William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Randomness & God

Reader Omer Abid points us to Serkan Zorba’s article “God is Random: A New Perspective on Evolution and Creationism”, which has concepts of interest to all of us (Abid asked me to look into this not quite two years ago, so you can see I’m a tad behind in my emails).

Regular readers know, and I prove in Uncertainty, that random means unknown. Random is an epistemological concept and not an ontological one: there is no “random force” as there is, say, a gravitational force.

With that, here is Zorba (jumping in about half way down).

Thus I will propound that generation and “understanding” of absolute randomness requires infinite intelligence. I will dare to speculate that true randomness observed in nature is a strong indication, if not the “proof,” of the existence of an infinitely intelligent entity (God). Absolute randomness is a telltale sign of God.

One way of seeing this is as follows. Perfect randomness is when the result of an event is independent of the past and future influences. That means the event is not determined by any physical cause although it transpires in our physical universe, but rather by what I will call a ‘transcause,’ a cause originating beyond our phenomenal level.

When a “wave function” “collapses”, if that is what really happens, it collapses to a specific value. The (conditional) probability, a function of the wave (the conditions), can be calculated that this specific value will result. Now this value before it results it is only a potential. Some thing actual must actualize this potential and so make the final state an actuality. If Bell is right, we cannot know what this actualizer is; but that it must exist is a truism. It cannot be that nothing actualized the potential, because nothing is not-a-thing, and nothing has no powers. It must be that some thing actual with power to actualize did the actualizing. Zorba will call this a “transcause”, which is as good a name as any, and maybe a better name than most.

Incidentally, Heisenberg spoke in exactly this Aristotelian language when he philosophized about quantum mechanics. Uncertainty has details on this.

I differ from Zorba in calling quantum events “independent.” I deprecate this word in statistics, too, and use instead relevancy. Prior knowledge of some proposition (event) is either relevant or irrelevant to some new proposition. To use “independent” is to say two events are not causally related, and in the case of transcauses (to use his fine word), since we have no idea of the reasoning behind the cause of the first event, we necessarily do not have it of the second. Two events may very well be, in the perspective of the transcause, dependent.

Furthermore, the independence of such random behavior of the past and future influences—a sort of memorylessness—is, I assert, indistinguishable from having a timeless omniscience, as the knowledge of the past and the future must really be known to truly render a correlationless behavior. Thus the introduced ‘transcausality’, by virtue of its having infinite computational wherewithal, implies the existence and intervention of a metaphysical and categorically-different intelligence, which I will name ‘transintelligence’.

‘Transcausality’ necessarily implies non-locality, which is a fundamental feature of quantum mechanics. Furthermore, the discontinuous and seemingly non-algorithmic character of wavefunction collapse also dovetails well with the idea of ‘transcausality.’

Well, we cannot claim “memorylessness”, especially if we’re going to, as Zorba does, equate transcausality with God. And we have to be careful about correlation, too. If we use it in the sense of relevancy, we’re on solid epistemological ground; but as lacking-causal-connection, we are not. (Besides, statisticians have the bad habit of speaking of correlation as if it only involves straight line undefined—perhaps causal, perhaps not—“links”.)

Non-locality, of course, applies to our material world. Since God is at the base of all existence, the First and Sustaining Cause of all (see the beginning of this series), Zorba’s suggestion makes sense. God is not here now, and there later. In a crude analogy, if you think of the universe right now emanating from a single point, a singularity, all points and all times are present to this singularity at once, which puts this singularity in the perfect time-place to be a (the) transcause.

I’ll skip over the bits about how our intellects work, which brings up many subjects, such as induction (such as also discussed in Uncertainty).

I thus posit that the information-laden perfect randomness observed in nature at the microscopic level entails the existence of an “oracle,” a transintelligence, namely, an omniscient being. To further identify this Being with God–who is conceptually defined as omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect–is not facilely accomplished, albeit such identification is not uncommon[4].

The transintelligent being inferred in this article must be omniscient and omnipotent due to the proposed ontological (creation/selection of quantum events) and epistemological (information-theoretic nature of the irreducible randomness of the quantum world) connection. Linking omniscience/omnipotence to moral perfection, as assumed or done in various forms of ontological argument (e.g., in Plantinga’s modal argument[5]), is beyond the scope of this article[6].

(About Plantinga’s version of an onotological argument, click here; and don’t miss the comment by Paul Brandon Rimmer.)

Zorba’s kicker is this: “If God is, by definition, infinite, absolute and singular, then, generally speaking, in what other pattern will a finite being—such as a human being—perceive Him other than randomness?”

This is far from a proof, though I agree with Zorba’s aim. God is “mysterious” in the sense that we do not know why this wave “collapsed” to this point. Of course, this hinges on the absolute correctness of quantum mechanics as it is now known. If, say, next week string theorists finally convince the world they know of what they speak, then would Zorba’s argument be weakened? Probably not, because (as far as I understand it) string theorists have no answer to what is actualizing the potentials of strings, either.

48 Comments

  1. Zorba’s kicker is this: “If God is, by definition, infinite, absolute and singular, then, generally speaking, in what other pattern will a finite being—such as a human being—perceive Him other than randomness?”
    Um, logical consistency?
    Those who hold to Christian theology perceive God through the revealed Word (written and incarnate) and the historical record. These are not random (i.e., unknown or unexplainable).

  2. swordfishtrombone

    February 17, 2017 at 9:08 am

    God-of-the-gaps, QM style.

    “Knowledge of the past and the future must really be known to truly render a correlationless behavior”

    Zorba (fantastic name!) elevates the gambler’s fallacy into an ontological argument. Wouldn’t it be easier to explain “correlationless behaviour” as simply behaviour which is correlationless? Interesting ideas though.

  3. A wave function collapsing is the same as a punter’s wager function collapsing when the first horse crosses the finish line.

  4. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 17, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Wouldn’t it be easier to explain “correlationless behaviour” as simply behaviour which is correlationless?

    Actually, no, since it would not explain anything at all. It would be like saying the changing positions of the planets can be explained by “location change.”

    When a “wave function” “collapses”, if that is what really happens, it collapses to a specific value. … Now this value before it results it is only a potential. Some thing actual must actualize this potential and so make the final state an actuality.

    An example:
    A set of building materials has the potential to become a house. It also has the potential to become a barn for storing grain, a scaffold for dealing with impertinent comm boxers, a grandstand for others to watch the aforesaid entertainment, or it may remain a set of building materials. It does not have the potential to become an aardvark.

    When construction begins, the “wave function” of all those various unrealized potentialities collapses to a particular potential aimed at the one particular end. This is First Act: the potency becomes an “actual potency.” Second Act is when the house is actually finished. Between the first and second act is what Aristotle called ‘motion’ or kinesis. Hence, the distinction between “building” being the progressive tense of “to build” versus “building” being the noun for the finished product, a/k/a final cause.

  5. Some of the good ole thinkers who were free to think in depth about such things because they were cloistered and thus mercifully spared most of the impediments of ego-politics and pleasure-seeking (entertainment) came up with some compellingly good ideas when they were wrestling with the notions of temporal vs eternal.

    The temporal is necessarily “a succession of events”; of causes and effects, of “before’s” and “after’s”. Indeed, the very perception of time is the comparison of relative rates of successions of events. The very notion of “randomness” is meaningless without a succession of events. Nothing happens without a cause that precedes the effect. “Randomness” and “chance” are entirely meaningless except as the effects of unknown, (or even unknowable to us stuck in the temporal), causes.

    That’s all pretty pedestrian, but the notion of eternity; (as in no “before”), while logically inescapable, is blardy hard for us (stuck in the temporal) to conceptualise.

    I can do no better than to offer the delightfully, profoundly simple: “To the eternal First Cause everything just IS… always has been and always will be”.

    Assessments and choices and freedom are only possible in the Temporal where there is a “before and after”.

  6. If one has faith, one believes along the lines Gary mentions (“…perceive God through the revealed Word (written and incarnate)…”).

    If one has faith, why would one go looking in arcane places like the implications of speculative “wave function collapses” and an associated patchwork of intertwined speculations, any one of which if incorrect, makes the entirety not only false but irrelevant?

    Real faith does not search for proofs for faith.

    Doing so creates opportunity for other problems. Consider this remark from today’s essay: “Since God is at the base of all existence…”

    What that means is unclear, it is open to some varying interpretation with one being consistent with:

    Jesus says:
    (1) “I am the light that is over all. I am the All. The All came forth out of me. And to me the All has come.”
    (2) “Split a piece of wood — I am there.
    (3) Lift the stone, and you will find me there.”

    That’s from the Gospel of Thomas (Gnostic), which the R. Catholic Church has decreed heretical.

    Does Briggs remark mean the same as the excerpt from the heretical Gospel of Thomas, and if so, is that particular quote heretical in some way consistent with Briggs’ remark & meaning? I have no idea … That’s one example of the kind of tangential thinking toward or into heresy that is routinely prompted when amateurs & dilettantes go mucking about with theological doctrine.

    Suppose the answers to those questions [or similar on related themes] are “yes,” then we can conclude with certainty Briggs is either well-intended but misguided (because he would be wrong trying to be right), or, a Gnostic and perhaps willfully evil (because he was wrong by choice). We cannot discern which. More often than not will fail to recognize that such possibilities exist if/when reading such blather; similarly, the amateur and dilettante usually cannot recognize when they’ve ventured into heresy. Even if well-intended, the kinds of misdirection that too often results renders those good intentions among the paving stones on the road to hell.

    When it comes to explaining theology & associated doctrine, much less arguing proofs that prove nothing and carry a high premium to mislead, Briggs and others of that inclination lacking any real expertise in the area, should shut up about such matters and stick to their expertise.

  7. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 17, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    If one has faith, why would one go looking in arcane places like the implications of speculative “wave function collapses”

    Because one has faith (=”trust”) one assumes that the universe hangs together and that all truth is one. This was a faith developed in the Middle Ages, when Reason was king. As Anselm of Canterbury wrote: Fides quaerens intellectum.
    Or as Chesteton put it.
    “Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.”

    Real faith does not search for proofs for faith.

    Why not? Faith does not mean credulity. It means “trust” or “reliance,” and the more one knows the more firm the faith.

    A blind faith, one that would simply demand a leap into the utter void of uncertainty, would be no human faith. If belief in the Creator were totally without insight, without any understanding of what such entails, then it would likewise be inhuman. Quite rightly, the Church has always rejected “fideism” — that very sort of blind faith.

    Belief without insight, without any possibility of perceiving the Creator, of being able to grasp by means of reason anything of what he has wrought, would be no Christian belief.
    — Christoph Cardinal Schoenbrunn

  8. On prudence versus impudence:

    Edward Lear knew what he was leaving out!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fHucj7e-3k

  9. [quote= Ken] Real faith does not search for proofs for faith. [/quote]

    Says who? An unreasonable belief is superstition. There are many good reasons to believe in a reality that are not scientistic, materialistic or empiricalistic.

    The ordinary empiricist/materialist demands a belief in their ideological prejudices so that a “no explanation” of obvious and ubiquitous metaphysical “phenomena” should be blindly accepted as not needing any explanation.

    Gnostic Scientism is the religion of choice, these days, for a New Voodoo Shaman detaching observable reality from the comprehension of real people.

  10. Briggs, I’ll agree with your axiom (?) that randomness is simply another way of describing “unknown”. but again, I’ll disagree with your and Zorba’s (is he Greek?) notions about collapse in QM. QM is a theory, which describes much of what we know about reality very accurately. But, to quote Feynman,

    “Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, ‘But how can it be like that?’ [referring to quantum mechanics] because you will get ‘down the drain’, into a blind alley from which nobody has escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.” Richard Feynman, “Probability and Uncertainty — the Quantum Mechanical View of Nature”, p. 129

    The collapse of the state-function upon measurement is a device that is usual, but problematical in terms of deriving metaphysical consequences. To quote again from a fine (and funny) piece about this, “If Many-Worlds Had Come First”

    “Look, if this theory of yours [wavefunction collapse] were actually true—if whole sections of the wavefunction just instantaneously vanished—it would be… let’s see. The only law in all of quantum mechanics that is non-linear, non-unitary, non-differentiable and discontinuous. It would prevent physics from evolving locally, with each piece only looking at its immediate neighbors. Your ‘collapse’ would be the only fundamental phenomenon in all of physics with a preferred basis and a preferred space of simultaneity. Collapse would be the only phenomenon in all of physics that violates CPT symmetry, Liouville’s Theorem, and Special Relativity. In your original version, collapse would also have been the only phenomenon in all of physics that was inherently mental. Have I left anything out?”

    “Collapse is also the only acausal phenomenon,” Huve points out. “Doesn’t that make the theory more wonderful and amazing?”

    That last sentence, in terms of Zorba’s discussion, is most relevant.

    Again, I point out that there are several interpretations of QM that don’t require state-function collapse upon measurement. At this time it doesn’t seem that any of them can be shown, by experiment, to be false. Accordingly you pick your interpretation according to your metaphysical bias.

  11. Bob,
    In a coherent Scientific Method a theory is an hypothesis that has been validated by logic and/or experiment.

    A conjecture is not a theory.

  12. OldDavid–I’m not quite sure I understand your comment, but if it is to say that Everett’s Relative State Theory is a “conjecture”, I think you miss the distinction between “theory”, a mathematical body based on core principles (e.g. symmetry, no absolute frame of reference, etc.) and interpretations of theory.
    For example, Maxwell’s equations as applied to electromagnetic radiation, were interpreted by use of an ether medium (and by some renowned physicists, by use of mechanical models) until the Michelson-Morley experiments argued against the notion of ether drift. But the ether was not part of Maxwell’s theory, only an interpretation to help one model the theory as an aid to understanding.

    The collapse of a state-function is a part of the apparatus of QM as conventionally used and is therefore not conjecture, but part of the theory. In my graduate QM course with Schwinger (way back when) I was first introduced to projection operators, which are an essential theoretical tool for collapse, so it was indeed theory, although the objections to “collapse” (see the quote in my previous comment) make many physicists uncomfortable, whence Everett’s Relative State Theory. Now both conventional QM employing the collapse mechanism and Everett’s Relative State Theory yield the same experimental results (and will in the foreseeable future?), i.e. neither can be falsified by experiment, so both are equally valid, as far as the science goes.

    So I’m not sure what you’re calling “conjecture”… Could you be more specific, please?

  13. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 17, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    A theory is a narrative or “propter quid” that explains why the mathematics works and predicts the facts observed. To an instrumentalist, of course, the math is sufficient. Plug in the numbers and out pops an answer and why bother trying to explain what’s in the black box? IOW, physics is absorbed into mathematics and, like Feynman, we give up on understanding the physical world in favor of understanding the symbol-manipulation of the model. But recall that the calculations of the Ptolemaic formalism were quite sufficient to predict the observable facts reasonably well for a very long time.

    IOW, that a model output matches observations does not imply that the guts of the model match physical reality.

  14. YOS, I value your opinions very much, but I’m not sure I agree with you. If I understand what you’re saying, you would classify each of the 15 or so different interpretations of quantum mechanics as a “theory”. Now some are, because they do employ different mathematical frameworks: for example, Bohm’s Pilot-Wave Theory; the Everett Relative State Theory. Now the Transactional Interpretation of QM employs the same math as “conventional” QM (whatever “conventional” might be), but has a highly different model for what’s going on. See
    https://transactionalinterpretation.org/
    So, would you also call the transactional interpretation a “theory” or be content to have it an interpretation?

  15. YOS, I value your opinions very much, but I’m not sure I agree with you. If I understand what you’re saying, you would classify each of the 15 or so different interpretations of quantum mechanics as a “theory”. Now some are, because they do employ different mathematical frameworks: for example, Bohm’s Pilot-Wave Theory; the Everett Relative State Theory. Now the Transactional Interpretation of QM employs the same math as “conventional” QM (whatever “conventional” might be), but has a highly different model for what’s going on. Google “Transactionalinterpretation.org”. (I’m not allowed to post a link, evidently.)

    So, would you also call the transactional interpretation a “theory” or be content to have it an interpretation?

  16. sigh….another day, another goof.

  17. Ken: “Briggs and others of that inclination lacking any real expertise in the area, should shut up about such matters and stick to their expertise.”

    If appearances are any guide, that wouldn’t leave him with much to talk about. Today’s essay simply demonstrates that Briggs is confused about the claims of quantum mechanics. This howler, in particular:

    “If Bell is right, we cannot know what this actualizer is; but that it must exist is a truism.”

    says it all. Briggs believes that Bell’s theorem shows the opposite of what it actually shows.

    Anyone who is metaphysically uncomfortable with the standard interpretation of QM is in good company. But before trying to argue against it, or construct an alternative, one should at least have some notion of what that interpretation entails.

  18. From YOS,
    When construction begins, the “wave function” of all those various unrealized potentialities collapses to a particular potential aimed at the one particular end. This is First Act: the potency becomes an “actual potency.” Second Act is when the house is actually finished. Between the first and second act is what Aristotle called ‘motion’ or kinesis. Hence, the distinction between “building” being the progressive tense of “to build” versus “building” being the noun for the finished product, a/k/a final cause.

    From C.S. Peirce, Philosophy and the Sciences: A Classification.

    “It is a widespread error to think that a “final cause” is necessarily a purpose. A purpose is merely that FORM of final cause which is most familiar to our experience. The signification of the phrase “final cause” must be determined by its use in the statement of Aristotle that all causation divides into two grand branches, the efficient, or forceful; and the ideal, or final. If we are to conserve the truth of that statement, we must understand by final causation that mode of bringing facts about according to which a general description of result is made to come about, quite irrespective of any compulsion for it to come about in this or that particular way; although the means may be adapted to the end. The general result may be brought about at one time in one way, and at another time in another way. Final causation does not determine in what particular way it is to be brought about, but only that the result shall have a general character.”

  19. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 17, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    @Bob. “Interpretation” is a new term to take the place of “theory” for those people who use “theory” as a generic noun for the whole ball of wax, such as “physical theory,” “evolutionary theory,” “theory of differentials,” and so on, in which the term simply means all of the discourse concerning a subject. But in original use, “theory” was only the top of the layer cake, the three levels of which are:
    1. Facts. The actual observations, or quia. In hard science, these are measured, hence factum est in the original sense of “something accomplished.”
    2. Laws. Regularities among the facts, preferrably in the privileged discourse of mathematics, as put forth by Descartes and the Scientific Revolutionaries.
    3. Theories. A narrative by which the above “makes sense,” or propter quid. From it, the Laws may be deduced and the facts predicted; esp. new facts that were not used in inducing the theory in the first place. So:
    “Falling bodies” are facts; Einstein’s theory of gravitation is one that tries to explain these facts.
    “Changing species [evolutions]” are facts; natural selection is a theory that tries to explain these facts.

    In post-modern thought, these things all become a mush and the distinctions between quia and propter quid are lost in a genial haze. There are even those who believe that if a theory is confirmed often enough it somehow “becomes” a fact!
    ###
    It is a widespread error to think that a “final cause” is necessarily a purpose.
    Peirce seems to comprehend a bit of Aristo-Thomism here. There are several species of telos:
    1. Termination. The thing reaches an end and stops becoming. Mathematically, the system reaches an equilibrium manifold. The reaction is complete. The fingers have reached their final length. The telemeres have divided for the last time. In some cases, Belusov reactions, planetary orbits, or predator-prey ratios, the final state is a regularity or oscillation.
    2. Perfection. The thing achieves all that is achievable of its nature. The tiger cub grows into an adult tiger, the acorn becomes a mature oak. In evolution, species move toward being more adept in a niche: ad-apt-ation, “toward greater aptitude.”
    3. Intention. The wolf sets out in search of prey. The salmon swims upstream in search of the spawning grounds. A bird selects a twig to build a nest. (Note that even here, the purpose need not be self-conscious.)

    In all cases, the motion is toward some state. That does not mean that it will achieve that state. Chemical reactions can be poisoned; tiger cubs may suffer genetic or other defects; the wolf may fail to find prey.

    Lots of folk get confused because the modern usage of “cause” leads them to think of “final causes” as if they were efficient causes working backward in time. Cramer’s* transactional theory of quantum mechanics posits just such a thing, but uniquely so. But the original Greek term (aition**) is more correctly interpreted a “because,” a concept broader than our modern “cause.”

    * Dr. Cramer was the father-in-law of my late editor at Tor Books. A simple exposition of his theory is here: https://www.npl.washington.edu/AV/altvw16.html
    ** aition. Explanation here: https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/4causes.htm

  20. YOS,
    “Lots of folk get confused because the modern usage of “cause” leads them to think of “final causes” as if they were efficient causes working backward in time.”

    I agree. But don’t you think this was a fault of Thomas? Meaning, there is a difference between ‘Aristotle’ and medieval ‘Aristotelian’, Aristotle was attractive to the Church, because it focused on God as cause rather than Aristotle’s genus/generalization focus.

    As an aside, you once posted a link to a paper by Carlo Rovelli on Aristotle’s Physics. What do you think of Rovelli’s Relational Quantum Mechanics?
    Such as I understand this issue, he seems to dismiss much of the various QM interpretations as “dragging ontology into the equations” and provides a rather “un-spooky” account of QM.

  21. YOS, your tri-partite division is clear and a useful way to think about how science is conducted, but I don’t think it’s complete. I prefer Imre Lakatos “Scientific Research Program”. If you think of a sphere, the inner core consists of fundamental principles (e.g. lack of absolute coordinate system, equivalence of gravity and acceleration, symmetry, etc.), the next annular region consists of fundamental theory (e.g. quantum mechanics, general relativity, Maxwell’s equation, First and Second Laws of thermodynamics), the next annular region (auxiliary theories, e.g. quantum theory of chemical bonding, magnetic resonance), and the final outer annular region, data (experiments, “facts”).
    This is illustrated in the LIGO experiments. See
    http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/2016/02/peeling-back-onion-layers-gravitational.html
    At the bottom of that post is a note illustrating my own experience, not with fundamental theories, but in formulating an auxiliary theory that fit experimental data. (Google “Kurland-McGarvey” equation.)

  22. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 17, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    It’s not so much a method of doing science as it is a way of classifying statements. There are certainly other ways of classifying statements, just as there are different ways of classifying topological spaces. But it’s useful because Popper’s falsification applies only to the physical theories, not to the mathematical laws or the measured facts.

    The classical method is: Facts–>Laws–>Theories–>New Facts. That’s how Ampere devised his theory of conducting bodies. But one needn’t take these as a series Maxwell worked it in reverse: he started with his theory; viz., that the theory of dielectric bodies would parallel that of conducting bodies. Then he looked for facts that would support it. No less a personage than Duhem doubted the theory that magnetism was the result of an electric charge. He pointed out that permanent magnets like you use on your fridge weren’t electromagnets; so some magnetism is not electrical in origin. But Maxwell’s fan base instead made up something they called an “electron” and insisted that these gave even permanent magnets an electrical source. So far that invention has been fruitful.

    The other thing is that Facts are not self-demonstrating, but obtain their meaning from a theory in the light of which they are interpreted. The K/T boundary layer is rich in iridium (compared to other geological strata). But does this mean that an asteroid once hit the Earth (and wiped out the dinos)? Or does it mean that the massive eruption of the Deccan Traps altered the Earth’s climate (and wiped out the dinos)? Any finite collection of facts can be explained by more than one theory/propter quid. The part of the method that Galileo called “the work of the intellect” was the part when every possible theory accounting for the facts is worked over until only one survives. The trick is complete coverage: there may be theories not yet thought of. Publish or perish would not permit that today. People like Galileo, Newton, Darwin would not survive in the modern academic climate.

    I’m a little suspicious of the post-moderns like Lakatos, Feyerabend, Kuhn, and Popper. After all, Maxwell was falsified by permanent magnets — or not.
    http://ontology.buffalo.edu/stove/500-600.htm

  23. [quote=Bob]I’m not quite sure I understand your comment, [/quote]

    Fair enough, Bob. Without getting the argument bogged in pernickety obfuscations, a most general scientific method begins with an observation (something is seen to happen) which prompts a question (is it really what it seems to be and how or why does it happen).

    Then comes the conjectures, or hypotheses, (proposed possible explanations to be tested by logic and/or experiment).

    An hypothesis that tests out (does not fail any test) becomes the theory. That is a possible, or even likely, explanation that can be used in investigating other questions. If a theory fails later because of factors that were not in the original assessment it begs another questioning, and another investigation.

    If it can be proved by logic and experiment that there are no, and can be no, exceptions to the theory then it becomes a defined scientific law.

    Unfortunately, “science” is so degenerate these days that conjectures are called theories and proposed as though they were laws. Our mate YOS, in his frantic attempts to justify his pet ideological prejudice (namely “Evolution”), is a perfect example.

    Now I have to put my boots into the “Evolution” superstition again.

    “Evolution” doesn’t even qualify as an hypothesis because there’s not even an observation of mud turning itself into an organism to prompt the question of how does it happen. All we have is an observation that there is an almost incomprehensible variety of organisms that have some degree of similarity. Then comes the purely ideological fancy that mud turned itself into an organism and that organism turned itself into all the other organisms without any identifiable cause or mechanism. It’s not even a reasonable conjecture, let alone an hypothesis, being proposed and assumed to be a law of nature. It’s pure superstition, magic, Voodoo worthy of any accomplished mathemagician.

  24. From YOS: “The classical method is: Facts–>Laws–>Theories–>New Facts”

    From: William James’, What Pragmatism Means:

    “One of the most successfully cultivated branches of philosophy in our
    time is what is called inductive logic, the study of the conditions
    under which our sciences have evolved. Writers on this subject have
    begun to show a singular unanimity as to what the laws of nature and
    elements of fact mean, when formulated by mathematicians, physicists and
    chemists. When the first mathematical, logical, and natural
    uniformities, the first laws, were discovered, men were so carried away
    by the clearness, beauty and simplification that resulted, that they
    believed themselves to have deciphered authentically the eternal
    thoughts of the Almighty. His mind also thundered and reverberated in
    syllogisms. He also thought in conic sections, squares and roots and
    ratios, and geometrized like Euclid. He made Kepler’s laws for the
    planets to follow; he made velocity increase proportionally to the time
    in falling bodies; he made the law of the sines for light to obey when
    refracted; he established the classes, orders, families and genera of
    plants and animals, and fixed the distances between them. He thought the
    archetypes of all things, and devised their variations; and when we
    rediscover any one of these his wondrous institutions, we seize his mind
    in its very literal intention.

    But as the sciences have developed farther the notion has gained
    ground that most, perhaps all, of our laws are only approximations. The
    laws themselves, moreover, have grown so numerous that there is no
    counting them; and so many rival formulations are proposed in all the
    branches of science that investigators have become accustomed to the
    notion that no theory is absolutely a transcript of reality, but that
    any one of them may from some point of view be useful. Their great use
    is to summarize old facts and to lead to new ones. They are only a manmade
    language, a conceptual shorthand, as some one calls them, in which
    we write our reports of nature; and languages, as is well known,
    tolerate much choice of expression and many dialects.

    Thus human arbitrariness has driven divine necessity from scientific
    logic. If I mention the names of Sigwart, Mach, Ostwald, Pearson,
    Milhaud, Poincare, Duhem, Ruyssen, those of you who are students will
    easily identify the tendency I speak of, and will think of additional
    names.”

  25. To add to the above.

    The philosopher John Searle differentiates between first-person ontology and third-person ontology. This applies to causation as follows:

    First-Person Ontology:
    When I throw a bowling ball down an alley, and knock down pins, it is appropriate to say that I “caused” the pins to be knocked down.

    Third-Person Ontology:
    When Mechanics models my release of the bowling ball, it makes no mention of causation. The release of the bowling ball results in an equal an opposite reaction on my person and the bowling ball. That is, I move backwards and the bowling ball moves forward. Or more specifically, the coefficient of friction of my bowling shoes (might) arrest my backward movement as the bowling ball proceeds forward.

    The same is true down the lane. When the bowling ball strikes a pin, there is an equal and opposite reaction wrt to both the bowling ball and the pin(s). Third-Person Mechanics doesn’t give a whit about my “causing” the pins to fall down.

    Newton was the first to truly formalize this in Mechanics.

    Aristotle – and medieval Aristotelianism – was First-Person Ontology causation.

    Modern science did not advance until this type of causation was abandoned by the Puritans and Dissenting Protestants in the 1600’s. And even then, Newton and Locke were still hung up on Form as causation. Leibniz was also wrestling with Occasionalism and Physical Influx.

  26. Jim,
    Perhaps we should ask John Searle if he would need his bowling shoes if he wasn’t flinging a ball down the alley to knock the pins over.

    I will contend that fractionating a cause into its minutest mechanics does not remove or obliterate the cause or causes.

    Nor does it explain why John was chucking balls at pins in the first place.

  27. Sander van der Wal

    February 18, 2017 at 2:33 am

    Brought this one up earlier as a counter-example for the non-existence if randomness.

    Consider an atom with an electron in an exited state. The electron will fall back to its ground state if a photon happens to pass with just the right energy. It emits a new photon with the same energy, this is how you get lasers and masers.

    The electron can also drop to its ground state emitting a photon without any obvious outside influence. Quantum theory ascribes this happening to randomness, the kind of randomness that is postulated here as being non-existent.

    So, the burden of ferretimg out the unknown mechanism causing electrons to fall back to their ground states without any outside influence lies with the randomness-does-not-exist proponents.

  28. swordfishtrombone

    February 18, 2017 at 8:19 am

    @ YOS:

    “It would be like saying the changing positions of the planets can be explained by “location change.””

    No, it wouldn’t be like saying that. The changing positions of the planets depend on further levels of explanation but it’s apparently the case that QM simply behaves the way it behaves.

    Do you dispute the point that it isn’t necessary to have “knowledge of past and future states” to create correlationless behaviour? Even a tossed coin can manage it.

  29. To bring up a related point: there is the “Strong Free-Will Theorem” (Conway-Kochen) which says that if we, as observers, have free will, so do fundamental particles. This is to say that the action of the fundamental particle is not contingent on its history. (And, if the Transactional interpretation were taken, its future.) Conway insists that this behavior is not randomness (he evidently has the same point of view of what is randomness as does Briggs). See
    http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/2014/02/do-quantum-entities-have-free-will-and.html

  30. [quote=Sander]So, the burden of ferretimg out the unknown mechanism causing electrons to fall back to their ground states without any outside influence lies with the randomness-does-not-exist proponents.[/quote]
    I must have missed the bit where someone claimed that randomness does not exist.

    If something HAPPENS at random then something caused that happening, otherwise you are left to the logical absurdity: a happening that didn’t exist caused itself (to happen). (Not that that would disturb most of the modern “scientists” and “philosophers”.)

    What is being argued here is that “randomness” is not some kind of magical creative force that “causes” everything, but that randomness is the result(s) of unknown (perhaps even unknowable to finite intellects) causes.

    As a delectable intellectual delicacy, I propose that entropy is the TENDENCY for order to degenerate into randomness… think for a moment; is entropy a “stuff” that actively “causes” randomness, or is it a big black hole that soaks up order? It has wonderful connotations as to the nature and purpose of Creation.

    Many years ago a cobber lent me a book on chaos “theory” stuffed with Mandelbrot sets, fractals and all that. As I returned his book I remarked: I’m not surprised that there is a kind of order even in chaos.

    Anyhow, I only take exception to the suggestion in the article that God is randomness… a completely silly proposition, even its context above.

  31. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 19, 2017 at 12:44 am

    Our mate YOS, in his frantic attempts to justify his pet ideological prejudice (namely “Evolution”)

    Evolution is only a fact: Species come into existence and pass out of existence. How</i? they do so (the theory of evolution) is kinda up in the air. What it means was covered by Aquinas in his Third Way.

    there’s not even an observation of mud turning itself into an organism

    I would not expect so. Gen 2:7 was not an eyewitness account. It would not be part of the theory of evolution, in any event. Darwinian theory assumes that species already exist and tries to describe how how new species come to be from the potencies already present is previous species. .
    The Cairns-Smith hypothesis considers how biological life might have come from replicating clays rather than mud. But this was rejected as being too Bible-sounding
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Cairns-Smith#Clay_hypothesis

    there is an almost incomprehensible variety of organisms that have some degree of similarity.

    Right down to their genes. Aquinas, in Contra gentiles, thought that this was one way in which species participated in the infinity of God. “New species,” he averred in Summa theol., “existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.” IOW, new species arose from previously existing species by means of natural powers — although he was unclear on what those natural forces might be. This is not creation, which is the joining of an essence to an act of existence, but rather transformation, which is the alteration of a form of an existing thing.

    The distinction between creation and transformation is that between primary causation and secondary causation, leading Darwin to write in the Origin:

    To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual.

    that organism turned itself into all the other organisms without any identifiable cause or mechanism.

    Well, there are genes with the “instructions” for building proteins and such, and these genes exhibit variation within the species so that some individuals may be more successful at survival and reproduction. As Aristotle said, “The good is what all pursue,” and existence is the first material good, since no other good is possible unless the thing first exists. What Aristotle and Aquinas called “the pursuit of the good”, Darwin called “the struggle for existence.” In any case, those who are more adept at reproduction are more likely to leave more descendants and eventually will dominate the population. There are other mechanisms, as well, not all of them Darwinian. Multiple resistance to antibiotics did not evolve among bacteria by gradual accumulation of happenstance mutations, but from lateral transmission of bits of genetic material among bacteria. Similarly, Shapiro describes molecular “machines” that can result in changes that are massive, specific, and sudden. New species may arise from hybridization between two other species. There is a new finch in the Galapogos islands descnded from a hybrid called Big Bird, for example. A Mediterranean wall lizard developed a new organ within twenty years of its introduction to a new island in the Adriatic and became a vegeterian rather than an insectivore due to the abundance of vegetation in its new habitat. So there is a wealth of causes and mechanisms already known.

    ###
    His mind also thundered and reverberated in syllogisms. He also thought in conic sections, squares and roots and ratios, and geometrized like Euclid.

    Well, that was indeed the medieval Catholic view. Wisdom 11:20 was one of the most frequently quoted passages in the Bible (“You ordered all things by measure, number and weight.”) and the implication was that the world would be knowable to men by measuring, numbering, and weighing. There are manuscript illuminations that portray God as a geometer, for example, 13th cent.: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:God_the_Geometer.jpg

    The laws themselves are only a manmade,

    That explains this, then: http://nsuworks.nova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2467&context=tqr which also cites the manmade nature of scientific laws.

    Their great use is to summarize old facts and to lead to new ones.

    Well, certainly.

    ###
    The philosopher John Searle differentiates between first-person ontology and third-person ontology.

    This is what the medievals called “proper sensibles” and “common sensibles,” or what the Early Moderns called “subjective qualities” and “objective qualities.” Alas, Late Moderns assumed that only the former were “real” and thus created the “problem” of the qualia. Hence, the old “tree falling in a forest” problem.

    When Mechanics models my release of the bowling ball, it makes no mention of causation.

    Of course not. The mathematics is only a description of the quantitative aspects of the thing.

    ###
    The electron can also drop to its ground state emitting a photon without any obvious outside influence.

    So it must be non-obvious? In Physics and Philosophy, he writes:

    The probability wave of Bohr, Kramers, Slater… was a quantitative version of the old concept of “potentia” in Aristotelian philosophy. It introduced something standing in the middle between the idea of an event and the actual event, a strange kind of physical reality just in the middle between possibility and reality.

    He went on to say of things like electrons that “the desired objective reality of the elementary particle is too crude an oversimplification of what really happens.” So we might just suspend judgement for a time, considering the whole field is barely a century old. Astronomy was thousands of years old before we figured out which went around what.

    ###
    QM simply behaves the way it behaves.

    So much for natural science.

    ###
    the Gospel of Thomas (Gnostic), which the R. Catholic Church has decreed heretical

    What’s with the obsession with the Roman patriarchate? The Orthodox, Miaphysite, and Nestorian churches also rejected gnostic woo-woo. Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople were running in parallel and had not separated at the time the gnostic magicians were active. It’s less the case of declaring it heretical than that it was not accepted as Orthodox by the people of ancient times. Of course, this doesn’t mean everything in it is wrong. (Some passages are identical to passages in Mark.)
    ###

  32. I just inadvertently vanished a lengthy reply.
    I don’t think it’s worth trying to re-create it.

    Anyone who wants to believe that Nothing spontaneously turns itself into Everything should be glad.

  33. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 19, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Anyone who wants to believe that Nothing spontaneously turns itself into

    Ex nihilo, nihil fit.

  34. YOS, “Well, that was indeed the medieval Catholic view.”

    It’s also the view of the followers of the Church of Climatology who believe that if the data does not fit a GCM, then the data must be wrong.

  35. [quote YOS]Ex nihilo, nihil fit.[/quote]
    Yair. Except the absurd lack of process that “causes” a lesser thing to become greater… according to you, right?

  36. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 19, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    YOS, “Well, that was indeed the medieval Catholic view.”
    It’s also the view of the followers of the Church of Climatology

    Wait. Climatologists believe God is geometer? I didn’t think they believed in God at all. Who knew.

  37. [quote=Jim S]YOS, “Well, that was indeed the medieval Catholic view.”

    It’s also the view of the followers of the Church of Climatology who believe that if the data does not fit a GCM, then the data must be wrong.[/quote]
    Good shot, Jim.

  38. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 19, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Except the absurd lack of process that “causes” a lesser thing to become greater

    That is the second form of telos. A single cell becomes an entire organism. Individual atoms combine to form molecules. The simple principle of gravitation forms planets and stars (in the latter of which it does battle with light pressure). The World is full of lesser things that become greater things.

    Not sure why you say “lack of process,” since I did mention several.

  39. [quote=YOS]That is the second form of telos. A single cell becomes an entire organism. Individual atoms combine to form molecules.[/quote]
    Individual atoms forming molecules is always observed and in accordance with entropy.

    A cell (which is an organism) becomes an entire organism according to its type and kind (as in the development of an embryo) also in accordance with entropy is also always observed.

    A bacteria turning into a mouse or man is never observed.

  40. “A bacteria turning into a mouse or man is never observed.”
    unless you’re really accomplished in genome modification.

  41. [quote=YOS]The simple principle of gravitation forms planets and stars (in the latter of which it does battle with light pressure). The World is full of lesser things that become greater things. [/quote]
    I’m not sure that your Mum and Dad would agree that you were just a product of gravity.

    I also dispute your insinuation that gravity gradually forms planets and stars. You don’t get gravity without a concentration of mass.

  42. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 19, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    A bacteria turning into a mouse or man is never observed.

    Why do you suppose that it might? Evolutionary theories do not predict it. Such processes do not flit from branch to branch of the “tree of life,” but proceed from the potentials within existing kinds, which are realized through the influence of genetic and environmental factors. Bacteria are themselves at the end of a long line of evolutions. There are some bacteria that essentially disassemble their entire genome and reassemble it differently at ever generation, so that the daughter cells are unlike the mother. There are other monocellular critters who work as a colony, with the various members actually performing different functions within the colonial mass. A short step from there to a multi-cellular being. And so on.

    Mice are interesting examples of telos in evolutions. Rodent-like creatures have appeared ever since flowering plants started giving them seeds and nuts to gnaw on. The first batch were reptiles, the tritylodonts. When they passed away, they were replaced by the multituberculates, who were mammals. When these too shuffled off the mortal coil, the rodentia took their places in the ecosystem. All three groups (one reptilian, two mammalian) contained similar or analogous species because they were trying to make their livings in similar eco-niches.
    ###
    I’m not sure that your Mum and Dad would agree that you were just a product of gravity.

    But neither am I a planet or star.

    I also dispute your insinuation that gravity gradually forms planets and stars. You don’t get gravity without a concentration of mass.

    Gravity is an essential power of matter, not a separate and distinct thing. You get gravity as soon as you have matter. Matter causes a distortion in the field of Ricci tensors which has the effect of curving space-time. This is so for even a single particle. As these particles encounter one another, they fall into one another’s potential well, and the more of them that do so the greater the concentration of mass and the greater the distortion in the space-time. manifold.

  43. YOS, you are, as I was saying in the vanished response, an uncritical apologist for an impossible superstition.

    Pooer Tryhard de Charlatan said something like: “Evolution is more than a theory. It is the ultimate reality to which everything else must kneel.” And you are his lackey.

    Science says “what is going on? why is going on? how does it do what it does?” Scientism says: “this is what we decree is going on and if you want kudos of being a scientist (and prestige and money) you propose excuses (real or fanciful) to justify the ideology.”
    [quote]Gravity is an essential power of matter, not a separate and distinct thing. [/quote]
    Proclamatory obfuscation! Supposed “primordial matter” be it protons, electrons, Hydrogen atoms or molecules do not spontaneously aggregate into massive gravitational lumps to form stars that vomit rocky planets. A balloon filled with Hydrogen or Helium is not a nucleus for a new star or planet. You are proposing that, somehow, magically, gravity precedes the mass that “produces” gravity.

    Be honest now, put your shoulder to the talking wheelchair that endears the world to the clever idiot in it and proclaim with him: “We don’t need God because we’ve got gravity.”

  44. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 20, 2017 at 10:55 am

    protons, electrons, Hydrogen atoms or molecules do not spontaneously aggregate into massive gravitational lumps

    What is supposed to be “spontaneous” about it? It’s actually quite deterministic. You don’t need “massive… lumps” to be “gravitational.” Even a beam of light has gravity. All you need is matter in motion, hence time and space. Particles swirl about, sometimes passing close enough to attract one another. Chemical reactions depend on the same dynamic: molecules dancing about in the reactor vessel will bump into one another and “stick” together to form compounds. (In this case, it’s electromagnetism rather than gravity calling the shots.)

    A balloon filled with Hydrogen or Helium is not a nucleus for a new star or planet.

    Of course not. There isn’t near enough hydrogen in a balloon to do so. (Helium is produced by the star in first stage fusion; it’s not a “nucleus” for a star.) When enough H has accumulated, the mutual gravitation of the nuclei compactifies them until the pressure is enough to fuse them: two H fuse to make one He and emit radiation. The outward radiation pressure tries to force the big gas ball apart, but the gravitational force holds it together. As the fuel is depleted, fusion slows, gravity wins, the star collapses and reignites, starting second stage fusion. The He nuclei begin to fuse into lithium, beryllium, and other higher level atoms. And so on. My courses in Astrophysics and Galactic Structure were some time ago, but the basics stick with one.

    You are proposing that, somehow, magically, gravity precedes the mass that “produces” gravity.

    Actually, I said the opposite. Gravity just is a fundamental power of matter. It is not itself a separate ousia. If there were no matter, there would be no gravity. (And neither time nor space. Augustine and Einstein are in agreement on this point.)

    An inanimate form is not a soul, but if matter were alive, gravity would be one power of its soul. The other three powers are electromagnetism, nuclear force, and radiative force.
    https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-g-Z9zA_Euo4/VsUq0f0yrWI/AAAAAAAABTI/2Wcw9JKBxMg/s640/Slide2.JPG

  45. What the balloons full of gas were to illustrate is that such assumed “primordial matter” tends to dissipate into an homogeneous dispersion without the gravity to clump them into a massive lump.

    Even light tends to dissipate… what do you think electromagnetic RADIATION is?

    You see what you’re doing? You’re starting with a speculative assumption which is then treated as an airy-fairy law about the creation of the material Universe.

    Even the speculation that the Sun is a giant fusion reactor fusing Hydrogen into Helium has serious problems associated… not the least of which is that H and He seem only to be present in the outer atmosphere of the Sun; the guts of the Sun being (as present best guess) a big lump of plasma (disassociated sub-atomic “particles”).

    Even the nature of the “Solar Wind” (material dispersed out of the Sun) begets huge questions for the speculative assumptions you rely on to make your ideology seem to “work”.

    Why would anyone think that the physical Universe began as Hydrogen (wherever that came from) that magically accumulated into lumps that produced all the heavier elements unless they were addicted to the Materialistic assumption that Order creates itself? I say that it’s a diabolical deception.

    I also say that things are what they are because they were designed that way for a purpose. The investigation of how it works is the stuff of science.

  46. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 20, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    It looks like evolution is not the only aspect of natural science that you doubt. Astrophysics is also on your list.

    “primordial matter” tends to dissipate into an homogeneous dispersion without the gravity to clump them into a massive lump.

    What are they “dispersed” in? Why do you think that matter lacks gravity to clump them?

    Why would anyone think that the physical Universe began as Hydrogen

    Indeed, why would they? Current theory supposes a “quark era” immediately following the Big Bang at 10^-35 to 10^-6 sec, when protons were frozen out. Electrons froze out when the universe was one second old. Helium nuclei formed at three minutes and once the electrons were cool enough, after 300,000 years, protons and helium nuclei trapped them to make hydrogen and helium atoms.

    The universe is a constant struggle between dispersion (due to radiative pressure) and attraction (due to gravitation), or Love and Strife (as Empocles poetically put it).

    I eagerly await your textbook on revised astrophysics.

  47. With what eagerness and bravado do the admirers of The King’s New Clothes dismiss the country boy’s simple observations!

    A “hot” or “cool” electron? Now there’s a concept that could only fit in a “wormhole”!

    I don’t need to write a book on “revised” astrophysics; there are many (much better qualified than me) gallant martyrs to the scientistic “orthodoxy” regime who have been, and are, doing just that.

  48. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 21, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    A “hot” or “cool” electron? Now there’s a concept that could only fit in a “wormhole”!

    No, the concept of energy level is well known.

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