Thursday, July 3, 2014

8 "Unanswerable" Questions... Addressed

So, this was a completely unplanned post. A friend posted a link on Facebook: 8 Great Philosophical Questions That We'll Never Solve. I read the article and, in a sudden burst of madness, proceeded to spend the next hour or so answering each of these questions, or at least showing how they might be answered in the future. See, I have a bit of a problem with the concept of an unanswerable question. If a question really is unanswerable, chances are it's a meaningless question anyways, like "what would a square circle look like" (an example I saw posted in the comments). So I couldn't let this one slide. But, after I spewed my rant, it seemed like an awful waste for just a Facebook comment (or rather, four of them) that would be read by just a few and then disappear into the ether. Therefore, I thought it would make sense to copy it and post it here. If the wording or format seems a bit off, or a bit sloppy, keep in mind I copied it word for word from Facebook, except for the questions in Boldface which I added in from the article for ease of reading. I recommend you read the above article first, and keep it open as you read along below:

Challenge accepted. I'll give the uber-short versions so I don't end up writing a whole book here.

1. Why is there something rather than nothing?
1. The question is illogical. 'Why' inquires of a cause-effect relationship, which in physics can be called action-reaction. Action is the expression of energy, reaction is a new expression of energy that is resultant from an action. Energy, however, is also the basis and definition of existence itself. Everything that exists is energy or is an expression of energy. So energy is both the fundamental element of cause and of existence. So the question, in essence, is asking "Why why?", or trying to derive the causality of causality, which is a redundancy. It's like asking "how many hours are in an hour?"

2. Is our universe real?
2. "Real" has two meanings, and we need to define which we are referring to. It can mean "true" or it can mean "existing". If the latter, the answer is certainly yes, because existence is manifest and clearly observable. See previous comments on energy. If the former, it gets a little tricky. "True" must be defined in context of an argument, namely a statement which may or may not be true. In this case, we are talking about a specific statement about the universe, which may go something like, "Is the universe what I think it is?" For most people, the answer to this is decidedly "No." since very few people have more than a rudimentary understanding of the world around them. If we want to ask if the any of the best theoretical frameworks we have are what the universe is, again the answer is no, as even the proponents of these theories acknowledge that they aren't complete. If we ask specifically if the universe is a 'computer simulation that feeds data to our senses', the answer is provably yes, because the universe functions as a massive quantum and classical computer, with particles that carry information, process it as they interact, and our senses collect that data as the particles bring it to us and feed it into our brain as a perception of reality. It's a big simulation, but it's still real in the sense that it exists. But if you want to push it and ask if we are all hooked into the matrix, and it's all an artificial simulation like a virtual reality, the answer is provably 'no'. We can prove this wrong by observing particles at the quantum state. It has been long since determined that quantum mechanics cannot be explained by 'hidden variables' that control the outcome of wave-function collapse. An artificial simulation that was simulating this in real time would be a hidden variable, and is thus impossible.

3. Do we have free will?
3. Yes. We can observe that we perceive sensory information subjectively and qualitatively as qualia. That is, it's not just some rigid mathematical data processing function, but something that defies mere deterministic calculation. Yet at the same time, this perception is coherent and takes on definite, albeit subjective, form. So the universe is acting upon us (remember, action=energy), and acting upon our subjective, qualitative consciousness, or sentience. And for every action there is opposed an equal reaction. So our sentience must also produce a reaction to this stimuli. We can observe easily within ourselves that we are aware of our own subjective perception, meaning that reaction from our consciousness must pass information back into the data processing and storage functions of the brain for us to even be aware of it. And if our perception is qualitative, non-deterministic, yet coherent then the reaction is of the same nature - neither deterministic nor random. It is arbitrary. Free will in a nutshell.

4. Does God exist?
4. This goes back to cause and effect, or action and reaction. We can trace the action-reaction chain of events of our universe back to a single event, the big bang. Or maybe multiple such events, it doesn't matter. Point is, there seems to be a first cause. If the big bang 'caused' the universe, then it caused time, space, and probability dimensions which occur within context of energy. But, as noted before, the big bang didn't 'cause' energy. That would be a violation of the law of conservation. Since it did cause time, it would be meaningless to talk about 'before' the big bang, but that doesn't mean that the singularity that resulted in the big bang is immune from the laws of cause and effect. We have to think outside of space, outside of time, and outside of probability to find the cause. The problem is, once you take those three dimension-types out of the picture you have a situation where even if there is an infinite amount of energy in existence, the chances that any 2 units of that energy would be together, interacting in some space-time relationship is zero, because there are infinitely infinite many possibilities of 'where' (which isn't even the right word) that energy could be. UNLESS all that energy was of a common origin, and began (not chronologically) at a natural state of infinity. Infinite energy, at infinite density, with infinite complexity. A hyper-singularity. And we have already seen that subjective experientiality and arbitrary will are functions which can exist in such little complexity as is offered by the human brain. With this much complexity, it can be inferred that the hyper-singularity would be conscious, would experience, and would have a will, and on a level that you and I cannot even imagine. And it is infinite, and so its inward pressure and density would constantly drive it into outward expansion, branching off, fountaining energy from itself in plumes that would become whole universes, infinitely aware of these branches on both the macro whole, and the tiniest of the micro scale. Such a being would have no need, only giving, only generosity, only expression of itself creatively. Perfect knowledge, infinite power, perfect love. Sounds an awful lot like God to me.

5. Is there life after death.
5. No. That contradicts the definition of 'dead'. If it's dead, it isn't alive. But what most people mean to ask by this question is if our sentience, our conscious experience and will, continues in any form after the body dies. And if our sentience is a function of the universe then the components in which our sentience functioned still exist even after death, even though they might no longer be together or coherent, nor may they ever be again. When we die, whatever we were is still out there, it just isn't what it was when we were alive. To fully answer this question requires actually understanding what sentience is and how it functions. But I don't doubt for a moment that this can be done eventually. Because we already know that sentience, whether it is a physical or metaphysical thing, interacts with the physical universe. If it interacts with the physical, it can be identified and studied.

6. Can you really experience anything objectively?
6. Yes. You are doing it right now. Those sensory signals that are being filtered through your nervous system? That's energy, and you are experiencing it objectively, though still qualitatively. If we can experience one sort of energy, we can experience other sorts, too. But that all goes back to how the mechanism of sentience works. See previous rant.

7. What is the best moral system?
7. This is admittedly not an easy one, and I can't give a universal moral or ethical standard from which the answer to every possible conundrum can be derived fractally. Yet. But what I can give is hope for possibly someday finding the answer, starting back at sentience again. Sentience, and the critical mass of sentience which is sapience, are what give us a notion that morality or ethics should even be a thing in the first place. (I distinguish morality and ethics, the latter being what is acceptable to do, the former being what is optimal). We experience qualitatively and will arbitrarily, and we know that others do, too. Therefore we conceive of these things called 'rights' in which we are entitled to experience and will, and so are others. This is the basis of ethics, that we are entitled to act according to our sentient nature, experiencing and expressing ourselves, so long as we do not impede others from doing the same... which sound a bit like the Non-Aggression Principle. But that's just a starting point. To derive from that a full ethical system, and a full moral system, would take a great deal more work and research, and probably a better understanding of sentience. But I don't think it's impossible.

8. What are numbers?
8. This is just question 1 restated, and the answer is basically the same. Energy. Energy is quantum, and has both a particle (digital, definite, unit) nature, and a wave (analog, vague, proportionate) nature. Numbers as we know them are a manifestation of this nature. Energy, therefore numbers. And since energy is the building block of everything, numbers therefore explain everything. Every interaction between particles is a calculation done in the quantum computer that is the universe. A side note: if we really want to find out what sentience is, I suspect we ought to be looking into those calculations, and into wave-function collapse. We describe it as random, but perhaps a better description for it might be... arbitrary. Just a thought.

Okay, so I lied. It turned into a book. My bad.

So, that's it. Please feel free to comment if you feel I'm in error, especially if I've made any factual errors. I like considering new information and looking at all the angles.

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