Naturalism & the Laws of Nature.

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies wrote:

But what are these ultimate laws and where do they come from? Such questions are often dismissed as being pointless or even unscientific. As the cosmologist Sean Carroll has written, “There is a chain of explanations concerning things that happen in the universe, which ultimately reaches to the fundamental laws of nature and stops… at the end of the day the laws are what they are… And that’s okay. I’m happy to take the universe just as we find it.”

Assuming that Davies is correct, I find it odd that there is little interest for understanding the laws of nature. There are some interesting questions to be answered, such as: Where do the laws come from? How do they cause things to happen? Continue reading

The Glories of Global Warming and the Faint Young Sun Paradox

It is a little known fact that scientists who argue that the paleontological record of life is hundreds of millions of years old, when confronted with astrophysical facts, must eventually rely heavily on the hypothesis of finely tuned, large scale global warming. The problem is known as the Faith Young Sun Paradox. A few claim they have solved the paradox, but many remain skeptical of the solutions. But one fact remains, it is an acknowledged scientific paradox. And beyond this paradox, the question of Solar System evolution on the whole has some theological implications.

Astrophysicists concluded that when the sun was young, it was not as bright as it is now. As the sun ages it creates more and more heat, eventually incinerating the Earth before the sun eventually burns out. This is due to the change in products and reactants in the nuclear fusion process that powers the sun. This nuclear evolution of the sun will drive the evolution of the solar system, unless Jesus returns…
Continue reading

Climate Change: myth or reality?

There’s no question in my mind the “Intelligent Design” movement has lost all its arguments with Science. Unfortunately, post Trump-it, that fact is now an irrelevance. With Trump’s appointment of Betsy de Vos as Education Secretary, it looks like religious fundamentalism no longer needs its figleaf. What concerns me much more is that a similar fate awaits climate research if his appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State is any indication of future policy on combating climate change. Continue reading

Boltzmann Brains and evolution

In the “Elon Musk” discussion, in the midst of a whole lotta epistemology goin’ on, commenter BruceS referred to the concept of a “Boltzmann Brain” and suggested that Boltzmann didn’t know about evolution. (In fact Boltzmann did know about evolution and thought Darwin’s work was hugely important). The Boltzmann Brain is a thought experiment about a conscious brain arising in a thermodynamic system which is at equilibrium. Such a thing is interesting but vastly improbable.

BruceS explained that he was thinking of a reddit post where the commenter invoked evolution to explain why we don’t need extremely improbable events to explain the existence of our brains (the comment will be found here).

What needs to be added is that all that does not happen in an isolated system at thermodynamic equilibrium, or at least it has a fantastically low probability of happening there.  The earth-sun system is not at thermodynamic equilibrium.  Energy is flowing outwards from the sun, at high temperature, some is hitting the earth, and some is taken up by plants and then some by animals, at lower temperatures. Continue reading

String Theory Co-Founder: Sub-Atomic Particles Are Evidence the Universe Was Created

Even the scientists are against you. You guys just can’t catch a break.

After analyzing the behavior of these sub-atomic particles – which can move faster than the speed of light and have the ability to “unstick” space and matter – using technology created in 2005, Kaku concluded that the universe is a “Matrix” governed by laws and principles that could only have been designed by an intelligent being.

Let the mudslinging begin!

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-hollingsworth/string-theory-co-founder-sub-atomic-particles-are-evidence-0

 

Godless Intelligent Design Theory

Moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the museum’s Hayden Planetarium, put the odds at 50-50 that our entire existence is a program on someone else’s hard drive. “I think the likelihood may be very high,” he said…Somewhere out there could be a being whose intelligence is that much greater than our own. “We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence,” he said. “If that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just a creation of some other entity for their entertainment.”

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-we-living-in-a-computer-simulation/

Continue reading

Organisms and Machines

In the “The Disunity of Reason” thread, Mung suggested that “the typical non-theist will insist that organisms are machines, including humans.” And there is a long tradition of mechanistic metaphysics in Western anti-theism (La Mettrie is probably the most well-known example). However, I pointed that I disagree with the claim that organisms are machines. I’m reposting my thoughts from there for our continued conversation.

A machine is a system with components or parts that can be partially isolated from the rest of the system and made to vary independently of the system in which they are embedded, but which has no causal loops that allow it to minimize the entropy produced by the system. It will generate as much or as little heat as it is designed to do, and will accumulate heat until the materials lose the properties necessary for implementing their specific functions. In other words, machines can break.

What makes organisms qualitatively different from machines is that organisms are self-regulating, far-from-equilibrium thermodynamic systems. Whereas machines are nearly always in thermodynamic equilibrium with the surrounding system, organisms are nearly always far from thermodynamic equilibrium — and they stay there. An organism at thermodynamic equilibrium with its environment is, pretty much by definition, dead.

The difference, then, is that machines require some agent to manipulate them in order to push them away from thermodynamic equilibrium. Organisms temporarily sustain themselves at far-from-equilibrium attractors in phase space — though entropy catches up with all of us in the end.

It is true that some parts of an organism can break — a bone, for example. But I worry that to produce a concept general enough that both breaking and dying are subsumed under it, one can lost sight of the specific difference that one is trying to explain.

Indeed, that’s the exact problem with Intelligent Design theory — the ID theorist says, “organisms and machines are exactly the same, except for all the differences”. Which is why the ID theorist then concludes that organisms are just really special machines — the kind of machines that only a supremely intelligent being could have made. As Fuller nicely puts it, according to ID “biology is divine technology”.

A Beautiful Question

I’ve just completed the book A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design by Nobel Prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek.

This book is a long meditation on a single question:

Does the world embody beautiful ideas?

Our Question may seem like a strange thing to ask. Ideas are one thing, physical bodies are quite another. What does it mean to “embody” an “idea”?

Embodying ideas is what artists do. Starting from visionary conceptions, artists produce physical objects (or quasi-physical products, like musical scores that unfold into sound). Our Beautiful Question then is close to this one:

Is the world a work of art?

Continue reading

Philosophy and Complexity of Rube Goldberg Machines

Michael Behe is best known for coining the phrase Irreducible Complexity, but I think his likening of biological systems to Rube Goldberg machines is a better way to frame the problem of evolving the black boxes and the other extravagances of the biological world.
Continue reading

George Ellis on top-down causation

In a recent OP at Uncommon Descent, Vincent Torley (vjtorley) defends a version of libertarian free will based on the notion of top-down causation. The dominant view among physicists (which I share) is that top-down causation does not exist, so Torley cites an essay by cosmologist George Ellis in defense of the concept.

Vincent is commenting here at TSZ, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to engage him in a discussion of top-down causation, with Ellis’s essay as a starting point. Here’s a key quote from Ellis’s essay to stimulate discussion:

However hardware is only causally effective because of the software which animates it: by itself hardware can do nothing. Both hardware and software are hierarchically structured, with the higher level logic driving the lower level events.

I think that’s wrong, but I’ll save my argument for the comment thread.

Ari Brynjolfsson’s Plasma Redshift

This essay will outline some of the work of Ari Byrinjolfsson. He says some things I don’t agree with regarding eternal universes, but if Brynjolfsson is right then it has some negative impact on ID and creationism and the UPB, etc. So, let me be clear, Brynjolfsson’s paper is generally bad for ID, creation, and the Big Bang. That said, his papers most definitely got my attention, and there is much that I like about his work. Wikipedia has this entry on Ari Brynjolffson:
Continue reading

Configuration and Configurational Entropy

From Wiki:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Configuration_entropy

In statistical mechanics, configuration entropy is the portion of a system’s entropy that is related to the position of its constituent particles rather than to their velocity or momentum. It is physically related to the number of ways of arranging all the particles of the system while maintaining some overall set of specified system properties, such as energy. The configurational entropy is also known as microscopic entropy or conformational entropy in the study of macromolecules. In general, configurational entropy is the foundation of statistical thermodynamics.[1]

Continue reading

What qualifies as science in the wonderful world of Disney

[cross posted at uncommondescent: What Qualifies as Science in the Wonderful World of Disney]

The scientific enterprise entails:

1. observation
2. hypothesis
3. testing

Consider this passage from the class text of an introductory cosmology class I took once upon a time:

galaxies farther than 4300 megaparsecs from us are currently moving away from us at speeds greater than that of light. Cosmological innocents sometimes exclaim, “Gosh! Doesn’t this violate the law that massive objects can’t travel faster than the speed of light?” Actually, it doesn’t. The speed limit that states that massive objects must travel with v < c relative to each other is one of the results of special relativity, and refers to the relative motion of objects within a static space. In the context of general relativity, there is no objection to having two points moving away from each other at superluminal speed due to the expansion of space.

page 39
Introduction to Cosmology
by Barbara ryden

Continue reading

Some Help for IDists: Benford’s Law

Guys, as your scientific output is lacking at the moment, allow me to point you towards Benford’s law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benford’s_law

Benford’s law, also called the first-digit law, refers to the frequency distribution of digits in many (but not all) real-life sources of data. In this distribution, the number 1 occurs as the first digit about 30% of the time, while larger numbers occur in that position less frequently: 9 as the first digit less than 5% of the time. This distribution of first digits is the same as the widths of gridlines on a logarithmic scale. Benford’s law also concerns the expected distribution for digits beyond the first, which approach a uniform distribution.

 

TSZ team: Can we build this into a statistically testable (Null hypothesis?) ID Hypothesis?

This one piqued my interest:

“Frequency of first significant digit of physical constants plotted against Benford’s law” – Wikipedia

Is ‘Design in Nature’ a Non-Starter?

A row is ready to erupt over two competing notions of ‘design in nature.’ One has been proposed under the auspices of being a natural-physical law. The other continues to clamour for public attention and respectability among natural-physical scientists, engineers and educators, but carries with it obvious religious overtones (Foundation for Thought and Ethics, Wedge Document and Dover trial 2005) and still has not achieved widespread scholarly support after almost 20 years of trying.

One the one hand is the Discovery Institute’s notion of ‘design in nature,’ which is repeated in various forms in the Intelligent Design movement. Here at TSZ many (the majority of?) people are against ID and ID proponents’ views of ‘design in nature.’ The author of this thread is likewise not an ID proponent, not an IDer. On the other hand is Duke University engineering and thermodynamics professor Adrian Bejan’s notion of ‘design in nature’ (Doubleday 2012, co-authored with journalism professor J. Peder Zane), which rejects Intelligent Design theory, but contends that ‘design’ is nevertheless a legitimate natural scientific concept. Apropos another recent thread here at TSZ, Bejan declares that his approach “solves one of the great riddles of science – design without a designer.”

Continue reading

Granville Sewell vs Bob Lloyd

Bob Lloyd, professor emeritus of chemistry at Trinity College Dublin, wrote an opinion article in Mathematical Intelligencer (MI) commenting on Sewell’s not-quite-published AML article. This was mentioned in a previous thread, where Bob briefly commented. Granville was invited to participate but never showed up.

In response to Lloyd, Sewell submitted a letter to the editor. On advice of a referee, his letter was rejected. (Rightly so, in my view. More on that later.) Sewell has now written a post on Discovery Institute’s blog describing his latest misfortune. The post contains Sewell’s unpublished letter and some of the referee’s comments. I invite you to continue the technical discussion of Sewell’s points started earlier.

Continue reading

Privileged Planet

Toronto posted this comment on another thread:

A privileged planet, ( for observation of the universe ), would be one that could see “most” of the universe, i.e. not part of it.

We would sit on “top” of the universe so we could see more star systems than having to look “through” a mass of stars.

This position would also cut down on the effects of gravitational lensing.

We would also have a unique orbit both within our solar system, and as part of it.

Our solar system’s orbit would take us close to other star systems so we could investigate them without having to build spaceships that take more than a scientist’s lifetime to get anywhere.

Our atmosphere would shield us from almost any deadly radiation but not impede any signal we require for observing the universe.

Sadly , none of these things are true.

In reality, like any other planet, our positions are relatively fixed for much longer than our lifetime and radiation from the stars would kill us if we got close enough to observe them, provided the gravitational forces or asteroid impacts don’t kill us first.

which sparked a lengthy discussion, which at first I moved to Sandbox, but will now move here.

Enjoy 🙂

A Second Look at the Second Law…

…is the title of Granville Sewell’s manuscript that almost got published in Applied Mathematics Letters last year. It was withdrawn at the last minute by the editor, but you can still download the manuscript from Sewell’s web page. The purpose of this thread is to discuss the technical merits of Sewell’s arguments.

Continue reading

Does intelligence violate the 2LoT?

Granville Sewell’s argument that evolution does so, therefore evolution must be caused by intelligence, rests on the odd assertion that intelligence (our own, for instance) does violate the 2LoT.

Bruce David, a UD poster I have a lot of respect for, writes:

I realize that to say that something, anything, violates the Second Law is an anathema to most people who have had a normal scientific education. And I have had the experience on these threads of explaining Dr. Sewell’s point in what I thought was very clearly reasoned prose to people like Elizabeth Liddle, who is intelligent, a scientist, and generally does give her fellow commenters a respectful hearing, only to get the terse response, “Nothing violates the Second Law.”

However, Dr. Sewell’s point, as I understand it, is that both life and human activity in fact do violate the Second Law, and in the case of humans it is clearly our creative intelligence that does this. And if ID is correct, then it is only intelligence that does this. Personally, I think it is a point worth making, even if it falls on deaf ears most of the time. And also, I think that precisely because it contradicts one of the most respected principles of science, and because of the implications for the nature of intelligence and thus the nature of human beings, that it has massive implications for science, philosophy, spirituality, and religion, and therefore, again, needs to be brought to light.

Yes indeed.  If ordinary human intelligence regularly violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics, that would indeed have massive implications, for all kinds of things, not least our energy requirements.

hmmm.