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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » So, is the cat dead or alive? (Page 2)

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Author Topic: So, is the cat dead or alive?
ricree101
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quote:
Originally posted by skillery:
quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
The question is not "Do we know whether the cat is dead or alive?"

Unfortunately, our definitions of "dead" and "alive" are dependent upon human observation. Those words cannot be applied to unobservable things.
True, our definitions are based on things that are normally observable, but just because we cannot actually make the observations doesn't change whether of not they are dead. If the cat were shut off in an unopenable box (with an indefinite food/water/air source), we would not be able to determine the state of things like its heart or brain activity. That does not make a bit of difference, however, in regards to whether or not the cat is alive. It is what it is, regardless if anyone pays attention.
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MightyCow
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Is this a religious discussion, because I'm very confused, and I don't know that cats have to do with Jesus or Christmas time.

Is the poison the problem of evil? [Confused]

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skillery
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quote:
Originally posted by ricree101:
It is what it is

It is what it is regardless of whether man defines it or not.
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King of Men
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quote:
It is what it is, regardless if anyone pays attention.
Well, that's not actually true, as applied to subatomic particles. It really isn't, you can do experiments to prove it. What Schrodinger was getting at is what's now known as the problem of quantum decoherence: Something is going on between the subatomic level where electrons really, actually are both up and down at the same time, and the cat level where that's ridiculous. Now, this is not completely understood even now, but the basic theory is that the cat is observing itself; that is, there's nothing magic about having a human observer, any part of the universe will do. Strictly speaking this is true for electrons also, but with electrons you can more easily set up a situation where there really is zero interaction with the outside. For a cat, if nothing else there'll be its gravitational self-interaction; at any rate, the wave function collapses quite rapidly.
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ricree101
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
quote:
It is what it is, regardless if anyone pays attention.
Well, that's not actually true, as applied to subatomic particles. It really isn't, you can do experiments to prove it.
Sorry that I was unclear on that. My comment was directed at skillery's comment, which seemed to apply this idea to something large scale such as whether a multicellular organism is alive or dead. Like you said, once you get too far past the atomic level, this doesn't really apply any more.

quote:
Originally posted by skillery:
It is what it is regardless of whether man defines it or not.

Sure. But it can also fit the definitions that mankind makes whether or not a person is actually able to observe it.
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anti_maven
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The cat is dead. Very dead. The flask leaked becasue of incorrect handling procedures and, as well as rendering the experiment invalid, it killed the cat.

Sorry.

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Tristan
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quote:
definition:

quote:
1. The doctrine that certainty about first principles or absolute truth is unattainable and that only perceptual phenomena are objects of exact knowledge.
2. The belief that there can be no proof either that God exists or that God does not exist.

Agnosticism does not mean, "i'm too afraid to make a decision so I just won't decide." Agnosticism says, "the answer is unknowable." This is itself a belief, and thus falls under your definition of "you have to decide what you believe at some point."
I have always been uncomfortable with this definition of agnosticism. It presupposes a belief where no belief is necessary. I think it is possible that the answer IS knowledgeable. Perhaps those mystics who claim to have developed extra-sensory perception organs are correct and that humans potentially CAN know things beyond what is currently defined as the physical universe. The point is, I am undecided on this possiblility as well, and that's why I'm presently defining myself as an agnostic. So my own brand of agnosticism is not defined as "a belief that the answer is unknowable" but as being in abeyance both as regards any belief as to the spiritual nature of the universe AND as regards the existance of any methods to arrive to correct conclusions thereof.

It's basically the total suspension of belief which naturally is the most superior belief of all [Wink] .

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lem
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quote:
After all, you MIGHT be right. Whereas an agnostic has zero chance of being right.
Unless something truly is unknowable, then the agnostic is 100% right.

Take the show 6 Feet Under. In Season One one of the main characters finds a room in town his dad liked to visit before he died. There was a glass with lipstick in the room.

The episode ends with the character realizing he will never know what this room was for--there is no way of knowing. It is a mystery about his dad.

He is 100 Percent correct. To pretend he knew the answer would be nothing more then practicing self deception. If he asserted a strong belief then there is a percentage chance he would be right--but that would only be by accident and he would have no way of verifying it is true in this life.

It would seems extremely arrogant and deceptive for him to try to convince others that they would be better off living in an optimistic play-pretend version of his version of reality.

Plenty of people who have lived the life of a "believer" and an agnostic, myself included, find much more fulfillment as an agnostic who recognizes some questions just can't be answered.

If you equate "belief" with some organized religion, then there are even more people who have left religion and appreciate the life of an agnostic.

Of course plenty of people have found faith and seem much happier. I guess I can't answer who is better off. It would seem some people are better off in both camps. I can only speak about myself. I am not even going to pretend I have an answer.

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Eduardo St. Elmo
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quote:
Originally posted by Tristan:
quote:
definition:

quote:
1. The doctrine that certainty about first principles or absolute truth is unattainable and that only perceptual phenomena are objects of exact knowledge.
2. The belief that there can be no proof either that God exists or that God does not exist.

Agnosticism does not mean, "i'm too afraid to make a decision so I just won't decide." Agnosticism says, "the answer is unknowable." This is itself a belief, and thus falls under your definition of "you have to decide what you believe at some point."

To me, agnosticism means: "Regarding the amount and quality of information I've got concerning this particular question I think it prudent to leave my options open." (or in other words; in stead of choosing between yes or no, I'm opting for could be) Which in turn means that I might opt for one of the more definite choices once I feel that the knowledge I have obtained warrants such a choice. There's many subjects that have me rather unwilling to take a stance: UFO's, ghosts, healing powers of crystals and so on and so on... On these points I say 'could be', for now.

Some questions cannot be answered due to insufficient data. Which is the case in the cat situation as portrayed in the initial post of this thread. For instance the 'cat poison' was never stated to be gaseous, and if it isn't, the fact that the bottle is open or closed becomes irrelevant. I know I'm being a nitpicker, and that the original post was only paraphrasing Schrödinger's original set-up, but still, it shoots some serious holes in the whole issue.

Regarding the question of the existence of God it can only be said that there is perhaps far too much information to work into a coherent answer. (with God as the initial creator of everything around us, every piece of knowledge should be acknowledged as relevant when it comes to this particular question. The degree of relevance obviously varies.)

Oh, yes... The cat is dead. Because it'll have died of old age before this discussion will reach any kind of conclusion.

Ramble On!

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Will B
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http://paul.merton.ox.ac.uk/science/schrocat.html
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Tristan
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quote:
To me, agnosticism means: "Regarding the amount and quality of information I've got concerning this particular question I think it prudent to leave my options open."
This is a much more succint and clearer definition than mine. I'm adopting it for future use.
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ketchupqueen
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The cat totally made it back through the Stargate. Didn't it? *can't quite recall*

Oh, sorry, wrong cat.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Noemon:
'Es pining.

It's a cat, not a parrot.
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Tresopax
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quote:
Unfortunately, our definitions of "dead" and "alive" are dependent upon human observation. Those words cannot be applied to unobservable things.
So are you suggesting that if I go somewhere that nobody could ever observe me, I'd (by definition) never be dead?

I think this is completely untrue - I don't think there is anything at all in the definition of "dead" that requires a dead thing to be observable. What definition are you using that has this requirement?

quote:
To me, agnosticism means: "Regarding the amount and quality of information I've got concerning this particular question I think it prudent to leave my options open."
I don't agree with this definition of agnosticism because it would also include many religious people and almost all atheists. We keep our options open just as much as agnostics do, because we can always change our beliefs if one day we decide them to be false. This happens all the time when people change religions. Atheists, I'm certain, are willing to change their minds if they ever saw solid proof of God.

A definition of agnosticism must uniquely distinquish agnostics. In other words, it must indicate what is true for agnostics that is NOT true for atheists and theists. I am a theist, but I believe that a degree of faith if necessary to believe in God, and that most of us can't know He exists through evidence for certain. Thus agnosticism is also definitely not the belief that God existence is unknowable, because at least some theists (and presumably atheists) believe that as well.

Instead, the only unique difference that I have observed in agnostics is an unwillingness to believe without proof. Theists may believe God's existence is unprovable, but they'd assert we should believe in God anyway, using faith, because there is personal, subjective evidence that points to His existence. Atheists may believe that God's exisence is unprovable, but they'd assert we should revert to disbelief in God as the default. Agnostics, however, assert that if we can't prove one way or another, we should not believe one way or another.

The defining beliefs of agnosticism, as I see it:
(1) If something cannot be demonstrated to be true, then we shouldn't believe it.
(2) God's existence can't be demonstrated to be true, but we also can't demonstrate that He doesn't exist.
(3) Therefore we should neither believe He exists, nor believe He doesn't exist.

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skillery
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If the contents of a box were observable, it would contain a cat and a flask. The contents of the box are not observable. Is the cat alive?

A certain type of onion is lethal to certain species of salamanders when ingested. That species has yet to be discovered. Is the onion lethal?

An old man's fortune is to be divided evenly between his sons. He has no sons. How much does his daughter inherit?

It's all the same as writing: "one divided by zero." We can assign text or numeric symbols to any imagined set of conditions, that does not mean that the set of conditions is defined or definable.

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Tresopax
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Incidently, the cat is example is not a good analogy to God, because in the case of God most people do not see the situation as 50-50. Atheists and agnostics tend to see God's existence as strange and unlikely. Theists tend to see God's existence as likely. Theists tend to include other sorts of evidence as proof, such as the Bible or personal experience, whereas atheists tend to rely on principles like Occam's Razor to draw conclusions. None of this is the case for a cat in a box.

A better example might be if there was a 60% chance the cat got killed and a 40% chance the cat survived, but there were also a bunch of people indepently saying that they had visions that told them the cat had lived - visions that they were certain were true. What would you believe then?

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Tresopax
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quote:
A certain type of onion is lethal to certain species of salamanders when ingested. That species has yet to be discovered. Is the onion lethal?
Yes, it would be lethal to the undiscovered species. Why would this not be the case?
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Launchywiggin
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I wonder if there is a direct correlation between people who dislike cats and people who chose to kill the cat.

I've been extremely allergic to cats since I was a young'un. And cats are stupid.

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vonk
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quote:
Originally posted by Dead_Horse:
No one should ever name their cat lucky.

Or Shroedinger. I named my cat Shroedinger and, well, I can conclusively say that he is dead. [Frown]
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BlackBlade
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What if the cat is a Cheshire cat?

T'was brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy, were the borogoves
And the mome raths outgrabe!

^^ All from memory, I've got Jabberwocky completely memorized [Big Grin] Firefox spell check is going nuts.

Seriously whats the deal with analogies and cats?

Schrödinger's cat, Pavlov's less known cat (the one that always ignored the bell and ate whenever it felt like it), CS Lewis' invisible cats.

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Strider
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Oh my god! BlackBlade just dissappeared and travelled to another dimension!
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Soara
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Funny how this all started as a personality test. Sort of a "is the glass half empty or half full?" But, I've also been intriged by agnosticism vs faith and by the power of belief. Obviously, belief is not a big deal when you're dealing cats in boxes; but there are other situations in which it matters alot.
Also, I like trying to claim that the cat is alive while people who like to show how smart they are nearly start screaming their heads off at me that it's both at the same time. It's fun for quick between-class screaming matches.

As for the actual physics, I understand the original purpose of this analogy, or I think I do; I interpretd it to mean that since the you can't know, yet, whether the cat is alive or dead, you have to account for both possibilities. You can't yet throw out the old bags of cat food, but you also can't assure your kids that Fluffy will be coming home. Therefore, the cat is effectively bot alive and dead at the same time. Is to which is actually is...well, that matters to the cat, but since we have no contact with the cat, does it matter to us? Not really, not until we open the box. And if the box is never opened, and if the matter of the cat being alive or dead actually MATTERS to you, you might as well pick one or the other.

As for quantum mechcanics...maybe Schrodinger was saying something a little different. Since you have no way of knowing where an electron is, it's really here and there and there all at the same time....And you have to account for the possibilites of the electron being in all those places.

In my school, however, Schrodinger's cat seems to be more of a way for people to show off how smart they are then to actually explain something. I've never gotten any GOOD explanations for it from people who claim they understand it.

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James Tiberius Kirk
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quote:
King of Men wrote:
Well, that's not actually true, as applied to subatomic particles. It really isn't, you can do experiments to prove it. What Schrodinger was getting at is what's now known as the problem of quantum decoherence: Something is going on between the subatomic level where electrons really, actually are both up and down at the same time, and the cat level where that's ridiculous.

See, that's why Schrödinger's cat always puzzled me. Once you start talking about the states of subatomic particles you're not talking about a cat anymore and you can't describe it in terms of "alive" or "dead," right? (see my earlier post) So I can't wrap my brain around the explanation that the cat is both.

Is that the point of the metaphor, or am I missing something? This thing has stood the test of time, so I assume my logic is faulty somewhere.

--j_k

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Nighthawk
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Kill the damn cat already.
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beverly
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quote:
I've never gotten any GOOD explanations for it from people who claim they understand it.
That is probably because they don't understand it.

What do you know about the double slit experiment?

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King of Men
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quote:
As for the actual physics, I understand the original purpose of this analogy, or I think I do; I interpretd it to mean that since the you can't know, yet, whether the cat is alive or dead, you have to account for both possibilities.
No. Sorry, but you have to learn the mathematics of quantum wave functions to discuss this intelligibly.
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Nighthawk
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Anyone amused at the "Dog the Bounty Hunter" ad at the bottom of the page?
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Mathematician
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
quote:
As for the actual physics, I understand the original purpose of this analogy, or I think I do; I interpretd it to mean that since the you can't know, yet, whether the cat is alive or dead, you have to account for both possibilities.
No. Sorry, but you have to learn the mathematics of quantum wave functions to discuss this intelligibly.
I would like to discuss this intelligibly. I'm not certain that I know the particular mathematics, but I do know a good bit of linear algebra, functional analysis (hilbert spaces, etc), and some basic quantum mechanics.

I would love to discuss the 2 slit experiment in this context, though perhaps it's better suited for another thread (or email? or some other method?).

I'm also interested in a brief description of an experiment which shows that, for instance, an electron actually exists in both an up and down state prior to observation.

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Eduardo St. Elmo
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For the sake of argument, let's call me an agnostic.

quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:

[QUOTE] I don't agree with this definition of agnosticism because it would also include many religious people and almost all atheists.

Yeah, and so what? Taking an agnostic stance on one issue doesn't oblige you to do so with every question.

quote:
We keep our options open just as much as agnostics do, because we can always change our beliefs if one day we decide them to be false. This happens all the time when people change religions. Atheists, I'm certain, are willing to change their minds if they ever saw solid proof of God.

Okay, I won't flat out deny that. Every human being has the ability to change his/her mind. But will you agree with me that once you have chosen a side, it's more likely that your interpretation of evidence becomes biased? Because IME it's highly irregular (though not impossible) for someone to believe something and also actively seek to disprove the same. A person who does this is living with a huge contradiction, although the size is obviously linked to the importance of the matter he/she is investigating.
Also, on a lighter note, the solid evidence of God's existence that would sway an atheist would have to be something along the lines of Monty Python's Hand of God. [Smile] Or in other words; quite irrefutable.

quote:

A definition of agnosticism must uniquely distinquish agnostics. In other words, it must indicate what is true for agnostics that is NOT true for atheists and theists. I am a theist, but I believe that a degree of faith if necessary to believe in God, and that most of us can't know He exists through evidence for certain. Thus agnosticism is also definitely not the belief that God existence is unknowable, because at least some theists (and presumably atheists) believe that as well.

Wait a minute... You actually know of people who know God's existence to be true? Could you point them out to me? I have some questions I'd like to ask them. [Big Grin]
Also, when something is true it is true for everybody, no exceptions.

quote:
Instead, the only unique difference that I have observed in agnostics is an unwillingness to believe without proof.

Now, I believe that it's possible for all people to share this earth and live in peace. This is my belief, even though we can all agree that so far the history of humanity hasn't given us much proof to justify such a belief.

quote:

The defining beliefs of agnosticism, as I see it:
(1) If something cannot be demonstrated to be true, then we shouldn't believe it.
(2) God's existence can't be demonstrated to be true, but we also can't demonstrate that He doesn't exist.
(3) Therefore we should neither believe He exists, nor believe He doesn't exist.

Ahem, allow me to disagree with some of your statements. Rewritten no. (1) If something cannot be demonstrated to be true, then we cannot know it, therefore we can only choose to believe it or disbelieve it. numbers two and three do not logically follow from number one.

When you say you believe something, you're actually saying something along the lines of "I'll admit that there are other options, but this one seems most logical/plausible to me."

I do feel the need to end this post by saying that I don't have anything against religion as such. I do however, disagree vehemently with people who are so convinced of the truth of their beliefs that they're unwilling to listen to reason and also those people who try to push their views upon everyone they meet. Or in other words: One of the basic tenets of my 'belief' is that everyone is wholly free to disagree with me.

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