“I agree with that until you make the connection between that and quantum indeterminism, pretending that science will always be in the dark on this matter. I could do the same, and pretend that anything in that science cannot currently investigate must be wholely supernatural - which would include perfectly natural phenomenon. Hell, this would actually imply that over the course of human history science has literally turned supernatural items into natural items simply because what we once thought was unreachable we can now test and investigate.”
I will respond to this and some of your other posts here. Before I do that, I will present you with a model to help you think about some of your own assertions. I hope that this is worth the time - not in the sense that I think communicating with you is a waste of time (I don’t think that) - but in the sense that I find that this form of communication becomes unweildy.
First, for the model. The model is something that many atheists have no trouble with. Many people believe that the human mind functions in a way that a programmable computer could completely duplicate. They believe that their own minds could be ‘uploaded’ onto a computer and that they could experience reality in this form, with sensory input provided as inputs to the computer, and action provided by the computer’s output through servomechanisms, etc.
The next step in this model is that the rest of reality is also modeled on the computer. We already have versions of this artificial reality in computer games and simulations. Now we imagine that the mind, modeled on the computer is also fed its reality, not through sensors informing it of the external world, but through the returns from subroutines which feed the subroutine modeling the mind. Output, also, is no longer the action of servomechanisms, but is input to the artificial reality subroutine.
In other words, this mind’s existence is entirely artificial, operating as software running on a computer substrate. It would be easy enough to add other subroutines which represent other people who could interact with each other, and with the original mind.
This is the stuff of the ‘singularity’, promoted by Kurzweil et al. I know a lot of atheists who scoff at the idea of the supernatural who believe in the ‘singularity’ and who are actively preparing for it.
Note that if these minds, uploaded into this cybernetic world, had no memory of existence prior to the uploading or of the uploading itself, then they would have no way of learning through observation in their cybernetic world that they were actually software running on a computer in the external world. Since the program receives no input from the external world, it cannot be detected, hence experiments cannot be run which would allow a theory of the external reality to be constructed.
The final step in the construction of this model for you, Chris, is to realize that if minds could be ‘uploaded’ this way, they could also be programmed de novo as subroutines which did not model minds in the external reality but which had as their sole form of existence an existence as a software subroutine interacting with other software routines functioning as other ‘people’ and as the world they live and act in.
Now Chris, you have said that you do not think that quantum indeterminacy has any significant effect in the macroscopic world. That is not correct, and I think I can persuade you of that with some real examples which I will give you later if I have the energy, but for now, we will proceed on the assumption that you are correct. If you are, you should have no difficulty accepting the possibility of the model I have outlined above. After, if the mind’s thinking states are in no way dependent on quantum effects, then there is nothing (that I can think of) that would prevent these states from being computable - i.e. there is nothing in principle that would prevent the mind from being modeled on a Turing machine, which is to say, there is nothing to prevent it from being modeled on a Von Neuman computer or regular computer as we know them today.
We have constructed, not only a model of existence as software which is quite conceivable by all those who believe that the mind’s states are computable, but as a side effect, a model of the supernatural falls out of the construction. (Note that, since I believe that quantum indeterminacy does play a role both in the functioning of the macroscopic world and in the functioning of mind, this is not what I think the supernatural is, it is just a model of the supernatural because it would function in our constructed model pretty much the way that the supernatural is held to function in our world by those who believe in it). To cut to the chase, God is the computer programmer. He created the software and all the subroutines. He is beyond their detection since he is not part of the software. Through his interrupt line, he can interrupt the software and change the state of the CPU and of computer memory at will. He can, by playing with the subroutine and dedicated memory of a ‘prophet’ being in this software world, communicate with the software beings of his existence (this is the analogy of revealed knowledge or revelation). He could prepare and promise a ‘paradise’, which would be an existence on a different computer with more wonderful rules of existence to which he would transfer the subroutine beings whom he judged worthy after their ‘deaths’.
I see nothing in this model which would make it unsuitable as a model for the supernatural which people believers believe in, except that it leaves out quantum mechanics.
Note again that many hard bitten atheists actually believe in the possibility of this kind of created cybernetic world, that they are actually preparing to play the God role themselves, and in this, it is a bit ridiculous to scoff at the idea that there could not be a supernatural God external to this world in which they do their scoffing.
Note well that I do not claim that this is in any sense a proof of the supernatural. It is just but a counter example to all the ‘proofs’ that there is no supernatural since the beings in this world I have modeled for you could give the same ‘proofs’ and scoffings about the supernatural that we see from atheists in this world that you and I live in, and yet, their ‘proofs’ would be false, and their scoffings would be foolish.
Perhaps, then, it would be smart to be not too sure that the supernatural is nonsense. It is intellectually superior to see that it is not nonsense, that there really could be something supernatural about this world.
Enough of that.
Now, you asked in a different post for a definition of ‘supernatural’. I cannot actually define ‘supernatural’. If there is something supernatural, akin to the programmer in the model above, I cannot tell you much about it since I cannot study it. However, I can give you an essential characteristic of ‘supernatural’. What is supernatural can only appear to us as something which is random. The reason for that is that whatever is not random, we can study through science, and we will call it part of nature.
If a ‘ghost’ appeared before us (I am not here proposing that we believe in hauntings, just illustrating my meaning with an example), an apparition convincingly resembling someone we knew and whom we know to be deceased, and then it passed through a wall and we never saw it again, we could say that we had seen something supernatural. Yet many aspects of it would not be random, so how could that fit with my requirement that the supernatural could only appear to be random (in effect, unrecognizable)? Well, a ghost that you recognized would not be supernatural in form. Its form would be the form of someone whom you had known, and that form is the form of a human being, deceased, which was anything but supernatural. If the ghost appeared every day, reliably, soon people would be studying it experimentally, and they would call it a natural phenomenon. Of course, if no other person had ever appeared reliably as a ghost, the selection of the person whom you had known, would be the random part of the phenomenon, and so it would still have a supernatural aspect to it. Only if all people appeared as ghosts after death on a regular and reliable basis (with room for exceptions, of course), would people feel that there was nothing supernatural about it.
So what would be the supernatural part of the ghost would be its unexpected, completely indeterminable place, time, and identity of appearance.
Any other recognizable aspect of the supernatural has to be something without pattern - something that could only be recognized at all when mated with something that does have pattern and which is, therefore, natural. So the path of a tornado, unpredictable in principal (accept this as a premise for the time being - I recognize that you are sceptical of indeterminacy in nature). Consider the tornado. It does indeed have a natural pattern about it, which can be studied and understood by science. The unpredictable path is the random part. Ancient men did not see the hand of God in the regular path of a thrown rock, even though they had no understanding of Newton’s laws. They did see the hand of God in the path of a tornado, and we still have no explanation for that path. The supernatural appeared mated with the natural, understandable phenomenon - the only way that the supernatural can be recognized (since something that is completely random can’t be recognized).
They weren’t so stupid after all, to pick out these phenomena which have not yet been scientifically understood in some aspect, and which, if you believe that quantum indeterminacy is really a fundamental aspect of our world and that weather follows a chaotic attractor which amplifies microscopic indeterminate (superposed) differences into large scale differences in macroscopic weather - both of which are believed by many scientists.
Now you say in the words I have quoted above that you could ‘pick out anything’ not understood and claim that it was supernatural. You could, but that you could is not an argument against the existence of things which have no scientific explanation. You say that the progress of science has ‘literally turned supernatural items into natural items’. Well no, what is beyond science - the truly random, if it exists - is not changed by the progress of science. There may be some change in what we _understand_ as being explainable by science, but what we understand is not the same thing as what is.
It is perfectly acceptable for you to believe that quantum indeterminacy will some day be scientifically explained through experimentally verifiable theory. Just as I said that the model above shows that it is a bit ridiculous to scoff at the idea of the supernatural, so it is also a bit ridiculous to scoff at the idea that there is no supernatural. I certainly cannot prove that there is any such thing. Lots of people think that indeterminacy in nature will turn out to have been a mere gap in our scientific knowledge which will be filled in later. But ...
1. The indeterminacy of nature has been part of our scientific world view for nearly 85 years now. Lots of wishful thinking and thinking over all those decades hasn’t changed it. Supposedly deterministic models, like Bohm’s, which you mentioned, are merely metaphysical ideas beyond scientific investigation.
2. Probably the majority of scientists believe that quantum indeterminacy is a fundamental part of nature, that it will never be explained away. We have seen many revolutions in science in that period (quantum electrodynamics, quantum chromodynamics, the standard model). Not one whit of quantum indeterminacy has been whittled away in all that time.
3. What _fundamental_ reason is there for the assumption that nature cannot have a random aspect - for the effective assumption that there is no such thing as randomness? The fact is, we modeled the universe deterministically beginning with Newton’s laws, and got used to the idea that there is a deterministic universe. As it turns out, the precision of Newton’s laws are mere approximations of the indeterministic quantum laws, so we could say that we were fooled all those years from Newton to Heisenberg. That the universe has no random aspect is as much a matter of faith as the belief in God.
Now, I said I would give you some examples to convince you that quantum indeterminacy has macroscopic effects, that what you said, that ‘at the macro scale, this randomness averages out and the universe becomes deterministic’ is not true. There are many ways in which microscopic quantum events are amplified into effects that are macroscopic in effect.
Note first, that if this were not true, we would have no way to know about the quantum laws of nature, since by definition, what is microscopic is below the threshold of our ability to detect. We can only have detected quantum phenomena through the fact that they can have effects that we can detect. So, the decay of radioactive material, which is quantum tunneling through an energy barrier, an effect of quantum superposition can have a macroscopic effect which is the click of a Geiger counter. The Geiger counter could be rigged up to an electronic device which flashed a red or green light depending on whether or not a decay was detected in some regularly occurring interval. This could be strung up so people in the street could observe it, or it could be set up to trigger a nuclear bomb, which is certainly a macroscopic thing, depending on the sequence. This huge macroscopic effect would be completely dependent upon the microscopic quantum decay events. It would be as indeterministic. No known law of science could predict whether or not the nuclear bomb would go off. By the principles of our best science, principles long believed to be fundamental by most of our best scientists, nothing in science, no matter how accurate our knowledge, could predict whether or not the hydrogen bomb would go off.
Let’s call this electronic amplification.
The laser depends on the quantum properties of photons, which are a type of particle called a _boson_. Fermions have a quantum property that forbids any two fermions from having exactly the same quantum state. Bosons, in contradistinction, have a strong amplitude for being in the same state. It is this that makes the laser a phenomenon in which the quantum states of individual photons have a high probability of being the same state. Lasers are macroscopic devices in which quantum effects have been amplified through this property.
Let’s call this light amplification (not LASER is an acronym for ‘Light Amplification by Stimulation of Emitted Radiation).
I already described to you how a mutation in germ cell DNA from absorption of an em photon of sufficient energy is an indeterminate quantum event. This is because the precise location of a photon is necessarily indeterminate due to the quantum uncertainty principle. Since the location of the photon is indeterminate, there is no way to know which nucleotide will absorb the photon along with its disruptive energy which causes the mutation. Suppose the mutation, which has happened by pure chance, is one which causes blue eyes. That is certainly a macroscopic effect. We are able to see these blue eyes and the blue eyes of all the descendants because the DNA has been duplicated and reduplicated as the germ cell grows into the mature speciman, as the DNA has been transcribed into many copies of mRNA, as each mRNA molecule has been a template for many of the precursor molecules for blue eyes, and finally, as each speciman with the mutation passes on its genes to multiple descendants.
Call this biological amplification.
Just how deeply important biological amplification of quantum uncertainty is, consider that all the species on Earth have their form and function through mutations that gave rise to them according to the Theory of Evolution.
Superconductivity, which gives us the most powerful magnets which can be made is another quantum effect.
OK, there are many more. Now, what I have described of weather in general, and of tornadoes in particular is what could be called the chaotic amplification of quantum events. The non linear equations describing weather make it a phenomenon in which microscopic differences grow into macroscopic. The superposition of those originating quantum microscopic states is what makes the weather as unpredictable far enough into the future as whether or not the hydrogen bomb will go off as described above.
It is simply not true that the quantum world and the world we see and feel are somehow isolated from each other.
I hope I’ve given you some things to think about. I’m a little tired, so I apologize for any mess I’ve made here, for any incomprehensible sentences that I’ve written, and for anything important that I’ve left out.
I have not attempted to prove anything to you except to demonstrate that believing in the possibility of the supernatural does not make one a fatuous idiot, and that those who think that it does (I do not accuse you of this Chris), are somewhat fatuous themselves.