Nate Smith

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Everything posted by Nate Smith

  1. Jokes

    This link has over 300 "proofs" for the existence of God. Some of them are pretty funny. Here are a couple: ARGUMENT FROM CREATION (1) If evolution is false, then creationism is true, and therefore God exists. (2) Evolution can't be true, since I lack the mental capacity to understand it; moreover, to accept its truth would cause me to be uncomfortable (3) Therefore, God exists. ARGUMENT FROM INTIMIDATION (1) See this bonfire? (2) Therefore, God exists.
  2. An Ageless Universe

    I have a question about the argument that there was no beginning to the universe. The argument says that time is a relational concept that applies to objects in the universe, but not to the universe itself. I have also heard Harry Binswanger make the argument that positing the age of a universe without a beginning does not create the existence of any infinities (in his taped lectures on the philosophy of math and science). His argument goes like this: Let's say that the universe had no beginning. No matter how far back in time we go, the time difference between then and now is always a finite number. If I go back 100, 1000, 1,000,000, etc., I have never gone back an infinite amount of time. Therefore there are still no infinities. I don't see the strength of this argument. It still seems that an infinite amount of years have passed, i.e., time has gone on forever. His argument seems to be the same as if I were to argue that numbers aren't infinite, because no matter how large of a number I choose, that number is always finite. (Dr. Binswanger does give arguments that numbers aren't infinite that are very convincing though). Let me state my problem in another way: Let's agree that time is something that can't be applied to the universe itself. Time is a relational measurement and applies only to objects in the universe. I believe I could still argue that this creates existing infinities. Let's not talk about the number of 'years' that have passed, but the number of events that have occurred. If there is no beginning to the universe, it would not be possible to assign a number to the amount of things that have happened in the past. Therefore we have existing infinities. If we could assign a number to the amount of events that have occurred, then we could find a 'first event', prior to which nothing else happened. Any ideas how to solve these problems?
  3. An Ageless Universe

    What I need to do is retrace the steps of the Objectivist metaphysics in ITOE. There I might find a mistake in my own thinking. At this moment I don't have my copy with me, so I won't say much, but I can raise one question. In the beginning of our conceptual development, we see that things exist, and that they also exist in some particular way. We form the implicit concepts of existence and identity. I am comfortable with this. Another observation we have (probably much later on) is that everything that exists (within any chosen group of things) does so in some particular quantity. As I mentioned in the last post, there certainly seems to be an intuitive notion that we can carry this principle to larger and larger quantities. Isn't this how we draw the conclusion that infinity isn't possible? Eventually we apply that principle to the sum of all existents, i.e., the universe. I still see this as a very good argument, even though Alex referred to it as the fallacy of composition. My problem is not that there is no 'border' to the universe, but that there can be a limitless quantity of anything. Alex challenged me to find how his picture of the universe might violate the Law of Identity. I will try and do this, but at least I think I'm starting to get to some more fundament principles behind this issue.
  4. An Ageless Universe

    It's hard to answer that when I don't have a good grasp of these issues yet. I will say though that most people have an intuitive notion that things which exist must exist in some particular quantity. Alex's claim that that this is not necessary is counter-intuitive. It's much easier for me (and probably most people) to accept the fact that existents don't spontaneously come to be, and therefore there is no beginning to time, than to believe that existents can be in no particular amount (at least physical existents).
  5. An Ageless Universe

    Alex, I have read your article a number of times and I find many of the ideas very difficult to grasp. I'm trying to find the key issue(s) that is causing my difficulty in coming to terms with your assertions. Perhaps we can start by discussing what you mean by infinity or the infinite. The way I use the word infinite is to mean not-finite. You say that "if one had a spaceship that was able to travel an octillion light-years a pico second, one by existent after existent, and never hit some sort of wall, barrier, or edge of the universe." I take this to mean that the quantity of entities is unbounded, or not finite. They are uncountable. It sounds to me like you are positing the existence of infinities, but I'm not exactly sure how you're using the word. What am I missing? If you don't have a problem with the scenario you describe, what type of 'infinity' do you object to? By the way, I don't ever remember coming across arguments like these. Are they original to you, or can they be found in Objectivist literature or elsewhere?
  6. I know of three definitions of parabolas (listed below), based on three different characteristics of the parabola. I don't see how to apply the criteria that AR mentioned to determine the proper, or most fundamental, definition. I believe that each characteristic mentioned could be used to show that the other two must be true. Therefore it seems that each characteristic leads to the other two, and each can be thought of as depending equally on the others. Therefore which is the most fundamental? 1) A parabola is the curve formed by the border of the region generated when a (right-circular) cone is intersected by a plane parallel to the slope of the cone. (See here.) 2) A parabola is the set of all points in a plane equidistant from a fixed line (the directrix) and a fixed point (the focus). 3) A parabola is the curve generated by the set of all points graphed on a Cartesian plane satisfying a quadratic equation, i.e, an equation that can be written in the form y=ax^2 + bx + c (where a does not = 0).
  7. I was just reading an article by Elan Journo critiquing the United Nations (see here). I got stuck when trying to follow the logic of how exactly an irrational regime benefits from the moral neutrality of the UN. I'll use an example to illustrate my question (which occurred to me coincidentally just seeing Serenity--don't worry, no spoilers): Let's use the example of a government, which, for the most part, implements rational laws. In the world of Serenity, the Alliance, as far as most people governed by it are concerned, is a just government. The Alliance uses its respectability to label the Tams as Fugitives. Almost noone knows why they are fugitives. But just having this label motivates (or would motivate) countless numbers of honest officers of the law to hunt them down and return them to the authorities. These people do so under the pretense that a 'fugitive' must be someone bad, because the government says so. If these people knew the truth, many would betray their government given the opportunity. The Alliance is using what good reputation it has to obtain it's ends, dishonestly. The United Nations works similarly for irrational dictators. Simply by the fact that more rational nations and leaders are willing to join an organization that includes the dictators, many people make the default assumption that there must be some respectability to these people. To some extent, this morally arms them. In both cases, the irrational needs a lack of knowledge by some group to continue their actions. My question is, how exactly does this lack of knowledge, and by what group, benefit a dictator? I see three groups as potential answers: 1) The first group would be the other leaders. This doesn't seem likely though, since they understand what the dictators actually are (for the most part I guess). Many of them want to hide the truth since they act similarly, or else they are generally good, but lack the will to fight evil. 2) The second group would be the people governed by the dictator. This also seems unlikely, since a sanction by the UN would not have them believe that their torture isn't happening. They live under the regime and therefore can't have it hidden from them as easily. 3) The third group would be the people of other nations. My impression is that a dictator benefits most from their lack of knowledge. If these people knew the truth about these dictators, most of them would act to have their own leaders fight the irrationality. As far as I can tell, these are the people that are most disarmed by the UN. Please comment on any other particulars, as well as my evaluations in 1, 2 & 3. I'm curious about exactly how this 'veil of respectability' benefits a dictator. Thanks.
  8. A while back I purchased David Harriman's taped lecture on space (which I can't recommend enough if you're interested in philosophy of science). I've listened to it over and over, but I'm stuck on some of his points. One of the arguments he raises is from ancient Greece, the "javelin argument". Basically, the idea is that if a javelin is thrown, and it approaches the edge of the universe, it will not hit any sort of boundary. It will continue on. This argument is supposed to show that the universe is limitless, boundless and infinite. But Harriman disagrees with this position and points out the argument's flaws. He states that the argument assumes that a finite universe must have some sort of edge or boundary. It follows then that it makes sense to talk of some region beyond the universe. Essentially, those arguing for the existence of space, or the void, presuppose its existence. Harriman asserts that a finite universe has no outside and therefore no boundary. He doesn't mean that there's no physical boundary, he means that there's no boundary at all. There's no region beyond that which exists. This is what completely confuses me. It almost seems contradictory to say this. I'll state my position as follows: The universe is the the sum of that which exists. That which exists has some particular arrangement. (My scattering of periods below is supposed to represent all existents, i.e. the universe.) Now if I happen to be one of the objects one the edge (and by that I mean everything else is positioned on one side of me), then what happens if I take the javelin and throw it? . ... . . . .... . . ... .. . . .. . . . . Me > javelin .... ... . . .... . . Either there is a boundary, or the javelin could continue forever, thus changing the "shape" of the universe. This alternative seems inevitable. I'm tempted to say that just because "space", that is, "places to be" may continue on and on, this doesn't imply the existence of any infinities. Harriman disallows this as well though. Any thoughts on this topic? I'm stuck. Thanks. Nate Smith
  9. Knowledge Claims

    Because there is no evidence of the existence of God, it seems to me that one should only be able to go so far as claiming, “I do not believe in God.” Yet I think Objectivists make the stronger claim, “There is no God.” To use an analogy, I have no knowledge or evidence of the existence of someone with the same name as myself living in the same city that I live in. Therefore I am willing to say that “I do not believe there are any other Nate Smith’s in Hartland, WI”. But I am not willing to say that “There are no other Nate Smith’s living in Hartland, WI”. Just one more: “I do not believe that Honda makes a pick-up truck” (since I honestly don’t know if they do), but I won’t claim that “Honda does not make a pick-up truck” (because they might). What is the proper epistemological principle(s) that applies to these situations? Thanks.
  10. Knowledge Claims

    I just noticed a separate thread on this forum which is relevant to this one. It's brief, but the point is that arbitrary claims are neither true nor false. Given this, the claim that "unicorns exist" is not false, just dismissible. I think this implies that it would be incorrect to claim "unicorns don't exist". One should just dismiss it as arbitrary. This leads me to another question, about making negative claims (i.e. A claim that 'X is not true', where X is some proposition). I can think of two ways in which negative claims can be validated: 1) If I can show that the proposition X would lead to some contradiction, then I could properly assert that "X is not true". The God example would fit in this category. 2) If I prove that some alternative to X (and also mutually exclusive) is true, then X must be false. For example, if someone claimed that the sky is red, I wouldn't dismiss that claim as arbitrary. I would say, 'No, the sky is blue, and since it can't be both at the same time and in the same respect, the sky is not red'. (A or not-A) Are these the primary two ways in which one can 'prove' a negative?
  11. Knowledge Claims

    I have trouble with this position. If this is the case, why don't you claim that there are no other Nate Smith's in Hartland, WI? You have no evidence to the contrary. I think the point you made about the onus of proof was an important one. Without the proof supporting the positive claim, it is arbitary. If I meet someone who claims to believe in ghosts, I ask for their reasons. If there are none (that are rational), I would assert that "I don't believe in ghosts" because to do so would be arbitrary. But assuming that there are no contradictions in the concept of ghost, I don't see how one could make the claim, there are no ghosts. I am content to live with this as the correct principle, but I would have to admit that I can't be as bold as I might have been in claiming that things like unicorns or leprechauns don't exist.
  12. Knowledge Claims

    So I think I can summarize the previous comments as such: The correct statement given my knowledge of Hondas is that “I do not believe that Honda makes a pick-up truck”. I may make the stronger statement about (the Christian) God, “God does not exist” because of the impossible attributes assigned to him. Because his existence would require a contradiction, the stronger claim is justified. Now what if I were to meet someone who claimed to believe in (a non-Christian) god, and when that person was asked to describe what they believed in, what was described involved no contradictions*? Would I then only be able to make the claim that “I don’t believe in your god, not due to any contradictions, but simply because I have no evidence for its existence”? (* I admit that when I suppose this possibility I am not asserting much in the positive sense. Eliminating all of the contradictory attributes of God may not leave much left. If that is the case, then of course this is a bad example.) As another example, how do these principles apply to Unicorns or Pegasi? Or if someone says they believe in ghosts, what claims can we make? On what grounds am I able to claim that neither exist? Am I only able to claim that I don’t believe in them?
  13. Jokes

    A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day. "In English," he said, "A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative." A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."
  14. Jokes

    I haven't read this whole thread, so I hope this isn't a duplicate. I thought this one would go over well on this forum. Dean, to the physics department: Why do I always have to give you guys so much money, for laboratories and expensive equipment and stuff? Why couldn't you be like the math department - all they need is money for pencils, paper and waste-paper baskets. Or even better, like the philosophy department? All they need are pencils and paper.
  15. US Religious Origin Given that the founding fathers had such negative things to say about religion and its effects, and also that they felt so strongly that individuals need to use reason, why were so many of the deists? Why weren't they more comfortable abandoning religion altogether and calling themselves atheists?
  16. Limits

    It's funny that you mention this example. I arrived at this problem of limits by debating some people whether 1 = 0.999... I agree that they are equal. I think that the only way to rationally define of 0.999... is to say that it equals 1. If they are different, there must be some distance between them, and therefore some number between them. Of course there are none (Basically, the principle is if a-b=0, then a = . Everyone that disagreed with me argued that the difference between the numbers is a decimal, then an infinite number of zeros, and then a 1 (i.e. 0.00...01). That's a funny contradiction. When would the 1 actually come? The only good counter example I could think of is if you define 0.999... to be the limit of the sum of 0.9 + 0.09 + 0.009 + ... Then the problem becomes does 0.999... even exist at all, or any other non-finite decimal for that matter? There's where I got stuck and when this thread began.
  17. Limits

    You say that the area is defined as the limiting value. That is interesting from the perspective that area (earlier in the hierarchy of math) is defined as the number of square units that can 'fit' into a given region. If you integrate the function y = x from 0 to 2 (which will yield a right-isosceles triangle with legs of length 2), you will get an area of 2 square units. The area could of course be calculated much more easily using simple geometric analysis in this case. The result will be the same either way though. It seems to me to be imperative that mathematicians show that the limit IS the quantity of square units that fit into a region, even if that region is not a polygon. I don't like the idea of redefining the concept of area; I'd rather just find new ways of calculating it. I'm not familiar with infinitesimals. I'll have to look into that idea. Thanks for the comments.
  18. Stopping Aging

    Hello Dr. RJM, Do you believe that mankind will ever develop the ability to stop or reverse the aging process? In principle, is this possible? I have heard that some scientists believe we are very close to doing so. In simple terms, what are the primary barriers to overcome, and what are the mechanisms to do this? Thanks. Nate Smith
  19. The Nature of the Universe

    Martin, here are my initial thoughts on your post, for what it's worth. I just wrote a more detailed post on my own position. It will give you a better idea of where I am coming from. I don't understand this last point.
  20. The Nature of the Universe

    I'm pretty sure I couldn't be more confused than I am right now. I've been reading all of these posts over and over, and instead of raising all of the questions that I have, I want to deal with the idea of "no empty spaces" again. That's where I keep getting stuck. Plus, I think this question is fundamental to most of my other problems. I'm still not convinced that by saying that "there is nothing between objects A and B", I am asserting the existence of anything (the void). For example, if I say "there are no dogs in this house", it does not follow that I am asserting the existence of no-dogness. If I claim there is nothing in this jar, I don't mean to say that nothing IS. Let me ask this question another way by proposing a theory of the universe different than what most of the people on this forum are proposing: I begin with the objects I perceive. When I talk about location, I mean in relation to other objects. When I talk about the “shape” of the universe, I am referring to the arrangement of all existents. I am taking it as a given that the sum of that which exists must have some particular arrangement at any given point in time. I am also working off the premise that a finite group of existents must have some arrangement such that some of those existents must make up an outer border. For example, if I take a handful of sand and throw it on the ground, I can claim with certainty that some of the pieces of sand will form an “outer border”. I see the universe in the same way (except with 3-dimensions). Any number of finite objects must be arranged in some way such that some of them must be on the “outer edge”. Now if I were to throw the javelin beyond the current edge, I don’t see any problems in saying that it could continue indefinitely. One consequence would be that the former shape or arrangement of the existents (i.e. the universe) would change, but it would still be finite, and always will be. I would answer the Greek who originally proposed the javelin question by saying that the universe is finite, but the javelin could continue indefinitely. I would still be able to claim that the universe is finite, because the universe is just that which exists, and that will always be finite. I don’t have to worry about those claiming that I am proposing the existence of empty space, because it doesn’t exist. All that exists are other objects. Empty space isn’t something that exists. Since I am stuck trying to figure out what most of you believe, I thought I'd lay out my thoughts, and let you all point out any problems you see. Thanks for your patience. Nate Smith
  21. Stopping Aging

    This topic came up in a casual conversation once (among myself and others that had no idea what we were talking about). My initial thoughts were these: For the first twenty years or so of our lives, not only do we not undergo aging, but our bodies are actually improving. If physically, we have the ability to "fight off" the causes of aging, then with a little help, this process should be able to continue indefinitely. I at least convinced myself that, in principle, this should be possible. The only counter argument I could think of to this was, what if there is some built-in genetic mechanism that, after a certain period of time, causes our body to shut down in certain ways? There are certainly genetically-timed developments we undergo (sexual development being an obvious one). I have no idea how much of aging is caused by external causes, and if any of it is caused by our nature. What are your thoughts on these ideas? Also, a few of things that I have heard of that contribute largely to aging are free radical (though I don't know much about what they are, or what they do) and the sun's radiation. Are there other larege contributors, and how do they affect aging? Thanks again. Nate Smith