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Reality from a physicist's perspective approached through causality.


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Posted (edited)

Introduction :

Quickly, I'd like to confess something to you.

I've asked this very question already, on different forums. I'm happy to provide the links to them actually, in case any bored person feels like reading through pages and pages of forum talk, or wishes to read the question in its original format.

I've received lots and lots of answers, but none of these "discussions" has ever reached a conclusion. Many people don't understand, even more people think they do but obviously don't (I know how that sounds... I'm happy to accept this may be because of the way I ask and present the question) and even more people understand, provide a reply, yet in the form of a statement which I can only agree with or not, without being able to discuss the topic further. There are some people who seem to understand, provide thoughtful responses with arguments and engage in discussions, but for unknown reasons stop posting after a while before the matter is settled.

There are lots of ways to approach this question, and it seems that one of the flaws in the way I chose to do it was in not being clear, as in, absolutely crystal clear.

The question in the form I originally came up with is available at those links which you don't have to read either, because I will try rephrasing it in a simple way that hopefully doesn't cause too much confusion.

But first, the links to passed discussions :

http://www.sciencech...hp?f=67&t=21013

http://dissidentphil...-scientifically

http://www.skepticfo...hp?f=18&t=17655

http://forums.randi....ad.php?t=229555

You might think I am obsessed with this question, which I think I might be to an extent, simply because I don't think it should be so difficult to reach a definitive conclusion on it, yet I feel it is very important.

Definitions with regards to the context I am asking the question in (the framework) :

1. Physical is meant in physicist terms. It does not mean "material" or "has mass". It means "has one or more properties of the 4 forces that are the cause of all events in the universe" (which in theory should be measurable).

I got those 4 forces from Wikipedia here : http://en.wikipedia....i/Cause#Physics

Physicists conclude that certain elemental forces (gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and electromagnetism) are the four fundamental forces that cause all other events in the universe.

2. Existence and "to exist" encompasses both

a) anything that exists subjectively (such as Santa Claus in your imagination) or that exists objectively that we may be aware of

B) anything that exists objectively irrespective of whether you are aware of it

which means that it may or may not (I don't know) necessarily be composed in one way or another by the properties of those "4 elemental forces".

3. Causality is intended to mean the link between the existence of an entity and any event that may be influenced by its existence in one way or another.

(which is different from the physicist's usage of that word which is strictly defined and contained by those 4 forces, since the assumption in Physics is that they are "the cause of all events").

4. Information / data / idea / meaning / language is defined not according to its form, or expression, or support in which it is stored, but as the actual message that is "understood" once that information or data or idea or meaning is interpreted.

This (in my view) covers anything that goes through our senses (smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing) because those senses's function are by definition to provide information from objective reality to the subject which is then interpreted. (some may argue that the information is actually interpreted before it reaches the subject, regardless, as long as there is information on one side, interpretation in between which provides the subject with the message)

Therefore, anything with any kind of awareness or sensor, receptor, interpretative or reading capacity applies that capacity when processing the information etc. (which means it is not limited to living things let alone conscious living things).

Question :

Assumption : Information / data / meaning / ideas and the messages that they contain exists

The reason for this assumption is that information, data, and/or the meaning of what is communicated can be expressed, read, and understood. I can not conceptualise being able to read, interpret or understand something which does not exist, so I'm assuming that it does.

Is it physical?

a) If so, is there any kind of causality between it and anything else that is physical? (and how does that work?)

B) If not, is there any kind of causality between it and anything else (physical or not)

Seeing as I've discussed this quite a few times, I've started to develop my own conclusions, but do not wish to flood you in my first post if you know what I mean.

Yet :

EDIT (this is what has emerged from personal thought and online discussions : If it is not physical yet has a causality, how is that possible to explain according to "physics"? (because that contradicts the postulation that "those 4 elemental forces are the cause of all events in the universe").

I think I should be able to demonstrate that "messages" contained within information / ideas and so on do have a causality, ie, they are the cause of an effect.

Disclaimer : I do not have a degree in Physics, or any other science for that matter (unless you consider business to be a science ;) ) I do not have any particular qualifications in any scientific related fields, except maybe general knowledge and of course, what we learn at school. It was argued in another forum that this was good reason enough to not discuss this question with me. Einstein apparently said that "you don't understand something until you can explain it to your grandmother". I'm hoping someone "understands" :)
Edited by Inzababa

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Posted (edited)

How do you define "event"? It seems that the causality described by physicists "(gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and electromagnetism)" are forces that describe cosmic events (like supernovae, orbits, etc) on a macro scale or a nano-scale(interaction of sub-atomic particles), rather than this relatively micro-scale of you perceiving Socrates' ideas.

Let me put it this way, if I push you and you move which of the four do you attribute to my action? Under your presented definition is there causality?

Maybe I misread something and gave a misinformed answer, and please indicate that if I did.

Oh and a reductionist way out of this is that the strong nuclear force is the cause of atoms being bound together, and those atoms bound together make up mass, mass makes up life, and life (socrates) wrote down stuff that other life (you) read that day.

___

Also, I would say that biological processes that result from you reading the information encoded on the book are in fact causality. The reading of his words fires neurons in your brain and the neurochemical reaction alters the information stored in your cerebrum. This information at an appropriate moment would then cause more synapses to fire and then it would cause your mouth to operate along with your vocal chords and you would then explain to me that Socrates was all like "I know that I know nothing!"

That could be rife with false information^ as I am not a neuroscientist/chemist, but from my understanding it is generally correct.

Edited by Meursault

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Posted

You're right, I did not define "event". (hard to cover everything, easy to dis regard what seems obvious, yet I suspect it is often in the smallest cracks that the source of mis understanding and wrong conclusions make their way into an argument or train of thought).

my definition (as in, not how it is defined by everyone, or scientists, but as in, how I think it should be defined within this context and discussion (which means that I'm more than happy to rework this (and other) definition) of event is three things :

a. Creation : something (or a system of things) that becomes existent which did not exist before the cause.

This could apply to the state of an object, or the actual existence of an entity (or more).

Examples (context related) :

State : "your brain", "a computer" "a particle" or even "an electronics system" may "reach" a new state of existence yet remain identical to the definition of what it "is". So a tired brain is still a brain, an active computer is still a computer, an "excited" particle is still a particle, and an electronic system that is processing fast or slow is still an electronic system and so on.

Actual existence of an entity : a chair does not exist before it is built. The components of that chair may exist (atoms etc) yet once the wood worker has finished carving it, then it is a chair. A chair which did not exist previously.

b. Movement : something (or a system of things) that moves which was not moving in this way before the cause.

Example : the event caused by a tennis racket is the movement of the tennis ball (that event is composed of transformation of energy, changes in mass, velocity, sound waves and heat which "in physics" explain the causality between it (the effect) and the cause of the event.

c. a modification in the chain of events is an event in itself

Example :

A tennis ball which is moving in the air on a windy day

the racket hitting the ball is the cause of the chain of events (ball moves in a specific direction, which may hit a window and break it)

yet the wind will modify that chain of events (effectively, you could conceptualise it as being identical to the racket, since it is the cause of a new event (a new movement)) by slowing down the ball or making it go off course.

I'm aware (as specified in the parenthesis) that it could correctly be argued that the wind is a cause of an event.

My point is it is (like all things that are interdependent) simultaneously the cause of an event and the source / cause of a modification of a chain of events. The reason I am pointing it out and believe it to not be redundant is that there may be instances in which one or the other may be unclear. So this part of the definition is intended to integrate cases in which, for example, we are unable to determine the cause of an event yet are able to observe a modification in the chain of events (or vice versa).

It seems that the causality described by physicists "(gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and electromagnetism)" are forces that describe cosmic events (like supernovae, orbits, etc) on a macro scale or a nano-scale(interaction of sub-atomic particles), rather than this relatively micro-scale of you perceiving Socrates' ideas.

Here though, I think you are asking "what is the definition of event in physics".

I couldn't find one specific to physics. Here is what I found on wikipedia :

In science, technology, and mathematics:
  • Event (computing), a software message indicating that something has happened, such as a keystroke or mouse click
  • Event, Particle accelerator, experiments which produce high energy (Electron volt|MeV, GeV, and TeV) subatomic particle collisions
  • Event (probability theory), a set of outcomes to which a probability is assigned
  • Event (UML), in Unified Modeling Language, a notable occurrence at a particular point in time
  • Event chain methodology, in project management
  • Event (relativity), a point in space at an instant in time, i.e. a location in spacetime
  • Event horizon, a boundary in spacetime, typically surrounding a black hole, beyond which events cannot effect an exterior observer
  • Extinction event, a sharp decrease in the number of species in a short period of time
  • Celestial event, an astronomical phenomenon of interest

source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Event

You may be right that the causality described by physics is intended to cover macro events, which could be justified if events was intended to mean (in physics) "supernovae, orbits etc", things that happen or exist on a macro scale.

I assumed that "the cause of all events" meant "the cause of anything that happens or exists".

Something to check I suppose, though as far as I know, physics is concerned with smaller events, such as what happens to photon particles when a light beam hits a mirror.

Example :

Two independent teams of physicists (my underlying and bold) were able to bring light to a complete standstill by passing it through a Bose-Einstein Condensate of the element rubidium, one team led by Dr. Lene Vestergaard Hau of Harvard University and the Rowland Institute for Science in Cambridge, Mass., and the other by Dr. Ronald L. Walsworth and Dr. Mikhail D. Lukin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, also in Cambridge.[5]
source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light

Let me put it this way, if I push you and you move which of the four do you attribute to my action? Under your presented definition is there causality?

Again, I am not a physicist, so it is ambiguous. Still, I would imagine that a physicist would investigate the transformation of energy and mass between each event according to those 4 elemental forces.

For example, gravity is having an influence in this chain of events, this is something that could be measured and described.

The kinetic energy in the movement of your hand is transferred (partially) into how I move once you've pushed me which is why your hand stops moving and I start moving. This is also something which could be measured and described according to "physicist" laws, theories and so on.

Maybe I misread something and gave a misinformed answer, and please indicate that if I did.

Hah no problem at all. I don't think you did, well there is no "evidence" that you may have ;)

Yet by experience (as shown in those 4 links that I provided where this topic was discussed) it is very easy to develop mis understandings on this topic (both from myself and anyone reading my question).

I'm thinking since the problem is expressed objectively, we should in principle be able to "look at it" together.

I'd like to ask you though, speaking of problems, do you see the problem that I see?

Oh and a reductionist way out of this is that the strong nuclear force is the cause of atoms being bound together, and those atoms bound together make up mass, mass makes up life, and life (socrates) wrote down stuff that other life (you) read that day.

Sure, although that would be like saying that the strong nuclear force is the cause of atoms being bound together, and those atoms bound together make up mass, mass makes up the tennis racket and the tennis ball. Here both the tennis ball and tennis racket are made of mass.

Thing is, is "information" made up of mass? And if not (which I'm thinking, not claiming) then there is a "broken link" in the chain of events as I understand them.

Which also means I'm trying to focus on the specific direct cause of that event, not the original.

Example :

Some could say that if I hadn't taken a bath this morning, there wouldn't be water spilled on the floor, and I wouldn't have slipped and fallen on my ass.

That's true "to a degree", although the direct cause of me falling on my ass is slipping on the water.

Whether the even of "having a bath" exists or not is irrelevant because water could have come from anywhere else : a different chain of events could have caused exactly the same event.

I'm trying to look at how / why something can be the cause of a specific, unique event or chain of events.

Which means that whether it your English lessons in school which taught you how to read or not, that is not the cause I'm trying to look at when looking at what happens when you read something which is in English.

At any rate, there is at least one more argument.

If the chain of events preceding that causality link can be easily explained and the chain of events succeeding that causality link can easily be described, it makes sense to me that we focus on that specific causality link which is difficult to describe.

Also, I would say that biological processes that result from you reading the information encoded on the book are in fact causality. The reading of his words fires neurons in your brain and the neurochemical reaction alters the information stored in your cerebrum. This information at an appropriate moment would then cause more synapses to fire and then it would cause your mouth to operate along with your vocal chords and you would then explain to me that Socrates was all like "I know that I know nothing!"

That could be rife with false information^ as I am not a neuroscientist/chemist, but from my understanding it is generally correct.

It sounds like you've had a look at the question in its original format that I provided through those links ;)

The reason I changed the form of my question and purposefully did not use the Socrates example / illustration here, was precisely to avoid confusion about biological or organic or even neuroscientific variables which (from my point of view) are irrelevant to the question and seemed to cause more confusion than anything else.

The reason for this is that the same question can be applied to any relationship of causality between "information" and "an event" (as defined in this thread) with regards to none organic entities (such as computers).

This doesn't mean that approaching the question from an organic perspective would be wrong, of course not, simply that if both the organic and none organic perspective are valid, and the none organic one is more simple, it makes sense to focus on the none organic perspective first and then see whether any "answer" or solution that is found may apply in other cases.

I'm thinking it should, since a fundamental principle that is true usually applies in different contexts (ie the causality in the interpretation of information by a none organic entity and the ensuing effects caused by that information should explain or be close to the explanation of the biological or even "conscious" example)

Thanks for your reply :)

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Posted

Okay what you've said makes sense, but could we be looking for causality where there isn't? Maybe you're right that there isn't causality, but then again we could be zoomed in so far that all we see is a piece of bark on the tree, and we can definitely not see the forest.

Hear me out:

Information is only encoded through biochemical reactions in our brains so to leave out the neuroscience kind of ignores information. However, I think your question should focus on how you gain that information. The causality occurs when you receive that information, be it through reading, listening, or feeling. Communication is the medium through which information travels: light (reading) hearing (sound waves) or feeling (touch receptors). I think ideas are instantiated into a physical nature, and just like energy change between differing forms.

Another example of a medium through which causality occurs would be empty space.

This empty space would probably not fit your definition of existence as intended as it does not objectively or subjectively "exist". YET it is the medium through which your 4 horseman of causality occur.

  1. Gravity at a macro level occurs between two planetary bodies, through space
  2. Weak nuclear forces cause radioactive decay (radiation) which travels through a medium of space.
  3. Strong nuclear forces exist between sub-atomic particles (it seems my idea is breaking down here)
  4. Electromagnetism is responsible for light, chemistry, etc which occurs through space. BUT WAIT if electromagnetism is responsible for chemistry, than we have the biological processes accounted for, but you wanted to avoid that.

What I'm saying is that information exists at the point of interpretation and has to travel through a medium (refer to the above)

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Posted

I think I understood what you said, which you summed up in your last phrase. (not sure I understood the "can't see the forest" argument. I mean, I know of that example, can understand what it means, but not sure how to apply it in this topic)

(when I read your example of "empty space" I was thinking even "empty space" exists according to the definition I used and may be the cause of an event but I suppose that's off topic. However the argument I would use to justify that may be relevant, I'll save it for the end of this post).

So, as I see it, these are your points :

a) information necessarily only exists through a "physical" form.

B) each of the 4 horsemen (;)) may reasonably "carry" information

the form being the medium you mentioned in the last sentence.

There are 2 points I'd like to mention with regards to that, and I'll start with the "empty space".

To check whether something exists or not (according to my personal definition), I check amongst other things, but firstly, whether its existence or none existence changes anything.

Which comes down almost to saying (almost because I think it's only one of the ways to define existence) that anything that "exists" necessarily either has an "effect" on an event (any event), which in turn can be checked with the following argument. (though I just came up with it the other night, not sure it's correct or if there are any logical flaws in it) :

Hypothesis :

If some entity has no effect whatsoever, is the cause of no event, then whether that "thing" exists or not should be irrelevant to whatever chain of events it is associated with (if it is associated to any chain of events) including in potential.

example :

if "empty space" didn't exist (meaning, if there was "no empty space" (doesn't even need to be objective or absolute, I think this works also on a relative, subjective level : " he or she or it is not aware of empty space (which doesn't mean it doesn't exist outside of that awareness) would anything (and in particular any related chain of events) be modified?

Verification :

If yes doesn't this prove the existence of a causality relationship between the two?

If no, then indeed, it can be said that there is no link of causality between the two

Example :

if there were "no empty space", wouldn't the world and the universe be drastically different? Does this not necessarily mean that "it" does exist and that its existence has an effect, an influence, is the cause of events?

Assuming (which may be wrong) that this argument is valid, we can replace "empty space" by anything at all.

But the conclusion I make from that argument is that a good definition of "existence" is "to have an effect" to begin with, meaning that everything that exists is necessarily the cause of something (at least potentially) because otherwise, if something has no effect at all, no influence in any way, and if its presence or absence changes nothing at all to anything at all, then how can it be said to exist?

On the other hand, anything which absence would imply a change in one way or another to "reality" (as defined by "all events") necessarily does exist doesn't it?

Which means that anything which absence would change anything should be taken into account since its presence does change things, does modify "the chain of events".

Looking now, specifically at information and how it exists, the way I see it, the absence of information (any information) does change things, and its "presence" does mean that different things happen, which is why I'm postulating that it is the cause of an effect (even if not in physical terms).

However, as you pointed out, the existence of information (which is proved by anything or anyone being able to interpret it) requires a form in which it is expressed, a physical (as defined in my first post) medium that "stores" it.

(though I would specify "as we know it", because we can not conceptualise interpreting information out of "empty space" (wanted ot say "thin air", but need to be precise :p), that doesn't mean it's not possible)

Anyway, what I would like to point out is that the form which contains information (and or expresses it, making it possible to be read / interpreted) is irrelevant to its existence but is relevant to it being interpreted since anything I can think of (from a human mind to a organic sense to a computer or electronic receptor) is bound to interpret information in specific forms.

Example :

whether the ideas of Socrates, as written down by Plato are expressed in a book or on the internet, by sound or in any other way, in english, french, japanese, arabic or ancient symbols is irrelevant provided that that form can be read, if it is read, then the "information" manifests itself within the interpreter's system in a way that is (all other things being the same) identical irrespective of the form.

other example :

whether the following information "two planes have flown into the twin towers" is expressed in one form or another, even as images on a tv screen, provided the message is read and understood, it "comes out" as identical.

Which makes me think / conclude that if information requires a medium, that medium's relevance is only one sided, uni directional. That is, it is only relevant because anything or anyone reading information requires that information to be in specific forms in the first place.

Which then means that the form itself is irrelevant. Though it's (I think) impossible to demonstrate that the medium in which information is stored and expressed doesn't even need to exist for that information to exist, I think it is possible to demonstrate that because it can be one form or another, with an infinite number of possibilities, none of which change the "properties" (if we can call them that) of the information itself, it is safe to say that "the information is not the medium and the medium is not the information".

Lastly, since (as far as I know, except in Quantum Mechanics, though I know even less about QM) physical explanations, descriptions, measurements of events and the causality between one event and another require specific forms in each cases with specific properties, I also conclude that the existence and causality of information can not be explained in such a way.

Example :

It takes a specific amount of gravity, a specific measure of nuclear force and/or electromagnetism in a specifc combination to cause a specific event.

One unique, specific event can not be caused by different measures and combinations of each.

(I don't know this, it's intuition only, but it sounds right. Think I could research and show this according to generally accepted physics theories).

I'm also thinking the relation of an object between mass and energy is always constant (e=mc2). Which means each state of anything that has mass and energy is specific as well.

Whereas here, we have one event which physical properties I am (and anyone I've talked to is) unable to define, measure or even describe, and which exists in a manner that is identical irrrespective of the form in which it manifests itself.

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