Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Sun Mar 10 2002 - 15:22:27 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes
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    >So I guess that makes me firmly anti determinist 'cos I think that traits
    >are programmed in to us for the purpose of making us vulnerable to
    >culturally appropriate memes and defensive against culturally inappropriate
    >I hope that this makes some sort of sense as I am a bit tired too.
    In this month's Discovery magazine, there is an article about the friendship
    between Einstein and Godel and their view of the universe.

    "For us believing physicists," Einstein once wrote, "the distinction between
    the past, the present, and the future is only an illusion." It was a
    melancholy remark, made as Einstein faced death, but it flowed directly from
    Einstein's special theory of relativity. Imagine a group of observers
    scattered carelessly throughout the cosmos. Each is able to organize the
    events of his life into a linear order -- a world line of the kind just
    described. Each is convinced that his life consists of a series of nows,
    moving moments passing from the past to the future. Special relativity
    urges a contrary claim. The observers scattered throughout space and time
    are all convinced their sense of now is universal. Now is, after all, now,
    is it not? Apparently not. Time passes at a different rate depending on
    how fast a person is moving: While one hour passes on Earth, only a few
    seconds might pass on a rocket ship hurtling away from Earth at nearly the
    speed of light. It is entirely possible that one man's now might be another
    man's past or future.

    "Godel's solution to the field equation vindicated the deepest insight of
    Einstein's theory, namely that time is relative. But Einstein's theory of
    relativity suggests only that time does not exist in the conventional sense,
    not that time exists in no sense whatsoever. Einstein's claim is more
    subtle. He suggests that "change" is an illusion. Things do not become,
    they have not been, and they will not be: They simply are. Time is like
    space; it is precisely like space. In traveling to Singapore, I do not
    bring Singapore into existence. I reach Singapore, but the city has been
    there all along. So, too, I reach events in the future by displacing myself
    in time. I do not bring them into being. And if nothing is brought into
    being, there is no change."

    Who am I do dispute Einstein? But if there is no change, how would I travel
    to Singapore? I've had similar thoughts myself, though. I have seen the
    universe as a continuum that we divide into a bunch of nows by the ticking
    of our internal clocks. But what's inside and what's outside of that clock
    are different. The universe, with all it's observable features, is not
    divided. The dividing of the universe into nows is something we do with our
    process of perception in order to try and understand it. In the end, what
    we see is what we get.

    Anyway, I thought you might enjoy the thought that Einstein was, in a sense,
    a determinist. And so, too, may Godel have been.



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