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Gnomon
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PostSubject: Progressive Evolution   Sun Sep 07, 2008 9:24 pm

This may become a letter to the editor, so If I have said anything stupid, please let me know. Skeptics can be harsh critics.


PROGRESSIVE EVOLUTION

In the SKEPTIC article Predicting Evolution (v14, No.2, 2008), by David Zeigler, he implies that Evolution is "survival . . . and nothing more". In general, I agree with the premise of the article. But I'd like to take issue with the finality of that simplifying statement. It's true that Darwinian Evolution is usually treated by pragmatic scientists as an ongoing process without consideration of the begining or end. But philosophical scientists, such as Simon Conway Morris, are still concerned with the question of ultimate origins and outcomes. So the issue of "progressive evolution" may not be just a remnant of pre-Darwinian "progressionist bias" as Zeigler infers. There may be something more to the common inference of directionality (purpose, intention) in Evolution.

Another way to look at Evolution is as "survival . . . plus all that came before". In other words, Evolution is a natural edifice built upon a foundation with a specific history and carved-in-stone physical laws. The possibility-space for any new species is limited by "decision points" in the past. For example, if a ship sets-out from Spain to the New World, the starting point, and all subsequent course changes, plus any other contingencies, will determine where the ship ends up. It's not enough for the ship to simply survive the passage, but to reach a specific port. However, since we don't know exactly where Evolution began, or what all the zig-zags were along the way, our attempts to reverse-engineer the path will be at best a guess. In other words, we cannot rule-out the possibility that the final goal was reached by original intention, even though the specific course may have been buffeted by contingencies.

Since the latest form of adaptation is derived from a lineage (chain of chance) of previous forms, there is a continuity from one generation to the next that necessarily passes-on a general directionality from past to future. By that I mean, Evolution is a natural dialectical process which is pushed from behind, not pulled from beyond by some mysterious teleological force. In other words, the future is determined by the past. And that is a kind of predestination, where the goal can be reached by a multitude of randomly-selected paths.

Zeigler asks, "does Morris actually believe that eventually dolphins and elephants will achieve the level of consciousness and intelligence that humans now possess?" But the question misses the point of continuity and directionality in evolution. Dolphins and elephants have built their brains on the wrong (in retrospect) branch of evolution. They missed their chance---so to speak---at a lower step of the "scala naturae". Humans tend to think of divine design as top-down, while Evolution does bottom-up design: one brick on top of another. Morris seems to have the latter method in mind.

Zeigler quotes Bertrand Russell, "If it is the purpose of the cosmos to evolve mind, we must regard it as rather incompetent in having produced so little in such a long time". But again, that assumes the same kind of instantaneous design process attributed to the bible-god. An evolutionary designer doesn't have to be incompetent to take eons to see results, just patient. For an eternal designer, time is of no consequence.

Regarding neurobiology of the brain, he says, "Being this complex and structured equates to being highly nonrandom and therefore highly unlikely." And yet, here it is. As Michael Shermer stated in a Scientific American article: "All possibilities sum to one". Hence, with time enough, and life enough, miracles are inevitable. The possibilities for evolution of a human-scale brain are probably a large fraction of infinity. So a designer with unlimited time on his metaphorical hands, and the ability to write the laws of nature, could be certain of a specific outcome, if not a specific path to the goal.

So what is the direction of Evolution? Based on the foundation analogy, I'd have to say, upward. From another perspective, you could say the direction of Evolution is wherever Time's Arrow is headed.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Sun Sep 07, 2008 10:37 pm

Well written!

But beware. Skeptics are often critical - even when faced with the truth.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 12:05 am

Reminds me of this picture, sort of




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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 2:28 am

Excellent argument. I'll have to reread it later though when I have more time to dissect it.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 10:35 am

Yes, very good argument.

Gnomon wrote:
So what is the direction of Evolution? Based on the foundation analogy, I'd have to say, upward. From another perspective, you could say the direction of Evolution is wherever Time's Arrow is headed.

What do you mean by "upward"?

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 10:36 am

Uriah wrote:
Reminds me of this picture, sort of





That's pretty amazing!

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 3:16 pm

Aaron wrote:
Yes, very good argument.
What do you mean by "upward"?

As Buzz Lightspeed said, "Onward and upward".

Actually, I was being deliberately vague.

The usual interpretation of evolutionary progress is in terms of increasing complexity. In the face of an overwhelming tendency toward Entropy, the universe has at least one little pocket of Anti-Entropy, where life and mind and consciousness have evolved from generic energy and matter.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 5:34 pm

The Cell / Universe pictures illustrate the Fractal principle in the universe. You can find examples of "self-similarity" at all scales of observation. Natural Laws are both creative and repetitive. It's the same old principles in different contexts. Randomness shuffles the cards, but the pre-designed suits remain the same. Etcetera, etc....
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 6:09 pm

Here's another quote that stimulated a tentative response:

<< It could be argued that only human arrogance or wishful thinking could give rise to the notion that "we" were bound to appear given enough evolutionary time .>>

Due to the exigencies of Evolutionary contingencies, I can't say for sure if "we" (homo sapiens) were predestined. But the well-attested Anthropic Principle makes it look likely that some kind of intelligent creature was programmed into the laws and constants of the cosmos. For all I know, the Creator may be waiting for us to create Artificial Intelligence as the ultimate end of evolution. Perhaps someday AI will replace "us" at the top of the heap. Or maybe our destiny is to be little gods begetting creatures of our own design.

I have never understood why some Naturalists feel that it's human arrogance to see ourselves as the darlings of Deus. I don't know for sure what the intended purpose of creation was, but I don't see any other viable candidates on the scene right now. Is it is a true or false statement, that humanity is the current pinnacle of Evolution as evaluated by the only organism capable of objective assessment? It ain't arrogance if it's true.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 7:45 pm

Gnomon wrote:

I have never understood why some Naturalists feel that it's human arrogance to see ourselves as the darlings of Deus. I don't know for sure what the intended purpose of creation was, but I don't see any other viable candidates on the scene right now. Is it is a true or false statement, that humanity is the current pinnacle of Evolution as evaluated by the only organism capable of objective assessment? It ain't arrogance if it's true.

There's no certainty to the idea that the Universe has any purpose, much less one that human beings could even conceive. From a Naturalist perspective Human life when compared to the universe is somewhat like a single mold spore at the edge of a vast ocean - it is an integral and necessary part of the greater ecosystem, but it is not the point of the ecosystem. Rather, the whole is more than the sum of its parts - and the same modality can be applied to humanity's place in the universe. We are no more important than any other organism.

And it does arise out of hubris, and sentient arrogance, to assume by consequence of existence that we are the point of it all. I mean, we have only investigated an incomprehensibly tiny portion of the universe, and just because we are all that we see - we think it's all for us. This, in turn, causes many self-destructive attitudes, and unsustainable economic, social, and environmental practices.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 8:11 pm

Gnomon wrote:


Due to the exigencies of Evolutionary contingencies, I can't say for sure if "we" (homo sapiens) were predestined. But the well-attested Anthropic Principle makes it look likely that some kind of intelligent creature was programmed into the laws and constants of the cosmos. For all I know, the Creator may be waiting for us to create Artificial Intelligence as the ultimate end of evolution. Perhaps someday AI will replace "us" at the top of the heap. Or maybe our destiny is to be little gods begetting creatures of our own design.

I, too, believe we are intended to be creators (which was the theme of my first book), only because we have evolved to a level that allows us to. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Creator had "us" in mind for the job, but I see the ultimate purpose of evolution as the development of consciousness. I believe this intuitively, not empirically, BTW, but I don't assume that evolution is complete now that we have arrived! That belief would be sheer hubris!

And, it is true that we are the pinnacle of the evolutionary process - on this little inconsequential rock. That doesn't mean we're the best the entire universe has to offer.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 8:41 pm

Uriah wrote:

And it does arise out of hubris, and sentient arrogance, to assume by consequence of existence that we are the point of it all.

I assume you are referring to religious doctrines that purport to reveal in Holy Writ the intentions of an otherwise silent Creator. To speak on behalf of a secretive deity is indeed an act of hubris.

However, the ancient philosophical question remains: why - what is the point of it all? If not to evolve sentient creatures such as humans, do you have any other guess as to the purpose of a dynamic, gradually-unfolding universe? Or do you assume it is purposeless---much ado about nothing?

If your concept of the Creator is a deaf, dumb and blind mathematical principle, I can see why it might seem pointless---a 14 billion year old accident. But if the Creation shows signs of intentional design---such as the emergence of sentience---then its function and purpose is a legitimate question of human curiosity, not arrogance.

"To Arrogate" means to take something that doesn't rightfully belong to you. But who can challenge our right to the the throne of evolution? It ain't arrogance if you are the only species on the planet that can ask the question. "why"..
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Mon Sep 08, 2008 10:23 pm

Again, arguing from a naturalist perspective, complexity does not imply design. An evolutionary trend towards complexity is just a representation of what you earlier called the "fractal principal of the universe", but even that doesn't mean there is an intelligence behind it - all one can reasonably assume is that it just is the way it is.

Or, as Lao Tzu, stated:
The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.


The folly of the Enlightenment is to assume that because we can wonder why, that there must be a reason.

And indeed you are right, that we sit atop the throne of evolution, but as the fossil record illustrates quite well, that is a fleeting position. Just as easily as we claimed that throne - or, rather, it was gifted to us - we could be usurped. Dispossessed by time and unforeseen circumstance, going the route the of Wooly Mammoth instead of the Ceolecanth.

In fact, if one is to take any measure of our future prospects from that Fossil record, one would be hard pressed not to notice that all top echelon predators, and highly complex organisms have relatively short timespans. So, for all of our sentience, we will be lucky to last another 100,000 years, and that's not even taking into consideration that we seem intent on destroying ourselves much sooner.

Monkeys come and monkeys go, but simple alga remain much the same today as they were 4 billion years ago. Humans could only hope to be as enduring, ecologically friendly, and essential as the simple alga.

To me, at least, that proves there's a point to the universe, not a purpose necessarily, but a point.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Tue Sep 09, 2008 12:56 pm

Uriah wrote:
Again, arguing from a naturalist perspective, complexity does not imply design.

That is a true statement. However, what implies design is organized complexity.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complexity
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Tue Sep 09, 2008 1:39 pm

I don't see organized complexity in nature, in fact nature is anything but organized - or are you referring specifically to the laws of physics?
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Tue Sep 09, 2008 4:24 pm

Gnomon wrote:
Uriah wrote:
Again, arguing from a naturalist perspective, complexity does not imply design.

That is a true statement. However, what implies design is organized complexity.


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

I view organized complexity as more of an emergent phenomena rather than as a designed one.

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Tue Sep 09, 2008 6:49 pm

Aaron wrote:

I view organized complexity as more of an emergent phenomena rather than as a designed one.

Organized Complexity is indeed an example of Emergent Phenomena. But Emergence is also a feature of Design. As an Architect, I design a building on paper, following a process of gradual convergence on the final design concept. Then the blueprints are issued, and the metaphysical design that previously existed only in my mind, gradually emerges upward from the ground, and becomes a three-dimensional, material building.

As a designer myself, I may be more sensitive to the signs of intentional design versus occasional accidental order. Design imagines a specific future state; Evolution gradually realizes that abstract idea; then, Emergence is the step-by step revelation of the Front-Loaded*** design intent.

The Latin terms for Evolution mean "to-unroll" as a scroll. Imagine that G*D put his design on a scroll and then rolled it up, so that only a little bit is revealed at each moment (Now) of time. That incremental revelation (realization) is emergence. The metaphysical idea was complete before the physical process began to emerge over time. Emergence seems sudden to us because we can't see the continuity of the whole process from past to future. Emergence is not a function of Reality, it is a feature of understanding.


To belabor the idea a bit more: imagine a nuclear explosion in space. According to the laws of Thermodynamics and Information Theory, the order (organization) and complexity (number of internal relationships) of that lump of matter is at a maximum at the instant it crosses the threshold of critical mass. From that point onward, it's all downhill. Entropy is what happens when you blow stuff up.

Now imagine another explosion in space: the Singularity prior to the Big Bang should have been at its maximum order and complexity---if the materialist concept of reality is correct. But what actually happened is that, contrary to Thermodynamics, the order and complexity of a small part of that explosion has actually increased over time. It's as-if the nuclear explosion had popped-out a small lump of gold in the midst of deteriorating debris.

Humans routinely flout the laws of Thermodynamics by using the principles of Design to temporarily offset the effects of Entropy. If I leave a pile of bricks in the hands of Nature, it will remain a pile of bricks. If I input random energy in the form of fire, it will become a charred pile of bricks. But if I design a building, and apply energy plus principles of organization**** (such as the brick arch) I can create something un-natural that would not exist otherwise. Not exactly ex nihilo, but you get the picture.



***Front Loaded Design:
Intelligent Design (ID) attempts to support the concept of direct design through intelligent intervention. ~ Intelligent Evolution (IE) is based on the assumption of indirect design via front-loading of information. ~ "Front Loading" [ref. The Design Matrix, by Mike Gene] creates laws and principles which in turn produce matter / energy and evolution. Hence, the design "emerges" or unfolds over time as the universe self-assembles into a place hospitable for beings similar in some ways to the original designer.


****Anti-Entropy = energy plus organization
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Tue Sep 09, 2008 7:35 pm

Uriah wrote:
I don't see organized complexity in nature, in fact nature is anything but organized - or are you referring specifically to the laws of physics?

Nature dis-organized??? We must not be talking about the same thing. Life is organized complexity. Organisms are organized complexity. Grains of sand are dis-organized complexity. Natural laws are principles of organization. Complexity per se is just a bunch of stuff, a heap. Organized complexity is a bunch of stuff with internal order sufficient to function collectively as a whole system.

Are you familiar with Chaos & Complexity Theory or Cybernetic & Systems Theory? A rock is a fairly simple system of inert matter. The human brain is a Complex Adaptive System. A major difference between them is Organized Complexity.

Wiki: Complex Adaptive Systems:
What distinguishes a CAS from a pure multi-agent system (MAS) is the focus on top-level properties and features like self-similarity, complexity, emergence and self-organization. A MAS is simply defined as a system composed of multiple, interacting agents. In CASs, the agents as well as the system are adaptive: the system is self-similar. A CAS is a complex, self-similar collectivity of interacting adaptive agents. Complex Adaptive Systems are characterised by a high degree of adaptive capacity, giving them resilience in the face of perturbation
.



Organization:
Greek “organon” referred to something useful, a tool. It has a function or purpose. It has internal cooperation and coordination between parts. Its elements are not loose and free, but bound together into an organic system. Cybernetic Theory studies the command and control function of organized systems. Internal organization is the key feature of a collection of parts that causes them to work together as a singularity or whole.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:09 pm

No, I am not that well read in the particulars of Chaos theory, but as it strikes me Chaos implies disorganization, it may be complex, but it is not structured by an outside influence, the universe has structured itself. It's all about systems seeking balance, right? And as we see, nothing in the universe runs like precision clockwork. Orbits vary, galaxies collide, stars explode and rip planets apart, everything is in a constant state of flux and uncertainty. In the insect world millions of larvae are born so that only a scant few may live, the universe, to paraphrase Annie Dillard, is a machine of death, the fecundity of life demands constant plowing under everything, everything is digested and used to make something new. Stars become rocks, rocks become water, water becomes people, people become earth... It may be a complex machine of chaos and death, and it may operate according to its own internal, organizing principals, I see no reason to assume that we, just by sake of our own inconsequential sentience, that we are anything but temporary visitors, clueless and small, and undeniably lost amidst the existential journey of our own individual selves.

So perhaps I am not on the same page as you are, but to me that is all rather disorganized.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:19 pm

Uriah wrote:
No, I am not that well read in the particulars of Chaos theory, but as it strikes me Chaos implies disorganization,

I see no reason to assume that we, just by sake of our own inconsequential sentience, that we are anything but temporary visitors, clueless and small, and undeniably lost amidst the existential journey of our own individual selves.

So perhaps I am not on the same page as you are, but to me that is all rather disorganized.

I think you are looking at the random background, while I am looking at the orderly foreground. In the nuclear explosion analogy above, all you see is the flying debris of destruction. My focus though is on the tiny nugget of gold that emerges from the chaos.

Our sentience is "inconsequential" compared to what? Are you aware of a sentience of more consequence than humanity? We may be temporary visitors, but we are here, now, and we rule the world we live in---for better or worse. We may be clueless, but at least we are actively looking for clues. The long and lonely "existential journey" may seem like a road to nowhere, but why not smell the roses along the way, and let the destination be a surprise?

You are correct that the universe is mostly disorganized flying debris from the explosion of the Big Bang. But right here, right now, on the third rock from the sun, we humans are in the midst of an upwardly evolving process. On the second rock, all is fire and brimstone. On the fourth rock, all is cold and dead. But on the "blue marble" life is evolving and emerging, and mind is organizing its own experiences. From a Naturalist perspective, there ain't much nature beyond this planet, so we need to be grateful for what we've got.

Yes, the big picture may look pointless, but if you will look at what's right in front of you, you may see the point of it all: life is for living, existence is for experiencing. Order, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder.

END OF PEP-TALK Very Happy

FWIW here's an excerpt from an essay definition of the philosophical concept of random Chaos versus organized Cosmos:
Greek “Chaos” was characterized by unpredictability as the antithesis of orderly “Cosmos”. ~ Complex systems, such as the weather, are logically deterministic, but not practically determinable. They appear to be chaotic, but obey the cause & effect laws of physics, and they are extremely sensitive to tiny variations in initial conditions.

In Greek philosophy “Chaos” was a raw, formless, primordial state of the universe, equivalent to the “Abyss” in Jewish cosmology. ~ That sea of unformed, fluid potential was envisioned as something like the “plasma” of modern physics, which is a primitive-but-potent state of matter. Some physicists estimate that 99% of the “matter” in the universe is dematerialized plasma. In Thermodynamics, Chaos is equivalent to maximum Entropy. ~ The Greek “First Cause”, like a potter shaping clay, imposed order on disorderly Chaos, and fashioned the universe as a suitable container for material beings. ~ In IE, Chaos is the term used to designate the infinite potential of Eternity. In its raw state Eternity, which is an attribute of the Creator, has ultimate potential but nothing actual—no forms, no things, just possibilities. The act of creation was essentially a change in the state of mind of the Creator, who (unlike the Greek Demiurge) metaphorically formed the physical Cosmos out of He/r own meta-physical body: protoplasmic Chaos.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:34 pm

That's a great post, it gave me much to think about - I must say, I rather like your interpretation, I've been reading Heidegger lately, and what you are saying jibes with his take on things.

It's all about being, just being - in the right here, right now.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Wed Sep 10, 2008 2:06 pm

Very well put Gnomon. Smile

Uriah wrote:
It's all about being, just being - in the right here, right now.

That's right. Yin Yang Peace

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Fri Sep 12, 2008 5:52 pm

Aaron wrote:

I view organized complexity as more of an emergent phenomena rather than as a designed one.

As I mentioned before, "Emergence is not a feature of Reality, it is a function of understanding". By that I mean it's a subjective inference instead of an objective observation. It's a sign that Evolution is not a once-and-for-all creation, but an on-going creative process---novelties continue to emerge over time. It's also a sign of design intent because a randomizing process (Entropy) is destructive, and cannot produce novelties unless specific design parameters (laws) were established to ensure that a few random collisions are constructive. Think of genetic mutations: 99% have negative effects on life, but a reliable few produce positive results, leading up to the emergence of new species. Here's a glossary definition of the term, which plays a central role in my theories of Intelligent Evolution and Informationism.


EMERGENCE:
A natural creative function of evolution. ~ The appearance of novel properties that cannot be predicted from properties of components that make-up the system. Ex: Fire-quenching H20 is composed of two flammable gases. ~ The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The pieces have a role to play in their context, but the function of the whole only becomes apparent in a higher level context. ~ The Ah-Ha experience of grasping meaning. Ex: In a visual paradox, two meanings are inherent in a picture, but the mind can only “see” one at a time. Each mental image emerges from the same set of raw data. What makes the difference is interpretation of information. ~ Emergence is a continuous process that appears to be sudden only because the mind reaches a tipping-point of understanding between an old meaning and a new meaning, causing a phase-change from one logical category to another. ~ Rational Inference occurs when Meaning emerges from a meaningless pattern of data.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Fri Sep 12, 2008 6:26 pm

Quote :
Yes, the big picture may look pointless, but if you will look at what's right in front of you, you may see the point of it all: life is for living, existence is for experiencing. Order, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder.

Here's another glossary entry regarding the apparent meaninglessness of existence:


POINTLESSNESS:
I think it was Steven Weinberg who said, “The more the universe seems understandable, the more it seems pointless.” That also bothered me until I saw that *pointlessness* might actually be The Point. ~ IE theory differs from most God concepts in that it assumes, as a fundamental axiom, that God does not have any need, desire, or intention to predestine He/r creation. The PREGO analogy in the essay may not be clear, but when I said “it’s all in there” what I meant is that the Creator made an autonomous universe that can operate on its own like an internally-guided missile. All the necessary ingredients for a successful voyage of creation were in place from the beginning. ~ An omnipotent Creator shouldn’t have to twiddle the dials of the universe to get things to come out right. Think of the Voyager spacecraft exploring the solar system. The scientists, back in the 70s, used state-of-the-art computers to allow it to operate with minimal guidance from home base. But thirty years later, computer technology is radically superior, yet Voyager is still trudging along with a brain equivalent to a pocket calculator. Voyager is out of our hands now; all we can do is wait and observe. But, and here’s the point, Voyager is still doing what it was designed to do. ~ The Creator of our computer-universe had no such limitations, so our “spacecraft” was equipped with a “universal quantum computer” that is able to adapt and evolve to suit any exigencies that come up. ~ IE assumes that the whole point of the creation was to make an inherently unpredictable situation (a voyage of discovery, so to speak), and then sit back to see what happens. Presumably, even God doesn’t know how this little experiment will turn-out. ~ The deity of IE is a creative Being, so we may be justified in thinking of the Creation as a work of art. Pure Art has significance without purpose. From God’s point of view, a pointless creation is art for art’s sake.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Sat Sep 13, 2008 5:01 pm


MAN: A FORTUITOUS CONCOURSE OF ATOMS, OR A NECESSARY EMERGENCE?


In the same SKEPTIC magazine issue, Michael Shermer contributed another article in opposition to the "progressivist bias" of some interpretations of evolution. Shermer, editor and publisher of the magazine, is a long-time hero of mine for his scientific erudition and his philosophical balance. Nevertheless, I disagree with his conclusion that the inference of progression or directionality in evolution is a result of biased human reasoning. The article is titled, The Chain of Accidents and the Rule of Law, and sub-titled, The Role of Contingency and Necessity in the Evolution of Higher Intelligence. His analysis is similar to mine, in that it compares "the relative roles of chance and law". He asks, " . . . is our existence a necessity . . . or is our existence a contingency?"

Shermer notes that astronomers tend to be more optimistic toward the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, than biologists: " . . .astronomers traffic in the rule of nature's laws, which are repetitive, reliable, and necessary, whereas biologists traffic in the chain of accidents, which are quirky, chancy, and contingent." Yet I put those oppositions together in my theory of Intelligent Evolution, because evolution requires both rules and rule-breakers in order to produce novelty. For example, the rule 1 + 1 = 2 is true, but boring---no exceptions; The next flip of a coin though is unpredictable---each flip is an exception; Yet if you put rule and randomness together you get the reliable unpredictability that we call statistics: wherein as the number of coin flips increases, the probability of the outcome approaches 100% certainty. Another term for rational randomness is Fuzzy Logic.

Although astronomer Carl Sagan was a noted skeptic about many things, he supported the establishment of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program. Shermer indicates that Sagan was optimistic that Evolution offered a multitude of pathways to intelligence, not just the Homo Sapiens solution. Besides, " . . . an overall trend toward intelligence can be perceived in the fossil record". Biologist Steven Jay Gould was also a well-known skeptic, who viewed religion as simply a biological/sociological necessity for human culture. But he was pessimistic about the odds of evolutionary progress, "Was it Darwinian chance and selection alone . . . or did principles of self-organization mingle with chance and necessity?" Gould admitted that the progressive laws of self-organization could overcome the regressive tendency of contingency, but he still concluded that if you "re-wound the tape of evolution" homo sapiens was not predestined to emerge again from the random process.

I think both of those geniuses were correct in their own limited spheres. But they came along before the sciences of complexity and chaos and information began to reveal how chaotic contingency and orderly necessity could work together to produce even higher levels of organization. Simon Conway Morris, the author being refuted in these articles, saw how the principle of "evolutionary convergence" has produced the very "novelties and uniqueness" that scientists use to distinguish one species from another. The strict laws of nature put well-defined limits on the paths that contingency can follow in its random meanderings. So that "trend toward intelligence", can be explained as an almost inevitable result of evolution "guided" by internal principles in a general direction, if not toward a specific goal.

Ironically, Shemer seems to be impressed by the improbable (not to say, miraculous) uniqueness of the emergence of humans from a seemingly random process: "Homo Sapiens, however, is emphatically not an organism that does what its predecessors did, only a little better; it's something very---and potentially very dangerously---different. Something extraordinary, if totally fortuitous, happened with the birth of our species". Like many other non-theists, Shermer concludes that, "a purpose-seeking animal will find itself as the purpose of nature". Yet if purpose can be inferred from the behavior of heuristic* evolution, and the apparent apex of that progression is humanity, then we may be forgiven for thinking that somehow blind evolution was searching for us---or something very like us.



*Heuristic: a trial and error search pattern guided by algorithms or parameters.
Wiki: << Perhaps the most fundamental heuristic is "trial and error", >>
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