PDA

View Full Version : Determinism, Evolution and consciousness



kashi
2003-Jul-23, 09:40 AM
If there are precisely defined laws of physics that govern all interactions in the universe, then if we know/knew the state of the universe at a given time, we should be able to accurately predict the state of the universe at any other time (past or present). If everything is determined by what happened before it, and the universe had a beggining, then what caused that beggining? If we evolved from microscopic organisms, what initially caused those organisms to "think", rather than behaving like ordinary chemicals? Can human consciousness be explained by a serious of predictable chemical reactions occuring in our brains, or is there something going on beyond the realm of science? Could quantum flucuations in the early universe determine the nature of a Louis Armstrong solo in the 1930s? What are your thoughts?

Josh
2003-Jul-23, 10:55 AM
The prediction of any event as an outcome of previously transpired events (even if we "knew the state of the universe at any given time") would only be a set of probabilities. Some with higher odds than others.

A butterfly flaps its wings and a hurricane forms on the other side of the world ... The butterfly effect shows that, in non-linear systems, small differences in the initial condition will give rise to large differences later on. Even if we knew the exact state of the universe at a given time we'd have to wonder about its precision and the precision of all events following. After each iteration the probability of accurately describing the outcome falls off dramatically. Knowing the EXACT state of EVERYTHING to about the infinite-th decimal would allow the prediction of the future I guess but then that would only be accomplished by a god.

Now ... as for the other things ... what started it all, etc... do you want to get into a discussion on the nature of the universe, the existence of a god and the nature of that being if there is one? I'm game if you are.

Fraser
2003-Jul-23, 04:31 PM
Well, I'll stay out of this one. :-)

Don Sevendy
2003-Jul-23, 10:25 PM
Quite simply, the the future of the universe is algorithmically determined but ultimately unknowable, and we're heading there fast!

Whatever the human mind is, it is amazing that we can cram a significant fraction of the universe into it. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

Is the universe designed, not merely evolved? What precisely does it mean to design anything? This brings us to the concept of intentionality--is this possible in a deterministic universe? Or are these terms just so much semantic acrobatics, like "omnipotence", ""omniscience", "infinity" and "eternity"?

Look, people have been playing around with these questions forever, and they always will; but in the end, these philosophical discussions are a "demolition derby" of language--irresistable fun, but ultimately abusive and pointless. Whether it be wrecks of cars or shreds of language, in the end it's just so much entropy.

Josh
2003-Jul-24, 01:04 AM
You know .. I never thought I'd see the beginnings of a deconstructionist debate in a space forum!

John_Fowler
2003-Jul-24, 06:44 AM
Hullo :),
Please excuse my simplicity - but I reckon that the Creator kicked off the Singularity of our universe containing all the laws that lead to what we see today - He just had to sit back and watch it happen - marvellous! :D

However, as a committed Christian, I believe that the Creator must have His finger in history in order to bring about prophesies we find in the Christian Bible. I.e. He must be able to control the affairs of man in order to be able to foretell events way before their time.

Anyway - that's my two-bob's worth; and I'm sticken' to it.

John Fowler
Coff's Harbour NSW
Australia
24th. July 2003

John_Fowler
2003-Jul-24, 07:22 AM
When are we humans going to stop thinking that our minds are the highest form of design in the universe?
What's wrong with believing that we as finite human beings have not got all the answers?
Down with superman, up with superspirit.
That evasive singularity starts with a creator who, unlike us, was not created. Beyond that lies eternity.

Rosa

Aiz
2003-Jul-24, 08:22 AM
Greg Bear wrote lots of novels involving mind-boggling topics such as these. Read the EON series for some interesting take on the multiverse, time, evolution, destiny etc. (I sound like a salesman :P)

menkalinan
2003-Jul-24, 10:52 AM
Several years ago, I visited the Calculation Centre of the German Weather Services. The guide told us, that they are able to predict the weather after three days with an accuracy of 70%. A meteorologist added, they even could manage to forecast with a precision of 99%, but unfortunately, the computers would take several months to calculate this :P

Well, I think that is the point: The law of "Cause and Effect" has universal validity, but the exact description of the state of the universe at a given time would require an infinite (by human measures) number of parameters. These would exponentially increase, if you implemented all factors to predict the change of the state after no more than one Planck-second. :blink:

My personal view of this: I like living as a coincidental evolutionary item with an unpredictable future. As long as we keep an open mind and try to leave this world in a slightly better condition than we entered it (as na´ve as that may sound), we do our best to fight against entropy ;-)

rahuldandekar
2003-Jul-24, 11:00 AM
Dear kashi,

in my forum 'are we the only form of conscious life ' i didn't mean to say that
we are superior ton other animals.

and as you have now raised a question that has been in my mind for months
i am only too happy to express my views.

we think. we feel (atleast thats what we 'think') but are we life?
we are chemicals. where do we draw the border between chemicals and 'life'?
are we conscious because we 'think'? but is thinking not just a chemical process?
is it because we can determine results? but is it not how a computers work?
if a computer was proggramed to 'think' i.e. take intelligent, daring, and risk-taking decisions to obtain good results would it 'live'? if it found a freind, started a relationship, recieved shivers, experienced fears due to certain stimulant 'hormones', would it be 'alive' ?

is there a form of consciousness above our own? in fact are even we alive?
am i responding because my brain is programmed to?
or am i taking a unique decision with true initiative?

do we die? or do our brains stop programming? do they, like computers CRASH ?

Don Sevendy
2003-Jul-24, 12:32 PM
Any of you amateur astronomers out there know who John Dobson is: the inventor of the now-ubiquitous "Dobsonian" telescope. It go without saying that he is singlehandedly responsible for reviving the art of amateur telescope making. But any of you who have had the misfortune of having to sit sit through one of his lectures know the perils of tossing around words like "infinite" and "eternal".

These words, plus ones usually reserved for the deity--"omni"-this or "omni"-that (a new one: "superspirit")--, are meaningless! Not to get teleological, but language evolved for the pragmatic advantage of the species. To the extent that "philosophizing" can add to that advantage, all the better. But let's not fall into the archaic trap of taking our language constructs seriously a priori. Positivism may be out of favor, but don't think that just because we have a word for a something that it actually exists!

Above, I expressed my amazement of the human mind's capacity to encompass the universe, but in a fundamental way we live immersed in ignorance--this is our fate, and we should accept it and get on with business. But all too often we fill in the gaps with words and call this knowledge--just another word--and then act on what we have created. If that action is limited to contributing this forum, fine; but the human hand is a highly adaptable tool...

stephanie_dukie
2003-Jul-24, 02:29 PM
So, how bout them Florida Marlins? :D

As a newbie, this really makes no sence to me. (ignorance is bliss i spose)

Im not sure what I am suppose to learn from this question. Im sure it is relevent somehow i spose, but what is this question giving me as far as knowledge?

As an ignorant newbie, what I summize from this is that this is really and truely all about your belief system. Just as scientists are bred to prove evolution, it all falls back on what your beliefs are.

jameskrehan
2003-Jul-24, 02:41 PM
If man built a computer that could know everything in the universe, then that computer would become a God. The fact that it is impossible to build such a computer (it cannot know everything!) proves man's limitations. We are not Gods!

Arramon
2003-Jul-24, 02:43 PM
Whats to say that were aren't some form of another being?
That when you back away from this Universe, and look at it from an unimaginable distance, you see the structure of this universe to be similar to that of an organism with cellular structure... kind of like looking through a microscope at our own structure and seeing something similar in return... How do humans function?
How does sentience become possible? Why do people feel connected to something that they cannot see? as in faith and beliefs...

Myself... i can't begin to imagine what may have formed our creation... but i know that creations happen everyday... with humans, animals, plant life, organisms, bacteria, etc...

When we grow, our bodies grow, but to only a certain limit defined by our planetary conditions... The cells within us have much more area to traverse, so they spread out... like our universe.

Dark matter? Dark Energy? Each galaxy seems to be surrounded by this dark matter, keeping the essential elements within from being dispersed by the ionization and radiation from the Big Drop, as i like to see it.... so maybe, all galaxies are somewhat like individual cells, working together as a whole, but becoming more and more seperate from the endless space around them...
Something seems to be moving, pushing, pulling, stimulating our galaxies to motion, and it all just seems like an organism that we've already known for so long... ourselves...

One great big baby growing up... a good 15 pound one... to our standards :)
So then... who's the father of this baby, you ask?
Well.... ask the mother...

We've only been living on her for the past millions of years... =)

. ..-={Arramon}=-.. .

Don Sevendy
2003-Jul-24, 05:24 PM
The point is that beliefs are just words, and talk is cheap. Knowledge is the precedent to action, and while empirically-based knowedge--science--will get you to the moon (the moon is a fact), it takes belief-based "knowledge" to get you to heaven (heaven is--alas--just a word)...or hell. No, you and I (more facts) certainly are not gods (you guessed it--another word).

And no, all you nascent solipcists out there, you're not just dreaming this.

kashi
2003-Jul-25, 10:19 AM
I think it's amusing that a hard disk (or any digital storage medium) containing information about the position of every atom in the universe would require more atoms than there are in the universe, unless of course you had an extremely efficient compression algorithm.

I think it's obvious that we will never acheive the computational capacity to predict everything, but what I'm more interested about is whether this is "theoretically" possible.

Kashi

rahuldandekar
2003-Jul-25, 10:40 AM
i think this is theoritically impossible

quantum theory states only a probablity for each path out of many paths of a
a particle, while classical theories (e.g. relativity) dictate a single path.

but what if we are living in a universe which has little probablity of happening according to the theory, but has ,inevitably, happened ? ;)

JSBerry
2003-Jul-25, 12:20 PM
Originally posted by jameskrehan@Jul 24 2003, 02:41 PM
If man built a computer that could know everything in the universe, then that computer would become a God. The fact that it is impossible to build such a computer (it cannot know everything!) proves man's limitations. We are not Gods!
Well--that computer couldn't be built inside this universe, there isnt enough material in this universe to build a computer to record the positions of every subatomic particle. This leads to an interesting paradox--how does the universe encode the physical laws and keep track of everything when the amount of information required is larger than can be recorded with the matter availiable? Space and time can not be infinitely smooth at some small level, otherwise there would be infinite information required to keep track of just one particle to an infinite number of decimal places. At the smallest level there must be some substrate which not only encodes our reality, but the instructions for encoding itself as well. On this substrate level there must be some set of possible rules of which our laws of physics are a small subset. The individual building blocks must contain very simple rules for interacting with their neighbors and the sum of these interactions are what we percieve as electrons, protons, up quarks, neutrons, mathematical laws, physics, entropy, empty space, light, time, bluejays, energy, etc... Reality is a very complicated thing.

kashi
2003-Jul-25, 11:38 PM
What if you stored all the information in a zip file? :D

Arramon
2003-Jul-28, 02:46 PM
Maybe someone DID try to 'zip' up all the information, and when they went to unzip it.... the Big Bang occured =P

oi!!

Dave Mitsky
2003-Sep-23, 12:59 PM
Originally posted by kashi@Jul 23 2003, 09:40 AM
If there are precisely defined laws of physics that govern all interactions in the universe, then if we know/knew the state of the universe at a given time, we should be able to accurately predict the state of the universe at any other time (past or present). If everything is determined by what happened before it, and the universe had a beggining, then what caused that beggining?
Chaos theory offers the possibility that the universe is not ultimately deterministic. Newton's clockwork universe may just have some faulty gears.

See http://order.ph.utexas.edu/chaos/index.html and http://www.duke.edu/~mjd/chaos/chaos.html for starters.

Dave Mitsky

kashi
2003-Sep-23, 01:12 PM
I'm glad you cottoned on to that Dave. I guess ultimately we'll never know. Indeed a computer powerful enough to predict the behavior of every atom in the universe would need contain more than such a number of atoms itself (unless a very neat compression algorithm was used...I don't know if a zip file would cut the mustard).

I haven't replied to this thread for ages so I might be repeating myself, but I read a Hawking essay in which he put forward the argument that although quantum flucuations and the uncertainty principle don't really affect the nature of the universe on a large scales, such "random" behavior in the early universe could have compounded to affect small events, for instance who appears on the cover of Time magazine this month.

Personally I find comforting the idea that everything cannot be predicted (even with an infinitely powerful super-computer).

Kashi

Dave Mitsky
2003-Sep-23, 01:35 PM
Originally posted by Don Sevendy@Jul 24 2003, 12:32 PM
Any of you amateur astronomers out there know who John Dobson is: the inventor of the now-ubiquitous "Dobsonian" telescope.* It go without saying that he is singlehandedly responsible for reviving the art of amateur telescope making. But any of you who have had the misfortune of having to sit sit through one of his lectures know the perils of tossing around words like "infinite" and "eternal".*

Don,

I have a passing acquaintance with John Dobson and have heard him talk a half dozen times or more at Stellafane, the Winter Star Party, the Mason-Dixon Star Party, the Grand Canyon Star Party, and elsewhere. As long as the topic is not the Big Bang John is a fascinating man to converse with but when he starts his religious proselytizing I'm "late for the door". At least one knows where Christian creationists are coming from at the get-go. John knows so much science that he can easily impress someone who hasn't heard him speak before; then he begins the Vedantic Hinduism sermon. Those of you who have never heard Mr.Dobson speak about cosmology might want to have a look at http://www.johndobson.org/articles/by/equations.html

Dave Mitsky

eggplant
2003-Sep-24, 04:55 AM
Gotta disagree that the computer would have to be larger than the variables it's determining. Now the global weather systems predicting computers take up wearhouses, but not whole oceans. Granted, with present technology, it might take up most of the universe... Also each time the machine is used it will submit a querie, and the probabilities for that unique querie will be worked out... I think we can save space with good programming...
...
As for the other original queries of the thread?

I think life (sentience) begins somewhere between self replication and conditioned response.
For a good treatease and easy reading I recommend "Mind in Nature" Gregory Bateson. If you haven't heard of him look him up. His star is rising again in the field of psychotherapy. Way back when , he coined the phrase double bind...
I digress...

As for the precise governing laws, they haven't explained everything I've experienced yet... There is a magic or force that exists in our observations and communication, that as of yet defies explanation.

And of course there's easily explainable really cool stuff like Mars out my window.
Out there ========> the other window. ;)

jmpty
2003-Sep-27, 02:59 AM
Unfortunately, those "laws"dont work at the sub atomic level. Strange things begin to happen when we try to peek at whats happening in this realm.There were some great experiments done with light when they were trying to determine if it was a wave or a particle that illustrates this lack of cooperation of sub atomics. If I can find it, I'll post it.