Lee Smolin: Evolution Has A Better Chance

Cosmology is not Darwinian evolution, is it? Well, cosmologist Lee Smokin seems to think so! In fact he says he got his inspiration from none other than Richard Dawkins by using “fitness” in the Darwinian hypothesis as a means of understanding the origin of the universe.

He writes

“String theory brought the landscape issue into focus but, as we have seen, it was inevitable that as physics progressed we would have encountered the problem of explaining how the universe chose its laws. We can call this the generalized landscape problem. Whether string theory is the right theory of unification or not, it is clear that this general landscape problem must be solved.”

“But as we have seen, this problem can only be solved if we abandon the idea that ultimate explanations in physics are to be given in terms of laws organized according to the Newtonian paradigm, with timeless laws acting on a timeless space of states.”

“As Wheeler, Dirac and Pierce understood, laws must evolve to be explained. It is likely also that the absolute distinction between laws and states must break down14. Our mandate is then to invent new kinds of theories that answer these challenges, while staying true to the demands that theories make predictions by which they can be falsified.”

“The still open problem of giving string theory or M theory a background independent formulation that would be the setting to resolve the landscape issue should be re-examined in this light. The main lesson which can be drawn from the successes and failures of attempts to resolve the landscape problem surveyed here is that theories which embrace the evolution of laws have a better chance to make falsifiable predictions than do theories which try to hold onto to the notion that law is eternal.

Laws of nature or the universe are put in place for a purpose, rather than a mindless act. Could have Apple invented the IPhone over billions of years with random acts that somehow appear which then are chosen for fitness?

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21 thoughts on “Lee Smolin: Evolution Has A Better Chance

  1. Laws of nature or the universe are put in place for a purpose, rather than a mindless act. Could have Apple invented the IPhone over billions of years with random acts that somehow appear which then are chosen for fitness?

    Michael’s argument against Smolin’s thesis is exactly the same as his argument against biological evolution. Therefore it adds nothing. And it is false for the same reasons.

    The analogy to an iPhone is inept. Biological organisms reproduce themselves, they do so with variations, they compete for resources in their (“mindless”[1]) environments, and the fittest variations survive to reproduce. iPhones share none of these characteristics.

    Smolin’s paper is 31 pages long.[2] I’ll have to read it before formulating whether his analogy is useful. Like Richard, I prefer primary sources.

    ===========================

    [1] Mindless in the same sense that gravitation is mindless. Evolution needs no external agent for the same reason that gravitation does not need an intelligent agent to keep the planets on their courses.

    [2] BTW, your link to that papr is incorrect. It should be this. Just in case Richard wishes to read it.

  2. @Olorin
    As far as I am concerned the landscape problem is a non-issue if the universe is not governed by causal laws. I have reasons for being convinced that there is no space for determinism in the universe.

  3. As far as I am concerned the landscape problem is a non-issue if the universe is not governed by causal laws.

    True. But then science is a non-issue if the universe is not governed by causal laws, because one could never generalize beyond specific observed facts, nor predict the consequences of any actions. Science would become butterfly collecting.

    I have reasons for being convinced that there is no space for determinism in the universe.

    But, as Fermat once said, “This margin is too small to contain them.” :-)

    Have you tried on determinism-lite? The universe could be deterministic only statistically, and not in ultimate detail, as in quantum physics. Or the universe could be fully deterministic yet unknowable, as in chaotic or complex systems.

  4. Cosmological Evolution by Natural Selection False Dilemma?Cognitive Parallax?Presuppositional naturalism? Materialistic Determinism? A theory which has a better chance to make falsifiable predictions?” When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” Sherlock Holmes

  5. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” Sherlock Holmes

    Wrong. Try this one.

    “It has always struck me that any interpretation of a series of events is possible until all the evidence says otherwise, and even then one should be wary of jumping to a conclusion.” — Sherlock Holmes (The House of Silk, p. 32)

  6. Some of my favorite quotes from this paper, thanks Olorin for the link.

    “Cosmological natural selection[12, 13, 14, 15, 1] was invented to give an answer to the
    landscape problem that explained the reasons for the fine tunings of the standard model
    without making use of the anthropic principle9. The idea was to invent a cosmological
    scenario that naturally explained why the universe is fine tuned for complex structures
    such as long lived stars, spiral galaxies and organic molecules-using the same mechanism
    that biology uses to generate improbable complex structure.”

    Invented theories are expected, especially when the present is the key to the past and all. I totally agree with the logic in this paper it makes perfect sense that you need to start as far back as possible with this philosophy otherwise you will be caught founded on God somewhere along the way. At least seeking for cosmological evolution is consistent with the idea of atheistic naturalism. When all absolutes are removed what can you really do but keep digging deeper?

    Another favorite quote

    “Cosmological natural selection
    naturally explains the actual fine tunings of the standard model and is the
    only scenario to do so. It also is the only scenario to make falsifiable predictions for
    present observations.

    Naturally it will, won’t it? simply by our fallen nature explaining all things natural especially considering the naturalistic pre-suppositions which are our only choice naturally speaking.

    more favorite quotes

    “What are we to make then of the claims that there have been successful predictions
    made based on the anthropic principle? In fact, such claims must be fallacious, and they
    have been shown to be. This is discussed in detail in [1, 34, 14] but I can mention quickly
    here that there are basically two kinds of fallacies in these claims. First, a statement that
    X is essential for life is added to an already correct argument involving X.”

    I agree that this is a fair analysis. This is the exact scenario that the “better chance theory” of more falsifiable explanations to solve the landscape problem will duplicate. So no matter what principle is followed it will be circular. But what circular is the Absolute?

    Rev 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (the Before all and the End of all). [Isa. 44:6; 48:12.]

  7. I agree again, thanks for this quote

    “It has always struck me that any interpretation of a series of events is possible until all the evidence says otherwise, and even then one should be wary of jumping to a conclusion.” — Sherlock Holmes (The House of Silk, p. 32)

    Will we ever have “all” the evidence though? There is a limited time to repent to God here on earth what would be better wait it out or simply accept what you already know and live by? Faith is based on partial evidence not perfect. No matter what subject of knowledge. unless you are absolute.

    Pro 1:22 How long, O simple ones [open to evil], will you love being simple? And the scoffers delight in scoffing and [self-confident] fools hate knowledge?
    Pro 1:23 If you will turn (repent) and give heed to my reproof, behold, I [Wisdom] will pour out my spirit upon you, I will make my words known to you. [Isa. 11:2; Eph. 1:17-20.]
    Pro 1:24 Because I have called and you have refused [to answer], have stretched out my hand and no man has heeded it, [Isa. 65:11, 12; 66:4; Jer. 7:13, 14; Zech. 7:11-13.]
    Pro 1:25 And you treated as nothing all my counsel and would accept none of my reproof,
    Pro 1:26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when the thing comes that shall cause you terror and panic–
    Pro 1:27 When your panic comes as a storm and desolation and your calamity comes on as a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
    Pro 1:28 Then will they call upon me [Wisdom] but I will not answer; they will seek me early and diligently but they will not find me. [Job 27:9; 35:12, 13; Isa. 1:15, 16; Jer. 11:11; Mic. 3:4; James 4:3.]
    Pro 1:29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord, [Prov. 8:13.]
    Pro 1:30 Would accept none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof,
    Pro 1:31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices.
    Pro 1:32 For the backsliding of the simple shall slay them, and the careless ease of [self-confident] fools shall destroy them. [Isa. 32:6.]
    Pro 1:33 But whoso hearkens to me [Wisdom] shall dwell securely and in confident trust and shall be quiet, without fear or dread of evil.

    Heb 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice,
    Heb 3:8 do not harden your hearts as they did when they provoked me during the time of testing in the wilderness.
    Heb 3:9 There your ancestors tested me, even though they had seen my works

    2Co 6:2 In the Scriptures God says, “When the time came, I listened to you, and when you needed help, I came to save you.” That time has come. This is the day for you to be saved

    Think about it Olorin. You don’t have for ever to gather evidence, and do not need any more than you have already known.

  8. @Olorin
    What I mean is that theoretically nobody is able to determine or predict any state of reality with absolute certainty. This does not mean that there is no logic in tthe way processes take place and that we cannot learn from studying those processes. IBy the way I don’t think that Richard (Dawkins) pretends that evolution is fully predictable.

  9. What I mean is that theoretically nobody is able to determine or predict any state of reality with absolute certainty.
    </blockquote.

    This does not imply non-determinism. In chaotic regimes, future states are wholly deterministic, yet asymptotically unknowable from the present state.

    Relevant to the paper Michael cites, Smolin tells us that the formulation of comprehensive ("non-Newtonian") predictive laws will be impossible in his branching models, because some universes are causally uncoupled from our own.

    .

    Dawkins does not think that biological evolution is predictable. Several recent long-term bacterial-evolution experiments have demonstrated that it is not predictable. But, since every living organism—and almost every ecological system—is complex, then we should not expect that it is predictable. See Auyang, Foundations of Complex System Theories (Cambridge Universirty Press, 1998).

  10. Cosmology is not Darwinian evolution, is it? Well, cosmologist Lee Smokin [sic] seems to think so! In fact he says he got his inspiration from none other than Richard Dawkins [0]by using “fitness” in the Darwinian hypothesis as a means of understanding the origin of the universe.

    Be afraid, Michael. Be very afraid. Darwin’s evolution made God unnecessary. Smolin’s evolution would make God impossible.[1]

    Cosmological natural selection is one attempt to avoid the anthropic principle. There are others. None of them has any evidentiary basis at the present time.

    One critical difference between biological and cosmological evolution should be glaringly obvious. Biological evolution has a defined starting point—the first appearance of an entity capable of reproducing with variation; beyond that point, we must look to other laws. But Smolin’s evolution seems to be an infinite regress: It’s turtles all the way down. Smolin admits that under some non-causally-connected scenarios, we would be precluded from knowing enough to formulate universal laws. Yet the regress problem remains in all scenarios,

    Smolin[3] is an idea man, like Paul Davies, Fred Hoyle, and Thomas Gold. We should consider his work seriously. However, it is pure speculation at this time.[4]

    ========================

    [0] Michael is making things up again. Smolin nowhere mentions or refers to Richard Dawkins.

    [1] “There never was a God, no pilot who made the world by imposing order on chaos and who remains outside, watching and proscribing.” Smolin, The Life of the Cosmos (Oxford University Press 1999), pp. 299.

    [3] Smolin associates often with biological evolutionist Stuart Kauffman. I follow Kauffman because he likes to apply complex-system theory to the origin-of-life problem, offering new approaches to understanding the problem. But his theories are still mostly speculation.

    [4] What may occur, or may not occur, inside black holes is totally unknown. Smolin assumes a lot.

  11. The (strong) anthropic principle or (strong) dinosauric principle for that matter are meaningless if the universe has no beginning and no ending. I have reasons to think that is the case.

  12. Sorry, Marten. My comment echos Fermat’s famous notation in his copy of Diophantes’ Arithmetica. In the margin of one page, after stating what has become known as Fermat’s Last Theorem, Fermat wrote “I have discovered a truly remarkable proof which this margin is too small to contain.”

    For the next 350 years. the best mathematicians in the world struggled to find this proof. The consensus today is that Fermat was mistaken. With the techniques available to him, he could not have proved the theorem.

    So what my comment means is that I doubt your ability to demonstrate that the universe has no beginning and no end. In any case, you didn’t even try.

  13. §Olorin

    Thank you. My remark echoes Hawking’s idea *) of a finite but unbounded universe, a universe without beginnig and ending. I do not pretend to be able to give mathematical proof, but I have published arguments of my own to support the idea. You’ll find them by clicking on my name..

    *)in ” A brief history of time”.

  14. Bedankt for the reference.

    But it is not correct to state categorically that there is no such thing as “nothing.” This is hotly debated. One problem is how to define the state of nothing. It may not be the same as zero mass-energy.

    As to time existing where matter exists, this is being investigated. We are fairly certain that the universe has zero angular momentum, zero net electrical charge, and zero magnetic polarity. Calculations in the past few years have shown that the total mass-energy of the universe is very small, and may in fact be exactly zero.

    Then of course there are arguments that time as we know it is illusory—either that it does not exist at all or that it is a manifestation of a more basic entity.

    I think it will take a long, long time to winkle all of this out. In the meanwhile, speculation is good; but we must take it for what it is—mere speculation.

  15. My not understanding your latest comment hopefully is due only to the fact that english is not my native llanguage

    In my experience most Nederlander speak English as well as they speak Dutch. One might wonder which one is their second language and which the first?

    For a good laugh, you should listen to me trying to pronounce “Uithoorn.”

  16. @Olorin

    …..”that tine as we know it is illusory”..

    “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”.
    You must be familiar with this quote :-).

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