Why causality is an illusion

Discussion of the nature of Ultimate Reality and the path to Enlightenment.

Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Blair » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:16 am

Why should it?

Kids who grok causation don't ride bikes recklessly in the first place. ;)
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby fraez » Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:39 am

According to science, everything boils down to probability and randomness, which is by definition without rational cause. At that level, the universe is understood in terms of statistics, which "even out" at the macroscopic level to create the deceptively predictable world we experience. In my mind, this is more or less an admition by the brightest people alive that cause and effect is incidental to our existence, rather than being the fundamental, driving force that so many believe it to be.

The cold hard truth is that mankind cannot prove the existence of any absolutes, because our entire existence is defined by relative probability. We cannot determine the beginning or end of any measurement without taking at least two more measurements, a vicious logical loop that renders perfect precision or accuracy a rational impossibility. We do not really know how long a second is, how long a meter is, so forth and so on, because each unit of measurement is defined relative to other such measurements. The meter itself is defined using the speed of light--an immediately recursive exercise that highlights just how inadequate our perceptions and thinking truly are.

"How far does light travel in a XX years?"
-"Uhh, XX meters."

"How do you define a meter, again?"
-"The distance that light travels in XX time."

Numbers are no better. The number line is a continuum with infinitely many points, yet we can only express an infinitely small fraction of them as numbers. Take 4.5, for example. Is it halfway between 4 and 5? Sure, but it is only one of infinitely many -possible- numbers between 4 and 5. The same is true whether you're looking at 4<4.5<5 or 4.5<4.501<4.502, and perhaps most confounding of all is the notion of "1". What is one? It is whatever the heck you darn well want it to be. One apple, one inch, one idea. It is only a placeholder for something it cannot fully define. No two apples are alike, so one "apple" and one "apple" do not make two "apples." We have no idea how long an inch really is, and one "idea" similarly fails to capture any real information.

This is most apparent when trying to apply numbers to the real world. For example, the fictitious "line" and "rectangle" are very easy to define, because we simply apply multiples of our imaginary "one" to themselves. Instant perimeter, area, volume, etc, no problem, no challenge. Why no challenge? Because we haven't described anything -real-. there are no known rectangles in the universe, as everything breaks down to something smaller, generally recognized as spherical. And what happens when we try to describe spheres? An infinite string of numbers that never repeat and cannot be calculated by the combined computational might of an entire planet full of human beings and supercomputers.

So, no cause and effect? No beginning or end?
I totally buy that, and I feel kinda bad for anyone who cannot at least consider it.
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby David Quinn » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:49 am

Hi fraez,

A couple of points:

fraez wrote:According to science, everything boils down to probability and randomness, which is by definition without rational cause.

Is the idea that "everything boils down to probability and randomness" itself absolutely true? Or just a matter of probability?


The cold hard truth is that mankind cannot prove the existence of any absolutes, because our entire existence is defined by relative probability.

Is this cold hard truth an exception to the realm of probabilities? Or is it just another probability?


At that level, the universe is understood in terms of statistics, which "even out" at the macroscopic level to create the deceptively predictable world we experience. In my mind, this is more or less an admition by the brightest people alive that cause and effect is incidental to our existence, rather than being the fundamental, driving force that so many believe it to be.

To my mind, it is an admission that even the brightest people can be slaves to fashion.


We cannot determine the beginning or end of any measurement without taking at least two more measurements, a vicious logical loop that renders perfect precision or accuracy a rational impossibility. We do not really know how long a second is, how long a meter is, so forth and so on, because each unit of measurement is defined relative to other such measurements. The meter itself is defined using the speed of light--an immediately recursive exercise that highlights just how inadequate our perceptions and thinking truly are.

"How far does light travel in a XX years?"
-"Uhh, XX meters."

"How do you define a meter, again?"
-"The distance that light travels in XX time."

Numbers are no better. The number line is a continuum with infinitely many points, yet we can only express an infinitely small fraction of them as numbers. Take 4.5, for example. Is it halfway between 4 and 5? Sure, but it is only one of infinitely many -possible- numbers between 4 and 5. The same is true whether you're looking at 4<4.5<5 or 4.5<4.501<4.502, and perhaps most confounding of all is the notion of "1". What is one? It is whatever the heck you darn well want it to be. One apple, one inch, one idea. It is only a placeholder for something it cannot fully define. No two apples are alike, so one "apple" and one "apple" do not make two "apples." We have no idea how long an inch really is, and one "idea" similarly fails to capture any real information.

This is most apparent when trying to apply numbers to the real world. For example, the fictitious "line" and "rectangle" are very easy to define, because we simply apply multiples of our imaginary "one" to themselves. Instant perimeter, area, volume, etc, no problem, no challenge. Why no challenge? Because we haven't described anything -real-. there are no known rectangles in the universe, as everything breaks down to something smaller, generally recognized as spherical. And what happens when we try to describe spheres? An infinite string of numbers that never repeat and cannot be calculated by the combined computational might of an entire planet full of human beings and supercomputers.

So, no cause and effect? No beginning or end?
I totally buy that, and I feel kinda bad for anyone who cannot at least consider it.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think you're trying to say that there is no beginning or end to anything because any divisions we perceive in Nature are own mental creations. "Cause" and "effect" are also mental creations, so in that sense cause and effect does not exist. Nature is ultimately a seamless continuum without beginning or end. All this I agree with.

However, on the other side of the coin, as soon as the mind starts to create and perceive divisions in Nature (e.g. things or events), cause and effect immediately becomes a reality.

In other words:

No things = no cause and effect = beginninglessness and endlessness.
Things = cause and effect = beginnings and ends.

Would you agree with that?
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:59 am

fraez wrote:According to science, everything boils down to probability and randomness, which is by definition without rational cause.


Science does not make any such claim. What made you think that? Probability and randomness are just descriptions of processes that do have causes. Like the decay of some atomic quantity, no matter how random it appears as, its causes can still be described theoretically at least in a statistical and physical sense.

The meter itself is defined using the speed of light--an immediately recursive exercise that highlights just how inadequate our perceptions and thinking truly are.


Wavelength is an optical measurement. The number of the speed of light is not needed here? Anyway, before light was used, other observations defined the meter, like a pendulum swing. But the current definition is easier to reproduce with less variation and higher accuracy which is handy for laboratory work around the globe.

This is most apparent when trying to apply numbers to the real world. .... Because we haven't described anything -real-.

If we define two apples to equal one apple plus another one, then this is how we have defined it. Do we really have to know how much it "really" is? Isn't this very contextual? And yet numbers help us to get a sense of proportion. Perhaps the more exact we desire it to be, the less connected to the world it becomes. It's like trying to "catch" the object but the more it's attempted, the further away the object (reality) "escapes" us? Mathematics confirms itself naturally.


So, no cause and effect? No beginning or end?
I totally buy that, and I feel kinda bad for anyone who cannot at least consider it.


Perhaps the problem is not cause and effect but the idea that there would be not much else one can be certain about (" I think therefore there's at least some special effect")?
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby chloe » Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:29 pm

why you have to this idea..?
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:27 pm

Why are you asking? I guess something caused it, some complex automation perhaps.
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Pincho Paxton » Mon Oct 15, 2012 8:38 am

A Causes B and B causes A.

Every action has an equal, and opposite reaction.

The Universe began with A and B together, and one created the other. It's called complimentary physics. You dig a hole, you create a hill, and a hole at the same time. The hole is complimented by the land, and so is the hill. Both combined equal flat land, and a flat line in wave terms is nothing. So start with waves, and you get a convex wave, and a concave wave, and combined they cancel each other out... the hill, and the hole cancel out to flat land.

Now the above can also be changed into mass, and energy. The above can be also changed into a simple formula.... 1 + -1 = 0.

A cause, and an opposite effect cancel out to zero. But the maths is reversible...

... from zero you can create +1, and -1 as equal and opposite cause, and effects.

Now you get...

Nothing Causes A Causes B Causes A.

Nothing creates a Hole, and a Hill.

Finally you get to the situation that nothing can create the Universe as nothing is zero, and zero is made from two opposite energy states.

Nothing is the cause of everything.

That's by me... Pincho Paxton
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby SeekerOfWisdom » Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:31 pm

Movingalways, you explained it perfectly, causality is an illusion, "Form arises and dissolves into the formless"

Or as the Buddha put it, "All things in the world are empty of effort or action because all the things in the world are like a dream or miraculous image projected"
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby queenofthedamn » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:32 pm

Your nut cases prove nothing-
Whether I'm lying to you or not. Upside-down. We are all ass holes. Nobody is suppose to be perfect except the malignant "f*uck." I need to draw straws. Who's first/?
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:33 pm

SeekerOfWisdom wrote:Movingalways, you explained it perfectly, causality is an illusion, "Form arises and dissolves into the formless"

Or as the Buddha put it, "All things in the world are empty of effort or action because all the things in the world are like a dream or miraculous image projected"


Nah, there can only be some formless when there's a form. There is no "substrate" apart from a reflection cast by how your mind approaches it.

As for the Buddha quote, something is empty of effort or action only because the effect and action doesn't reside in some thing or person-as-thing. But keep in mind that actions still happen and causes still effect.
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby SeekerOfWisdom » Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:12 pm

Things lead to other things yes, but this causality doesn't work on the bigger picture, the beginnning of causes is a false conception so it doesn't apply there, forms arising from seemingly nothing
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Pincho Paxton » Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:01 am

SeekerOfWisdom wrote:Things lead to other things yes, but this causality doesn't work on the bigger picture, the beginnning of causes is a false conception so it doesn't apply there, forms arising from seemingly nothing


It's like juggling, the causes are circular so there is no beginning to them.
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Unidian » Fri Feb 15, 2013 2:13 pm

Causality is very clearly "classicly" true, at the macroscopic level.

Whether or not causality holds at the quantum level is a matter of significant debate. I have seen David Quinn argue that it does, but with little reference to actual science. However, I do not believe it is yet a decided issue, or even necessarily a meaningful one. Does the "Whole of Nature" have free will? If it does, what would that actually mean? And if it doesn't, what does that mean? These are questions that may never be satisfactorily resolved by the human intellect, despite our pretensions. I do not consider causality on the "ultimate" level to be a settled matter, although it certainly holds true on the "classical" (conventional) level and therefore governs just about everything we do.

I think that in order to make a serious inquiry into the depth of causality, we would need to make a side foray into epistemology - a "side foray" that might never end. Hume ran into this problem as well, and it almost drove him nuts - thanbk goodness for vapid friends and pointless conversation. Saved the day for dear Mr. Hume - but sadly, everyone hates me. LOL.
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Pincho Paxton » Sat Feb 16, 2013 2:25 am

Unidian wrote:Causality is very clearly "classicly" true, at the macroscopic level.

Whether or not causality holds at the quantum level is a matter of significant debate. I have seen David Quinn argue that it does, but with little reference to actual science. However, I do not believe it is yet a decided issue, or even necessarily a meaningful one. Does the "Whole of Nature" have free will? If it does, what would that actually mean? And if it doesn't, what does that mean? These are questions that may never be satisfactorily resolved by the human intellect, despite our pretensions. I do not consider causality on the "ultimate" level to be a settled matter, although it certainly holds true on the "classical" (conventional) level and therefore governs just about everything we do.

I think that in order to make a serious inquiry into the depth of causality, we would need to make a side foray into epistemology - a "side foray" that might never end. Hume ran into this problem as well, and it almost drove him nuts - thanbk goodness for vapid friends and pointless conversation. Saved the day for dear Mr. Hume - but sadly, everyone hates me. LOL.


We grow old, we die. We jump up, we fall down. We obey the causal rules of nature. But what happens to rule that a coin call of Heads, and Tails can land the coin on its edge? I think that free will is the balance of nature that can have two exact choices or more. Maybe up to 6 choices that are perfectly balanced. The juggler has 6 balls spinning around. The balls have no beginning, or end. But the balls can be tossed in a new direction, and we toss the balls into holes which are our thoughts. So the causality is circular, and we break the circular path into an exact value. We change a spin into a path.
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Unidian » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:31 am

Is the idea that "everything boils down to probability and randomness" itself absolutely true? Or just a matter of probability?


I think it is currently considered pretty much unshakable in the scientific community, but then again, an honest scientist would be forced to admit that "unshakable" in the context of science is conserably less iron-clad than it is in the realm of philosophical logic. But I doubt most empiricists would care, as they don't value that realm to begin with. For them, the probablility and randomness of quantum mechanics is about as certain as anything can be established within the framework of their epistomological biases. It's on par with evolution and global warming, at least among the mainstream of the scientific community.

Personally, I don't know whether or not quantum mechanics is ultimately true. Insofar as it, then yes, I would say probability and randomness seem to be necessary consequences. But it is always possible that there is something deeper than quantum mechanics - the problem is, in order to convince empiricists, this would have to be demonstrable on a physical level. And that seems a bit less than a stellar bet.

The cold hard truth is that mankind cannot prove the existence of any absolutes, because our entire existence is defined by relative probability.


I share David's sketicism as to whether this is "the cold hard truth," for the simple reason that all such claims boil down to "it is absolutely true that there are no absolutes." Even in a world of relativity and probability, the philosophical concept of absolutes remains and must be dealt with - at least if one is going to address the issue. Even for the purest relativist imaginable, there is at least one absolute truth - that no others exist. If this is denied, then we enter a form of what is really non-discourse - nothing meaningful can actually be said, because there is simply no basis for a coherent exchange.

At that level, the universe is understood in terms of statistics, which "even out" at the macroscopic level to create the deceptively predictable world we experience. In my mind, this is more or less an admition by the brightest people alive that cause and effect is incidental to our existence, rather than being the fundamental, driving force that so many believe it to be.

To my mind, it is an admission that even the brightest people can be slaves to fashion.


I'm not sure I'd even call them "the brighest people alive," as outside their own field of empirical research, I've heard a lot of scientists and materialists say some of the dumbest things one would want to hear. I assume David just conceded this for the sake of argument, though. But putting that aside, even if they are incredibly brilliant, it wouldn't necessarily lend any support to their specific claims. That being said, I assume it is the concept of "decoherence" being referred to here, and that does seem like a reasonable idea to me.

So, no cause and effect? No beginning or end?
I totally buy that, and I feel kinda bad for anyone who cannot at least consider it.


No beginning or end? Yeah, I can buy that, too. But no cause and effect? That's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Even quantum mechanics does not totally deny causality, it simply categorizes it as a macroscopic phenomena. To say otherwise would be like saying "quantum mechanics has disproven Jupiter" simply because you can't see the whole planet with an electron microscope.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think you're trying to say that there is no beginning or end to anything because any divisions we perceive in Nature are own mental creations. "Cause" and "effect" are also mental creations, so in that sense cause and effect does not exist. Nature is ultimately a seamless continuum without beginning or end. All this I agree with.

However, on the other side of the coin, as soon as the mind starts to create and perceive divisions in Nature (e.g. things or events), cause and effect immediately becomes a reality.


This I would agree with as well. It's even (to a certain extent) comparable to how the major interpretations of quantum mechanics are supposed to work. What I have trouble getting around is the insistence (which I may be falsely interpretruing, admittedly, that causality is "ultimate." I don't see the ultimacy in your statement above. You seem to give Nature itself that role, and causility a secondary, derivitave role based on the actions of the human mind.

No things = no cause and effect = beginninglessness and endlessness.
Things = cause and effect = beginnings and ends.

Would you agree with that?


Yes, but I would add that Nagarjuna and others warn us against becoming attached to this kind of distinction as well, and argue that properly understood, the imaginary division should not even arise.

Your turn - would you agree with that?
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby SeekerOfWisdom » Sun Feb 17, 2013 12:04 pm

The point is "universe" is in some unexplainable sense intelligent. At the very least there are manifestations of it that can speak "the universe is not intelligent", said the universe. But instead of thinking about quantum physics , realize that each thing you see is ongoing within the mind. It is like trying to look closer at the sensations one feels in a dream, the real answer is that your own mind makes up existence, life is like an endless dream and we are essentially the same nobody, the Tao does what it does , to say it has a will, or that causality applies, or that it doesn't, is to give in to false imaginations. If it can be named, it isn't the eternal name.
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Unidian » Sun Feb 17, 2013 3:01 pm

Most of that is true (putting aside the thorny issue of 'intelligence' and what that might mean). But I think the question of causality remains relevant in the sense that it can be a valuable tool. Ulitmately, I do agree that the question ought not to even arise, as it implies the sort "fixed views" Nagarjuna and others warn us to beware of. I don't think it's us really meaningful at the ultimate level to say that the universe is either "free" or "causal." The non-duality of Nature transcends this dinstinction, as it does all others. But conventionally speaking, we generally have to act "as if" one or the other is the case, and in that regard causality makes much more sense (since "free will" is not amenable to coherent rational inquiry).
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Re: Why causality is an illusion

Postby Pincho Paxton » Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:26 am

SeekerOfWisdom wrote:The point is "universe" is in some unexplainable sense intelligent. At the very least there are manifestations of it that can speak "the universe is not intelligent", said the universe. But instead of thinking about quantum physics , realize that each thing you see is ongoing within the mind. It is like trying to look closer at the sensations one feels in a dream, the real answer is that your own mind makes up existence, life is like an endless dream and we are essentially the same nobody, the Tao does what it does , to say it has a will, or that causality applies, or that it doesn't, is to give in to false imaginations. If it can be named, it isn't the eternal name.


Life isn't a dream, and the Universe is often explained before we see it, or experience it. I have made drawings of the Universe, like the bow shock of the sun, and I drew them years before the bow shock was discovered. So our senses are accurate enough to analyse the universe without our senses needing to experience it in any way. Quantum physics is too small to see, yet we can work it out. The way to work out the Universe is often to use Cause and Effect. I throw a stone at a window, and I know the effect, and I even know the curve of gravity that I need to throw the stone slightly higher than the point that I wish to hit. I try the same with a snowball, and I can visualise the impact including a spatter of snow. I have never thrown custard at a window, but I know what it will look like. Cause and effect is used in our imagination to visualise real events. The Universe also repeats a lot of physics over, and over again. All of the Galaxies look similar, so it seems to me that cause, and effect are very limited, and always seem to follow the same rules. This make the Universe very easy to figure out. If you figure out the first cause, and the second effect, and the third effect, and the fourth effect you can create a Galaxy without maths, which means that we are trying too hard to be clever with mathematics. The Universe is simpler than the thoughts of a man, and so the Universe is much simpler than the thoughts of a God. The Universe is so simple that it just happens without thinking. 1 particle bumps into another particle, the other particle moves away... 1,2... Universe.
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