Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Laws of Nature - Created by Intelligence or Always Existed or ?

3. Underlying "rules" of properties (matter, energy, life) that are consistent through known time and space suggest intelligent forces at work, not randomness at any level.

Bernardo's response to #3. Why do the consistent rules imply intelligence? Why can't they just be the fundamental nature of the universe? If consistency implies creation, then doesn't God's consistency imply that God must have been created himself? And one more thing: Some levels ARE random (like quantum behavior, radioactive decay, etc), some levels are NOT random (like the motions of celestial bodies, or the laws and equations that govern quantum behavior). So there is significant randomness in some levels, but negligible randomness in others. What's wrong with that?

Randy's response. What would it mean for the universe to have fundamental anything? It would mean that these rules did not happen in any random fashion, but were crafted. You can't have it both ways. You can either have random occurrences that are so numerous that they eventually end up sorting themselves out in the most useful way, or you can have intelligent rule making. Do you have a third way? Is there a way to consider the huge number theory applying to rules in the same way science tries to use it for creation of matter and life?

Yes, we get back to redundancy of creative effort, first cause and all that. However, just because we don't know for sure how God came to be, doesn't mean that He should not be considered as the creator of the rules. Sub note: It is interesting that the Bible, while history, is really about the "rules" for living.

Finally, the random aspects of decay and such are still only random within a range ... or to the extent that any rule turns out to be random, we are not really on very steady ground about whether the Sun will rise in the East tomorrow.

9 comments:

Randy Kirk said...

Nobody's touching this one. Funny. Is it because it makes no sense? Too much sense? Not enough already debated about this? In fact, you will find very little debate on this subject. I currently believe that it is the biggest gap in the naturalist arguement.

Duck said...

Randy's response. What would it mean for the universe to have fundamental anything? It would mean that these rules did not happen in any random fashion, but were crafted. You can't have it both ways. You can either have random occurrences that are so numerous that they eventually end up sorting themselves out in the most useful way, or you can have intelligent rule making.

The "rules" or "laws" metaphor as applied to the physical behavior of the universe is misleading. Human laws and rules are created to encourage certain behaviors in people and discourage others, precisely because people have incentives to behave otherwise. The law is an external influence on people. People can always disregard it, and often do, but to the extent that people obey the law we say that the law controls them, orders them.

But matter and energy cannot behave otherwise from the way they do. Matter doesn't "obey" laws, it just does what it does. The "law" is just a description of how it behaves. The law isn't a separate aspect of the universe acting on matter as it is with humans and their behavior.

So this idea that without an intelligent agent crafting laws for matter to follow that matter would just behave willy-nilly with no order or predictability is the result of this flawed metaphor. There is no logical reason to think that matter needed an intelligent agent. The reason that we do (some of us, that is) is because our minds are wired to think in terms of metaphors.

Randy Kirk said...

Pretty unsatisfying, Duck. I get your why you want to go down this path, but matter and energy act in certain ways because ....

bernardo said...

"matter and energy act in certain ways because ...."

"Because"? What do you mean "because"? For no reason. They just do. They had to act in SOME way, right? And if we propose that there are an infinity of universes, then there is SOME universe in which matter and energy act in whatever crazy way you can think of. And, of course, the universe that happened to have "Settings" favorable to chemistry is the universe where intelligent beings eventually evolved.

Asking "why" matter and energy act this way is like asking "why" Mars has two moons instead of one, or "why" Mount Everest is higher than K2. There's no "because". It's just the way things happened to have turned out. And in some different universe, things might have turned out differently. Why do you need a "because" for everything?

Randy Kirk said...

Sounds like a major step of faith to me, and a abdication from the idea that we need to get to the bottom of stuff. Why do we need to learn the origin of the universe and the way non-life became life if we don't need to investigate where the rules originated, and why they stay constant?

bernardo said...

There are two very different kinds of "Why", Randy.

One is the causal kind: Through what processes/mechanisms/phenomena does one condition automatically lead to another? You can ask these questions with a "Why" but they are better asked with a "How": How did life arise from non-life? If the universe as we know it has not always been around, how was it generated from whatever came before it? How do our brains make us conscious?

The other is the intentional kind: For what ends was this done? This kind of "why" assumes an intelligence with a purpose and with the ability to deliberately trigger events.

So in the first (naturalistic) way of asking "why", matter and energy act as they do "because" they have certain properties that cause them to act as they do. But in the second (creationist) way of asking "why", the only answer that makes any sense (to the extent the question makes sense to begin with) is that matter and energy act as they do (allowing for chemistry, life, and intelligence to evolve) "because" a God set up the universe that way.

When you ask "Why" about natural phenomena in a way that implies "for a reason" rather than "as the automatic consequence of a cause", that very question implies a creationist mindset. That question basically translates into "What was God thinking when he set things up this way / so that this could happen?".

So when you ask "matter and energy act in certain ways because ....", the answer is: As a cause of their properties. What you mean is, "Why do they have these properties?". If you mean that "Why" in a causal way, the fact is we don't know, but we could guess that universes exist with all possible combinations of physical constants, and the universes where physical constants are amenable to chemistry are the ones where life evolved to marvel at its own luck. If you mean that "Why" in a creationist way, in a "for what purpose" way... Then the question is set up so it can only have one answer ("God wanted it that way").

Those two kinds of "Why" are very different. I do wish the English language were less ambiguous, keeping "Why" only for "For what purpose / Towards what ends / So as to deliberately meet what desired objectives", and using "How" for "Due to what cause".

bernardo said...

By "As a cause of their properties" I meant "As a consequence of their properties".

I might also add that when I said "This kind of "why" assumes an intelligence with a purpose and with the ability to deliberately trigger events", I should have also included that this intelligent entity also has to have foresight: The ability to go "If I do this, then X will happen, but if I do that, then Y will happen. To me, Y is preferable to X, so I'll do that".

When you ask "Why is the world so perfectly hospitable to life?", the "How" response is "Life evolved so as to survive the environment it's in", but the "Why" response is "Because God wanted for there to be life". As you can see, I don't think that asking "Why" about natural things makes a lot of sense (For what reason, towards what ends, for what purpose... is Everest higher than K2? ... does Mars have two moons?), since it implies that the natural world was deliberately set up.

I think Douglas Adams would agree with me that this need to see deliberate purpose (and luck) where there is none is a big part of what anchors most theists to theism.

Randy Kirk said...

OK. How is it that the earth is so hospitable to life and has been for 10,000,000 years?

Anonymous said...

"How is it that the earth is so hospitable to life and has been for 10,000,000 years?"

Well, the earth is just far enough away from the sun for liquid water to form, and I'm pretty sure it's been there for a while. Also, if you decide to bring up the whole "life from non-life" thing, there are experiments showing life can be derived from inorganic material. The most notable are the Miller-Urey experiment along with it's succesors, Jeffrey Bada, and Sidney Fox. Look it up.

Another related rant...

If there is a God, and he is actually responsible for the laws of the universe (matter, energy, life), then why is it not mentioned in the Bible? Isn't the Bible derived from the words of God himself? In the Bible, there is no mention of the laws of gravity or the characteristics of energy. It almost seems that the Bible is merely a collection of ancient fantasy tales....