Friday, June 30, 2006

Give me back my (Intelligent) Design!

The name of the piece, The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Reason, was my private attempt to take back from the 'Intelligent Design' camp what is remarkably true in that phrase. We look around our world and we find an organization in the world well-met by our own internal organization. It doesn't have to be that way. Of all the possible worlds, ones so organized are rare -- by probabilistic arguments.* It is remarkable, indeed, to inhabit a world where mathematics, for example, is so strangely effective. To sense 'design' in the world is connected with sensing that well-met feeling between our internal order and the order around us and connected with a proper (as in well-proportioned, or in good ratio, i.e. rational) sense of awe. This sense is one of our birthrights as human beings and not the domain of some specific religious or political agenda.

* Actually, i would admit arguments that worlds so organized as to have observers inside them intelligent enough to observe the order of the world they inhabit must have a propulsion engine -- like natural selection -- selecting for a better and better match between the organization of the intelligent observer and the world they observe. In this sense there may be some skewing of the probabilistic arguments by anthropic-principle-type arguments. On the flip side, think about how many more programs with 'errors' in them there are than programs that are correct -- even in the class of programs having some parts that model the program as a whole. So, the counting argument may be somewhat subtle.

And, i can't help but calling out in this connection the striking parallel between such anthropic-principle-type arguments and Heidegger's argument at the beginning of Being and Time. Heidegger asks: is there a specific being we should inspect or interrogate if we wish to know something about Being; and he answers: yes, the being concerned with the question of Being. A universe so organized as to have beings in it concerned with the organization of the universe -- like questions of Being -- is a remarkably constrained structure. The reflective organization of ourselves and our universe is a very big clue, in my opinion.


Blogger Secret Agent for the Dumb said...

Ahh, a post on ultimate origins, one of my favorite topics. Can you, perhaps, provide an argument to prefer an anthropic principle to a teleological principle? As a religionist, I might grant you all the unseeing mechanism you desire, but still, as Spinoza, posit an ultimate intentionality behind the whole thing, as opposed to an ultimate accident or even near-tautology: we're here because, well, if the Universe were different, we wouldn't be here.

I cannot, for the life of me, find an Occam's razor sharp enough to distinguish the two.

7:17 PM  
Blogger island said...

This is actually very simple and it's about "thermodynamic intrinsic finality".

If given that:

1) The basic tennents of Evolutionary theory are correct.

2) There is indeed a "special" connection between humans and the forces of the universe.

Then there is an inherent implication which falls from these two combined features that predicts that there is a mechanism which allows the universe to "leap" perpetually forward to higher orders of entropic efficiency, just like we humans did when we lept from apes to harness fire... and beyond... for the exact same reason, and by way of the exact same mechanism that governs human evolution.

If you know a lot of physics then I can prove that this is MOST LIKELY the case.

If you know little physics, then I can make you understand, but I can't convince you of anything that you don't want to hear.

3:32 AM  
Blogger Secret Agent for the Dumb said...

I see something different. I see that all Darwinian systems exhibit epiphenomenal intentionality ... in other words, they act exactly as if they were -trying- to improve themselves, and the simulation is so exact that we might as well just -define- intentionality as "what Darwinian systems do." Thus, I see intentionality all the way down (or up, if you prefer), as just an inherent part of our Universe, however it came to be.

No steps required for a teleological principle, just getting rid of the "hidden-variable" theories that bogusly assign something unobservable to 'real' intentionality as opposed to the Darwinian epiphenomenon.

The point remains I still cannot find any reason to prefer an anthropic to a teleological axiom, but I certainly know enough physics to understand your proposition, when you make it.

As to your last clause, that cuts both ways, except that I am not trying to convince you of anything, I am merely asking questions.

6:40 AM  
Blogger island said...

Excellent. Although, my point is that this isn't a matter that "cuts both ways" if you can understand physics that proves which cosmological model is actually in effect, since this would make the interpretation more-factual, than not, regardless of what you might care to accept.

Anyway... I don't think it's either/or, it's both.

Mach's Principle is valid in a finite, bound universe, which does away with uncertainty, and makes La Place's Demon valid in a universe that has a perpetually inherent disequilibrium.

This would be Einstein's view of nature with purpose, but in this case the anthropic principle represents the thermodynamic law that enables the second law of thermodynamics to be forever true.

Entropy ALWAYS increases via evolutionary leaps/bangs to higher orders of the same basic structure. This derives anthropic teleology that translates so that we "seek" to satisfy physical spiritual financial sexual whatever needs, which is just a manifestation of the impetus to acieve equilibrium that can never truly be satisfied...


Nature says that "balance is good"... even if we can't get there from here. All other morality falls from the natural conflicts which occur in the effort to satisfy this most predominantly expressed "desire" of our big-bang induced expanding universe.

It's ALL about the journey "alfie"...

10:41 AM  
Blogger Secret Agent for the Dumb said...

Yes, I find nothing to disagree with. To attempt another paraphrase, systems act like they're pursuing goals, which, in turn, has a lower-level thermodynamic description, which may place deep constraints on cosmology like closedness (for Mach) and topology (for causality and the arrow of time) and what not. So there is a kind of dance between Universes that permit Darwinian systems and the Darwinian systems that fan the flames of entropy, all very Machian if not Hawkingian -- tantalizing connections between geometry (in the largest sense) and thermodynamics.

Only I fail to understand this bit of yours: "All other morality falls from the natural conflicts ..."

I'm not sure how we get from a description of what systems DO to "morality," a term that I can only understand to mean PREscriptions of what systems OUGHT to do.

The only possible touchpoint to morality I have ever seen in any kind of science is from evolutionary sociobiology: eseentially iterated prisoner's dilemma, which always seems to result in some variation of tit-for-tat as being the most long-lived strategy for a population.

But this is a pretty thin connection to morality, for, while it might hint at the best strategy for a population to take, it hardly provides "morality" in the ordinary sense of ethics or guidance for an individual, as in "should I cheat if I know / think / bet I can get away with it?" I see such kinds of questions as scientifically meaningless, not least because they're not falsifiable. Am I missing something?

All I'm trying to say is I think we agreed we can get from anthropism to teleology and back without trouble, but I don't understand the connection to morality. Seems like, as ever it'was, I, as a scientifically informed agent, should just try to "get away with" whatever I can, no?

9:46 PM  
Blogger island said...

Am I missing something?

Relative morality, I think, which arises from the need for the physical effects that you get from social cooperation.

I see such kinds of questions as scientifically meaningless, not least because they're not falsifiable.

I don't see how this is possible, given that every action, thought, and occurrence is a part of the physical process of a universe where LaPlace's Demon is valid.

If the entire past, present and future of our universe can theoreticaly be written down, then there is no occurrence which is not theoretically falsifiable.

2:40 AM  
Blogger oldtownboys said...

Looks nice! Awesome content. Good job guys.

3:57 PM  

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