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"Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
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Roosh Offline
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"Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
I read a fascinating article that suggests there are multiple possibilities of reality that is not set until an observer "sees" it. It's an application of the double slit experiment on a planetary scale.

Quote:And by peering back into time, even all the way back to the Big Bang, our present observations select one out of many possible quantum histories for the universe.

Does this mean humans are necessary to the existence of the universe? While conscious observers certainly partake in the creation of the participatory universe envisioned by Wheeler, they are not the only, or even primary, way by which quantum potentials become real. Ordinary matter and radiation play the dominant roles. Wheeler likes to use the example of a high-energy particle released by a radioactive element like radium in Earth's crust. The particle, as with the photons in the two-slit experiment, exists in many possible states at once, traveling in every possible direction, not quite real and solid until it interacts with something, say a piece of mica in Earth's crust. When that happens, one of those many different probable outcomes becomes real. In this case the mica, not a conscious being, is the object that transforms what might happen into what does happen. The trail of disrupted atoms left in the mica by the high-energy particle becomes part of the real world.

[...]

Wheeler suspects that most of the universe consists of huge clouds of uncertainty that have not yet interacted either with a conscious observer or even with some lump of inanimate matter. He sees the universe as a vast arena containing realms where the past is not yet fixed.

[...]

In order for us to see that something happens, and say to one another that something happens, you need to have a universe, you need to have a recording device, and you need to have us. It's not enough for the information to be stored somewhere, completely inaccessible to anybody. It's necessary for somebody to look at it. You need an observer who looks at the universe. In the absence of observers, our universe is dead."

http://www.unt.edu/rss/class/rich/misc/JohnWheeler.html

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11-25-2015 08:32 PM
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Onto Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
Quote:In order for us to see that something happens, and say to one another that something happens, you need to have a universe, you need to have a recording device, and you need to have us. It's not enough for the information to be stored somewhere, completely inaccessible to anybody. It's necessary for somebody to look at it. You need an observer who looks at the universe. In the absence of observers, our universe is dead."

The statement above describes "recognition", which is a requirement for being

It's not enough for us to do something, but we need the others to see us doing it. Otherwise it feels empty. I remember experiencing this profoundly when I would have my young son on the weekends. Those weekends were filled with great Father moments, from doing chores to having fun to learning and instilling discipline and morals. At the heights I thought to myself, "If only someone could see us".

Without recognition of the other we feel like we don't even exist. The movie Castaway shows this well when Tom Hanks has to create and imaginary friend so he doesn't go insane.

[Image: 5198823857_ff68748aef.jpg]

Would the universe cease to exist if there were no Wilson for Tom? In some sense, yes, but I think it would be a psychological existence, not a material one.

So the whole thing then brings up the question, "Why is the others seeing of me so important?"
(This post was last modified: 11-25-2015 09:03 PM by Onto.)
11-25-2015 08:45 PM
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Paracelsus Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
This seems to me a variation on the problem of Schrodinger's Cat, which is the contrarian conclusion that arises out of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. It still comes down to the counterintuitive conclusion that a subatomic particle changes its fundamental nature according to the type of observation being performed. You still have the theoretical miracle that the cat is both alive and dead inside the box until an observer opens the box and decides which of the two states applies.

Here's a thought: if a great category of things in our universe do not exist unless observed by a self-aware, conscious being, and you believe that even one of those objects existed prior to your seeing it, the case for an omniscient if not omnipotent God-type being becomes much stronger - because if our universe does exist in its entirety beyond that tiny portion of it which we can see, someone has to do the observing.
11-25-2015 09:11 PM
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VincentVinturi
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
I believe that the universe only comes into existence when I experience it. The rest is a figment of its own imagination.
11-25-2015 09:24 PM
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Onto Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

- Stephen Crane
11-26-2015 12:13 AM
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Wutang Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-25-2015 09:11 PM)Paracelsus Wrote:  Here's a thought: if a great category of things in our universe do not exist unless observed by a self-aware, conscious being, and you believe that even one of those objects existed prior to your seeing it, the case for an omniscient if not omnipotent God-type being becomes much stronger - because if our universe does exist in its entirety beyond that tiny portion of it which we can see, someone has to do the observing.

George Berkeley's philosophy asserts that proposition. He believed that everything in the universe is ultimately made of mind (as opposed to matter) and for any object to exist there must be a subject with a mind to maintain the existence of the object. This leads people to asking 'What happens if an object has no mind observing it? Does a chair vanish out of existence when you turn around and then pops back when you look at it again?" Berkeley's answer is that God and his divine mind is what maintains the existence of the object and observes it even when no other mind is.
11-26-2015 12:14 AM
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
Also a dialogue from the second volume of Arthur Schopenhauer's "The World As Will and Representation" which does a very good job of summing up the interplay between subject and object when it comes to the question of what exists. This is probably my favorite dialogue of all time and something I read as much for the philosophical ideas it conveys as for the prose and verbal aesthetics:

The Subject.

I am, and besides me there is nothing. For the world is my idea.

Matter.

Presumptuous delusion! I, I am, and besides me there is nothing, for the world is my fleeting form. Thou art a mere result of a part of this form and altogether accidental.

The Subject.

What insane arrogance! Neither thou nor thy form would exist without me; ye are conditioned by me. Whosoever thinks me away, and believes he can still think [pg 182] ye there, is involved in gross delusion, for your existence apart from my idea is a direct contradiction, a meaningless form of words. Ye are simply means ye are perceived by me. My idea is the sphere of your existence; therefore I am its first condition.

Matter.

Fortunately the audacity of your assertion will soon be put to silence in reality and not by mere words. Yet a few moments and thou actually art no more. With all thy boasting thou hast sunk into nothing, vanished like a shadow, and shared the fate of all my transitory forms. But I, I remain, unscathed and undiminished, from age to age, through infinite time, and behold unshaken the play of my changing form.

The Subject.

This infinite time through which thou boastest that thou livest, like the infinite space which thou fillest, exists only in my idea. Indeed it is merely the form of my idea which I bear complete in myself, and in which thou exhibitest thyself, which receives thee, and through which thou first of all existest. But the annihilation with which thou threatenest me touches me not; were it so, then wouldst thou also be annihilated. It merely affects the individual, which for a short time is my vehicle, and which, like everything else, is my idea.

Matter.

And if I concede this, and go so far as to regard thy existence, which is yet inseparably linked to that of these fleeting individuals, as something absolute, it yet remains dependent upon mine. For thou art subject only so far as thou hast an object; and this object I am. I am its kernel and content, that which is permanent in it, that which holds it together, and without which it would be as disconnected, as wavering, and unsubstantial as the dreams [pg 183] and fancies of thy individuals, which have yet borrowed from me even the illusive content they possess.

The Subject.

Thou dost well to refrain from contesting my existence on the ground that it is linked to individuals; for, as inseparably as I am joined to them, thou art joined to thy sister, Form, and hast never appeared without her. No eye hath yet seen either thee or me naked and isolated; for we are both mere abstractions. It is in reality one being that perceives itself and is perceived by itself, but whose real being cannot consist either in perceiving or in being perceived, since these are divided between us two.

Both.

We are, then, inseparably joined together as necessary parts of one whole, which includes us both and exists through us. Only a misunderstanding can oppose us two hostilely to each other, and hence draw the false conclusion that the one contests the existence of the other, with which its own existence stands or falls.
11-26-2015 12:19 AM
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heavy Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
Schrodingers cat. ..the book. ...went into this question long ago.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
11-26-2015 12:48 AM
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Sherman Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
Even according to a conventional materialistic model, this is true. Think of a table, for example. Without any observer, the table is just a collection of atoms. To give it meaning as a "table" requires someone to perceive it. It's your brain and body which perceives an "object" separate from an "environment". In reality, there are only atoms, or ultimately just energy in constant motion. You are the one that gives that collection of atoms the meaning of a "table". Notice that I haven't used any quantum mechanics in my argument.

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11-26-2015 12:57 AM
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RichieP Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
Quantum Physics is the creepiest phenomenon from a philosophical perspective.

It's absolutely mind-blowing that we live in a universe where the physical state of things actually depends on whether someone/something is measuring or not.

Fucking odd. I mean, you couldn't make it up, almost. It'd be too far-fetched for science-fiction, if it hadn't been confirmed by experimental observation.
(This post was last modified: 11-26-2015 01:41 AM by RichieP.)
11-26-2015 01:33 AM
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RichieP Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-25-2015 08:45 PM)Onto Wrote:  Would the universe cease to exist if there were no Wilson for Tom? In some sense, yes, but I think it would be a psychological existence, not a material one.

So the whole thing then brings up the question, "Why is the others seeing of me so important?"


I'd venture the answer to that one is biological. We're hardwired to be tribal creatures- homosapiens lived in tribes for 500k years before this relatively short blip of "civilization", and their primate ancestors, millions of years before that. Our brains are specifically evolved for social interaction and tribal belonging.
(This post was last modified: 11-26-2015 01:41 AM by RichieP.)
11-26-2015 01:40 AM
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Paracelsus Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-26-2015 01:33 AM)RichieP Wrote:  Quantum Physics is the creepiest phenomenon from a philosophical perspective.

It's absolutely mind-blowing that we live in a universe where the physical state of things actually depends on whether someone/something is measuring or not.

Fucking odd. I mean, you couldn't make it up, almost. It'd be too far-fetched for science-fiction, if it hadn't been confirmed by experimental observation.

The part I find most groovy is the Bell experiment. Forget my flying car, give me fucking teleportation and be done with it already.
11-26-2015 01:57 AM
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poutsara Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
Most likely, I will never understand this.
(This post was last modified: 02-13-2016 08:43 PM by poutsara.)
11-26-2015 03:08 AM
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Wutang Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-26-2015 12:57 AM)Sherman Wrote:  Even according to a conventional materialistic model, this is true. Think of a table, for example. Without any observer, the table is just a collection of atoms. To give it meaning as a "table" requires someone to perceive it. It's your brain and body which perceives an "object" separate from an "environment". In reality, there are only atoms, or ultimately just energy in constant motion. You are the one that gives that collection of atoms the meaning of a "table". Notice that I haven't used any quantum mechanics in my argument.

If you wanna bring some old school philosophy into it - it is the mind that perceives forms like the form of a table. Without a mind to impose a form upon an object like a table it would just be a jumble of atoms with no seeming connection between them. If you wanna go even deeper like Schopenhauer did in that above dialogue I posted it would appear that it's impossible to think of matter except through a form of some sorts and perhaps even atoms are a combination of both form and matter rather then just raw pure matter.

"Thou art joined to thy sister, Form, and hast never appeared without her. No eye hath yet seen either thee or me naked and isolated; for we are both mere abstractions."
11-26-2015 05:29 AM
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Phoenix Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
Axiomatically exists in either case. You need to mention the existence of the universe (by using the word 'universe') to question whether or not your not looking at it will stop it existing.

To assert "the universe doesn't exist if I don't look at it" is equivalent to a man saying "I am not speaking". Its an axiomatically false statement.
11-26-2015 06:36 AM
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Windom Earle Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-26-2015 06:36 AM)Phoenix Wrote:  Axiomatically exists in either case. You need to mention the existence of the universe (by using the word 'universe') to question whether or not your not looking at it will stop it existing.

To assert "the universe doesn't exist if I don't look at it" is equivalent to a man saying "I am not speaking". Its an axiomatically false statement.

Mentioning is different to observing.

It's in your minds eye, but you don't have a bead on it.

With the simple utterance of sound from one's mouth, observation of sound waves is occurring through ears (providing the subject can hear).

You could use the same logic with sight (save for the totally blind) - by stating "I cannot see" whilst blindfolded is a false statement, because the blackness seen whilst eyes are closed is still "seeing".
11-26-2015 06:51 AM
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-26-2015 06:51 AM)Windom Earle Wrote:  Mentioning is different to observing.

But you cannot mention that which you haven't observed, for from observation comes knowledge, which is echoed back with words.
11-26-2015 07:30 AM
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H1N1 Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-26-2015 07:30 AM)Phoenix Wrote:  
(11-26-2015 06:51 AM)Windom Earle Wrote:  Mentioning is different to observing.

But you cannot mention that which you haven't observed, for from observation comes knowledge, which is echoed back with words.

This depends, and what you pronounce as certain is not by any means definitively so. A Platonist would argue that there exists a division between objects and forms, and that forms inhabit a higher plane of existence, which you are able to intuit. So for example, a drawing of a triangle, may exhibit the qualities that make it fall within the set 'Triangles', but in so doing, you are referencing an intuitive understanding of the higher form of 'Triangle-ness', something which you have never actually observed but would probably agree exists.
11-26-2015 08:05 AM
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-26-2015 07:30 AM)Phoenix Wrote:  
(11-26-2015 06:51 AM)Windom Earle Wrote:  Mentioning is different to observing.

But you cannot mention that which you haven't observed, for from observation comes knowledge, which is echoed back with words.

Therein lies the conundrum of deity-based religions.
11-26-2015 09:11 AM
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Phoenix Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-26-2015 09:11 AM)Windom Earle Wrote:  
(11-26-2015 07:30 AM)Phoenix Wrote:  But you cannot mention that which you haven't observed, for from observation comes knowledge, which is echoed back with words.

Therein lies the conundrum of deity-based religions.

Unfortunately its not as innocent as a conundrum Big Grin It's the purest form of lying: for personal gain, and with no possibility of being caught.
11-26-2015 10:32 AM
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Wutang Offline
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-26-2015 06:36 AM)Phoenix Wrote:  Axiomatically exists in either case. You need to mention the existence of the universe (by using the word 'universe') to question whether or not your not looking at it will stop it existing.

To assert "the universe doesn't exist if I don't look at it" is equivalent to a man saying "I am not speaking". Its an axiomatically false statement.

The possibility of mentioning the existence of something is not the same as it actually existing. After all don't atheists always criticize ontological type arguments by saying that being able to conceive of a highest Being isn't the same as that Being actually existing?
11-26-2015 02:03 PM
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
(11-26-2015 01:40 AM)RichieP Wrote:  
(11-25-2015 08:45 PM)Onto Wrote:  Would the universe cease to exist if there were no Wilson for Tom? In some sense, yes, but I think it would be a psychological existence, not a material one.

So the whole thing then brings up the question, "Why is the others seeing of me so important?"


I'd venture the answer to that one is biological. We're hardwired to be tribal creatures- homosapiens lived in tribes for 500k years before this relatively short blip of "civilization", and their primate ancestors, millions of years before that. Our brains are specifically evolved for social interaction and tribal belonging.

I think you're right about it being "hardwired" from the beginning. I'm not sure it's solely biological, because the desire along with the realized benefits are psychological. It seems to reason though it must be because we have difficulty seeing ourselves.

Some refer to this as the quest for the Self to see itself. Also stated in the famous quote, "Know Thyself".

Like using our own eye to see itself, it seems impossible to do, so we enlist the aid of the other. Notice when people find someone special and start a new LTR, they say, "We are seeing each other"
11-26-2015 03:40 PM
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
This is a key tenent of Advaita philosophy, which is something i got into years ago.

Nothing has any reality outside the SEER/Observer.

Mystics of the various faiths discovered these profound truths. They are ahead of the scientist and always will be.

Read 'I AM THAT'.

Here is an excerpt:

http://www.theself.com/sri_nisargadatta.cfm

Enjoy
11-26-2015 05:27 PM
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
Eckhart Tolle's material does a good job explaining the sort of ideas being discussed here and it's written in a clear modern style as opposed to the occult language used in older works. I know he comes off with a heavy New Age hippy vibe but I find his works to be pretty enlightening. I recommend his "Stillness Speaks".
(This post was last modified: 11-26-2015 06:13 PM by Wutang.)
11-26-2015 06:13 PM
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RE: "Does the universe exist if we're not looking?"
How do we know an objective universe exists? The greatest understanding of an objective universe can come from Democritus, the man who conceived the idea of the atom. There was no way for him to know if the atom actually existed since there was no microscopes in his time. The idea was conceived by the idea that there was a building block so small that it could not be split any more. Humanity would not be able to discover this idea until the 19th century.

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11-26-2015 07:38 PM
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