Re: "God Does Not Play Dice..." AE

From: Emlyn (
Date: Sun Jan 14 2001 - 01:31:45 MST

John ** Marlow wrote:
> **
> --- Damien Broderick
> <> wrote:
> > At 06:33 PM 13/01/01 -0800, john marlow wrote (or
> > possibly trolled, it's
> > hard to tell by this point):
> >
> > >> Evolution is precisely *not* a theory of
> > >> coincidence. ... Natural *selection*,
> > >> geddit?
> >
> > >**I am aware of this. Try this: Where I use the
> > word
> > >"coincidence," substitute "random chance."
> >
> > You evade the key point. A million genome copies of
> > X exist.
> *bzzzt*
> **Let's go back. In the Beginning (so to speak)--there
> were ZERO genome copies of X. THere was, in fact, no
> X.
> **So--how do we get from there, to a million genome
> copies of X? 'Tis the more fundamental question. As
> I've said, natural selection in obviously in
> operation; I do not refute/deny/quibble with this. No
> question. My problem with it is this: It needs more.
> It's not enough. It is insufficient to get from the
> Beginning to where we are now.

The question of how we got to maybe half a dozen genome copies from zero is
an interesting one, and one which I think not many claim to have a
satisfactory or complete answer to. However, from there, natural selection
can move to millions and billions and zillions (being 10^lots).
> By random
> > chance, many are slightly and heritably altered. The
> > performance of the
> > great majority of offspring in a given setting is
> > degraded, of a few
> > improved. How hard is it to see that gradually the
> > offspring of
> > [contingently-]improved variants will supplant the
> > others? Chance, yes -
> > followed by competitive-plus-cooperative selection.
> **Now--who/what laid down the rules? Why should this
> be? How did it begin?

You must not confuse the beginning with the process. The initial state is
mostly unrelated to following states after a certain amount of steps in an
interative process like this. The question of how it came to be is
interesting; the beginning of things, if there can be said to be one, is
shrouded in mystery (hopefully some of our astronomical friends can expound
apon this a little, it's pretty fun).

But the operation of the process of natural selection is so basic, it is
hard to question it once you *get* it. A generation of self-replicators is
formed. There is an environment which is not abundant enough that all can
survive and replicate, or at least so that all can replicate equally. So,
genes are passed on more plentifully than others; these are those of the
most successful phentotypes, the organisms themselves. The next generation
of genes reflects the more successful organisms better than the less
successful ones.

It's a really dumb process; inherently lacking in intelligence. It's one of
the great wonders of the universe that we would develop from that; however,
it is not at all implausible.

A really very interesting thing to note about natural selection is that it
works better than you would imagine. I learned this after working on some
material from a book called "genetic programming" (can't remember the author
or anything else, it was borrowed from the library). It turns out that, in
software mimicking the process of natural selection, you can evolve highly
ordered solutions or systems (even software) from a surprisingly small
number of generations. What you can do in an afternoon on a single-processor
pentium is quite astounding, and un-intuitive. Perhaps the world could be
created in 7 days after all; it'd probably require a P4 though.

If I remember correctly, you can, for instance, evolve the logic table for
an "xor" operation in less than 5 generations. A trivial example, but it
amazed me that you could evolve anything in less than hundreds of

Now DNA's replication scheme is a bit more complicated than that used in
computer experiments; that makes it no less powerful (possibly it makes it
more powerful). Given the span of time life has been on this planet, and the
number of generations, it's not so surprising that there is such diversity
and complexity.

> >
> > >> You, I gather, see a Mind from outside
> > >> the system intervening top-down to produce an
> > echo
> > >> of Its own order.
> >
> > >**Entropy is said to be the natural condition. I
> > >suggest that Extropy requires intelligence.
> >
> > `Extropy' is not a scientific concept or construct;
> > it is a social
> > metaphor. Complex energetic organisation emerges and
> > thrives by exporting
> > entropy into its environment; intelligence has
> > nothing to do with this.
> **But it results in manifest intelligence, yes? Can
> this result not be said to be the "goal" of this
> process of organization?

If something results from a system, that does not mean that the result was
the system's goal; you can't even ascribe motive to a system. Motive is
something for intelligent entities. The system of Natural selection is so
dumb (and amazing), you can jot the key points down on a matchbook cover.
There is no goal, just emergent phenomena, side effects.

> >
> > >I said nothing about a
> > >top-down intervention by an intelligence residing
> > >outside the system. The intelligence may BE the
> > >system.
> >
> > Oh, I see. The universe brought *itself*
> > intelligently into being. Too
> > cool. Too self-undermining.
> **"Too cool?" Isn't it, though?

Well, it might be cool, but it is content free.

What do you mean by "The intelligence may BE the system"? How? Do you mean
that the physical laws of the universe somehow embody an intelligence, that
there is some extra thing which guides their (assumedly capricious)
application? That's the same as assuming God, as far as I can see.

The start of the system doesn't necessarily have a lot to do with any state
far beyond it. The origins of the universe do not have any strong
theoretical impact on the operation of natural selection in biology.
> >
> > >**Next time you see that Darwin guy, you ask him
> > from
> > >me: How does your theory account for the creation
> > of
> > >the whole shebang? The starting kickoff?
> >
> > Your original post made no claims about the origins
> > of the universe, or
> > even the origins of life. You recorded your
> > sentiment that the Hamlet-like
> > human mind was far too angelic to have come into
> > existence via brute
> > evolutionary processes.
> **Discussion broadened, or so I thought. "Angelic?"
> Hardly. (Hey that's religion, ain't it?) There remains
> no proof we evolved from primordial pond scum, which
> in turn evolved from nothing. doesn't that sound a
> LITTLE unlikely..?

Well, we came from somewhere. A fairly mainstream view is that it is
massively unlikely, in fact; however, there's a big universe out there, and
a long, long time; on that scale, it becomes more probable that somewhere,
somewhen, this kind of improbable event could occur.

The really big jump, I think, is from non-replacing chemical soup to
replicators. I'd like to hear some pontificating on this from someone
knowledgable, if any of you are reading this. After the replicators exist,
however, it all becomes a lot more stolid, marching forward from generation
to generation. Now, from pond scum to us, that's pretty unlikely, but so is
any state some billions (?) of years after the initial state of any complex
iterative system. From pond scum to something which in no way resembles it's
origins, that is incredibly probable. From pond scum to pond scum, that's

On the other hand, the probability does not come into play. By the anthropic
principle, we are going to be us, intelligent life, because what else can we
be? If we had never existed, that might say something about the probability
of us existing. Our existence, however, does not say anything other than
that we are possible. It is not possible to estimate a probability; in turn,
our origin does not have to be probable. Only possible.

> >
> > I reply: actually, the evolution of the human
> > brain/mind is patently
> > darwinian (although some of the selected replicators
> > were doubtless memes,
> > which by reciprocal feedback co-evolved with the
> > genes providing their
> > material substrate).
> >
> > As for the whole shebang, that might be subject to
> > darwinian explanation
> > (in the Linde or Smolin models, which are not
> > untestable), or it might be
> > due to a stochastic vacuum fluctuation, but either
> > way it is not relevant
> > to the emergence by natural selection of human
> > beings 13 or so billion
> > years later. Get a grip on the scale of these
> > phenomena, sir.
> **It seems I stand accused of being a mystic.
> A few choice bits from AE (the closest thing yet to
> AI:)
> "The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity
> of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that
> there is no room left by the side of this ordered
> regularity for causes of a different nature."
> "The finest emotion of which we are capable is the
> mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and
> all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is
> alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and
> lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that
> what is impenatrable for us really exists and
> manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most
> radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are
> intelligible to our poor faculties - this knowledge,
> this feeling ... that is the core of the true
> religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense
> alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men."
> "I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of
> life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the
> marvelous structure of the existing world, together
> with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be
> it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself
> in nature."
> "It is in this striving after the rational unification
> of the manifold that it encounters its greatest
> successes, even though it is precisely this attempt
> which causes it to run the greatest risk of falling a
> prey to illusion. But whoever has undergone the
> intense experience of successful advances made in this
> domain, is moved by the profound reverence for the
> rationality made manifest in existence. By way of the
> understanding he achieves a far reaching emancipation
> from the shackles of personal hopes and desires, and
> thereby attains that humble attitude of mind toward
> the grandeur of reason, incarnate in existence, and
> which, in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to
> man. This attitude, however, appears to me to be
> religious in the highest sense of the word. And so it
> seems to me that science not only purifies the
> religious imulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism
> but also contibutes to a religious spiritualisation of
> our understanding of life."
> "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational
> mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society
> that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."
> **I suggest that what he refers to as
> 'reason/rationality made manifest in existence,'
> etc.--is what I'm talking about.
> **Love ya, Albert.
> john marlow
> >
> > Damien Broderick

This doesn't really explain anything; there is a whiff of trolldom in the
air. What do you mean? More than handwaving about something greater than
ourselves; let us know how you really think we came about. What's the


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