• Noble Dust
    3.3k
    The article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/12/opinion/can-evolution-have-a-higher-purpose.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&_r=0

    Any thoughts? I'll get my opinion out of the way: I've always thought the idea that we may be living in some sort of massive "computer simulation" to be an obvious and incorrect anthropomorphisation characteristic of science finding itself at it's own border. I'm also intrigued by this type of thought starting to now make it's way into the mainstream, as evidenced in this article. Any thoughts welcome.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Metaphors reappear in new guises as fashion and technology change. A sceptic like me is unlikely to be won over but won't ever be seduced by the New Atheists either.

    I'm interested that Wright veers between 'purpose' and 'higher purpose', two concepts which strike me as very different. Many living things exhibit apparent purpose, and we humans think of ourselves as having our purposes, individually and collectively. Systems are purposive, dictated by their human drivers, or by human observations.

    This is altogether different from 'higher purpose'. When faced with this latter concept, I am definitely for a lower purpose: I am here on earth to play with ideas and other people, which may well involve poking a little fun at them when they get too exalted in their views of themselves and what their lives mean :)
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    I've read it, but just as I expected, it's the kind of drivel that you can only find in the New York Times and other such sources for "popularisation" aimed really at the idiotification of the masses. Truth is a beautiful woman who hides herself from unworthy seekers and their prying eyes, and hence it is almost impossible to find her among the pages of the New York Times. I just had a look at the article because you posted interesting things before, otherwise wouldn't have bothered after seeing the source.

    For example - take the some of the four myths:

    Myth#1: To say there is a "higher purpose" means there are spooky [supernatural] forces at work
    When people are interested in some "higher purpose" they're not interested in any empirical matter such as what aliens may have placed us here, whether they're very powerful and have amazing technology and so forth. They're simply not asking for that. So if you tell them yes there is a higher purpose but there are no spooky forces - that's the equivalent of telling them there is no higher purpose at all. You might just about be honest with them you know...

    Myth#4: There is a higher intelligence (not necessarily a being) guiding evolution - but it's not supernatural. Good, then I really don't care about it, next piece of information please.

    The problem is that people don't understand the world they're living in anymore. They're too blinded by possibilities - too many possibilities, that they don't even know what to do. Too much information, that they don't even know what to believe. What we need is simplicity - not some higher purpose given by aliens or any such nonsense. Purpose comes from the way you live your life. If you have a good family, good health and source of wisdom and knowledge around what more do you need? Are you seeking for more even after you have all that? Then you're seeking in vain. There's nothing much to do in this world. Once you realise that, you're not much troubled by vain desires. You focus on the very few things which really do matter. Some "higher purpose" in evolution is nothing but vain desire.

    Their problem is that they are unhappy. Because they are unhappy they seek things to do, because they think doing those things, or finding those things may make them less unhappy. Some think a new car, or a new job - a career in a different field will make them happier. Some think a new boyfriend, that's what's needed, because the current one is boring or whatever. That's false - quite probably it will make them even more unhappy. Things which you are meant to find will come to you, whether you like it or not - they are the significant things. And nothing can make your life happier if you aren't already happy. Acceptance of your unhappiness is the beginning of virtue. Plus you can't be happy all the time. It's stupid to desire that. Life is formed to include sadness, periods of low activity, stress, etc.

    I find something very childish about those folks who have everything one could desire for and yet destroy it because they can't accept that unhappiness is a necessary part of life. That's literarily the number one reason for failure. It's why things don't last. Impatience. Desire to act too soon.
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    Metaphors reappear in new guises as fashion and technology change. A sceptic like me is unlikely to be won over but won't ever be seduced by the New Atheists either.mcdoodle

    Yeah, I totally get that. I just think it's kind of amusing that this scientistic culture is slowly coming around full circle to a conception of the universe ("cosmos") that isn't actually in disagreement with classical theology, at least from what I can see. But the concept of God or a spiritual force being behind it will remain taboo for a good while. Or maybe not.
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    sources for "popularisation" aimed really at the idiotification of the massesAgustino

    Do you literally think articles like this are "aimed" at that goal? I just mean literally in the sense that they are very purposively aimed at the goal of idiotification, presumably with malicious intent. Is that what you mean?

    Yeah, those 4 myths, and Hamilton's ridiculous idea of aliens creating us as an experiment aren't even really worth addressing. I posted the article more because it's a general topic of interest to me. I'm interested in the the fact that this idea is seeing some facetime in mainstream media, because it's an idea I've felt intuitively for awhile. I mean the idea that theories like the "hologram" theory (or whatever it's properly called) are coming full circle to classical theology, in a way. They're not really saying much of anything different. I figured some reactions here might be worthwhile. I was more interested in this bit later:

    "That said, one interesting feature of current discourse is a growing openness among some scientifically minded people to the possibility that our world has a purpose that was imparted by an intelligent being. I’m referring to “simulation” scenarios, which hold that our seemingly tangible world is actually a kind of projection emanating from some sort of mind-blowingly powerful computer; and the history of our universe, including evolution on this planet, is the unfolding of a computer algorithm whose author must be pretty bright...You may scoff, but in 2003 the philosopher Nick Bostrom of Oxford University published a paper laying out reasons to think that we are pretty likely to be living in a simulation...If you walked up to the same people who gave Bostrom a respectful hearing and told them there is a transcendent God, many would dismiss the idea out of hand. Yet the simulation hypothesis is a God hypothesis: An intelligence of awe-inspiring power created our universe for reasons we can speculate about but can’t entirely fathom. And, assuming this intelligence still exists, it is in some sense outside of our reality — beyond the reach of our senses — and yet, presumably, it has the power to intervene in our world. Theology has entered “secular” discourse under another name."

    If you have a good family, good health and source of wisdom and knowledge around what more do you need?Agustino

    As I've said elsewhere, I'm a sucker for teleology. What more do I need? I need to know the secret to the whole thing; I need to know where this thing is going. That preoccupies my philosophical interests more than anything else.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Do you literally think articles like this are "aimed" at that goal?Noble Dust
    Yes. For something to be aimed towards something else does not require that this act is intentional. For example, for Aristotle, the final cause of a match is fire. Yet it does not mean that the match consciously aims itself at producing fire.

    I just mean literally in the sense that they are very purposively aimed at the goal of idiotification, presumably with malicious intent.Noble Dust
    No I don't mean with conscious malicious intent - but this makes little to no difference. This is the effect they have.

    Yeah, those 4 myths, and Hamilton's ridiculous idea of aliens creating us as an experiment aren't even really worth addressing. I posted the article more because it's a general topic of interest to me. I figured some reactions here might be worthwhile.Noble Dust
    Okay, well that was my reaction :P

    "That said, one interesting feature of current discourse is a growing openness among some scientifically minded people to the possibility that our world has a purpose that was imparted by an intelligent being. I’m referring to “simulation” scenarios, which hold that our seemingly tangible world is actually a kind of projection emanating from some sort of mind-blowingly powerful computer; and the history of our universe, including evolution on this planet, is the unfolding of a computer algorithm whose author must be pretty bright...You may scoff, but in 2003 the philosopher Nick Bostrom of Oxford University published a paper laying out reasons to think that we are pretty likely to be living in a simulation...If you walked up to the same people who gave Bostrom a respectful hearing and told them there is a transcendent God, many would dismiss the idea out of hand. Yet the simulation hypothesis is a God hypothesis: An intelligence of awe-inspiring power created our universe for reasons we can speculate about but can’t entirely fathom. And, assuming this intelligence still exists, it is in some sense outside of our reality — beyond the reach of our senses — and yet, presumably, it has the power to intervene in our world. Theology has entered “secular” discourse under another name."Noble Dust
    But the simulation isn't a God hypothesis at all... the simulation is a physical event - it's an empirical matter, in a way that God is not. To say that simulation hypotheses suggest that "theology has enter secular discourse" is a tragic source of misinformation. Or the idea that some very powerful being is equivalent to the notion of God... really??

    As I've said elsewhere, I'm a sucker for teleology. What more do I need? I need to know the secret to the whole thing; I need to know where this thing is going. That preoccupies my philosophical interests more than anything else.Noble Dust
    But what kind of answer are you looking for? How do you expect to recognise it when you find it?
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    The article of course does not mention the actual mainstream hypothesis of modern biology - which is that life arises as an expression of the more general purpose of the second law of thermodynamics.

    People now go out to measure the temperature of the air above rain forests and other complex ecosystems these days. The hypothesis is quite testable. It can shown that life is driven by the imperative of maximising entropy.
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    But the simulation isn't a God hypothesis at all... the simulation is a physical event - it's an empirical matter, in a way that God is not. To say that simulation hypotheses suggest that "theology has enter secular discourse" is a tragic source of misinformation.Agustino

    I admit I haven't studied that hypothesis enough to know if or why they wouldn't be similar. I just imagine a "computer projecting a hologram which is the physical world" as a crappy metaphor for the physical world as spirit objectified. They seem like parallel concepts to me. Although I guess the physical world as spirit objectified isn't really classical theology.

    Or the idea that some very powerful being is equivalent to the notion of God... really??Agustino

    Why is this inaccurate?

    But what kind of answer are you looking for? How do you expect to recognise it when you find it?Agustino

    A satisfying one! I'm primarily interested in ethics, the history of thought, the history of language... I'm interested in how and, more importantly and more confusingly, why various strands of thought and ways of thinking about the world came to be. I'm interested in a theory of language that's consistent with how language is actually philologically constructed (dead metaphors). I'm interested in the spiritual implications of that. I'm interested in a theory of ethics that recognizes the spiritual bondage of The Other, and it's role in perpetuating oppression. I'm interested in the history of all of the different strands of thought that are practically entirely different languages today, and not even members of the same "language family" of thought. I'm interested in the inability of these "families" to even communicate (as evidenced on forums like these). The history of thought and language to me is something that isn't being properly studied. I'm a layman, but I spend what time I can trying to address these sorts of problems with my own studies. I think that a proper study of these things could help lead to a philosophical view that's current that would require a telos. In combination with a cooperative consideration of religion and the idea of a spiritual practice. This is all just theory and speculation because I'm not well read enough to put out a serious claim. So I just buzz by here every now again like an annoying fly in y'alls ear. :P
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    Thanks for the info.
  • Emptyheady
    228
    "Robert Wright"

    He keeps trying to push this nonsense through.

    Two things:

    (1) Moral descriptively, I think relativism is true. I do not believe in a universal moral telos.

    (2) Group Selection is false allure. Selfish gene interpretation demolishes his utopian crux / wishful thinking.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    It is not surprising that scientists personal views of life may diverge from scientific journal acceptable ideas. The v two fulfill different purposes and do not have to coincide.
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    Moral descriptively, I think relativism is true. I do not believe in a universal moral telos.Emptyheady

    What are your reasons?
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    It is not surprising that scientists personal views of life may diverge from scientific journal acceptable ideas. The v two fulfill different purposes and do not have to coincide.Rich

    I disagree, I think this essentially elevates science to a religion; the highest form of knowledge whose feet at which all other forms of knowledge must be laid in sacrifice...and for what aim, exactly? What's the telos?...and if there is none, why would this distinction between personal and scientific views for scientists be important, or even have any meaning?
  • Emptyheady
    228
    Empirical evidence, moral views differs by location, time, religions, cultures, countries, etcetera -- to the point that moral relativism is the most accurate position to hold.
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    Empirical evidence, moral views differs by location, time, religions, cultures, countries, etcetera -- to the point that moral relativism is the most accurate position to hold.Emptyheady

    How does the fact that moral views differ lead to the conclusion that moral relativism is the most accurate position to hold about morality? Sportscasters may all disagree on who will win the super bowl, but someone will ultimately win. Relativism is useful in distinguishing all of the differing views on who will win, but it doesn't lead to the conclusion that no one will win.
  • javra
    859
    As I've said elsewhere, I'm a sucker for teleology. What more do I need? I need to know the secret to the whole thing; I need to know where this thing is going. That preoccupies my philosophical interests more than anything else.Noble Dust

    Whether evolution does or doesn’t hold a telos would be part and parcel of whether existence does.

    But, via induction, I suppose that evolution might hold the telos of “adaptation and acclimation to that which is objective”. And this can be translated into being in accordance to that which is regardless of biases.

    Not that every lifeform sits on its ass to ponder what objectivity may be. It takes sapience to do that. It’s just that life that becomes overly discordant to that which is objective tends to no longer be.

    Contingent on the hypothesis being valid, this would make objectivity good.
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k


    I know what descriptive ethics are; explaining the definition of descriptive ethics by posting a wiki article doesn't answer the question I asked you.
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    But, via induction, I suppose that evolution might hold the telos of “adaptation and acclimation to that which is objective”. And this can be translated into being in accordance to that which is regardless of biases.javra

    What's so sacred about overcoming biases at the altar of Lord Science? I've never understood that. If the entire world shed it's biases and accepted an analytic, rational, scientistic belief system, how would this serve some sort of evolutionary telos? What exactly would be accomplished for mankind? What would mankind accomplish by doing this? I'm not interested in living in a world full of philosophy forum members. :P
  • javra
    859
    What's so sacred about overcoming biases at the altar of Lord Science? I've never understood that. If the entire world shed it's biases and accepted an analytic, rational, scientistic belief system, how would this serve some sort of evolutionary telos? What exactly would be accomplished for mankind? What would mankind accomplish by doing this? I'm not interested in living in a world full of philosophy forum members. :PNoble Dust

    Just so it’s said, I wasn’t intending to be ironical-ish in any way.

    I could try to make a better case for what I hypothesized. But this isn’t the place for a well-argued thesis. Still, the gist of this better argument would be that objectivity is not physical reality but the metaphysical Real/Truth … to which we are all subjects of. With the presumption of such telos, physical reality would indeed be objective, but objectivity itself would be equivalent to an existent state of being that could be expresses as perfect selflessness and, thereby, a perfect equality of being. Fairness, impartiality, and an unbiased opened mind/heart all then could be expressed as facets of being closer to this metaphysical state of objectivity—which could also be expressed as perfect innocence. (All this is where at least all the physicalists get … um, uneasy? And I can just see them now stampeding to demolish my little ol’ hypothesis.) And this isn’t to say that daydreams and fantasies are somehow wrong. It’s a long spiel. But, on the other hand, the same metaphysical objectivity as telos would mandate that all life prioritizes the objectivity of the physical world over such things as fantasies. We can fantasize that we can fly like birds but let’s not try to actually fly off of tall things—kind of a thing.

    It’s a long complicated perspective, now that I think of it. Still, as a brief summation of this view, I think that what I’ve previously said can still hold. And no, it’s not a variation of physicalism—even though the scientific method of the empirical sciences is endorsed.

    Point taken though.
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    Just so it’s said, I wasn’t intending to be ironical-ish in any way.javra

    Well, my response may have been a little over-zealous. I was maybe reading a pet peeve of mine into your post. Apologies.

    Still, the gist of this better argument would be that objectivity is not physical reality but the metaphysical Real/Truth … to which we are all subjects of.javra

    I think I agree with this concept if I'm reading it right, I just use the word objective in a different sense. I think of the physical world as an objectified form of spirit. Which is ironically sort of an opposite use of the term, so maybe not.

    With the presumption of such telos, physical reality would indeed be objective, but objectivity itself would be equivalent to an existent state of being that could be expresses as perfect selflessness and, thereby, a perfect equality of being. Fairness, impartiality, and an unbiased opened mind/heart all then could be expressed as facets of being closer to this metaphysical state of objectivity—which could also be expressed as perfect innocence.javra

    So what would bring about that state, evolution? Is that what you meant in your original post? If so, I don't understand the connection between evolution and ethical things like selflessness. It sounds like a big leap.
  • javra
    859
    Well, my response may have been a little over-zealous. I was maybe reading a pet peeve of mine into your post. Apologies.Noble Dust

    No need, and no problem. :)

    I think I agree with this concept if I'm reading it right, I just use the word objective in a different sense. I think of the physical world as an objectified form of spirit. Which is ironically sort of an opposite use of the term, so maybe not.Noble Dust

    Or maybe not. [edit: maybe your not wrong in thinking of the physical world as an objectified form of spirit; its close to what objective idealism would affirm ... though I've come to see myself more of a neutral monist. Sorry for the ambiguity.] What objectivity is is something we all hold an intuitive sense of ... but different folks, imo, will crystallize this concept in different ways. Its a heavy duty topic of metaphysics in which I obviously have some opinions--not always accordant to others.

    So what would bring about that state, evolution?Noble Dust

    No, it's more like that state exists as a future potential that nevertheless predates all being as telos. Evolution by natural selection would be one repercussion of it given a plurality of agencies that each desires to satisfy its own interests. Did I mention that this perspective requires the metaphysics of freewill? So there's degrees of freewill to be closer on equal terms with others (given the limitations of the physical world and one's own biological phenotype, etc.) or to dominate others for one's own personal advantage. Fast forward to competition among various agents of various freewill capacities and it kinda unfolds into Darwinian evolution among life.

    Like I said, its a long spiel. And in summative form it can well be less than cogent. (Still working on it by the way.)
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    maybe your not wrong in thinking of the physical world as an objectified form of spirit; its close to what objective idealism would affirm ... though I've come to see myself more of a neutral monist.javra

    Yeah, true. I'm not really a formal idealist of any kind, though. I tend to loath binary distinctions like dualism vs. monism or idealism vs. realism. I'm sort of a monist in the sense that I think of spiritual reality, mental reality and physical reality as being generative of one another, although not necessarily in a specific series. They're not exactly aspects of one reality; modes, maybe. I'm still working out my own conception as well.

    No, it's more like that state exists as a future potential that nevertheless predates all being as telos.javra

    I'm intrigued but confused by this. I'm also struggling to understand the ensuing paragraph.

    Like I said, its a long spiel. And in summative form it can well be less than cogent. (Still working on it by the way.)javra

    Seems worth expanding into a longer from, though.
  • javra
    859
    I'm intrigued but confused by this. I'm also struggling to understand the ensuing paragraph.Noble Dust

    Seems worth expanding into a longer from, though.Noble Dust

    Thank you for the invitation to do so. Cop out though this may be, I’ll not now expand on the perspective. This, basically, because I get lost for words with which to properly express it in the span of a few paragraphs.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    I admit I haven't studied that hypothesis enough to know if or why they wouldn't be similar. I just imagine a "computer projecting a hologram which is the physical world" as a crappy metaphor for the physical world as spirit objectified. They seem like parallel concepts to me. Although I guess the physical world as spirit objectified isn't really classical theology.Noble Dust
    I don't see that as parallel at all. In one case you're dealing with an empirical fact - a physical computer working away. In another case, you're dealing with a transcendental spirit, of spiritual origin, becoming instantiated in the world.

    Why is this inaccurate?Noble Dust
    Because it's not sufficient for something to be powerful to be God. Goodness for example is more important than power in what we call God. If there existed an all powerful being who was evil, you wouldn't call that God - you wouldn't want to worship it.
  • Emptyheady
    228
    I know what descriptive ethics areNoble Dust

    Your reply did not give the impression you do.
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    I don't see that as parallel at all. In one case you're dealing with an empirical fact - a physical computer working away. In another case, you're dealing with a transcendental spirit, of spiritual origin, becoming instantiated in the world.Agustino

    But surely that hypothesis about the computer is just some sort of vague metaphor, right, like I already suggested? If it's not a metaphor, then, like I've already said, that's some really shitty antrhopomorphization to imagine some actual massive computer brain creating the world we know. So, taking it as metaphor, a metaphorical super computer projecting a "hologram" which is the world has parallel's to the idea of God creating the world through a process of spirit becoming objectified. In other words, if you're talking about a metaphorical supercomputer creating the world, you're basically talking about God. It's just a crappy metaphor.
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    Because it's not sufficient for something to be powerful to be God. Goodness for example is more important than power in what we call God. If there existed an all powerful being who was evil, you wouldn't call that God - you wouldn't want to worship it.Agustino

    I like this Eastern Orthodox way of viewing God; it reminds me I need to explore that more. That concept of God is fairly foreign to me, but it's attractive.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    But surely that hypothesis about the computer is just some sort of vague metaphor, right, like I already suggested? If it's not a metaphor, then, like I've already said, that's some really shitty antrhopomorphization to imagine some actual massive computer brain creating the world we know. So, taking it as metaphor, a metaphorical super computer projecting a "hologram" which is the world has parallel's to the idea of God creating the world through a process of spirit becoming objectified. In other words, if you're talking about a metaphorical supercomputer creating the world, you're basically talking about God. It's just a crappy metaphor.Noble Dust
    Where do you get the suggestion that the idea is metaphorical in the article?
  • Noble Dust
    3.3k
    Your reply did not give the impression you do.Emptyheady

    Really? I said

    How does the fact that moral views differ lead to the conclusion that moral relativism is the most accurate position to hold about morality?Noble Dust

    In simpler terms: morally relative views do not equal relativistic morality. They aren't incompatible. I don't think it follows that because there's a wide swath of moral views, therefore there is no underlying metaphysical moral reality. An example: Many politically conservative people in America have racist views towards the black community; many politically liberal people in US are trying to combat racism. How does it follow that because there are two views which are morally relative to one another, therefore neither is correct? Moral relativism looks good in the university, but not on the streets. Try telling Trayvon Martin that morals are relative and there is no metaphysical moral telos.
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    It can shown that life is driven by the imperative of maximising entropy.apokrisis

    So everything hunans do is ultimately in the service of finding the very fastest route to the heat-death of the universe.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.