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Old May 11 2013, 01:22 AM   #31
thestrangequark
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

^I think so!


BTW, sonak, this is a really cool idea for a thread! I hope there are more serious answers! (Not that I'm against silly answers.)
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Old May 11 2013, 02:44 AM   #32
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

sonak wrote: View Post
is there a God?
Spot's Meow wrote: View Post
What is the purpose of my life? Not life in general, but MY life.
These.

Great topic, btw.
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Old May 11 2013, 03:21 AM   #33
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

^I find great comfort in there being absolutely no meaning or purpose to life.
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Old May 11 2013, 03:56 AM   #34
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

^ I'm glad you do, but I wouldn't find that comforting at all.
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Old May 11 2013, 04:06 AM   #35
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

thestrangequark wrote: View Post
Gov Kodos wrote: View Post
thestrangequark wrote: View Post
Wow...no need to be nasty. I intended that as a lighthearted post.
What use would the knowledge of a metaphysical reality be worth. As Spock said to McCoy, without a common frame of reference the conversation would be meaningless.
It's good for fantasies, I think.

I finally thought of my questions, neither of them are knowable today, but I don't think any of the OP's sample questions are knowable today either. My first question is: What the origin of life? I especially want to know about the accuracy of the theory that RNA and DNA were unique life origin events that merged in symbiosis early on in evolutionary history.

I'd also like to be able to understand consciousness. I think that all the best evidence points to it being an emergent property, but I'd really like to understand how it works.
thestrangequark wrote: View Post
^I think so!


BTW, sonak, this is a really cool idea for a thread! I hope there are more serious answers! (Not that I'm against silly answers.)

thanks, and your questions are the kinds of ones I was looking for. I started this thread because it's an idea/thought experiment I've considered for a while.

Since I think that the answers to my sample questions about God and the afterlife are likely "no" and "no," my question would likely be something like the "is there intelligent life on other planets?" one.

Or maybe "is Human immortality possible?"


Now that I think about the thread topic, I think there's an episode of the cartoon "the tick" where he gets to ask one question, and he just asks "how ya doin?" and gets a big thumbs up.
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Old May 11 2013, 04:07 AM   #36
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

Roger Wilco wrote: View Post
What's for lunch tomorrow?
Whatever you're buying.
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Old May 11 2013, 04:11 AM   #37
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

Tora Ziyal wrote: View Post
^ I'm glad you do, but I wouldn't find that comforting at all.
I just think the opposite is so depressing. That there is no great meaning or higher purpose means that we can make our own meaning and purpose. That life is not fair and things don't happen for any reason other than chance means that we don't need to waste our time seeking meaning where there is none and answers where there are none; we can just accept life as it comes and make the best of it. We are free to enjoy what is beautiful and good about life, and we are free to work to change what is evil rather than just vainly questioning why it is so.

I always think of a friend of mine who had an ectopic pregnancy: She went to the hospital one day with a fever, and came out a week later with one of her ovaries and both her tubes gone. She will never have children. She kept asking me what she'd done to deserve it, and while I tried my best to comfort her, on the inside I raged at whoever taught her that the human body is anything more than the result of millions of years of evolution, that for all it's wonder it is in some ways horribly and obviously flawed, and sometimes things just go wrong. I've had so many friends who were raised to believe there is meaning to life and that everything happens for a reason and all that seems to bring them is misery.
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Old May 11 2013, 04:27 AM   #38
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

sonak wrote: View Post
Since I think that the answers to my sample questions about God and the afterlife are likely "no" and "no," my question would likely be something like the "is there intelligent life on other planets?" one.
I'm perhaps the most optimistic (perhaps unduly) about this one. I have a framed copy of the Drake Equation above my desk at work! It actually ties into my curiosity about the origin of life on earth and the DNA/RNA theory I mentioned. If they were two distinct life origin events that merged in symbiosis, then that would mean that life happened at least twice just on this planet. It sure would add some oomph the the equation! I don't even need intelligent life, really. I'd be happy with some weird extremophiles on Mars.
Or maybe "is Human immortality possible?"
I think it might be if we can create inorganic brains and "download" consciousness. That, of course, goes back to the whole nature of consciousness question though, and to the idea of P-zombies. All of my reason says to me that an artificial intelligence that functions exactly like a biological brain, that is to say, a computer-based brain simulation -- something which actually is feasible in the not too distant future -- would be conscious: this, presuming of course that consciousness is an emergent property. But as much as I am loathe to evoke solipsism, the only way I know anyone else is conscious is because I know I am conscious and they say they are too...if the computer says it is conscious, is that just because it's been programmed to or because it is? Is there even a difference? My brain says no...but feels weird about that conclusion!
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Old May 11 2013, 04:43 AM   #39
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

Being told whether or not something is true is not the same thing as having it proved for you. If you don't prove it, there's always an element of doubt.

So, I make the assumption that any one of those would be proved upon selection. Given that, I'd immediately rule out a few of them.

is there intelligent life on other planets?
We are too far away from any intelligent life to ever meet it face to face, let alone communicate remotely. We can safely assume that we are NOT unique, that sentient life has, does, and will exist elsewhere in the universe. Given the sheer number of celestial bodies and planets that could support life, we are definitely not the only sentient life in the universe. How would you prove this? Would I be shown a primitive humanoid tribe eating around a campfire on some planet somewhere else in the galaxy? Or perhaps a long distance space faring species traveling in some amazing vessel far beyond our technology? I'd be pretty disappointed to see the ape folks, but hugely impressed to see the space travelers... and yet, also extremely disappointed knowing we'd never meet them. So, this isn't a useful question for me to ask.

is there an afterlife?
Well, this is quite possibly a wasted question, because if there is no afterlife you've not improved your outcome at all. And you can bet that if there isn't, then there isn't a God either. I wouldn't bother asking it.

is there a God?
This is the heavy duty lottery question with a 50/50 chance of "winning." If there is a God, the proof would be a divine personal visit. And that would be a major life changing event. Also, I'd assume you'd get a chance to chat as part of the verification... and then of course the next logical question would be "Of all the religious writings that have been crafted, which one do you truly sanction, Lord?" And if there isn't? Well... I sure hope there isn't an afterlife either.

is time travel possible?
This is a wasted question because we all know that time travel *IS* possible. We know from the way astrophysics works that you could time travel forward by positioning yourself close to a black hole. I suspect you meant "Is time travel into the past possible?" And you know what? I don't want to know.



So for me, I'd ask the God question.
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Old May 11 2013, 04:49 AM   #40
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

^I do believe the debate among physicists about the possibility of time travel is more contentious and complicated than you have put it. And the question of life in the universe is also more complicated: there are other factors to be considered aside from habitable worlds. Until we have more than than the single data point available now, there is no way to judge the probability of life anywhere else in the universe, intelligent or otherwise.

I am actually least interested in the god question -- to me it just seems as ridiculous and banal as asking if there are really fairies. That's not meant as an anti-religious statement, it's just how I've always felt about the question, ever since I can remember.
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Old May 11 2013, 04:58 AM   #41
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

^ Yes, the time travel concept is rather contentious... but there are strong proponents for both sides of the argument. In any case, I don't see how it would change my life at all knowing if it did or not... thus, I wouldn't ask it.

And as for sentient life as we know it, it's all about the probabilities... the right sized planet with the right amount of natural resources, positioned at just the right distance from a sun, with the appropriate number and size of other planets in the solar system for gravitational balance. Given how numerous the celestial bodies are, the odds are very much in favor of sentient life existing elsewhere. I'm pretty convinced it is, but... knowing it for certain doesn't change my life at all, so I'm not interested.

And as for God, this is the "universal" question, irrespective of religious incarnations. I rather doubt one does exist according to human crafted scripture, based on the sheer cruelty that is "allowed" to exist, in addition to the enormous waste that the human race generates (all other life is far more conservative and co-exists well with the Earth, while we do far more harm than good). But "God" could be something we've never even imagined, an organized form of energy that initiated Big Bang and set the blueprints for how organic compounds may form. My desire is to know if there's any intelligent design in any shape or form... just to be sure.
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Old May 11 2013, 05:18 AM   #42
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

Gary7 wrote: View Post
^ Yes, the time travel concept is rather contentious... but there are strong proponents for both sides of the argument. In any case, I don't see how it would change my life at all knowing if it did or not... thus, I wouldn't ask it.

And as for sentient life as we know it, it's all about the probabilities... the right sized planet with the right amount of natural resources, positioned at just the right distance from a sun, with the appropriate number and size of other planets in the solar system for gravitational balance. Given how numerous the celestial bodies are, the odds are very much in favor of sentient life existing elsewhere. I'm pretty convinced it is, but... knowing it for certain doesn't change my life at all, so I'm not interested.
I guess I just can't sympathize with the sentiment that "knowing doesn't change my life at all." What about knowing for the sake of knowing? Knowledge itself seems such a worthwhile goal to me! Perhaps half the things I know are useless: does it change my life that there is a planet made of diamond out there somewhere? Or that the image of Kermit the frog is on Mars? Or that the sun burns through the energy equivalent of a million elephants a second? Or that perhaps even macroscopic objects exist as probability waves and that the ozone layer smells of geraniums and that there are fish in the deep ocean with mirrors instead of lenses for eyes or that birds are the descendants of dinosaurs or that, because the number of molecules in the air is so great, with every breath we are breathing in air expelled during Cesar's last breath, and Jesus' last breath, and Aristotle's last breath? Probably not, but isn't it fun? How can you be interested only in things that directly affect you? What about the sheer joy of exploration?
And as for God, this is the "universal" question, irrespective of religious incarnations.
No, it isn't. It certainly wasn't for me, nor likely for many of the other millions of nonbelievers around the world. It is a popular question, but by no means is it universal. I doubt it would have ever occurred to me were it not forced on my by culture.
I rather doubt one does exist according to human crafted scripture, based on the sheer cruelty that is "allowed" to exist, in addition to the enormous waste that the human race generates (all other life is far more conservative and co-exists well with the Earth, while we do far more harm than good). But "God" could be something we've never even imagined, an organized form of energy that initiated Big Bang and set the blueprints for how organic compounds may form. My desire is to know if there's any intelligent design in any shape or form... just to be sure.
So you do seek knowledge just for the sake of knowing? This seems contrary to your prior assertions...I want to assure you that I ask these questions respectfully. I am genuinely curious, I'm not trying to be mocking, though I realize that discussing such topics in this medium one can easily appear to be mocking. I've already had one person mistake a light-hearted post for contrarianism...
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Old May 11 2013, 05:19 AM   #43
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

Gary7 wrote: View Post
Being told whether or not something is true is not the same thing as having it proved for you. If you don't prove it, there's always an element of doubt.

So, I make the assumption that any one of those would be proved upon selection. Given that, I'd immediately rule out a few of them.

is there intelligent life on other planets?
We are too far away from any intelligent life to ever meet it face to face, let alone communicate remotely. We can safely assume that we are NOT unique, that sentient life has, does, and will exist elsewhere in the universe. Given the sheer number of celestial bodies and planets that could support life, we are definitely not the only sentient life in the universe. How would you prove this? Would I be shown a primitive humanoid tribe eating around a campfire on some planet somewhere else in the galaxy? Or perhaps a long distance space faring species traveling in some amazing vessel far beyond our technology? I'd be pretty disappointed to see the ape folks, but hugely impressed to see the space travelers... and yet, also extremely disappointed knowing we'd never meet them. So, this isn't a useful question for me to ask.

is there an afterlife?
Well, this is quite possibly a wasted question, because if there is no afterlife you've not improved your outcome at all. And you can bet that if there isn't, then there isn't a God either. I wouldn't bother asking it.

is there a God?
This is the heavy duty lottery question with a 50/50 chance of "winning." If there is a God, the proof would be a divine personal visit. And that would be a major life changing event. Also, I'd assume you'd get a chance to chat as part of the verification... and then of course the next logical question would be "Of all the religious writings that have been crafted, which one do you truly sanction, Lord?" And if there isn't? Well... I sure hope there isn't an afterlife either.

is time travel possible?
This is a wasted question because we all know that time travel *IS* possible. We know from the way astrophysics works that you could time travel forward by positioning yourself close to a black hole. I suspect you meant "Is time travel into the past possible?" And you know what? I don't want to know.



So for me, I'd ask the God question.

again, just to clarify, comments on those questions are fine, but that wasn't really the point of the thread. I'm not limiting you to "which of these particular questions would you most want to ask?"

Now I'm thinking it was a bad idea to give examples.
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Old May 11 2013, 05:29 AM   #44
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

thestrangequark wrote: View Post
So you do seek knowledge just for the sake of knowing? This seems contrary to your prior assertions...I want to assure you that I ask these questions respectfully. I am genuinely curious, I'm not trying to be mocking, though I realize that discussing such topics in this medium one can easily appear to be mocking. I've already had one person mistake a light-hearted post for contrarianism...
The original topic question is the framework for my responses. Of course, I'd LOVE to know the answers to all of the questions but we were told we could ask only ONE. And by that token, I narrowed it down to what question would be most beneficial to my personal outcome.


We are far too limited both in our cerebral processing power, the scope of our knowledge base at this point, and the limitations of our lifespans to really know for sure if there is a God or not. Yes, in looking at ONLY what human beings have written, it's fairly straight forward for pragmatists to say that there isn't a God. Frankly, what has been written doesn't come across as very divine to me at all. Religious people are highly adept at dynamically narrowing context when it suits them, to maintain a fixed premise that God exists (ignoring all of the inhumane things allegedly done by God in various scriptures).

But... we can't know for certain what "started it all"... if it was some amazing physical manifestation beyond our knowledge at this point, or if there was some intelligence involved to some degree. It's easy to say "well if there was intelligence, wouldn't we be of concern?" Who knows for certain? We're too far removed to know. Anything is pure speculation without evidence. So, all I'm saying is that we cannot absolutely know for sure one way or the other, but being allowed to know it for certain with this "one shot deal" Q&A would be very satisfying for me.
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Old May 11 2013, 05:34 AM   #45
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Re: one question about objective reality you'd want answered

^Ah, I understand better now why you responded the way you did. That makes total sense.

I don't know, I guess the probability of a god seems really low to me -- obviously we can't go on evidence, but in the absence of evidence we could at least use logic, and there's not really any good logical basis for the existence of a god. I suppose if we removed the supernatural from the equation and phrased the question simply as "What is the origin of the universe?" I would find that more appealing.
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