. Jaynes which is an weird coincidence since they both seem to base their doctrine on untangling the confusion of the mind projection fallacy. They both argue at length that humans attribute too much of what goes in their head to the real world. Santayana used it ... (read more)
Lucretius' On the Nature of Things (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Nature_of_Things) is considered one of the most beautiful epic poem ever written and the subject can be summed up as the rejection of religion in favor of the physical sciences. Written before Christianity even existed, Lucretius describes atoms, the movement of mass, the infinite nature of the universe, and the materialistic nature of the soul. Beautiful indeed.
"It was previously pointed out to me that I might be losing some of my readers with the long essays"
I for one find the long mathematical bayesian proselytizing some of your most fascinating posts. I can't wait for the next ones.
What's interesting about "Thingspace" (I sometimes call it "orderspace") is that it flattens out all the different combinations of properties into a mutually exclusive space of points. An observable "thing" in the universe can't be classified in two different points in Thingspace. Yes you can have a range in Thingspace representing your uncertainty about the classification (If you're a mere mortal you always have this error bar) but the piece-of-universe-order you are trying to classify is in ideal terms only one point in the ... (read more)
Well, for example, the fact that two different real represent the same point. 2.00... 1.99... , the fact that they are not computable in a finite amount of time. pi and e are quite representable within a computable number system otherwise we couldn't reliably use pi and e on computers!
Benquo, I see two possible reasons:
1) '2' leads to confusion as to whether we are representing a real or a natural number. That is, whether we are counting discrete items or we are representing a value on a continuum. If we are counting items then '2' is correct.
2) If it is clear that we are representing numbers on a continuum, I could see the number of significant digits used as an indication of the amount of uncertainty in the value. For any real problem there is always uncertainty caused by A) the measuring instrument and B) the representation system it... (read more)
James, I share your feelings of uneasiness about infinite digits, as you said, the problem is not that these numbers will not represent the same points at the limit but that they shouldn't be taken to the limit so readily as this doesn't seem to add anything to mathematics but confusion.
Thanks g for the tip about computable numbers, that's pretty much what I had in mind. I didn't quite get from the wikipedia article if these numbers could or could not replace the reals for all of useful mathematics but it's interesting indeed.
Oh and Stephan, why not have instead something like the Church or Reality an open source reason based religion, or even an atheistic compassion based religion like buddhism? Instead often violent divide and conquer based religions such as the abrahamic religions you mentioned. These religions are very immoral if you ask me.
Stefan Pernar, you are right, christianity is fitter than atheism in an evolutionary kind of way. It's members reproduce, spread, divide and conquer like cancer. That's why they exist. But is that such a good thing? Utility wize cancer's strategy is widely unoptimal imo.
I believe that ideally speaking the best choice is the torture, but pragmatically, I think the dust speck answer can make more sense. Of course it is more intuitive morally, but I would go as far as saying that the utility can be higher for the dust specks situation (and thus our intuition is right). How? the problem is in this sentence: "If neither event is going to happen to you personally," the truth is that in the real world, we can't rely on this statement. Even if it is promised to us or made into a law, this type of statements often won't ... (read more)
But Eliezer, Wikipedia says about the Copenhagen interpretation:
Aage Petersen paraphrasing Niels Bohr: "There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature."here is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature."
Doesn't this imply that Bohr didn't believe in ... (read more)
I see, that's is not how I had understood it. I guess I should just leave this stuff to physicists.
I dunno Nick, your link implies the 'multiple universes' interpretation of quantum theory, and like Jaynes and Einstein, I tend to disagree with this interpretation. But yeah, I'm sure there exists some kind of physical explanation that when written down is more similar to a scientific article than a religious text. We just don't know it yet.
I call myself an atheist. However, I actually think believing in a vague god is based on probabilisticly rational and bayesian kind of thinking, at least for the limited context humans live in.
I say 'vague god' because I believe most people who believe there is a god and have somewhat solid arguments supporting this fact often use fallaciously the wrong level of conceptual abstraction to support their own specific god. The word god is not very well defined and there is quite a large margin around the definition to play with. I find the best arguments, lik... (read more)