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

From: Emlyn (
Date: Sun Jan 14 2001 - 06:03:18 MST

I've snipped the stuff where we basically agreed; I hope that isn't a sign
of a combative personality on my part (who am I kidding?).

John Marlow wrote:
> **Ahh; interesting stuff, indeed.
> > 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.
> **Yeah; some interesting stuff going on right now. But
> of course, WE intelligently PROGRAMMED the computers
> to do this within parameters established by us.

Only partially are the parameters established by us. Mostly we are mimicking
a "natural" process, where by "natural" I mean it came about and continues
without/despite us (probly shudda useda diffrent word).

The stuff we change is usually either because we are working on something
not naturally occuring (xor table, for example), or because the "natural"
process is hideously complicated; too damned hard.

I'll just throw in an unrelated argument against design (as opposed to
natural selection) - what you see around you is all kludges. The much
vaunted eye, far from being the miracle of creation, is quite flawed and
dodgy. DNA itself seems to be a fairly klunky thing in whole, likewise
neurons and a bazillion other biological mechanisms. There's no wheel, no
gears/levers, all kinds of stuff missing from the "natural" world. If it's
hand designed, it's done pretty poorly.

> >What do you mean by "The intelligence may BE the
> system"? How?
> **How? I don't know how. It could all be the
> collective experience of a single consciousness.
> Something like Shintoism (later repackaged as The
> Force).

OK, that's all very metaphysical, but what does it mean? We could all be a
weird video game in a real universe, just some really overblown detail in a
distant corner, whilst the green beep-beep protaganist fights black droids
on the other side of space.

But that doesn't matter one jot, unless it affects us. Either it affects us,
which means the laws of physics, elusive as they can be, are violated now
and again, or it doesn't, in which case they are not.

If it doesn't affect us at all, then by Occam's razor we cannot consider it,
because it is of no useful purpose. The intangible is pure conjecture, by

If it does affect us, we must at some point be able to detect it. Yet again,
whilst we can find no reasonable purpose to presuppose a "supernatural"
meddler, we must presume there is not one. If we can detect it, then we have
another ball game. This is not currently the case.

I know it sounds terribly banal of me to be so utilitarian. But consider; to
what purpose do we assume an interfering external entity, when we have no
evidence? What can we do if we allow this? Nothing. If we cannot predict
it's actions, we cannot predict the universe. People can make wild claims of
regarding its actions, and we cannot refute them. Kind of dumb, if there is
no evidence.

On the other hand, we seem to be getting by fairly well by assuming no
external force. We can predict things, we continue to learn more; things
which are pretty detailed, as Damien has pointed out.

Another point of view; what makes an external entity? If it acts as part of
the universe (works with it), then it is part of the universe; an ET at best
(after all, this idea of conscious directed entity, that's a being). If it
changes things in the universe, it is operating within "natural" laws
(perhaps ones that we don't know about). So there's no such thing as an
external entity; it must be internal. The only external entity is one which
never affects the universe; pointless to speculate on.

> > 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?
> **I believe (note use of word "believe") that at the
> very least, something consciously determined the rules
> by which the game would be played, and then set it
> into motion. Whether that something is still
> around..(?) Why not?

Fair enough. That question about whether or not something consciously kicked
the whole thing off does not have a clear answer, or maybe any credible
answer at this point. It might even be the wrong question. So pick your

However, whether this thing, this conscious directed entity, is still
kicking around, is subject to the points I made above. Either it affects the
universe, or it doesn't. We must assume it, or anything fitting it's
description, does not.

I should say something about the nature of scientific enquiry, which is
this; science does not find the "truth". The truth is a statement about
absolute reality, which we cannot directly experience. What science does,
instead, is helps us to build an increasingly complex and increasingly
complete *model* of reality, of truth. It's a behaviorist approach.

For instance, we know nothing "true" about the subatomic world, to take a
tiny example (apologies). We do know, however, a lot about how it behaves,
through models we have constructed of that world, honed by measuring,
relatively indirectly, it's behaviour. So, we can talk about atoms, quarks,
spin, resonance, and quantum effects. But none of these things is "true";
they just well describe a piece of reality which we cannot directly
experience; by well describe, I mean that they have, as corollaries,
falsifiable predictions, which tend not to be falsified.

It is in this light of modelling truth, that Occam's Razor is used as the
guiding principle. This is necessary because anything can be modelled in
multiple ways, all of those ways being correct. The "model" example is the
circular orbits of the heavenly bodies, due to Aristotle, with all the
epicycle kludging used to make the models fit reality (at least closely
enough) vs Copernicus' revelation of eliptical orbits. Both of these are
valid models; both can be used; however, eliptical orbits seem to work more
"cleanly", ie: they don't require such complexity, and eliptical orbits mesh
with other theories, most notably gravitation. Circular orbits and Epicycles
would require some pretty hard transformation of newton's laws to integrate
usefully. Which is possibly doable, but would be ridiculously complex;
Occam's Razor says no.

The conscious directing entity is also a victim of William of Occam's
pronouncement. We have been able to show that the laws of physics model
reality to a useful degree; coming back to the case in point, the utility of
the theory of natural selection in many areas, amongst them biological
evolution, is not in doubt. So we either assume those laws (plus stuff we
don't know yet) on their own, or we assume them + CDE. There is no way as
yet to say which way is "true", but CDE has not shown it's utility. So it's

But without evidence, it's a matter of aesthetics; Occam's Razor is
fundamentally an aesthetic principle, an heuristic. So I guess you can
choose any way you will. I'm an atheist, personally, and I don't believe in
a CDE who interferes with things; but I recognise it as an aesthetic choice.

> That's the same as assuming God, as far as I can see.
> **Hmm. You wanna call that God? Okay. God is in the
> details. When people say God, I think of this big
> muscular bearded guy pointing fingers and hurling
> thunderbolts. That I don't buy.

Only a drooling idiot would buy that. Actually, now that I think about it,
I'd buy a God that threw thunderbolts; as long as he is house trained (I'm
renting, got white carpets).

> >> **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.
> **AACCKKK!!!

That's not up to par. I assume you mean "that doesn't suit me
aesthetically". You have to explain why (your specific objection), and what
your alternative is.

> >The really big jump, I think, is from non-replacing
(I meant to say "replicating", not "replacing")
> chemical soup to
> replicators.
> **That first step's a dandy, all right.
> > I'd like to hear some pontificating on this from
> someone
> knowledgable, if any of you are reading this.
> **Ditto.
> > 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
> unimaginable.
> >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.
> **Double AAACCKKK!!!

Again, explain yourself. That's a cogent argument, which you have not

> >
> This doesn't really explain anything; there is a whiff
> of trolldom in
> the
> air.
> **No; you know what it is, really? I've been spending
> too much time around idiots, and then I tuned in to
> this place. Perhaps I'm overcompensating.

It's a tough crowd, I'll give you that. This is a pet topic too; the burden
of argument lies on you, however unfair that might seem.

> > 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
> mechanism?
> **I don't know. And on this issue of original origin
> (can there even be such a thing?) I'm not sure WHAT I
> mean in its entirety--but I DO mean, as a part of it,
> that This Place (Life, The Universe, and Everything)
> is not happenstance. I will never believe that. Can I
> prove it? Of course not--not can anyone prove it is.

Absolutely. But to reiterate:
- There is no reason to assume God (sorry, CDE) or not. In the absence of a
reason, He is Razored away.
- Even if there is a CDE to organise time zero, it says nothing about any
time after that. The machine seems to run well enough on it's own.
- CDE can be motivational for some scientists and thinkers, but is only a
hindrance in actual predictive hypotheses.

> **How can we even go about it properly when our minds
> cannot even grasp the concepts involved? For
> example--when and what was the beginning? There had to
> be one--yet a beginning is, quite clearly, a logical
> impossibility. There had to be something before that,
> and so on... Same with the extent of the universe.

I believe that this is a deceptive simplification.

As humans, we experience a few things which are questionable when applied to
the universe. Cause&effect, linear time, a pitiful handful of dimensions, to
name a few. Most importantly, we expect reasons for things. There isn't a
lot of evidence that this stuff applies universally.

The idea of the universe having a beginning implies a strong linearity, and
ignores an important point; what came before the beginning? Who created the
creator? The more you think about it, the more you see that a universe which
must probably go on forever, must also probably have been forever. So then,
where is the necessity for a creator in the first place? Being as there is
no first place?

Then this is woolly headed too. After all, it seems that time is a far more
complex beasty than this simple train-track approach. For a start, it
procedes relatively. Time passes differently in different places. I believe
(I could be wrong about this, out of my depth), that the "big bang" starts
at a point where there is no time. Time comes from it, in some very odd
sense. I can't talk anymore about this; I don't know anything about it. But
it does seem that, before you can ask "what came first", you must prove the
validity of the concept "first" as valid in this context.

> **We must become more than we are to find out. That is
> what this is about, yes?

Maybe. More than we are will be fun... that's my motivation; basically quite
ego-driven. Quite possibly we could find out everything without changing at
all, eventually. But we keep finding out very cool things on the way; things
that cry out to be applied. I think I'm a transhumanist because I'm
programmed to be, because a long time ago it turned out to be useful to
think and make tools, so I was programmed (by natural selection) to get a
kick out of these things.


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