Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Oct 2000:Segarra
By Lordhobgoblin on Friday, October 20, 2000 - 01:24 am: Edit

Why don't we all have a discussion on the metaphysical nature of the semi-colon?

By Bob_chong on Thursday, October 19, 2000 - 09:53 am: Edit

And people wonder why research in the social sciences is so difficult....


By Anatomist1 on Thursday, October 19, 2000 - 09:47 am: Edit

How about mathematical knowledge?

2 is the cube root of 8. How do we know this? Or, how do we know that it is not the case that both A and not A? Mathematical and formal logical structures are non-experiential in nature and proceed deductively from a set of axioms and assumptions. For this reason, I think that this kind of knowledge is much more rigorous and certain than that of empirical science -- no problems with induction.

If you're willing to take the assumptions on faith, or with a suspension of disbelief, then you end up with some pretty spiffy tools with peculiar properties. For one thing, you can use these tools to count things up, measure them, and make predictions in your empirical science. A strange wrinkle is that in many of these formal systems there are more true statements within the system than can be proved from the premises (Godel's incompleteness theorem) which is a mindfuck on par with Blackrabbit's quantum puzzles.

Science needs logic, and it needs math, and it needs the principle of induction. We believe these structures are true because we find that accepting certain assumptions is useful in terms of prediction, not becasue we experienced them.

There is no direct route to knowledge of things in themselves, only our own senses. We need a tentatively held edifice of assumptions, like science in order to organize sense data and perform complex activities, most importantly technological ones. But, because usefulness is basically where the rubber meets the road, the edifice is always open to revision. Nature only answers the questions we ask, and as far as learning what are the best questions to ask, I think we're just getting started...


By _blackjack_ on Thursday, October 19, 2000 - 07:38 am: Edit

Just to be clear, I'm pretty much admitting that you are right, Anatomist, that I do not know that all knowlege comes from experience. All I can say is that I have no experience of knowlege that comes from something other than experience...

By _blackjack_ on Thursday, October 19, 2000 - 07:17 am: Edit


No, no, I can do this. I was just having a bad morning yesterday. First of all, for completeness, all knowlege comes either from experience or from ideas induced or deduced from these experiences. So that opens it up a bit.

It can clearly be demonstrated that at least SOME knowlege comes from experience and mental processes, I'm sure you'll agree. The question then becomes, can it be demonstrated that any knowlege comes from other sources. I have as yet to experience (as it were) any demonstration of knowlege from another source.

But, sure, I can't even know that will continue to be true. Like I said, I'm practical. Further updates as events warrent and all that. When I gain some knowlege from som means other than experience, I'll let you know...

By Anatomist1 on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 - 10:45 pm: Edit


I don't expect you'll be able to solve it. It's a dirty trick I learned way back in an Early Modern Philosophy class. In some ways it seems like a legitimate objection to strict empiricism, but there's something that seems unsportsmanly about shortcircuiting a whole philosophical movement before you even get started talking about it. I think it does point to something interesting though...

The strictest empirical philosopher I know of is Peter Ralston. Only, he's not a philosopher, he's a martial artist. Nevertheless, he is the truest empiricist I've read, as he takes absolutely nothing as true that he has not directly experienced for himself. Period. He actually calls his art something like 'ontological studies' now. This is a kind of hard-boiled empiricism that I don't think Hume, and believers in science as an 'empirical' enterprise can really lay claim to.

Science, or Hume-ist ontologies seem to necessarily import a whole host of assumptions that are not based on one's own actual experience. Other people's accounts are subject to doubt, the reliability of instruments are subject to doubt, the law of non-contradiction is subject to doubt, and so on. If you can't experience any of these things for yourself, how can you believe in them? The assumption that the future will resemble the past is itself something that cannot be experienced, and therefore empirically proven: it is merely an assumption. So, in a way, maybe my dirty trick parable actually exposes the flaw in so-called empiricism that I have been driving at all along. Like I said before, empirically speaking, I am far less inclined to doubt that my feet feel cold than I am that F=ma.


By Lordhobgoblin on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 - 09:09 am: Edit


I repeat again, I never implied that science would replace religion, this has never been my position.

My idea of discussion involves presentation of differing points of view in an effort to achieve common ground, not some sort of macho proving ground. Our approach differs, fair enough.


By _blackjack_ on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 - 09:06 am: Edit

Blah...I'm not up to epistemology this morning...shouldn't have checked the board...I'll get back to Anatomist's question regarding empiricism (gah...I ALWAYS misspell that...) when I'm more up to wrapping my head around it. For now I'll defer to Hume.

But as science v. religion goes, science is much more useful for certain things for which man has used religion in the past: explaining the nature of matter, the origins of life, the actions of disease, etc., and I hope it will replace religion in those functions, tho Kansas seems to be a lost cause. However, science is piss poor at addressing some of the other things for which religion is used: establishing morality, finding motiviation and purpose in life, etc. Personally, I think those latter functions can be better fulfilled by good old fashioned pondering, and require no metaphysics, but that's more a matter of taste than data.

By Absinthedrinker on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 - 08:44 am: Edit

Looking at a lot of the posts you could come to similar conclusions that were reached by 19th century absinthe prohibitionists. 'Look at these people they can't have a serious discussion without coming to blows, even people who start off agreeing with each others position end up ememies. It must be the absinthe that is making them mad' ;-)

By Black_rabbit on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 - 07:11 am: Edit

Gentlemen! Back to your corners!

In general on the forum, I notice our discussions are starting out good and ending in black eyes. People seem almost eager to take offense. Perhaps it would be better to ignore the parts of a post you *think* are attacks (what point in responding anyway?) and just fire back on the logical bits.

Like if I said 'Anatomist is a big poopy head, and Plato didn't know what he was talking about in light of proust's dissertation on blah blah blah' then Anatomist could say 'WTF? Plato was saying blah de blah' and ignore the bit about him being a poopy head.

Or not. I dunno. I just hate to see good discussions blown to hell by angry words is all. It's purely selfish, as I find the discussions more interesting.

By Anatomist1 on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 - 06:43 am: Edit


Just because something is not explicitly said, doesn't mean it's not implied. You made several statements to the effect that science will dispell ignorance and liberate us from our fears... sounds religious to me. You even speculated about the emotional motivations of those who don't accept science to you standards.

Like Marc said, philosophy is akin to chasing one's tail. However, tail chasing can be good fun if it is pursued with a the proper spirit and a thick skin. The mention of those names was intended to refer you to areas in the history of ideas where you seem to be deficient. These philosophers achieved historical renown for elaborating arguments that contradict parts of your single-minded position of scientific objectivism. Since you repeatedly ignored or glossed over my attempt to pursue these lines of reasoning, I thought you might be interested in a taste of the real stuff. They make the arguments better than I can, and they occupy pivotal positions in an historical context of which it appears you are unaware. If you choose to interpret competitive enthusiasm as nothing but a bunch personal insults, and the willingness to furnish relevant historical references as "name dropping", be my guest. My idea of philosophy involves arguing hard, and taking on all comers. But, have it your way, by all means, go back to your private "love-in" with Black Rabbit.


By Lordhobgoblin on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 - 05:48 am: Edit


As well as being accused of "putting on smug airs", a few other quotes from your posts to me

"Your position is so ridiculous I don't even know where to start..."

"If their arguments could be so easily brushed aside by someone of your philosophical ignorance, these people would have to be idiots."

"Hobgoblin can come up with some hokum"

These would seem more like personal insults than civilised debate. Name calling and insults don't add to the weight of an argument.

Also I have never even raised religion in my posts (let alone suggest science as a replacement for it), you were the one to raise religion by falsely accusing me of this. Show me where as you falsely accused me I "claim it will take religion's place".

I have never claimed science to be anything more than a very good system of analyzing and predicting. Read my posts carefully and you will see this, (my main discussion was concerned with the need for a theory to be able to be scientifically tested).

You also seem to have missed the fact that Black Rabbit and myself had many common areas of agreement.

What is it that offends you about my posts to Black Rabbit, perhaps the thought that Anatomist the great artist and scholar is no more than a collection of atoms and molecules?

You can name drop as many famous philosophers as you like, (if you think it makes you appear learned) but you should be careful about jumping to false assumptions about things I haven't said, (even though it would suit your position to do so).


By Anatomist1 on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 - 04:37 am: Edit


If you can't distinguish between what I've been doing and personal insults, I'll quit wasting my time. As far as being intrusive, I was involved in this thread from the start. Examine the evidence: I get in a lot of arguments, but I'm rarely the one who insults.


By Lordhobgoblin on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 - 02:00 am: Edit


If you had read my post you would see that I agreed with Black Rabbit that observations were subjective.

As to numbers you suggested that I would have a problem with the. I don't. I have no more a problem accepting numbers than I do accepting words in language. Numbers etc. are part of mathematics which is a language of communication. Numbers are abstract and used to signify and explain, they do not exist in there own right. I don't know why you feel I'd have a problem accepting numbers. I was not attempting to brush aside anyones arguments on numbers.

As to Science and Religion, I never even mentioned Religion and never set Science up to replace it. Science is not set in stone.

Until you came along I was having an amicable discussion with Black Rabbit. We disagreed on several points and agreed on others. This I know is a concept alien to you.

Typical Anatomist, when in doubt attack someone with personal insults. As to putting on smug airs perhaps you should look at your own posts.


By Anatomist1 on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 05:59 pm: Edit


What's an empericist? Is this someone who supports the Emperor?

If, on the other hand, you are an empiricist, then answer me this:

If all knowledge comes from experience, then what about this? Take the following statement, let's call it statement X:

All knowledge comes from experience.

Now, how do we know that statement X is true? Did someone experience it? Can it be tested? Is this statement itself the solitary exception to its own rule?


By Anatomist1 on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 05:53 pm: Edit


I did read your posts. They don't make much sense. You're expounding an argument that is used as a straw man in basic philosophy courses. Try reading MY posts. I didn't say numbers were physical objects, I said they were abstract objects: 'concepts' perhaps in contemporary lingo. There is a lot of really thorough and sharp work done on this subject by classical platonists and mathematical theorists. If their arguments could be so easily brushed aside by someone of your philosophical ignorance, these people would have to be idiots. Plato was not an idiot. Frege was not an idiot. Substituting a word in a phrase I used and then putting on smug airs is not legitimate argumentation. There's alot more going on with numbers than you think. Similar points can be made about concepts in less specialized languages. Your position is so ridiculous I don't even know where to start...

Another place you might want to look is Kant's writings on epistemology. As Rabbit says, we cannot know the thing in itself, just as we can't really know the number '2'. We can make hypotheses and predictions, and act on a record of success, but omniscience is an absolute barrier. An historical culture like the Incas used a different thought system to the same end: they had elaborate agricultural technologies and an effective herbal-based medical system to name two practicalities.

You didn't say science was a religion, yet you claim it will take religion's place. If ever there was a canard, it's that old rag about how logic and science will dispell ignorance and make everyone's life better. Blackjack is on the right track here when he points to how useful science is. Yes, but that's all it is. Science is a very good system of analyzing and predicting the behavior of medium size physical objects (i.e., bigger than an electron, smaller than the universe). As far as dealing with more intimate aspects of everyone's subjective experience, it sucks eggs. Scientific reductionist approaches to questions like "What is my purpose in life?", "What do my dreams mean?", "What is love?", and "What is beauty?" are laughable and irrelevant.


By _blackjack_ on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 02:34 pm: Edit

Listen, I'm an empericist, but I'm a practical empericist. Tho I can't have any true knowlege of things-in-themselves, I'm not so thick as to not catch on that certain sensory experiences seem to occur in patterns. Are these patterns creations of my thought processes? Sure, if you want to be technical about it, but, so far, in my experience, said patterns are pretty damn good predictors of the sensory experiences that will follow.

So tho scientific models are far from aboslute or True(tm), they are really damn handy, in that they are, so far, the most consistent models for being able to predict what will happen next. If I come up with a more consistent model, or stop wanting my models to be consistent, I'll switch...

By _blackjack_ on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 02:21 pm: Edit

>> Which is more complex, the idea that a particle passing through one of two holes will go through one or the other, or that it sort of doesn't go anywhere until you observe it, and then it goes wherever you decided it was going to go? >>

Well, your Hiesenburg is a little sloppy, but for the record, quantum theory is less complex, on that scale, in that it is consistent with all of the observation scientists have made and the mathematical equations derived therefrom. If we try to apply Newtonian mechanics to the observations made of subatomic particles, things get MUCH more complex, to the point that there is no consistency to be found at any level. In short, when given the choice between having some aspects of the unverse act consistently but in a counterintuitive manner, or having the unverse act in an entirely incosistent manner, the former is less complex.

By Lordhobgoblin on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 01:46 pm: Edit


Read my posts. Science is NOT a religion it is a means of examining our environment.


By Lordhobgoblin on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 01:43 pm: Edit


Mathematics is simply a language of communication. Numbers play the same role as words in other languages. They are not physical objects, I have no problem with language.

Try another argument

Lord Hobgoblin

By Black_rabbit on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 01:36 pm: Edit

Hey Don, actually, I spelled it like it was spelled in the previous post. Cut and paste. (Occam was a 14th century dude anyway, before the concept of standard spelling. I have seen it written Ockham as well. Ockham was the town he was from I think.)

I know Schroedingers cat was a thought experiment, but it seemed like a good catch all name for quantum experimentation. I don't keep up on physics cause the math hurts my head, but are you saying that the observer was in fact not in a sense dictating the result of the experiments? The books I have read indicate that the observer expecting a wave got one, (that is, in the two-slot experiment, he got three or four shadows) and the observer expecting a particle got that result.

Hobgoblin, I think the main difference in the way we are looking at this is that I look at any belief as self delusion in a sense. It just comes down to what beliefs have a greater usefulenss, a closer adherence to reality, because no belief can be true (you will never have all the facts because you can only percieve so much.) I am not saying I believe in unicorns. I am saying I have never seen one (and I don't much expect to, but that is only cause I have never met anyone who says they have.) If I saw one, I would evaluate the evidence. But just because I haven't seen one doesn't mean there ain't one under the bed (cosmic rays...)

Should I believe in Pluto? Never been there. Never seen it. But people tell me 'hey, man, there is this planet called Pluto.' How in the holy hell is that different than a belief in unicorns? To me, the difference is social norm, fashion, the mode of the moment. Nothing more. Unless I observe one or the other myself. I won't tell you there is no such thing as bigfoot for the same reason I won't tell you there is no tenth planet in the solar system. To say a thing does not exist is to exclude the very real possibility that it does. Take the Coelocanth. Prehistoric fish. Extinct for millions of years, any scientist would swear on the sainted head of Pasteur, until someone found one in a fish market in africa.

So I find no practical reason to believe *or* disbelieve in, say, the Loch Ness monster or superstrings, and will keep an open mind until I do.

I'm sorry if this is straying into incoherence... I will be glad to explain if it is (I am sick- my fever is pretty high right now, so I am not sure how much sense I am making) :-P

By Anatomist1 on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 12:53 pm: Edit

Granted that Hobgoblin can come up with some hokum about potential neurological firing patterns to determine the locus of 'figments of imagination', it still doesn't provide a comprehensive account of such figments. Such explanations are reductionist, and exclude the most important parts of the phenomena. Even the simple act of observing an apple contains a subjective, experiential element that every aware being knows is real. You didn't experience synaptic sequence 1893H644533F, you experienced 'redness'. There was an abstruse, but interesting paper on the inaccessibility of subjective sonar perceptions in bats about 10 years ago that dealt with this... not exactly a pleasure read though.

Another class of objects that are going to give Hobgoblin some serious trouble are numbers. Numbers are necessary to science, yet they are not made of atoms or molecules, and in fact are 'abstract objects'. They have consistent essential properties and reproducible behaviors. For instance, it is the nature of '2' to be twice 1, half of 4, the cube root of 8, etc... It would be very difficult to maintain that numbers are simply a by-product of human neural firings. First of all, even a simple object like '2' is far too complex to be conceived in all its properties by a human mind. Also, if everyone happened to be asleep at the same time, would it cease to exist? If you want to study about this, Gottlob Frege's your man.

I would say the same to LH that I would say to a Creationist: science is a lousy religion, religion is a lousy science.


By Lordhobgoblin on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 12:36 pm: Edit

Black Rabbit,

I have examined your last post and I agree with a great deal of what you have said.

I agree with your points on complexity and simplicity.

I agree with your point that observations are flawed but perhaps would argue that this is mainly due to our differing physical senses, life experiences and the pre-concieved desired outcome on the part of the observer. I wouldn't argue with you that that it is mainly "because the perceptions of the observers are so very limited". But perhaps our difference of opinion here is on semantics.

As to rocks, I entirely agree with your analogy.

I think we both agree that accepted scientific theory is never set in stone otherwise we would have no progress, indeed theories that cannot be proven false cannot be scientific as progress depends on this.

But Black Rabbit, science is a way of interpreting our environment in a logical fashion and we need a logical method with basic rules and principles.
A view that says everything we want to believe is true because nobody can prove otherwise is not logical.

Science is not perfect and doesn't claim to be. It is just a logical means of interpreting and explaining based on testing. Science can be cruel and can upset and challenge deeply held ideas. But it is honest to have these ideas tested than to live in a state of blissful self-delusion.

Occhams razor is dull but it's not usually dishonest.

Self-delusion en-slaves humanity.


By Don_walsh on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 12:31 pm: Edit

Anyway the S's Cat experiments were never really really experiments, they were a kind of scientific spoof on quantum mechanica, the Heisenberg Principle and so on in their early days. It was a matter or sensing up theories that were demonstrably 'unverifiable' at the time.

Well, today we routinely use these and related calculations to succesfully predict chemical, physicalm and biological properties. They is called quant-chem, comp-chem. QSAR, etc. If you don't believe it go obtain Gaussian, GAMESS, MOPAC, AMPAC, CODESSA. CACHe etc.

Schroedinger's hypothetical pussy dies in vain and so does your argument.

By Don_walsh on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 12:23 pm: Edit

Dear BR

I love you but before you would blunt Occam's Razor, I suggest you first aspire to spell it. Ain't no 'h' in the proper name.

Secondly, as a scientist, you make a pretty good philosopher, in that your critique of quantum theory (a restatement of Schroedinger's Cat) is both ancient and trite. Nevertheless we live with it, in the real world, a lot like we live with electromagnetic radiation being both particle like and wave like. Because those are the best descriptions we've got.

Meanwhile screw all the X-files blarney. I'm an old SF/horror writer, and I know when I am writing fiction, and when I am reading bullshit. You want to attain credibility for the Old hag, you'd best get past me and Arthur Clarke. A century ago, Conan Doyle would have embraced the idea in an instant, but Doyle was always chasing fairies and such, and lately his rep has been called into great question because the little girls finally fessed up to faking the pics...bad news for Sherlock's progenitor.

By Black_rabbit on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 12:13 pm: Edit

Lordhobgoblin, I share your feelings on debate (this rocks :-)

I find reality to be the sum of my perceptions, nothing less and nothing more. It can't be, from my end. You only exist because I observe you to do so. The thing from Dimension Z sitting next to you doesn't exist, because neither of us see it sitting there. In short, no, I don't believe in reality as an objective thing outside of myself. Such belief is pointless and absurd, as it is unproveable and utterly impractical.

The idea that physical action is needed to change reality is perfectly acceptable to me. But you better have a damn broad definition of physical action to include things like the Schroedinger's Cat experiments. No one touched those electrons, you know. They observed them doing things. And the electrons did exactly what the observer said they would. Sometimes, if there were two observers with different opinions on the matter, the little fuckers did *both.*

This is probably the deepest review thread Segarra is ever likely to get.

By Black_rabbit on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 11:53 am: Edit

I don't think the words 'more complex hypothesis' really fit here, given that lack of understanding of neurochemistry, and the lack of understanding in physics in general.

Which is more complex- the theory that if I cut something like a piece of lead up really tiny, that it's still always going to be lead, or the theory that in fact it's mostly empty space, but holds it's shape and characteristics because of several infinitesimal particles doing a strange dance, involving Stong Nuclear Forces, and Weak Nuclear Forces, themselves made up of particles so tiny they don't always exist?

Which is more complex, the idea that a particle passing through one of two holes will go through one or the other, or that it sort of doesn't go anywhere until you observe it, and then it goes wherever you decided it was going to go?

On the face of them, the answer of 'more complex' is obvious, but the idea of complexity itself is flawed. Complex just means it's hard to understand. It is a subjective term that has nothing to do with what is really going on.

To a dog, for instance, a book is probably not complex. It smells like paper and dry ink and is inedible, but fun to chew on. To a human, a book has all kinds of ideas in it. To a human, the odor of another human is either stinky or not, generally. Simple. To a dog, it contains such complex information as their state of health, what they had for lunch a few days ago, and their general emotional state. A rainbow is arguably more complex to someone that sees colors, than it is to someone who doesn't. Which of their observations is more valid? More real? What about the UV band of that rainbow?

The complexity or simplicity come from the amount of information gleaned and the method of it's processing, not the things themselves. I think it is that way with the world in general. If you spend enough time looking at a rock, I think there is just as much there to percieve as there is in a symphony.

And since I know that the observations themselves are flawed, because the perceptions of the observers are so very limited, I am taking the generally accepted points of science with a great big grain of sodium chloride.

I think Occhams razor is dull.

By Lordhobgoblin on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 11:28 am: Edit

Black Rabbit,

Cosmic Rays were most probably there before they were observed, but it would be pretty unlikely that someone went around saying "I believe in Cosmic Rays" before they were observed, science has attempted to explain their existence.

Just because someone chooses to imagine something exists doesn't mean it does and unless a theory can be falsely proven it isn't scientific.

We don't know that "there aren't some kind of star-treky energy fields out there that wander around and go 'boo'?". But just because we don't know that doesn't mean that there are and unless there is some evidence to test then to actively believe in them is self-delusion.

You are quite right to go with your experiences but don't think that reality can be whatever you wish to to be as that is an illusion. Reality is a distinct thing it cannot be altered through pure wishful thinking, if so there would be no oppression, war or starvation.

Reality is physical and can only be altered through physical action.

I know it's unlikely that we'll end up totally agreeing on this but I don't view debate as a means of forcing one's own views on someone else. Anyway it's always a pleasure to be able to debate with someone who argues logically and doesn't view debate as some sort of macho oneupmanship activity.


By _blackjack_ on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 10:54 am: Edit

>> How do you know there aren't some kind of star-treky energy fields out there that wander around and go 'boo'? >>

Occham's razor. While such an hypothesis cannot be directly disproven, it is much more likely that the phenomenon is an artifact of peculiar neurological function. The former would require a total revision of our understanding of numerous points of science, while the latter is very consistent with the consensus of data. You may pick the more complex, less consistent hypothesis
if it suits you, but hypotheses conistent with previous observation tend to be the most accurate predictors of future phenomena.

By Black_rabbit on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 10:05 am: Edit

Lordhobgoblin, I don't think we are going to change each other's minds :-)

I've got to go with my own experience and perceptions. But consider this- perhaps you are selling your molecules short. How do you know there aren't some kind of star-treky energy fields out there that wander around and go 'boo'? It seems a matter of connotation rather than phenomena. Just because somebody hasn't measured one yet doesn't honestly mean a damn thing. Cosmic rays used to be pretty much impossible to measure. But they were there, weren't they? (Or just to toss another log on this fire, were they there before they were observed to exist? ;-)

Anatomist, I think he would point to a collection of synaptic firings, or maybe molecular brain memory. I dunno.

By Anatomist1 on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 09:54 am: Edit


Listen to the Rabbit. You remind me of the stuffy professor on Woody Allen's MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY. You have made what is essentially a basic logical mistake, taking that which has been proved and validated by a particular thought system to equal the totality of existence. If this were the case, at any point in time, science would be finished: nothing left to discover. Because you think only in reductionist scientific terms, you misunderstand the sense in which I claim the old hag or santa clause exists. Look at the language you used: "things...don't exist", "a figment of... imagination", you attributed a batch of adjectives to the 'popular image' of Santa Claus... where exactly is this popular image? At your local store? At mine? It sounds like abstract entities like 'popular images' and 'figments of imagination' are starting to creep into your reality. Which atoms and molecules would you point to if I ask you where they are?

Don't sell out your own experience for a sterile system of hypotheses and conclusions. Science has very little to tell us about the parts of our reality that mean the most to us. Emotions, motivations and values don't exist? If I were given an either/or choice, I'd be more inclined to deny the existence of a bunch of theoried micro-particles, then I would the experience of my own emotions. I think you and Bob are stuck in 19th century Metaphysics...


By Black_rabbit on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 09:53 am: Edit

I think that stymies a lot of scientists- being emotionally tied to a model of reality or a particular theory, rather than being objective.

Or maybe he was going with his gut- no way to know, as the math is unfortunately beyond me.

By Lordhobgoblin on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 09:50 am: Edit

Black Rabbit,

Yes the universe is not quantifiable and yes scientific theories are not set in stone, they must be changeable as they would not be scientific otherwise. Science is a means of explaining and it does not maintain that the Universe is quantifiable. The nature of scientific theory is often misunderstood and a theory is only scientific if it CAN be falsely proven. A theory that cannot be falsely proven is so malleable and nebulous that it cannot be scientific.

To simply believe that whatever ideas and images we choose to dream up in our head actually exist in reality because nobody can prove them otherwise is nonsense. The fact that the existence of Unicorns cannot be falsely proven means that a theory that maintains they exist cannot be scientific.

We are just a collection of very complex sophisticated molecules, nothing more. The belief that we are more than molecules and atoms is often a result of man's fear that one day the individual self that he loves so much will be no more.

You may be a romantic but I am a realist. We can only be truly free from the chains of illusion when we recognise that we are what we do rather than something more than this.


By _blackjack_ on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 09:31 am: Edit

Einsteind _did_ accept quantum theory. He simply found some of the implications of some aspects of it disquieting. He didn't dispute the accuracy of the equations involved. He just thought they were an incomplete model. "It is therefore an uncritical attitude to declare the statistical character of nature to be a fact. It may only be excused by the fact that up to now we do not have any other theory."

By _blackjack_ on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 09:16 am: Edit

>> Have you tried taking trytophan? It may help you to sleep peacefully. >>

Or throw your neurotransmitter levels all to hell. Directly supplementing precursors theraputically is a bad idea, especially for those with some sort of imbalance in the first place. It can cause a backlash effect and make things worse than they were before. That is why most newer psychiatric drugs do not directly affect neurotrasmitter levels, but instead tweak the body's own feedback mechanisms. And even that only works sometimes.

That, and tryprophan was pulled off the shelves a few years back, ostensably because of a tainted batch, but in fact to prevent it's use in LSD manufacture. They've also put restrictions on buyng SUDAFED in bulk to prevent it from being used in meth labs. Sigh...

On the subject of night terrors and such, I, personally, am a lucid dreamer and have the luxury of being able to go "it's just a dream" most of the time. In fact, what most people consider nightmares (demons/aliens/The Conspiracy chasing after me) I look at as my personal adventure movies.

But I also know that when my brain chemistry isn't up to par--when my antidepresents aren't working, for instance--my ability to prevent my dreams from having emotional effect on me is much less. Then I do have nightmares, tho they are usually in the form of dreams of people I care about being very unkind to me.

The particular sensation of a "presence" described by some of the folks here seems to be the direct result of certain chemical states in the brain. Not only can it be brought on during sleep paralysis, it can also be triggered by certain hallucenagens and even transcranial electromagnetic stimulation. Tho the "presence" can seem malevolent or benign depending on the character of the experience (eg, a voluntary trip taken in a safe environment is a very different thing from waking up suddenly unable to move), it's pretty clear that it is a neurochemical phenomenon, not just a figment of ones imagination. It is still possible to learn to control ones reaction to it, in the same way one can learn to tolerate pain, but it's not so simple as saying "it's not real."

By Black_rabbit on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 09:06 am: Edit

Wow Lordhobgoblin! I couldn't have a more opposite view. By my lights, to think that the universe is even quantifiable is an act of arrogance. Our little brains cannot cope with what is real, but my own brains tell me Lovecraft was closer to the mark than my high-school science teacher. Not to say he was right in specifics, mind you, just that it really is all mind-blowingly complex, and that there are powers out there, and whole levels of reality, that we don't even know are around, much less comprehend.

I don't think that science has by any means even a tiny picture of what is going on. Einstein was a smart cookie. He was also a bit of an 'atoms and molecules, cause-and-effect' kind of guy. Almost a determinist. Couldn't accept quantum theories at all ('God does not play dice with the universe!' he said.)

But they are building computers based on the fact that two quarks that once had a relationship will both react if one is affected, instantly and no matter how far apart they are, the speed of light be damned.

I guess my point is, they are always finding something new that invalidates most of what went before. And it always opens up bigger, scarier possibilites. So are there unicorns out there? I have never met one, so I can't tell you. Even by the scientific method, you cannot prove a negative.

But then, my perspective is much closer to the mystic than the rationalist.

By Lordhobgoblin on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 08:14 am: Edit


It is possible to think about lots of things that don't exist. Anyone can paint a picture of a fictitious mysterious beast that is nothing more than a figment of their own imagination. Anyone can then think of a popular image that is nothing more than imagination. The popular image of Santa Claus (Fat, Jolly, Red Suit, White Beard etc) was invented by Coca-Cola as part of an advertising campaign. This doesn't mean that he actually exists.

Our imagination is a very useful and creative source but it is in itself nothing more than a product formed by our environment and social surroundings. Supernatural beings, ghosts, ghouls, vampires, scary monsters, unicorns and other fictitious beasts are all very interesting make good material for exciting horror movies, adventure stories and children's books but they are nothing more than this.

We are no more than molecules and atoms, all matter has the same origins and we are no more than a complex arrangement of matter. To believe any more is arrogant and bestows upon us a particular importance within the vast universe. We are not so important.


By Marc on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 10:03 pm: Edit


Have you tried taking trytophan? It may help you to sleep peacefully.

By Anatomist1 on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 06:05 pm: Edit


You give up too much. The Bad Thing may very well exist. We're talking about being in a dream state, aren't we? Just because the evil hag isn't a physical being, doesn't mean she doesn't exist... unless you're a hard-line Platonist.
And, if you are, you'll find yourself committed to some peculiar positions... like the fact that you can't even think about the hag, or Santa Claus, or unicorns, or whatever. How can you think about something that doesn't exist? If you can't, then you have to explain how it is that you basically understand what I'm talking about when I say "Santa has a white beard."

People from many cultures have been thinking in ways we would describe as animistic and metaphorical for eons, often arriving at practical solutions to the difficulties in their lives. These solutions include complex mechanical technologies, sustainible land tenure strategies, chemical medications, and medical procedures. Just because Bob chooses to limit his thinking to atoms and molecules is no reason to sell the farm.

BTW, I don't think you could get a sleep specialist to so much as look up from his/her desk for $75.


By Perruche_verte on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 04:41 pm: Edit

Point taken, but I think there's something of a communication gap here. Nothing Anatomist or Black Rabbit said implies believing that the Bad Thing really exists. It's a question of programming one's mind to achieve a happier ending within the dream, which really does work in some cases.

For instance, many people have dreams of falling from heights. It is pretty easy to tell yourself at bedtime, it's my dream, and I will not fall, I will grow wings and fly. Do this often enough and the dream can turn into something rather pleasant.

It's interesting to me that the SP hallucinations very commonly involve the sensation of a hostile presence in the bedroom, and that this is cross-cultural. Probably this is a very old fear going back before we were Homo sapiens, when we really did have to be afraid of things coming to kill us at night.

Actually, in my neighborhood, we still do have to fear them; they're called "crackheads". My ritual at night involves checking the windows and doors, and making sure no possession of any value is left on the porch or within easy sight of a window -- not hard since we're all bohemians here anyway.

But here's a brainteaser for you, Bob. After my order of Segarra arrives and I start indulging heavily, I begin having increasingly severe bouts of SP, complete with hallucinations. I already take a B-complex, so that's out. A trip to a sleep specialist doesn't seem to be covered by my insurance, so that's probably at least $50-75, unless they cut me a deal.

Perhaps they prescribe me a little something to help me sleep. A month's supply costs me a $7.50 co-pay on my health plan; it actually cost $0.50 to manufacture, and the insurance company was billed $40. Somewhere a pharmco exec is laughing until he pisses himself. My sleep is much improved, except now my throat itches, I need the bathroom a bit more and my nasal passages dry out, which gives me nosebleeds.

My book of old folk remedies tells me to hang garlic in the window, leave a glass of water by my bed, and avoid sleeping on my back. Maybe burn a little incense if I feel uneasy before I go to bed.

Which one do you think I'll try first? If I haven't slanted the argument enough already, here's a hint: which one LOOKS a hell of a lot more romantic? A little sandalwood or cedar in the air is good for the nerves anyway.

It's not a question of believing in "the paranormal". It's a question of what works for you. In this case, probably cutting back on the Segarra before bedtime wouldn't hurt either.

(BTW, I'm afraid if we keep this thread up, Julian Segarra may sue. I am sure that neither he nor any of his fine products are responsible for any sleep disturbances or apparitions whatever. And I'm told his absinthe is quite tasty. Can't wait to find out for myself.)

I know, I'm a superstitious fool and an enemy of progress. You may send the hit team over now; I just made dinner and I'll be having a glass of Deva by the time they get here.

By Bob_chong on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 12:41 pm: Edit

PV: It wasn't aimed at you. Some of the posts began to dance around the X-files shit, which is hard for me to stomach [e.g., "the evil presence...going through the rest of its supernatural life...").

I know that dream topics are universal. But that doesn't make them worth elevating to some paranormal/supernatural status (as others, not you, have apparently done). Brain waves are not ghosts.


By Lordhobgoblin on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 11:46 am: Edit

As someone who is very sensitive to the effects of chemical substances I am fortunate to be able to experience the secondary effects of absinthe easily. (Although the only chemicals I consume nowadays are Absinthe and Booze, too old for anything else).

I'm bloody glad that these 2ndry experiences don't include visitations from The Old Hag, Beelzebub, Malacoda or any other figments of over-enthusiastic imaginations.

If drinking Segara has this effect I'm phoning up Spirit's Corner to cancel my order.


By Perruche_verte on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 11:06 am: Edit

"IMO, sleep paralysis is not some paranormal bullshit."


Who maintained that it was? The hallucinations that people describe during SP are naturally subjective and folkloric. The experience itself seems to be universal.

By Bob_chong on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 09:57 am: Edit

IMO, sleep paralysis is not some paranormal bullshit. Then again, maybe a heart attack is due to ill humors, and dwarves in the head cause strokes.

For those of you suffering from the "evil presence," may I suggest that you place a half dozen leeches on your chest before bedtime? That should alleviate the hag.


By Black_rabbit on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 09:07 am: Edit

I had problems with that for years. Trying to scream or move never helped, but it did produce a sensation similar to being electrocuted. Which only made me freak more, which made it hurt more... I eventually got over it by relaxing. As soon as I realized it was happening again, I just pretended I was lying down to sleep again, and fell back into normal rest and dreaming. Fighting directly against it proved to be the worst possible choice. I never did have that 'evil presence' thing though. Just an inability to move, terror, pain, and waking up into another dream (thinking I was awake) and finding myself paralyzed over and over.

By Melinelly on Saturday, October 14, 2000 - 08:54 am: Edit

hehe interesting you should mention wondering how loud you're actually screaming in real life. in the dream state, i usually am screaming my head off and also worry sometimes that the neighbors will call the police or something. but my wife tells me that usually my screams come out as breathy whispers and only sometimes to my vocal cords break into action, though not very loud only about talking level.

thanks for the advice and the link, i'll check it out.



By Anatomist1 on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 06:13 pm: Edit

I've had the evil presence and the impression of being awake and unable to move... sometimes in nested layers. However, I almost never sleep on my back, and I've never had the impression of weight on my chest.

I have been sleeping alone for a couple years. I find the dogged determination to scream and at least do some serious damage to the evil presence before I'm killed will usually pull me into consciousness... although without knowing how much of the scream was audible, I sometimes wonder if the neighbors will call the police.

I'd be interested to hear how many people actually die from it. As far as something to be worried about, it sounds a little far-flung to me. Even if you do die from it, what will be the difference? Your experience will be about the same, except instead of waking up, you won't wake up. I say keep up with your life insurance payments and enjoy the ride. Be thankful that you aren't one of those boring people who either has no dreams, or can never remember them. And... fight the power! Make yourself an undesireable prey by flying into a vengeful rage. How do you think that evil presence is going feel about going through the rest of its supernatural life with only one testicle?


By Perruche_verte on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 06:00 pm: Edit

Wow. I've experienced this too but it's not so severe or frequent with me, and I've never felt I needed treatment. I usually wake up without any problem.

First off, I am not a doctor and I do recommend you talk to one. Unfortunately, we live in a country where health care is rationed by wealth and employment status, so I know cost is an issue for a lot of people. Try a community clinic; see if they'll refer you to a sleep disorders program at a university medical school. Or find the nearest med school with such a program and contact them yourself. You may be able to receive free or low-cost care this way.

Something you can do in the meantime: Take a good look at your diet and make sure you're getting enough B vitamins, as a lack of these can cause a variety of nervous complaints. B1 (thiamine)deficiency in particular can cause problems; one website I found (on health care in Laos) considered this a possible contributing factor in sleep paralysis. Try taking a B-complex supplement.

Also, try herbs. Two you might consider are vervain (a general nerve tonic) and valerian root (a fairly potent sedative). Talk to a trained herbalist about dosage. She might have other suggestions also. I think these are both commercially available in capsule form too.

The Nocturnal Assault Research Center site is a little "woo-woo" but it has some useful information and links:

FWIW, I don't think you're going to die from this. The people who die from SUNDS typically have no documented history of health problems, including sleep disorders, which in my view lends credence to the idea that they experience heart attack due to sudden onset of sleep paralysis. You, on the other hand, have some idea what is happening to you and are thus better equipped to deal with it.

Good luck.

By Melinelly on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 04:14 pm: Edit

Unfortunately, I know the "old hag" all too well. I often suffer from bouts os sleep paralysis, and it is perhaps the most terrifying thing in the world. I am conscious, but very much in the dream world, and I have no control over what happens. Often, yes, this is accompanied by the sense of an "evil" presence in the room as well as the feeling as if something heavy is sitting on my chest. Though this happens mostly when I fall asleep on my back, it does occur sometimes when i sleep on my side (more often on my right than on my left).

I have found that forcing myself to move, or concentrating on screaming to get my wife to shake me will usually snap me out of it... but only if i'm awake enough to then open my eyes and reposition myself. Oddly, my night terrors have adapted, and in my dreamstate i believe that i'm moving myself awake only to find myself in another dream state (which is very disorienting since at first i truly believe i'm awake and to think that the terror can come when i'm awake is very frightening).

i can not thank the fates enough that i am married so i don't sleep alone. i don't know what i'd do if i didn't have my wife next to me to wake me during the worst episodes.

the only way i've found to avoid the night terrors is to do the following things:

1.) don't stay up until you are loopy
2.) avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol close to bedtime
3.) don't eat too late at night
4.) don't go to bed thinking about the terrors.

does anyone have any links to more information on the web? i've been meaning to find out more about this and also to see a doctor, but i keep putting it off. i've heard about people dying in their sleep because of night terrors, and that is one of my greatest fears now. i'd like to know what i'm up against here.



By Perruche_verte on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 03:31 pm: Edit

Ever have an Old Hag dream? Every once in a while I have one -- excitable personality and caffeine habit, I guess. I have not noticed any greater incidence since I began drinking absinthe, though even small amounts of alcohol too close to bedtime can cause sleep disturbance.

BTW, these dreams are a subset of a more common phenomenon called "sleep paralysis" -- as I understand it, the brain produces a hormone during REM sleep that immobilizes us so we don't act out our dreams. Sometimes we don't regain motor control immediately on waking, which can be a terrifying experience, especially when it's accompanied by hallucinations -- usually non-visual -- of an evil presence entering the room and settling on one's chest. This is the "old hag".

To avoid this, sleep on your side. Then the old hag can't sit on your chest. A majority of victims seem to be young men (20s-40s) who sleep on their backs.

What's really frightening about these dreams: One, they supposely occur in geographic patterns -- unrelated people living in the same area will experience them within a night or two of each other, for reasons we don't understand. (I haven't seen the data on this, BTW, so I remain skeptical.) Two, they are thought to be linked to Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS), which (though it's about as rare as being hit by a meteorite) is about as scary as it sounds: apparently healthy young men are found dead on their backs with expressions of terror on their faces. Some people think these men experienced sleep paralysis and suffered heart failure from the shock.

Some people also link sleep paralysis to UFO abduction, but the gentleman in the black suit sitting next to me suggests that I not write any more about that.

So if you wake up paralyzed, please chill out. It will only last a minute or two. Sorry for the lengthy post. This has been a public service announcement.

Sweet dreams!

By Anatomist1 on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 03:17 pm: Edit

Maybe those strange effects with MM come from a star anise overload. That stuff numbs my tongue it's so anise-y.

By Chrysippvs on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 01:10 pm: Edit

I had have only around 2 glasses of Segarra in a sitting so it is hard for me to judge secondary affects. My girlfriend has had around 4 glasses (and she is less than 100 lbs) and has reported Segarra to be unlike Deva, whose effects she calls "stupifying" in that Segarra is more "Euphoric and relaxing." Although it has been a while..we have been drinking la bleue and other such absinthes for a while and very little Spanish.

I tried to convince her to post her review on Vintage Pernod..but she is scared of your people referring to the forum as a "den of drunken vipers." Alas her diogenic sense of humor!

- Justin

By Absinthesque on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 11:37 am: Edit

I'm not referring to hallucinations but to the fact that I tend to have more vivid sleeping dreams after drinking some absinthes. Other secondary effects include a clearheadedness that I don't usually feel with other alcoholic beverages and also a mild laxative effect that feels very cleansing. This has been most evident with Segarra and La Bleue.I wonder if others have experienced this and whether it may have something to do with the "medicinal" claims that were made about absinthe. I've detected another secondary effect that's most pronounced with Mari Mayans. . .There's no hangover, but rather a wired feeling, a hypersensitivity, a little too much electrical energy flowing in the body, especially the skin. Has anyone else experienced this? It's odd, since Mari Mayans is thought to have minimal thujone.

By Bob_chong on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 11:05 am: Edit

I like Segarra, but I have never felt much in the way of the famous "secondary effects" from it or any absinthe. That doesn't mean they don't exist, I just don't hallucinate so readily, I suppose. (Unless you meant that your "vivid dreams" happened when you were asleep...)


By Absinthesque on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 08:42 am: Edit

I recently tried Segarra and was very impressed. This came as a bit of a surprise, given the homespun label. To my taste, it was superior to the other Spanish brands I've tried - MM, Deva and Herring -- with more complex flavor and wormwood bitterness behind the anise. The secondary effects struck me as being rather more pronounced too -- most notably vivid dreams. I wonder what others think.

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