Comment Archives: stories: Life + Outdoors: Field Notes

Re: “Ötzi the Iceman

Nothing quite as frightening as being totally determined by fate.…

Posted by Robert Lockett on 08/10/2017 at 7:16 AM

Re: “Shots, Shots, Shots

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Posted by Brenda Juliet on 08/02/2017 at 12:52 PM

Re: “Westworld vs. Realworld

Such a great topic. My mind is still -freely- following the trail of bread crumbs logic leaves those of us not burdened with the weight of trying to manufacture reality. discovery is where the magic is, not invention. The discovered things are always more complex than our imagination.

There is ONE way that we can produce sentient life. But I do not mean artificial intelligence. We have already invented computers and no matter how sophisticated they have become, their intelligence remains TRULY artificial.

If we want to produce conscious living entities, we need only procreate. But in the surest sense it is not US doing so. We do not even understand our OWN consciousness let alone how we pass it on to our children. We only know that in some way it is built in.

Of course there is that problem of the carbon footprint. So before we get all excited about the possibility of AI, we should make up our minds if we WANT to produce sentient conscious beings, or not.

Posted by Robert Lockett on 07/31/2017 at 9:49 PM

Re: “Westworld vs. Realworld

Barry writes: "...the accelerating quest for artificial intelligence has given the controversy new meaning and bite.

As we rapidly approach the era when the likes of Hal of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lieutenant Commander Data of Star Trek: the Next Generation become actual possibilities"

I am continually amazed how eager people are to BELIEVE in artificial intelligence. But hold on just a moment. You ARE a scientist aren't you (an engineer at least)? How do we build something that we do not understand?

Before we can program artificial intelligence we will have to know what it is. The only alternative is to BELIEVE (and many do) that consciousness is some kind of cosmic accident that simply emerges when enough complexity is reached. As you said yourself once, "Life just happens. It can't help it!"

So the BELIEF (the religion) that when the right critical mass of complexity is reached via an evolutionary process, life, and even more to the point- consciousness will emerge when the conditions are right, is an absolute? Obviously not.

If free thought (consciousness) is another way of describing free will, then how do we program that? Christopher raised this question and it is superb. How does one IMPOSE freedom by command prompt?

I do not understand consciousness any better than anyone else. But once again, Genesis reveals its depth and 'non-primitive' insight into these questions, leaving it just outside our desperate grasp. To say that God created man in his image is not an insignificant concept. He did not program consciousness. He breathed it into us.

Good luck with the fantasy and religion that we can do that. We are very clever, but we are not gods. And our determination to rebel against that limitation is very telling. At the very least our WISH for it shows that even materialists are reaching for something supernatural, they just don't realize it. Perhaps they don't know that we don't have to figure it out or TAKE it. We can simply RECEIVE.

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Posted by Robert Lockett on 07/29/2017 at 8:41 AM

Re: “Westworld vs. Realworld

This is why I appreciate the ability to edit posts in other formats. I would like to develop a couple of ideas in my first comment above. I will do so here...

Barry writes: "And in a sense the free will vs. determinism debate is a lost cause, an apples and oranges argument. My free will whatever rational analysis tells me is a feeling..."

I think it quite the opposite. Our 'feelings', our desires, are based in our bias, fears, or ambitions. That motive and will of ours looks desperately for ways to be free of, and NOT accountable to logic. It wants to have its way, often in SPITE of reason. Those DESIRES are based in determinism. They are our 'natural bent' toward whatever that happens to be in each individual. They are thoroughly subjective. They are the EASY program to follow. We need not think about it at all, it just follows naturally and seems intuitive to us. "If it feels good do it."

Free will is really just consciousness, the ability to logically reason and think [freely] outside of the box of emotion that materialism leaves us trapped in. With logic/consciousness we are able to observe ourselves from a truly objective point of view.

There is no logically coherent way to deny this or state the opposite because to attempt a logical argument to DENY logic, is to AFFIRM logic. It will always result in fatal and systemic contradiction. Our only alternative is to declare subjectively and ILLOGICALLY that we are not free, which defeats the purpose. What good is a truth claim that is subjective by definition? But it is interesting (isn't it?) how desperate we can be to AVOID what logic would tell us if we allowed it a fair hearing.

We instead play all these word games with logic as if logic and words were separable. We strangle ourselves into intellectual nothingness in the process, all because our subjective biases ARE so thoroughly determined by genetics. We assure ourselves we can't help it. But logic, by its very nature, says we CAN escape the determinism of nature via consistent logical reasoning.

Furthermore, you mentioned 'process'. Logical reasoning is not simply mechanical but moral. It is not just an abstract 'process' because honesty is an integral component. This is where we find out just how depraved we actually are, for we will often LIE by denying that we know these things or that we CAN know them by trying to explain away logic as being determined as well. It is more than absurd. It will lead to insanity if we continue the charade for too long.

Barry continues: "...Determinism, on the other hand, is a process. Meaning I'll blithely carry on in this life acting as if I'm free, even while logic assures me I'm essentially an 86-billion neuron machine and a prisoner of my genes."

I find that very confused. Nature boy and Christopher used to call that a 'word salad' over at LoCo.

I think you are half right. Determinism IS a process, indeed. It is the chemical and mechanical part that drives the emotions that our free logical faculties must keep in proper alignment with reason. Our emotions and desires are only legitimate when they are in consistent alignment WITH logic and kept in proper check. Logic tells us we should rule OVER our nature, not be its slave. But as God said to Cain, "... It desires to have you, but you must master it." If we can't, then we may need the programmers help. He already knows that, but wants to see if we will admit it. I finally did.

Our emotions and desires are NOT something we are to eliminate. They have a proper function and great value so that we do not just see logically and intellectually that a thing is right or wrong, but actually FEEL it too. In fact, the freedom of logical objectivity and a realignment of the will produces a comprehensive emotional response that is not a 'high' per se, but a sustainable joy, a peace that puts to rest much of the deterministic desperation that we experience when our emotions are NOT in proper alignment with logic. But there is no overnight success in that regard. It is a genuine and 'almost' impossible battle. And in any case, it isn't LOGIC assuring you that we are neuron machines, but the philosophy of materialism. The philosophy that is ITSELF logically invalidated by its own prison. Logic says and advises otherwise.

Materialism is not entirely wrong. There IS a mechanical part of the equation, but to attempt to make it the whole story is an absurdity. We DO have mechanical bodies. And those bodies have a mind of their own. But materialism goes much further. Its says, "We ARE bodies" and defeats itself in contradiction by reaching to make an objective truth claim.

Those are my thoughts on the subject. I won't call it my opinion because logic led me there in SPITE of my opinions. I hope it is helpful. But I am open to challenge because I understand the resistance and difficulty. I can't tell you how much I myself did NOT want this to be true at one time. I desperately sought an easier way. You might say that I was 'determined', and it was a grueling and gut wrenching conversion for me to confess and let go.

Once I admitted all that to myself (even long before I could articulate it) and recognized logic for WHO he IS, all the weight of maintaining the illusions left me. But to be very blunt, getting there sucked very badly. It feels like its going to crush us, so its easy to run. But as Gandalf said to Saruman, "It didn't kill me. It won't kill him."

Being born is quite uncomfortable. We are squeezed painfully from a once comfortable existence where we are fed automatically into a strange and terrifying world of want. But what would happen if we tried to stay in the womb?

We don't have to know everything. But we do have to cooperate with reality. Fighting it is futile and insane. This song captures it rather well as I watched all my determined fantasies collapse under the weight of logic's innocent but roaring voice. I shared it with Christopher too. Not sure if he understood why. I always assume people will understand more than they do. Certainly more than they WANT to.…

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Posted by Robert Lockett on 07/28/2017 at 5:42 PM

Re: “Westworld vs. Realworld

I was intending to add this video to my first reply because you made at least two truth claims in your article. Its just the last minute or two and will start there...

Posted by Robert Lockett on 07/27/2017 at 10:35 PM

Re: “Westworld vs. Realworld

First things first, fantastic article, great questions. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to put it out there.

The fact that a subject has been debated since forever does not mean that has not been reconciled. It only means that it is a universal problem that most thinking persons will wrestle with at some point if they really struggle with questions of meaning and purpose. If they are not familiar with what others have concluded on the matter, then naturally they will keep on debating something that others may recognize as settled.

Barry writes: "If our innate belief that we have free will, that we're captains of our ships, that our decisions have real meaning if all that was successfully challenged? That is, what happens when we adopt the materialist position that we're mere bundles of atoms assembled following the dictates of nearly four billion years of evolution "using only one tool: the mistake," to quote Westworld's fearsome leader, played to the hilt by Anthony Hopkins. If atoms don't have free will (they don't, right?), then assemblages of them don't, not even a body's worth of 7 x 10^27 of them. So goes the materialist argument."

So far as I know (and I have studied the subject pretty thoroughly), no one has 'successfully challenged' our innate belief that we have free will. For one, it is far more than a mere belief, it is a rational and logically consistent belief. That may not prove it (which I will address shortly), but it demonstrates that it is at least rational in that it is not a logical contradiction.

The materialist position contains a fatal logical flaw as was well articulated by C.S. Lewis. I touched on this in a reply at LoCo with regard to consciousness.

"All possible knowledge, then, depends on the validity of reasoning. If the feeling of certainty which we express by words like must be and therefore and since is a real perception of how things outside our minds really must be, well and good. But if this certainty is merely a feeling in our own minds and not a genuine insight into realities beyond themif it merely represents the way our minds happen to workthen we can have no knowledge. Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.

It follows that no account of the universe can be true unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have to be reaching by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolishedIt would be an argument which proved that no arguments was sounda proof that there are no such things as proofswhich is nonsense.

Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true, and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. (Possible Worlds, p. 209.)"

But whether belief in free will is logical or not, there is another answer to your question, "What happens when we adopt the materialist position that we're mere bundles of atoms assembled following the dictates of nearly four billion years of evolution...?"

Here is a quote from a man who found out at least ONE thing that can happen:

If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone.

I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment; or as the Nazi liked to say, of Blood and Soil. I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers. Viktor E. Frankl

Barry writes: "And, of course, any case you can make for free will is countered irredeemably by the simple response: "How do you know?"

It is actually quite the other way around as articulated by C.S. Lewis as per Haldane. How can you know that 'we're mere bundles of atoms assembled following the dictates of nearly four billion years of evolution,' if our brains are simply composed of atoms? How do you get outside the box to claim an objective truth when you are determined BY the box?

At the very least the question of 'knowing' in the sense of having been proven emphatically does not appear on either side of the ledger. We cannot 'know' in that ultimate sense either way. We are forced to rely on which of the two makes the most logical sense. Forced that is, if our ultimate plumb line is logic and not our own biases, fears, or ambitions.

Barry writes: "And in a sense the free will vs. determinism debate is a lost cause, an apples and oranges argument. My free will whatever rational analysis tells me is a feeling..."

I think it quite the opposite. Our 'feelings' are driven by bias, fear, or ambitions that look desperately for ways to NOT be free or accountable. Free will is really just consciousness, and the ability to logically reason and think [freely] outside of the box of emotion that materialism leaves us trapped in.

Barry continues: "...Determinism, on the other hand, is a process. Meaning I'll blithely carry on in this life acting as if I'm free, even while logic assures me I'm essentially an 86-billion neuron machine and a prisoner of my genes."

I find that very confused. Determinism IS indeed a process. It is the chemical and mechanical part that drives the emotions that our free logical faculties must keep in proper alignment with reason. And in any case, it isn't LOGIC assuring you that we a neuron machine, but the philosophy of materialism that is itself logically invalidated by its own prison. Logic says otherwise.

Back to this notion of proof: "How do you know?"

I can't help but notice that that is the essence of what the serpent asked in Eden, "Has God really said...?" But simply put, we don't. To fall for the trick that the proof is in the empirical pudding, the fruit that can be seen, touched, tasted, and smelled is to first BELIEVE that there is proof BEFORE the proof is made. It leaves us chasing a perpetual promise of that ultimate knowledge or as the serpent said, "... you shall be as God".

Barry writes: "As we rapidly approach the era when the likes of Hal of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lieutenant Commander Data of Star Trek: the Next Generation become actual possibilities (not to mention Westworld's Maeve and Dolores), we're going to be forced to confront our own intuitions on what it means to be alive."

Tell me another one Evans. The proof is always JUST around the corner, and then we will 'KNOW' right? We won't have to live by faith in Logos anymore. Barry, you have to believe that by FAITH before you can chase that fruit mirage. I am surprised you haven't figured that out yet being the skeptic you are. You should put that skepticism to use on your own beliefs too you know?

As I said elsewhere, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. We all life by faith and we must believe that logic is valid because it is the only tool we have to make 'sense' of things. It is the tool we use to demonstrate that an argument is rational and coherent (without contradiction), as well as the tool we use to recognize mistakes (contradictions). We use it consistently in mathematics. Why do we fudge in our philosophy? Could it be we really DO want to be our own gods? And if so, maybe God was wise to remove immortality and subject us to a time constraint until we come to our senses. But then again we have to do that individually. You are a free man. Its your choice to make.

If logic is NOT valid. All bets are off, we slide back down the materialistic slide into holocaust because none of that matters if we are just a bunch of atoms anyway. Crushing people becomes no different that crushing rocks.

The reason you live as if you are free in spite of holding a materialistic philosophy is because you are willing to live with contradiction. Either that, or you did not recognize the contradiction. But I get the impression you WANT materialism to be true. If that is correct, then it is your bias, fear, or ambitions driving you. I highly advise all persons to make logos, at bottom, their only plumb line. To do that means we sometimes have to throw ourselves under the bus in the process and let go of some things we thought important. We may have to subject ourselves to humility also and admit we've been a very very bad boy. What sits at the center of our will, as our God matters. God did not command us to worship him alone because he is insecure. Quite the contrary.

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Posted by Robert Lockett on 07/27/2017 at 6:12 PM

Re: “Tabby's Star

I'm predicting at least three planets will be found orbiting KIC 8462. One slightly larger than Earth, one about the same size as Uranus and one about 3 times the size of Jupiter.

Posted by Dwight Huth on 07/18/2017 at 11:12 AM

Re: “Tabby's Star

Thanks Keith. I don't not share the belief that our future is uncharted. The hard cold facts tell me that our future is death, the heat death of the universe if nothing else. The only solution would be to get outside of the constraints of this universe. Constraints such as time.

That raises an interesting logical parallel, though as a theist it is an easy line of reasoning for me to follow. The simple logic does not offend me. That does not seem the case with many others. They seem hell bent (if you'll pardon the expression) on finding some other way. But logic is our only light according to the apostle John. Wish more people grasped that shocking fact.

I don't think it mundane that you speak of survival. And I don't think you have in your mind the picture of surviving for a millennia or two. I suspect that without realizing it, you picture a perpetual survival albeit punctuated by great threats of our ultimate end along the way. We are concerned that our own infantile understanding might kill us. Playing God is like that, dangerous.

If that is so, you are REALLY talking about eternal life. What an odd desire given the facts of nature as revealed objectively BY nature. Nature seems to indicate we must look elsewhere for such hope. And she does so with the cold facts of the empirical application of the laws of logic that we call science. It is an odd desire indeed unless it is one of the byproducts of our having been created in God's image or something along such lines. The same logic that makes science possible does not refute such hope. We take such desires for granted but rarely stop to allow the same logic we do science with to guide our questions about those desires. We don't even ASK such questions.

IF God is there (not in the primitive Greek or Babylonian sense of another creature INSIDE this universe mistaken for forces or celestial bodies OF nature, but the monotheistic sense of an uncreated God OUTSIDE this universe along the lines of eternal multiverse theory), then he transcends time as an ETERNAL being. He can see the future the same as the past. And in that case our future is not uncharted.

I am not saying we are determined because God knows what we will do BEFORE we do it. I mean the sense that C.S. Lewis considered and articulated, that there IS no before or after for God because he is not limited to spacetime as we are. He simply sees us making our free choices outside of the time line.

Oh the places logic can take us, beyond where it can take us in the empirical realm alone. So long as our metaphysics is consistent with the objective empirical evidence I think our faith is quite reasonable and explains oddities in our psyche like longings for civility, justice, and survival. Nature's testimony alone on these oddities is hopeless as I examine the situation.

I think we are looking for far more than survival, but company. We are looking for life. But what if contact has already been made? I fear we may have missed the obvious and dismissed as primitive, that which was far more sophisticated than we ever imagined or manufactured in our own infant minds.

1 John 1:2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

Posted by Robert Lockett on 07/08/2017 at 11:10 PM

Re: “Tabby's Star

Robert Lockett asked, "What's in it for humanity?"

We journey into an uncharted future. Technological singularity, AI, nanotechnology and the like. It would be nice to know if we can survive these changes. An example of high-tech ET life around a remote star would indicate the future is survivable. So far, we don't know.

Of course, we could be the first in our corner of the universe (light cone) in which case we travel into the future with no guidance.

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Posted by Keith Henson on 07/08/2017 at 7:46 AM

Re: “Tabby's Star

Why do you wish to find extraterrestrial life? What's in it for humanity?

Posted by Robert Lockett on 07/07/2017 at 6:59 PM

Re: “'Nuclear Batteries'

A terrorist attack on an above-ground conventional nuclear power station seems a lot more feasible than causing a release of radioactivity from a deeply-buried, comparatively small (9-foot diameter) SMR. One reason of many why I'd like to see this technology pursued.

Posted by barryevans on 07/06/2017 at 10:35 AM

Re: “It's About Time

Thanks for the correct (1922) attribution, wmngreer! (It's usually given to Einstein, John Wheeler, Woody Allen...)

Posted by barryevans on 07/01/2017 at 7:40 AM

Re: “Tabby's Star

Yeah, the energy has to go somewhere...maybe that 22% is only hard to imagine for a generation that's barely got off its home planet?

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Posted by barryevans on 06/30/2017 at 4:32 AM

Re: “Tabby's Star

Something is blocking considerable light from Tabby's star. By the Second Law of Thermodynamics, it's got to radiate, but at first look, it does not. At least it is 60 deg K or colder.

There are two ways this could happen, the light blocking stuff is way out from the star where the re-radiation temperature is low, or the radiation is being directed away from our line of sight. There are power satellite designs that radiate waste heat directionally away from the local ecliptic, but one 22 % of the area of the photosphere of Tabby's star is hard to imagine.

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Posted by Keith Henson on 06/29/2017 at 6:55 PM

Re: “It's About Time

"Time is what keeps everything from happening at once." Ray Cummings

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Posted by wmngreer on 06/26/2017 at 6:20 PM

Re: “It's Nothing. Really.

Nothingness is beyond human comprehension or conceptualization. This perhaps speaks more to human limitation than to the nature of Reality.

Posted by wmngreer on 06/26/2017 at 6:05 PM

Re: “Shots, Shots, Shots

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Posted by Tobi Wa Olu on 06/23/2017 at 1:37 PM

Re: “'Nuclear Batteries'

Our ultimate energy source is nuclear power from the sun, and the huge exponent in Einstein's elegant equation provides all the guidance humans need to deliver clean air and water, sustainable communities and prosperity, for billions, forever:…,….

Fortunately, the EPA Clean Power Plan clearly supports an all of the above energy strategy.

Unfortunately, the Renewables/Fossil Fuels Industries continue to oppose this strategy, while billions live in poverty and tens of millions die each year from energy poverty and air pollution:…,…,….

It is past time for all states and nations to identify a clear path towards global energy production and prosperity, which is consistent with all Climate Change Targets and Emission Mandates:….

We either start making decisions based on scientific consensus, or continue to rely on some other metric, which will insure smarter species evolve to replace humans:….

Posted by Kirk Gothier1 on 06/18/2017 at 11:54 AM

Re: “'Nuclear Batteries'

Presumably, the reason for an SMR is to significantly lower the cost of building the plant. So then they string 12 of them together. Would be more cost effective for the consumer to build a right sized, much more efficient conventional reactor.
There simply no question that SMRs are financially grossly non-competitive, hence the lining-up at the Federal "pig-trough" for massive subsidies.
If the folks in the Pacific Northwest are so enamored by the technology, then use your own money to build the plant.

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by Keller on 06/15/2017 at 6:15 PM

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