Hi, I'm a new member to the group. I'm not sure if I'm looking at it correctly, but in the most recent entry page it looks like nobody has posted anything since Dec 2004, but maybe I'm not looking at the right thing. In any event, if this group is dead or dying on the vine, is there another place where interesting philosophical discussion takes place on a host of subjects? I was recently making a journal entry regarding "social clubs" in which I comment that single male men in the 35-45 age group have an especially difficult time forming significant emotional relationships with other men. Since my divorce I've realized that for women this is often second hand, but for men who have evolved more competitive natures I don't think we are very good at it. I've tried the singles social clubs and the bar scene, but neither produces significant discussion. Similarly, the few websites where chat rooms and the like on deep philosophical issues occurs, it seems there are always people whose primary goal is debate and argument. I'm not really interested in that. I prefer discussion that is about analysis with people who are seeking truth but haven't entirely found it yet and are open to possibilities. I don't mind people pointing out the weaknesses of my statements, in fact, I'd welcome intelligent discourse, but I don't like being abused or ridiculed by close minded individuals who can't stand to have their own viewpoints questioned, and it seems in those groups where philosophy or religion was discussed, that was the inevitable outcome. In any case, I found interest in the introductory comment regarding whether we live in a dream. The response comment that the Matrix trilogy has closed that discussion is rather hasty. I loved the Matrix trilogy for its philosophical ramblings. The Wachowski Bros did a good job of creating a "chop-socky flick that comments on the Hegelian dialectic while having a guy who can fly and stop bullets" (in their own words). The movies explore just about every aspect of philosophy from ethics and religion, to epistemology and metaphysics and perhaps (although maybe indirectly) aesthetics. The movies are also filled with a wealth of symbolism, so much so, that even the Wachowski Bros. have stated it is doubtful any single individual could discover it all even after numerous viewings. The main goal, however, was not to create a movie that would explore all of the questions about a specific philosophical debate in order to end discussion, but rather to make a movie both entertaining (thus appealing to a mass audience) while touching upon important philosophical ideas. In that, the movies make philosophy accessible and interesting to the masses, and are meant to provoke rather than squelch discussion. That said, I think there is a lot that can be said regarding whether this world has been "pulled over our eyes to blind us to the truth". Certainly this is the quasi-view of many Eastern religions and even to some degree even traditional Western religions hold the view that the world is somehow "broken" ('fallen') or different from its original intended form - although this seems mainly concerned with "ethical" considerations rather than physical reality. Even so I found it fascinating that numerous authors that have written books on the philosophy of the Matrix when addressing the concept that reality is an illusion fabricated by a malicious demon (an idea originally proposed by Descartes) they considered it a strong argument against such a possibility on the grounds that it is too "improbable". That is, using an Occam's Razor approach tells us that it is far more reasonable to take our perceptions at "face value" rather than supposing we are part of some elaborate simulation. I find it even more interesting that it is the scientists and engineers, those who traditionally are more conservative in their philosophical perceptions, and not the philosophers, that appear to be more open to just that possibility (namely, that we are living in an elaborate simulation). The reason for this is clear. I myself was a physics major and I'm experienced with both discussions on artificial intelligence and the origins of life and the universe. Most scientists recognize that the conditions necessary for our reality and life itself are extremely unlikely. So unlikely, in fact, that some scientists have been compelled to either embrace various God-based concepts as an explanation for our origins, or else to posit that our universe is only one of an almost infinite number of parallel worlds (so that even though our reality is extremely unlikely, it is nevertheless inevitable considering the number of universes that exist). Now neither of these latter views really employs "Occam's Razor" in my opinion. However, there is an alternative view that seems much more probable, and the first I heard of it was on the final DVD ROM that was in "The Ultimate Matrix" 10 DVD collection. In "The Roots of the Matrix: The Hard Problem: Science Behind the Fiction" one engineer makes a very interesting comment. Consider the phenomenal advance of virtual reality over the past twenty years from the days of a 'line and two dots' in Pong to that available in current games like Doom 3. At the current rate of progress, it seems extremely likely that at some point in the future virtual worlds will be created that will be indistinguishable from reality. WHEN this will occur is clearly open to debate, but that it WILL occur someday seems perfectly reasonable. In that future, a person would be unable to determine the difference between a virtual experience and a real one. That said, there is no reason why people wouldn't spend a large amount of time enjoying virtual realities. In fact, such a virtual reality could be populated by both real minds and artificial minds as well. It is not hard to imagine our culture 10,000 years hence, where the most significant experiences occur in virtual reality. Now lets consider the uniqueness of our own universe again (where the gravitational constant if changed by only a small percent would make life impossible, for example). Let's first accept that science tends to favor the mundane and the usual over the unusual or special. What I mean by that is a theory that posits "something special for this one here that has to do with me and something different for everything else" is generally considered far less likely than a theory that creates a universal rule for all things. Random chance is favored over special creation. An unprivileged position is favored over being the center of the universe. So, for instance, even though the initial evidence was extremely weak, many scientists welcomed sun-centered astronomy over earth-centered astronomy and Darwinian evolution over special creation because the latter ideas placed man in a privileged and special position with respect to the rest of the universe. So lets continue in that vein while applying Occam's Razor. To remove the apparent uniqueness of our own universe lets assume we are only one of many apparently "special universes". But Occam's Razor demands that I don't posit the existence of additional things that are not necessary, therefore, lets remove them entirely and assume none of them exist "really". In other words and in summary, it is far more likely that this reality in which we live is not real at all, but is only one virtual reality in a number (but not infinite number) of virtual realities, created by some extremely advanced civilization that has completely perfected the creation of such virtual worlds. Our universe is no longer so unique, so inexplicable, and additionally, man no longer has the privileged position we imagine for ourselves. Finally, I don't have to posit the existence of an almost infinite number of parallel or alternate realities to explain the oddity and uniqueness of this one. It is odd simply because it is an artificial construct, created expressly for its uniqueness. In fact, the engineer on the DVD even went further and suggested that given what we know of the fantastic improbabilities associated with the creation of intelligent life, it is far more likely that on average, the intelligent minds with whom one comes into contact are more likely to be artificially created ones rather than biologically evolved ones. It may even be said that a sufficiently sophisticated AI program wouldn't even be aware of its own true nature or origins. Remember Blade Runner? (Another great film by the way). An AI would consider himself or herself "the same as everyone else". So, in effect, and to end on an even more interesting note, it is more likely that most of us are actually just so much computer code in this virtual world designed for the entertainment of some advanced being, and not really biologically evolved independent beings existing in some extremely improbable universe. I can even toy with the idea that the concept of God may be a dim realization of this truth. 'God' simply may be the half understood or subconscious projection we make of that one real person that exists in this virtual reality; a person who authored it for his or her own pleasure and who created AI's similar in form to himself with which he could interact for company, etc and etc.