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Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 1 by Cartomancer

I really don't want it to seem like all I do on weekends is follow Lawrence Krauss around the internet picking him up on throwaway comments he makes about ancient and medieval history (okay, everything else I do is actually even more inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but never mind). Sadly it looks like I have to do it again.

And so we continue to be surprised. We are like the early mapmakers redrawing the picture of the globe even as new continents were discovered. And just as those mapmakers confronted the realization that the Earth was not flat,

An absolute schoolboy howler I'm afraid. Unless the mapmakers in question are the ones working before about 600BC and the continents in question are Europe, Asia and Africa. The sphericality of the earth was well established by at least the time of Pythagoras, the distance to the sun and moon calculated by Aristarchus of Samos and the earth's circumference calculated by Eratosthenes. No serious scholar since early antiquity ever thought the earth to be anything else but spherical. Indeed, by the time the Americas were being discovered in the fifteenth century Europeans had been using complex portolan charts for centuries, some of which compensated for the curvature of the earth to navigate the seas. The idea that the discovery of the Americas was in any way connected with demonstrating the earth to be a sphere derives ultimately from Washington Irving's 1828 fictionalised biography of Columbus.

Sun, 01 Apr 2012 22:35:17 UTC | #931749

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 2 by TIKI AL

I also wish that Mr Krauss would try to be more historically acurate, it could lead to the misconception that Arizona State University is just an inconsequential party school.

Sun, 01 Apr 2012 23:15:16 UTC | #931767

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 3 by aroundtown

I am very much affected by and appreciate Lawrence for his propositions because they make me think. This article brought me back to a road I traveled once upon a time in my mind. When I was still in the delusion of religion I had this bullshit view that supported the creation theory that went something like this - the world generally is arranged, and so perfectly suited to our needs, like the air that we breath or the food that brings sustenance in a myriad of forms that clearly it had to be that way because of a creator. This list of mine went on and on really to support this crud thinking on my part. My ignorance is self-evident with this admission but hopefully it will help someone else so I don't mind the personal implications in admitting this failed thinking on my part.

It didn't take long to realize that there are just as many things that can take us out like bacteria/disease (can you say black death) and other factors that served to crush this stinking thinking on my part. I can now view the world without it being specific only as to how it relates to mankind and that gives me a far larger world to examine. The advancements that Lawrence suggests in such a short time span are truly impressive and I hope we can just learn to ditch the affliction of religion that crushes an inquiring mind. The world that could exist without the religious anchor that acts like a tether to irrationality would serve us greatly as a species and free our minds to look outside of the box.

Sun, 01 Apr 2012 23:24:54 UTC | #931771

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 4 by AtheistEgbert

In one sense, we are seeing design and purpose, because we are stuck inside our own experiencing heads, looking at a perfect representation of the collisions of events happening from our senses.

No wonder most people intuitively believe that there is order and sense to the world, because our minds create it in the first place.

The truth is, the more we learn about the universe, the more non-intuitive and unfathomable it becomes. Every point in the universe is expanding away from each other point, and therefore there is no center of the universe, and yet we aren't even aware of it, nor can we imagine it.

Sun, 01 Apr 2012 23:31:23 UTC | #931773

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 5 by aroundtown

Thank you AthistEgbert for your observation - The truth is, the more we learn about the universe, the more non-intuitive and unfathomable it becomes. Every point in the universe is expanding away from each other point, and therefore is no center of the universe, and yet we aren't even aware of it, nor can we imagine it..

It would be amazing what we could see if we could get out of the way of ourselves but find a way to utilize the altered perspective. The world is certainly much larger than we can speculate on and we will never be able to grasp it all but hopefully that will never limit our thinking about it all.

I use the following saying occasionally and it come from a corridor that one might not expect, at least it didn't for me but it is the following - "Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens" from Jimi Hendrix. I use it to calm myself sometimes and as a tool to force myself to see a new point of view or proposition. I like to think that I am an old dog that can learn a new trick and I thank Jimi for the nudge to open my mind to listening.

Sun, 01 Apr 2012 23:47:54 UTC | #931778

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 6 by QuestioningKat

All of life is an illusion. Our bodies and the physical realm are but masks that hide our true selves and our true nature - that we are one with God. We live in essentially a holographic world in which objects, people, etc. appear to be solid, but in reality it is not.

Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.

Yes this is our ego tricking us into believing what we have made is real. The only true reality is that which God has created - our higher Consciousness, the divinity within.

...I am painfully aware that our illusions nonetheless reflect a deep human need to assume that the existence of the Earth, of life and of the universe and the laws that govern it require something more profound.

Yes, it is refreshing to hear that science agrees and acknowledges our our human need to make up comforting stories.

from Einstein's realization that measurements of space and time were not absolute but observer-dependent, to quantum mechanics, which not only put fundamental limits on what we can empirically know but also demonstrated that elementary particles and the atoms they form are doing a million seemingly impossible things at once.

Quantum mechanics has shown through the double slit experiment that we can influence the outcome of a situation through our observation. We live in infinite possibilities, but as soon as we zone in our decision all the potential possibilities fall away. Prior to this instance, anything is within the realm of possibilities.

Perhaps most remarkable of all, not only is it now plausible, in a scientific sense, that our universe came from nothing, if we ask what properties a universe created from nothing would have, it appears that these properties resemble precisely the universe we live in.

The Universe was created from Divine Mind to that which our Higher Consciousness is connected.

Namaste

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 01:04:36 UTC | #931790

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 7 by Agrajag

@ #6...
Happy April 1st!
Steve

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 03:15:17 UTC | #931802

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 8 by rjohn19

It would be interesting to hop in the freezer for a couple thousand years and pop out to see how many of today's theories hold up. I'd even voluteer for such a project were it not for the fear I might be the only one around having to ask a cockroach to take me to its leader.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 03:17:29 UTC | #931804

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 9 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 6 by QuestioningKat

All of life is an illusion. Our bodies and the physical realm are but masks that hide our true selves and our true nature - that we are one with God. We live in essentially a holographic world in which objects, people, etc. appear to be solid, but in reality it is not.

I hate to have to shatter such idealism, but there is a serious flaw in the 'true nature' type argument....

If our minds cannot comprehend the 'true nature' of the universe, then the true nature of the universe cannot be mind stuff. Many followers of what is known as subjective idealism fail to grasp that the more they argue that the brain 'makes up' our experience.......the more they are simultaneously arguing that the 'true nature' of the universe is far removed from that experience.

Subjective 'true nature' type idealism ends up disappearing up its own behind.....because it dissociates the universe so much from the mind that it in itself becomes an argument that the 'real' universe is devoid of all such mind stuff......including such concepts as 'purpose'. Thus an argument designed to impart meaning and purpose upon the universe......actually ends up doing the very reverse !

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 03:27:51 UTC | #931807

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 10 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 4 by AtheistEgbert

In one sense, we are seeing design and purpose, because we are stuck inside our own experiencing heads

Those heads are part of the universe and a natural consequence of natural laws. If we've evolved to have illusions, then those illusions too are the end result of natural processes. To me that's the enigma in all this. Our thoughts about the universe are part of the universe....which leaves one with the bizzare conclusion that it's perfectly natural for parts of the universe to evolve to have illusory thoughts about the universe. I find that more than a little strange.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 08:02:56 UTC | #931831

tyga's Avatar Comment 11 by tyga

Humans are grandiose.

We want to find meaning in everything and to make ourselves the center of that meaning.

Humans suffer from malignant egomania.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 09:14:06 UTC | #931840

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 12 by Stafford Gordon

Fascinating.

You couldn't make it up. But if you could, it would be a damn sight more exciting than any woo.

I especially like the bit about facing up to the facts and living dangerously.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 10:08:22 UTC | #931847

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 13 by Alan4discussion

Comment 4 by AtheistEgbert

In one sense, we are seeing design and purpose, because we are stuck inside our own experiencing heads, looking at a perfect representation of the collisions of events happening from our senses.

No wonder most people intuitively believe that there is order and sense to the world, because our minds create it in the first place.

Very much so! There is clearly survival potential for humans who can look at natural (or manufactured) objects, and see useful purposes for them.

When I want to prop something up in my large tree-lined garden, I quite often look for a branch or piece of wood, which HAPPENS to be the right size and shape for the PURPOSE, rather than making one especially.

Likewise when the manufacturer of some expensive device, no longer makes even simple spare-parts for it, I will look in my scrap odds & ends box for a substitute to improvise a repair.

Anyone with practical improvisational skills uses their ability to ATTRIBUTE purpose to objects. (Watch Ray Mears etc. SELECTING natural materials in living off the land as our ancestors did!)

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 10:19:49 UTC | #931850

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 14 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 10 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Those heads are part of the universe and a natural consequence of natural laws. If we've evolved to have illusions, then those illusions too are the end result of natural processes. To me that's the enigma in all this. Our thoughts about the universe are part of the universe....which leaves one with the bizzare conclusion that it's perfectly natural for parts of the universe to evolve to have illusory thoughts about the universe. I find that more than a little strange.

Well, I'm not sure what natural processes are going on in my mind, and so as I sceptic, I have to hold judgment on what is going on. It seems to me, that supernatural explanations are nonsense, and so it's one big mystery to me.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 10:31:52 UTC | #931853

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 15 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 13 by Alan4discussion :

There is clearly survival potential for humans who can look at natural (or manufactured) objects, and see useful purposes for them.

Check out the work of psychologist Bruce Hood in his book Supersense, From Superstition to Religion - the Brain Science of Belief (2009). His thesis, which is not new, is that our intuition can't help but generate superstitious or supernatural explanations, because its part of our evolutionary or survival baggage.

So rationality and naturalistic explanations don't come naturally (ironically).

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 10:44:49 UTC | #931854

hellosnackbar's Avatar Comment 16 by hellosnackbar

I wonder when Laurence Krauss realised what a scientific titan Charles Darwin was and why when thinking about any of life's developements( be they geological or living entities) of his effect on scientific thinking and developement. I recently read that some GOP moron had said it was disgraceful that CD was pictured on a £10 note. It just shows what prejudice, despite empirical evidence ,religiously perverted cretins actually demonstrate. I'm also perplexed as to why the catholic church hasn't canonised him for the benefit his thinking has given the world?

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 11:17:16 UTC | #931858

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 17 by QuestioningKat

Comment 7 by Agrajag :

@ #6... Happy April 1st! Steve

Happy Belated April 1st to you too!

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 11:23:33 UTC | #931861

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 18 by QuestioningKat

I hate to have to shatter such idealism, but there is a serious flaw in the 'true nature' type argument.... If our minds cannot comprehend the 'true nature' of the universe, then the true nature of the universe cannot be mind stuff. Many followers of what is known as subjective idealism fail to grasp that the more they argue that the brain 'makes up' our experience.......the more they are simultaneously arguing that the 'true nature' of the universe is far removed from that experience.

In traditional Christianity, yes this argument falls flat on its face. In New Thought or more New Agey beliefs, the explanation is that you are living in your lower self most of the time, so yes, your argument is correct. But "Mind" is so much more than our physical mind. There really lacks a word for "Mind" but it is a connection with all of the life force, the God nature within. Essentially everything is God. God Consciousness is within every little detail of life. Unfortunately, it is considered that we are so stuck in this illusion that we don't realize this higher potential of Consciousness. The world we see is essential "the wool we have pulled over our eyes." We know that this state exists because from time to time we have had a glimpse of this higher state. Many master teachers before us Christ, Buddha, Krishna, etc. have all reached this higher state, this potential that is also with in us.

It is said that religion poses a problem for which they have an answer. In this case, the problem is that you are living in this world and have forgotten who you are. The key is to remember the divinity within. The key to shatter this view is to recognize that consciousness does not exist outside of the body and is dependent upon the physical.

Anyway to bring this back onto topic, applying meaning and purpose is considered a way that our ego, our physical self, have fooled us into buying into this illusion. We make what we see seem real by attributing meaning, specialness, and stories to it. In essence, this universe is meaningless. the interesting thing is very few if any people actually are able to embrace meaninglessness. Part of my deconversion was to give up the one meaning they embraced - love. To do what is asked, regarding not attributing meaning would either lead people down the road to grandiose behavior or atheism.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 11:52:58 UTC | #931868

tejas_gokhale01's Avatar Comment 19 by tejas_gokhale01

I agree withe whole of the article except

And that possibility need not imply that our own lives are devoid of meaning.

Are we not part of this universe. What makes us different than the rest of universe, so as to give a meaning to our lives?

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 12:46:33 UTC | #931882

solvent's Avatar Comment 20 by solvent

“Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.” ― Alan Wilson Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

What is the Universe doing? It's doing you! PURPOSE is a hell of a concept to get your head around.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 12:46:42 UTC | #931883

Jay G's Avatar Comment 21 by Jay G

I find it more comforting to live in a universe without purpose. If I believed that God directed everything that happens in the entire universe towards some pre-determined final moment in history, then I would cower in fear everyday. I would also be forced to explain to myself the "reason" for everything that happened to me, the good and the bad. If the universe has no purpose, then what happens just happens and that's the end of the story.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 12:57:25 UTC | #931887

tyga's Avatar Comment 22 by tyga

What is the Universe doing? It's doing you! PURPOSE is a hell of a concept to get your head around.

Purpose is a concept. All concepts originate in thought. Thoughts are created by the mind, which is in the head.

In New Thought or more New Agey beliefs, the explanation is that you are living in your lower self most of the time.

Actually new age borrows heavily from old age, from the likes of Buddhism, Zen, Tao and Advaita Vedanta, to name a few.

The lower self is the mind, the thinking mind.

There really lacks a word for "Mind" but it is a connection with all of the life force, the God nature within.

No, there are a few words for that. Consciousness, awareness, presence, stillness, emptiness, etc.

Unfortunately, it is considered that we are so stuck in this illusion that we don't realize this higher potential of Consciousness. The world we see is essential "the wool we have pulled over our eyes." We know that this state exists because from time to time we have had a glimpse of this higher state. Many master teachers before us Christ, Buddha, Krishna, etc. have all reached this higher state, this potential that is also with in us.

There is no illusion, so to speak, there is only perspective. When consciousness is focused entirely on the thinking mind, then consciousness is entirely focused on thoughts. Thoughts are concepts of things, memories and models of things. This focus on thoughts can fill ones consciousness so entirely that the real world, which is not thoughts, not concepts or models, but actual things, like for example, planets and stars and donuts, and not things, like for example, empty space.

There is no "higher state" so to speak, there is only the unintentional obsessive compulsive thinking which clouds the consciousness and clouds the experience. There is nothing wrong with thinking and nothing at all wrong with thoughts, it's just that obsessive thinking and obsessive thoughts leave no room for emptiness, which contributes as much as 99% of the universe.

Being in alignment with the universe then, or at one with all that is, we ought then be at least 1% thought and 99% silent.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 14:19:28 UTC | #931911

Viveca's Avatar Comment 23 by Viveca

Comment 1 by Cartomancer :

[Krauss] And so we continue to be surprised. We are like the early mapmakers redrawing the picture of the globe even as new continents were discovered. And just as those mapmakers confronted the realization that the Earth was not flat,

An absolute schoolboy howler I'm afraid. Unless the mapmakers in question are the ones working before about 600BC and the continents in question are Europe, Asia and Africa. The sphericality of the earth was well established by at least the time of Pythagoras, the distance to the sun and moon calculated by Aristarchus of Samos and the earth's circumference calculated by Eratosthenes. No serious scholar since early antiquity ever thought the earth to be anything else but spherical.

I'd like "serious scholar" defined. One can be a "serious scholar" and still be wrong! Are you saying that there were no scholars in the West post-600 bc who didn't accept that "the sphericality of the earth was well established"? I find that incredibly hard to believe, and if there were serious scholars who thought otherwise, then Krauss's point stands.

The question is simple: did all or most mapmakers, post 600bc, realise that the earth was spherical? If they did, your intervention is justified. If they didn't, it isn't.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 14:24:34 UTC | #931912

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 24 by Alan4discussion

Comment 23 by Viveca

I'd like "serious scholar" defined.

You could include quite a few astronomers, map-makers, sea-captains and mathematicians. (The name "scientist", was not used until comparatively recently.

"the sphericality of the earth was well established"?

Care should be taken not to confuse geo-centrism with flat-Earthism. Having said that, the ignorant have always been with us!

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 14:37:51 UTC | #931915

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 25 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 14 by AtheistEgbert

Well, I'm not sure what natural processes are going on in my mind, and so as I sceptic, I have to hold judgment on what is going on. It seems to me, that supernatural explanations are nonsense, and so it's one big mystery to me.

These sort of issues come up against a fundamental logical issue.......which is the question : What would one expect the universe to look like if it did have a purpose ?

To my mind....the conclusion may well be correct, but there's erroneous logic used to get there. We're in 'all ravens are black' territory.

It is a similar issue to the manner in which some argue that the laws of nature mean there is no God. But then, surely one would equally conclude that a universe with no laws at all could not be presided over by any self-respecting God. The trouble is that we have no idea what a universe presided over by a God would actually look like.

A nano-scale scientist in our own brains would likely conclude......correctly.....that there was nothing going on but the laws of physics. Why, then, would he ever conclude that what was going on contained intelligence, purpose, meaning, etc ? After all.....even when those things do exist they are themselves indistinguishable from nature on the molecular scale. And isn't that precisely our own position in relation to the universe ?

The conclusion that the universe has no purpose is more an intuitive one based on 'common sense'. I don't think ( for the reasons given above ) that it is something one can derive purely from logic.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 14:43:47 UTC | #931916

halfspin's Avatar Comment 26 by halfspin

I don't think purpose exists anymore than a first cause does. If "god" was the first cause and gives us a purpose...lets say to spend forever with him (why is he a he?) in heaven. What's the purpose of heaven? A place to hang out in eternal bliss while feeding god our perpetual gratefulness? After 100 trillion centuries or so one might be forced to ask themselves for what purpose? There's no end game that could make sense without an end. Living forever = no end (how does living forever not sound torturous to the religious?). Purpose comes from a closed system that will end from entropy. I've never met a religious person who can give me an endgame purpose for a first cause creator.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:19:32 UTC | #931927

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 27 by Alan4discussion

Comment 25 by Schrodinger's Cat

These sort of issues come up against a fundamental logical issue.......which is the question : What would one expect the universe to look like if it did have a purpose ?

I think we can be near certain, that if there was any purpose related to humans, most of the Universe would not be so far away it cannot even be detected!

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:41:01 UTC | #931933

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 28 by Cartomancer

I'd like "serious scholar" defined. One can be a "serious scholar" and still be wrong! Are you saying that there were no scholars in the West post-600 bc who didn't accept that "the sphericality of the earth was well established"? I find that incredibly hard to believe, and if there were serious scholars who thought otherwise, then Krauss's point stands.

The question is simple: did all or most mapmakers, post 600bc, realise that the earth was spherical? If they did, your intervention is justified. If they didn't, it isn't.

Yes, they did. I can't say that there weren't a few cranks out there who argued that the earth was flat (there almost certainly were, as there definitely are today) but the vast, vast majority of writings that come down to us from c.600BC onward and touch on the subject show no doubt at all as to the earth being a sphere. The orbits of the sun, moon and celestial firmament and the fact that things disappear over the horizon if you go far enough are the usual evidence cited when the point needed to be demonstrated. By "serious scholars" I mean anyone taken at all seriously by their peers and posterity. Certainly anyone whose works were considered worth copying out and disseminating.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:41:29 UTC | #931934

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 29 by Zeuglodon

Comment 26 by halfspin

I don't think purpose exists anymore than a first cause does. If "god" was the first cause and gives us a purpose...lets say to spend forever with him (why is he a he?) in heaven. What's the purpose of heaven? A place to hang out in eternal bliss while feeding god our perpetual gratefulness? After 100 trillion centuries or so one might be forced to ask themselves for what purpose? There's no end game that could make sense without an end.

Good point. This is another double standard. People who will grill an atheist's moral philosophy endlessly with the question "Why is that good?" mysteriously give religious alternatives a free pass. After all, why would it be good to do what the world creator wants? Why would I want to go to heaven? If they say it's obvious why, well is helping people lead a good life not obvious in the same way? If they say no, then they can't avoid the heaven question. As Dawkins keeps saying, they cannot have it both ways.

Plus, of course, there's evidence that people exist and can enjoy living. We don't even have to make the unproveable claim that it lasts for eternity to support it.

Comment 27 by Alan4discussion

Comment 25 by Schrodinger's Cat

These sort of issues come up against a fundamental logical issue.......which is the question : What would one expect the universe to look like if it did have a purpose ?

I think we can be near certain, that if there was any purpose related to humans, most of the Universe would not be so far away it cannot even be detected!

The question of purpose always bothers me because I think it's drifted into a field of enquiry where it doesn't belong. If a hammer has purpose, then that purpose is for someone. Purpose doesn't sit around like an invisible mist waiting to smother something. If a hammer's purpose is to hammer nails, then that means that I want to hammer nails and I give the hammer a purpose by picking it up and using it.

Comment 28 by Cartomancer

I remember reading the Greek philosophers' proofs in Carl Sagan's Cosmos, with the shadows and sticks at midday, and the Earth's shadow on the moon. If only Aristarchus' point about heliocentrism had been heeded as well. It could have saved a lot of bother.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 18:11:05 UTC | #931956

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 30 by Alan4discussion

Comment 29 by Zeuglodon

If a hammer's purpose is to hammer nails, then that means that I want to hammer nails and I give the hammer a purpose by picking it up and using it.

Quite! If my hammer breaks and I finish knocking in the nail with a rock, I have given the rock a purpose - but it did not have one in the first place! - as in my earlier comment 13. Purpose is a property of people, applied to objects and materials. That is why it is ludicrous to attribute "purpose", to distant parts of the Universe!

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 18:24:27 UTC | #931962