YouTube surfing

Alright, I’m going to get all philosophical.  Sometimes I watch youtube videos of philosophical debates.  Someone sent me a message in response to a comment that I made to him.  Here’s how it goes”

-commenter says something about how Democritus predicted atoms, to which I replied

chuckinator0 <<First, modern “atoms” are not the same as Democritus’ conception of atoms.>>
The commenter sent me a message saying:

Sure it was. Demokrit proposed the existance of particles. His poopnents in philosophy claimed, all matter was continuous. Both had NO POSSIBILITIES to check, what is correct. Make claimes AS SOON AS YOU have data, NOT before.
So, I’m sitting and still waiting for the data about that ‘a-materialistic’ world, which are going beyond money making and fake UFOs from suicide sects…. :o))
I sent him a long response:

Re: comment

No, that’s not true. The word “atom” comes from the Greek “atomos,” meaning “indivisible.” Modern atoms are divisible; they are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Even protons and neutrons are divisible, since they are made up of quarks. It is believed that electrons are fundamental particles, indivisible. So, an electron might be considered by Democritus to be a kind of “atom.” I hope you see the difference.The subatomic world is much more complicated than Democritus could have imagined, but the essence of his argument for Atomism would be more or less fulfilled if strings exist and some formulation of string theory is true. Strings are the fundamental entities that all other particles are ultimately made of. A string that vibrates in one way is an electron, and a different vibration gives a photon, and another a graviton, and yet another a quark. So, there would be one fundamental, indivisible entity that makes up everything that exists in the universe. This is exactly what Democritus means by the word “atom.”

I agree that it is silly to claim that the world is a certain way without having any of the relevant data. This is my biggest problem with many of the Greek philosophers. I think a thorough understanding of the basic principles of science–especially Physics and Biology–are prerequisite to believing in philosophical arguments.

I take protest with your joke that you are “waiting for data about that ‘a-materialistic’ world.” I hope you realize that data is only valid if you already accept that an external world exists. It could be possible that we are both in the Matrix, and every sensory input (data) we have ever experienced was fed to us by a machine. It could also be that the universe was created 5 seconds ago–you and I with it, with all our memories and beliefs. A similarity between these two scenarios is that data will never lead us to the conclusion that one of those is the case, yet they may actually be the case. The idea that the external world doesn’t exist is closely related to a philosophical idea called solipsism–the idea that my mind is the only thing that exists. So, if someone believes that her’s is the only thing in existence, then she would be an “a-materialist.” Since she is an a-materialist, she rejects the need for data as a source of evidence, since data might just be the product of her own mind. It comes down to the basic assumptions we make. The assumption that my mind is the only thing that exists is just as valid as the assumption that the external world exists and data is reliable. The former assumption violates some basic part of how most minds work, so the vast majority (implicitly) assumes the latter. I might argue that the latter assumption is more likely, since I don’t think I’m smart enough to create the world I live in. The Matrix might be smart enough to make this world, though. In the end, there is no way to be certain that there is an external world.


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