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  1. FBI Enlists Internet Cafe Owners to Spy on Customers

    Why doesn't the mint print UPC codes on paper money, codes that would be scanned in retail stores, restaurants, etc? Surely that would not only help the FBI trace the flow of laundered money, but also help them spot counterfeit money. After all, cashiers rarely check serial numbers on banknotes, but if standard operating procedure were to scan all of the money before handing the bagged merchandise to the customer, then something very much like a serial number would be picked up by the system. I suspect that people in the US government believe that money laundering kept the economy afloat during the worst period of the 2007-2008 economic crisis, and that nobody in the US government who has enough authority to put a stop to money laundering has any intention of actually authorizing any action that risks bringing money laundering to a halt in the USA. Also, there are jobs at stake. A lot of people have jobs tracking down money launderers and compiling legal documents to use against money launderers. Putting money launderers out of business all in one stroke would take away those jobs, and in a time of high unemployment, politicians care about saving jobs -- useless or not -- more than they care about saving money for the taxpayers. That is presuming that politicians care at all about saving money for taxpayers. Of course, I'm using broad strokes myself here. Each politician has free will, and some might be above reproach. Perhaps it is partly because they are above reproach that they are unknown. The news media love scandals and might do whatever they can to marginalize a political candidate who offers no potential for scandals.
  2. Logicism (brief explanation): the hypothesis that it is possible to define all mathematical concepts in terms of the concepts of logic and that it is also possible to deduce all mathematical axioms from axioms of logic. For example, if we assume that Objectivism is true and we are able to conclude that the hypothesis is false, then logicism is incompatible with Objectivism.
  3. Never has it been found that a specific even number larger than 4 is not equal to the sum of any two (not necessarily distinct) odd primes. On the contrary, each of a very large number of even numbers larger than 4 have been successfully expressed as a sum of two (not necessarily distinct) odd primes. The evidence in support of Goldbach's "conjecture" in entirely unambiguous. In contrast, evidence in support of some laws of economics is more ambiguous. Also, there seems to be more evidence available in support of Goldbach's "conjecture" than there is in support of some laws of physics.
  4. Reality, Causality, and Logic

    You wrote: "whether it was struck by lightning has to be ascertained by investigating the entities: one looks for evidence on the plane not by looking for a lightning event." I'm wondering why one cannot look for evidence by looking for an event. There is increasing use of automatic equipment that records events that no human operator is observing in real time. A record of events can be studied later. There doesn't seem to be any way to witness astronomical events that occurred before you were born. This is an example of reliance upon records of events as a substitute for directly witnessing events that it would be impossible for you to witness. In other cases, it might be possible, but unsafe or inconvenient for you to personally witness some events.
  5. Reality, Causality, and Logic

    Are you assuming that the airplane under discussion is not equipped with devices that measure and record various kinds of information over a period of time? For example, isn't it possible that an experimental airplane so equipped might be deliberately flown by a pilot, with no passengers on board, into lightning storms to record what happens?
  6. Reality, Causality, and Logic

    Can you demonstrate that the view that events cause events is a view that is contrary to reality and reason?
  7. Reality, Causality, and Logic

    If I assume that you are right when you say, "Events don't cause events [...] entities act in accordance with their natures" then should I conclude that people investigating an airplane crash should, for example, pay no attention to the question of whether or not the airplane was struck by lightning?
  8. Reality, Causality, and Logic

    I vaguely recall reading somewhere that sleeping pills cause drowsiness because they contain at least one substance that has soporific qualities. I suppose that such an explanation may help expand the vocabulary of a student of English as a foreign language. However, I must admit that such an explanation provides no meaningful information that I can understand.
  9. If I'm not mistaken, earlier in this thread you identified the finite with the limited, denied the existence of any existent that is in any respect infinite, and concluded that each actual thing must have a limit. If I have misrepresented your postings in this thread, then please correct me. Now, it occurs to me that if we are free to define our own measurement system for time, then we could do it as follows. The absolute starting point shall be Dec 31st, 2007 at midnight. The absolute end point shall be midnight on Dec 31st, 2010. By definition, the first "year" begins at the absolute starting point and ends at what is -- in the usual measurement system -- the midpoint between the starting point and the absolute end point. Thus, the first "year" begins at midnight on Dec 31st, 2008 and ends at midnight on Dec 31st, 2009. However, the next interval of "one year" is by definition from midnight at Dec 31st, 2009 to the time that is -- in the usual measurement system -- the midpoint between Dec 31st, 2009 at midnight and the absolute end point. If we continue that process, then there is a "limit" in the sense that we will eventually reach and pass the so-called "absolute end point", but as we get arbitrarily close to midnight of Dec 31st, 2010, our measurement system will have assigned an arbitrarily large number of years to the interval of time between Dec 31st, 2007 and the approaching deadline of Dec 31st, 2010. The details in the above example might obscure the idea somewhat, so perhaps an analogy will be helpful. (If it's not helpful, then you can simply ignore it. I'm not claiming that it is necessarily a perfect analogy.) Consider a line segment that has one end at the origin of a Cartesian coordinate system and that has the other end somewhere in the upper right quadrant. It makes some angle between zero and ninety degrees with the positive x axis. Now, what if we were to choose to measure that angle not in degrees, but by considering the slope of that line segment? In that case, the full ninety degrees cannot be assigned an angular measure unless we expand our number system to include a point at infinity. However, an angle very close to ninety degrees may have an arbitrarily large slope. Thus, the numerical system of slope assigns a measure to angles in such a way that the numbers do not actually have any limit.
  10. Suppose that some researchers want to confirm that some specified kind of event causes some other specified kind of event. It is possible that detailed knowledge of at least one specialized science will be involved in trying to establish such a thing. However, there is a general philosophical issue that arises. Are the researchers confirming merely that some specific observations are consistent with a particular model of reality? Is causality a definite aspect of reality itself? There is a distinction between correlation and causation. How can one guarantee that one has discovered an example of causation and not merely a very subtle or complex correlation? Does the specialized science known as "probability and statistics" play a role in establishing causation or is there a more general logic of inductive inference that the science of probability and statistics relies upon, but that does not itself rely upon the science of probability and statistics?
  11. Let's suppose that someone at an archaeological dig finds a stone arrow head and other artifacts and that a variety of different kinds of evidence indicate that the arrow head is likely between 3,000 and 30,000 years old. Now there is neither any memory nor any written record of the making of that arrow head. You might think I am foolish, but I am confident that there was a time in the past -- likely between 3,000 and 30,000 years ago -- when someone was making one of those stone arrow heads. I believe in the existence of that time. I require consciousness to be capable of holding a belief, but I think that the belief refers to a reality that is simply true and that is real apart from my consciousness, even though there is no memory of the making of that stone arrow head. Actually, this isn't hypothetical. I haven't identified one particular archaeological dig or one particular stone arrow head. However, we're not talking about something that is merely conceivable. We're talking about facts, generic facts. You can deny the existence of a time when a stone arrow head was being made, but you cannot deny the existence of stone arrow heads in museums around the world. How do you explain the existence of stone arrow heads?
  12. Right now, I'm not prepared to respond to the post that I identified above by quoting the beginning and end of it. I think the post is based on what is a good idea at this point in the thread: bringing unstated assumptions out into the open. I appreciate the thinking that evidently went into that post and I do intend to respond to it in some detail after I have devoted more time to thinking about it and re-reading it.
  13. If there will be a final hour, then hours after that hour will not exist. You might wish to quibble about reference frames. A time interval of an hour in one reference frame will correspond to an interval of a different duration in another reference frame. However, if we choose one particular reference frame then either there will be a final hour in that reference frame or there won't be a final hour in that reference frame. If there will be a final hour in that reference frame, then existence will not exist beyond that final hour. If there won't be a final hour in that reference frame, then existence has an infinite duration and your inability to assign a number to that duration doesn't make it finite.
  14. To make an observation is to risk discovering that expectations are confounded. The assumption that words and phrases such as "without limit", "definite characteristics", and "identity" can provide any guarantee about the nature of reality seems to be an example of the error known as rationalism.
  15. Existence exists. For how long will it continue to exist? Is it meaningless to say that existence exists? Must we confine our attention to some restricted part of existence?