Sunday, February 15, 2009

On skeptics side.

The more I am reading magazines about the paranormal, the more I am listening to what people involved in the metaphysical say, the more I watch specific tv shows or being informed about it, the more I side on with the skeptics. And so much more I can understand the war they are on, why some of them are so radical, why this fight can now be considered as a humanistic process.

Don't get me wrong, this is not my style. I always disliked the way radical skepticism works. It's sad that it happens, when bringing specific subjects into discussion (about unexplained phenomena) some so-called skeptic people spontaneously rush to reply that all these stuff are bullshit. It's like they already have prepared the position they hold and you can't change their mind.

I prefer honest skepticism. Although, the more I accumulate knowledge about the whole issue (not only the phenomena, but even articles concerning how easily we are deluded or the question of why do we believe) the more I come to side with skeptics, even the fanatical ones. It's not the way I perceive and work on situations, but I can now understand their anger. Not only that, but now I discover that this side is more reliable than it's opposite.

The paranormal is a world that always interested me. At least some portions of it. I was always (and still am) fascinated by the stories about UFOs or other strange phenomena. I can't say why. If you tell me a reason, it might or might not be that. Everybody must have his own reasons for being interested to these stuff. For example, I never really dug the new age alike ideas, somehow I hated it when they were talking about higher planes of existence, the universe being one and such stuff that are usually more popular among girls. UFOs or extraterrestrials (even though it's not sure they are necessary connected with each other) were more close to my interests, maybe because space always fascinated me and the phenomena as described were very strange and outlandish. Of course all that could be seen with other more down to earth explanations. Although I preferred to keep an open mind or that was (and still is) the way I am used to think. Some people have a need to skeptically respond to such claims as if, when they don't it would feel like they accepted. But this is not how I think. I am fascinated at first and then let it open. It doesn't mean that I believe or I accept a story if I don't counteract. Imho.

Anyways, arriving from that world and after few personal frustrations with the paranormal community (because for some reasons I am a real maniac concerning the search for some answers and I got fed up by the ever-growing confusion in these cycles) I started reading more skeptical articles on the internet. Even if at some times they make equally improbable assumptions in order to debunk some improbable claims, there are some really good stuff in there, which for my case it was something new and I felt like I was reborn. (That teaches me that when I am stuck for years in the same ideas, I should try switching to the opposite information, the one I always avoided taking into consideration or even touching)

Nowadays I trust and sympathize more with any kind of skeptics. I still prefer the more honest and less radical ones. In any way I feel like I can trust these people more than others concerning reliability, if I wish to know more about these subjects and avoid confusion.

There is even another interesting kind of war here. Maybe it's not a bad thing. Needless to say, it's very interesting to me. It seems that there is some kind of split up in worldviews of scientists that could be described as a war between materialism and spiritualism. Some scientists believe that we are nothing more than a brain mass but others keep a more dualistic view of ourselves, either believing in the existence of a soul, higher planes of consciousness or generally something unmeasured with conventional scientific methods that is parallel to the material world. And the fascinating thing is that scientists around the world are eager to research these assumptions.

If you ask me, I am more on the side of the monistic view that all we have is a brain. Two and a half reasons for that. First, I am fascinated by the whole research on how the brain works. Although I don't have a clue about neuroscience, I am really curious about the answers the research into this field might give us. The second reason is an aftereffect of the first, the fact that this research gives us more clues than the dualistic views do. At least I think so. And all I want is some good answers, not metaphysical confusion. The half reason is already mentioned several lines above. I am allergic to several new age worldviews. I don't know why but they either sound so naive or I simply hate them. And the dualistic views of many of these fringe scientists are sounding alike.

So, would I dismiss the fringe science? No. I am not one hundred percent on the side of materialist scientists. I just found them more reliable and more compatible to my worldview. But I do have a keen interest in those things that scientists are afraid to touch, the ones that could produce an outrage and I like that these scientists have the guts to do their research on those taboo fields. At the same time I really enjoy and support the skeptic reactions towards fringe scientists because I believe that they help to keep a balance between radical denial and naive openmindness. It's only the best when both sides have strong and honest arguments.

Yet the question remains. Would even these fringe scientists be "dangerous"? In what way? What are we afraid of here? I was watching some greek tv show today (pyles tou anexigitou) and then I really started worrying and understanding the humanistic aspect of being a skeptic. There is such absurd meta-literature on everything that makes you cringe and wonder how come people blindly believe all these stuff and what could be the forecoming consequences. And then there is the dilemma whether I worry too much or whether each side is a bit too radical or too crazy or too deluded.

One thing is for sure though, that I am clearly getting closer to the skeptics side rather than the naive metaphysical worldview.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Improbable theories

A friend once said the following hilarious quote: "I have thought of a theory so insane that even myself doesn't believe in it!

I just thought of a single one after walking out in the city and eating two gyros :)

When they ask me if I believe in extraterrestrials I like to reply that I don't. My last view before this one was that I surely believe there must be intelligent life (in so many galaxies, so many stars, blabla.. it MUST have evolved). Although the real question here is whether they have visited us or not. Nevertheless, I recently like to reply (maybe less seriously and just to surprise people) that I don't believe in extraterrestrials. And that is concluded from my belief in the multiverse :)

I have an obsession with an idea of the multiverse. It was derived from some scientific theories I might have heard somewhere but my own vision of it could reach a religious point of view. It's the acceptance of all possibilities.

Actually not exactly :)

The multiverse as a science fiction theory is a big set of all the possible infinite parallel universes. First of all it supports a better alternative of time travel theory and helps us to avoid the well known time traveler paradoxes. In a parallel universe I am not just sitting right here writting this blog but I may be still outside or I may be coding something on my computer or I may be 20 pounds lighter or I may be dead right now. The set of these parallel universes is all alternative realities I could be living right now, all alternative history events, all alternative possible worlds. Our universe is only one single posibility of all that exist in parallel. Some suggest another form of parallel universes where not only the different outcomes occur but also different set of physical laws. Through these kind of thoughts your perception can go far far away and maybe you will loose it as I did :)

Anyway, the point about aliens is: It's very improbable that a universe with billions of galaxies and each one bearing billions of stars, would not be host to at least one other intelligent species except us. But in the multiverse of infinite possible universes there must exist also those that happen to accommodate only us. There must exist those few but still sub-infinite sets of universes where for one or another reason it renders us totally alone inside them. Who can say that we haven't been unlucky (or lucky?) and our universe happens to be one of those lonely ones that out of seer luck happened to favor life on earth and nothing else? Or imagine some other sets of possible universes where a small number of intelligent species did exist somewhere else but at our current time they have all been destroyed by war or physical catastrophes. It's one improbable posibility but who can prove our universe is not amongst them?

And yes, we have not reached the improbable theory I was thinking at the way home yet!

I made a similar question about god. Ok, god is something that they ask me if I believe in but what I can't understand is what the heck is the definition of god. This is another big matter that I have made various strange thoughts about and I'd like to stretch it on one of my next posts.

I am not sure what god is and whether it can be defined. But let's assume that it's very improbable that he exists. According to Dawkins, the idea of all infinite, all powerful, all seeing god is like a skyhook coming from nowhere. If god created the universe then who created god? And who created the god of god? The idea of god just existing without needing a creator is so improbable in the views of science and evolution that the other alternative is simply to imagine an infinite perfect uberbeing or something. But then we simply put god outside the equation. So in order for such a perfect ultimate being called god to exist it has to not being able to be measured by scientific methods. But if we can't measure it then how can we prove it? In a nutshell that's how I think that god (or actually the notion of god) is highly improbable.

And then we come to the multiverse point of view. I know, I know, it's predictable, there is a universe or a few sets (yet sub-infinite) of universes in the multiverse where this improbable god entity exists. Then I come to the following question: "But if the ultimate being exists then why being a part of only a small sub-portion of the multiverse?". And then somehow I remember to have reached the conclusion that since we have proven that he exists in a single universe of the multiverse and since it's the ultimate being then he should be the god of all multiverse. And therefore I thought for once that I have proven the existence of god. Until it sounded so absurd right now I am writing this that I abandoned the idea :)

Crazy, I know. After falling down to the level of BITS, it felt like time to reach the universe of LCF (can't reach his personal site with his weird ideas right now). What's next? Sotsoft???

I am recently thinking of some common pitfalls in my multiverse view. Of course this is just my lousy view derived from the scientific theory about it (I have read somewhere that David Deutsch prooved mathematically that parallel universes exists, not sure what that could practically mean though). One problem with my lousy view of the multiverse (that every possibility I can or even cannot imagine could exist either in this or in another universe) is similar to the problam of god. If god is the ultimate being out there, couldn't we think of a god that is so perfect that is even more perfect than himself? Or the joke about the god who creates a rock so heavy that he even can't lift it?

Similarly, in the multiverse, which is the notion of endless posibilities, where everything can exist somewhere (even fairies and the flying spaghetti monster :), I could imagine of a multiverse that doesn't hold all posibilities, a multiverse with infinite universes in which the laws are same or in all of them there exists no god or where there are always extraterrestrials. With my notion that the multiverse is the infinite set of universe where every improbability exists then there also exist the improbabilities which abolish the great notion of the multiverse of all possibilities since it hosts also the possibility that deny itself. As in the skyhook example I can simply say that the multiverse which hold only half of the possibilities is wrongly called a multiverse but it is an uberverse (a set of parallel universes but not the only one) which is only a part of a greater set of uberverses called the multiverse. Then someone can tease me with an example of a multiverse as a set of uberverses that since it holds all the possible outcomes, it also holds the improbable probability that negates the initial notion of the perfect multiverse. Then I'd continue telling him this is another uberverse (similar to someone saying that there is a god who created god who created god who created god to infinity) or to say it better, the multiverse is the supreme notion that cannot be analyzed. And here I come to an analogy with the not to be analyzed supreme entity called god and I realize that the notion of multiverse I have created with my own philosophical thoughts about it, is a very similar idea to the absurd notion of god and thus the multiverse is a god itself.

Now, something even more crazy that came into my mind. Imagine this whole unreachable multiverse being a computer simulation in which we live inside. And that the people who wrote the software are living in another universe inside an uberverse inside a multiverse which they don't that is simply a part of another simulation of reality software of some other beings which are also...... you got the idea. Now think that to infinity and loose your minds! =)

I need to get a break..
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