What is, and how to find, Truth?
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31-08-2011, 04:54 PM
 
RE: What is, and how to find, Truth?
(31-08-2011 04:38 PM)xander Wrote:  These guys are into some weird bastardization of solipsism. Big Grin

The critical concept in quantum physics is ‘measurement’ – which is just shop-talk for observation. According to many experiments, repeated practically millions of times, subatomic particles behave differently when observed and when unobserved. It is almost as if there was a link between consciousness (observing reality) and reality (being observed).

According to the Copenhagen interpretation (championed by Niels Bohr) of Quantum Physics, unobserved reality is in a flux (undefined) state and does not have a well-defined reality until an observation is made when the probability wave-function collapses into what we actually see and measure (look up Schrodinger’s Cat on Google – it is fun!)

I know it sounds crazy but, based on this crazy science most of our modern technology (including the computer I am writing this on) was built.

Maybe we have our limitations in understanding reality, if it actually exists?

I read a really cool sci-fi story once. A mining town was destroyed by an explosion in the night, yet the next morning people woke up as usual, went to work as usual and lived their lives as usual. They noticed one change: commercials and billboards and all forms of advertising became so ubiquitous that there was no escape from it. At the end of the story they discover that they are nothing but replicas of themselves. A big PR company had bought all the DNA of the dead people, cloned them in miniature form, put them into a miniature replica of their town on a laboratory bench to use as a testing ground for advertising techniques. Imagine their shock when they made it to the edge of the table and looked down!

I can’t help thinking of that story whenever I hear someone being so sure about what the world is and isn’t like.
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31-08-2011, 06:00 PM
RE: What is, and how to find, Truth?
I'm not going to pretend to know much about quantum physics, but I have read enough in the past to have a grasp on the basics of it. I see a major difference between the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the previously stated consciousness-physical reality interdependency. Perhaps it is lack of knowledge on my part or is a semantic difference.
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31-08-2011, 06:58 PM
 
RE: What is, and how to find, Truth?
(31-08-2011 06:00 PM)xander Wrote:  I'm not going to pretend to know much about quantum physics, but I have read enough in the past to have a grasp on the basics of it. I see a major difference between the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the previously stated consciousness-physical reality interdependency. Perhaps it is lack of knowledge on my part or is a semantic difference.

Fair enough. One part of Quantum Physics is the results of the experiments and the mathematical structure built on top of them to help physicists calculate things and do further research. These we have to accept and live with because they work (equally well in electronics and nuclear weapons -- take your pick Undecided). Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle falls in this domain.

The other part is the philosophical interpretations (there are at least a dozen mainstream varieties) which try to answer questions about the nature/existence of reality -- the consciousness/reality connection falls in this domain.

When Richard Feynman (or Paul Dirac?) was bugged too much by his students to explain the meaning of Quantum Physics, he replied (loosely quoted): "it has only one meaning: Shut up and calculate".

Niels Bohr is also famous with his quip: "You never understand quantum physics, you just get used to it."

Sorry to be so brutal about it, but these are the facts as they are known today.

However, this thread is not about quantum physics but about a much more practical meaning of the concept of truth, as I tried to outline it in the OP.
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31-08-2011, 07:49 PM
RE: What is, and how to find, Truth?
(31-08-2011 06:58 PM)Zatamon Wrote:  Sorry to be so brutal about it, but these are the facts as they are known today.

However, this thread is not about quantum physics but about a much more practical meaning of the concept of truth, as I tried to outline it in the OP.

I'm not sure what was "brutal" about that? Cool

And you're right. We aren't going anywhere practical in quantum physics! Wink

(31-08-2011 12:46 PM)Zatamon Wrote:  It also has an aspect worth considering: relativism. It basically states that no one has a ‘by definition’ superior value system or opinion; that my opinion is just as good as someone else’s and my ‘truth’ is just as valid as his.

While I understand the necessity of devaluing arguments based solely on authority, I find that we managed to swing to the opposite extreme (as usual) and tried to completely ‘level the playing field’.

The playing field, in real life, has never been level.

There are more and less intelligent people, more and less educated, experienced, knowledgeable, wise, honest, etc. people in the world. It is still true that some younger people could learn something from some of their elders (or the other way around), some experts still know more about their fields than some laymen.

Convictions are not entirely relative with identical weighing factors. Before I evaluate it, I like to know how a person arrived at his truth, what it is based on, how many factors were considered, how much factual knowledge it incorporated.

After reading this post again, I think I interpreted it wrong the first time. Am I correct that what you are saying is that not all opinions should be weighed with equal credibility. That some people's "truths" are based on more knowledge, experience, etc. It is, therefore, the responsibility of oneself to investigate the credibility of a source before accepting or denying its claims as truth.

Huh
-Tim
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31-08-2011, 07:59 PM
 
RE: What is, and how to find, Truth?
(31-08-2011 07:49 PM)xander Wrote:  I'm not sure what was "brutal" about that? Cool

Brutal for me, because I would LOVE to know the answers and my human brain is not big enough for them! Maybe if there was a god, he/she/it could explain it to me!

Quote: Am I correct that what you are saying is that not all opinions should be weighed with equal credibility. That some people's "truths" are based on more knowledge, experience, etc. It is, therefore, the responsibility of oneself to investigate the credibility of a source.

You are absolutely right. That is exactly what I meant. Smile

Word of caution: even high reputation of an 'expert' is no guarantee of him being right -- Einstein once published a paper documenting the colossal failure of research that had taken him two years, “to save another fool two years should he wander down the same path”.
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31-08-2011, 10:13 PM (This post was last modified: 29-08-2012 06:02 PM by xander.)
RE: What is, and how to find, Truth?
I think maybe my first rant went off a little too philosophical. You can't speak about "objectivity" without going very philosophical. On a more practical ground I would talk about knowledge. There is a vast collection of human knowledge accumulated over the centuries. I would say that, contained within this "knowledge bank," if you will, there are some truths. These truths being of the kind that Zatamon posted in the OP. An example may be: it is true that the earth is round (for simplicities sake, go with it); it is false that the earth is flat. Another example, and this is a(n) (a)theistic forum after all: it is true that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years; it is false that the earth is 6,000 years old. Objectivity aside, these things are facts according to our "knowledge bank." I therefore, do not hold that everyone has their own truths about the world. There are still people in this world that actually, wholeheartedly, believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. I will not stand by as someone says, "Truth is subjective. To them, the world is only 6,000 years old. That's what their experiences have shown them." No. Just as in the case of the apple, one person sees a world that is 4.5 billion years old, another person sees a world that is 6,000 years old, the answer is not that both are true. There is a real truth out there to be had.

That is not to say that we can know the truth about everything. Some things are just unknowable, a priori. Such as nonfalsifiable claims like a deistic god. One cannot prove or disprove the existence of something outside the realm of physical reality. But, staying within the real world, that does not mean that there cannot be things that are true.

-Tim
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01-09-2011, 09:50 AM
 
RE: What is, and how to find, Truth?
Xander, you are absolutely right.

To be more precise: there are two kinds of ‘truth’ – the practical and the Philosophical kind.

The practical kind is based on observation, experiments, logical deductions. Practical is what works (at least as long as it does). Like Newton’s equation: “force equals mass times acceleration, where mass is an unchangeable constant attribute of material bodies”, was a truth for over 200 years until Einstein, by his special theory of relativity, suggested experiments that produced results contradicting Newton. At that point Newton’s ‘truth’ became ‘false’ and required modification.

The philosophical kind of truth is mere speculation. What If? Much of science started out that way. Like Copernicus’s idea of the Heliocentric Solar System (he adopted it from Aristarchus) was a purely Philosophical idea: Copernicus was originally motivated by a desire to improve on the Ptolemic system, because Ptolemy allowed some movement at not quite uniform speed in his scheme and Copernicus found this ‘imperfection’ distasteful.

The examples you listed fall into the “Practical Truth” category. Based on observation, measurement and logic. Stating the age or the shape of the Earth is stating truths that don’t have the same weight (probability of being true) as the claim of the bible-thumpers. The ratio of probabilities is trillions to one in favour of science.

To illustrate how you can NEVER be 100% sure about anything (even if you are justifiably 99.99999999999% sure), I will copy in a delightful account of how Richard Feynman would investigate someone’s claim of being a mind reader (see “The Meaning Of It All). I don’t remember if I have already posted it elsewhere but it is so appropriate here:


"This fellow comes to me, and he says, "I will demonstrate this to you. We will stand at the roulette wheel and I will tell you ahead of time whether it is going to be black or red on every shot."

So from other experience and general knowledge, I have a strong prejudice against mind readers. Million to one.

Now we begin. The mind reader says it's going to be black. It's black. The mind reader says it's going to be red. It's red. Do I believe in mind readers? No. It could happen. The mind reader says it's going to be black. It's black. The mind reader says it's going to be red. It's red. Sweat. I'm about to learn something. This continues, let us suppose, for ten times. Now it's possible by chance that that happened ten times, but the odds are a thousand to one against it. Therefore, I now have to conclude that the odds that a mind reader is really doing it are a thousand to one that he's not a mind reader still, but it was a million to one before.
….
Now suppose that we go to another club, and it works, and another one and it works. I buy dice and it works. I take him home and I build a roulette wheel; it works. What do I conclude? I conclude he is a mind reader.


it is possible to conclude, by a number of tests, that mind reading really exists. If it does, I get extremely excited, because I didn't expect it before. I learned something that I did not know, and as a physicist would love to investigate it as a phenomenon of nature. Does it depend upon how far he is from the ball? What about if you put sheets of glass or paper or other materials in between?

To be prejudiced against mind reading a million to one does not mean that you can never be convinced that a man is a mind reader. The only way that you can never be convinced that a man is a mind reader is one of two things: If you are limited to a finite number of experiments, and he won't let you do any more, or if you are infinitely prejudiced at the beginning that it's absolutely impossible.”
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