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Random musings:

Multiverse: Reality is constructed such that all things possible happen.

God: Intelligence that can create all things possible

We are evidence that the multiverse can produce intelligence. The question is whether it is possible for an intelligence to evolve sufficiently to create or control a multiverse. Don't see any a priori reason why not. If so, then that intelligence would have the potential to create all things possible.

Given infinite universes and eternity, the probability for God would seem pretty high.
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Still leaves the problem of which is the first cause, doesn't it?

Simpler solution would be one god, one universe, same problem.
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How is "one God" simpler? That opens up an entire can of worms that is at least as complicated/messy.

FWIW, I didn't like his opening premise (first line). Seemed like a huge assumption with only slightly more support than the God conjecture.
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Multiverse: Reality is constructed such that all things possible happen.

I agree. I'm not a big fan of infinite solutions. Always an intellectual punt.

That's why I think string theory has a long way to go before it will really be of any genuine benefit to understanding.

God: Intelligence that can create all things possible

I agree. I'm not a big fan of imagination as solution. Always an intellectual punt.

That's why theistic solutions don't do anything for me. The concept of god does not have a long way to go before it will really be of any genuine benefit to understanding because one cannot modify, change, alter, or redefine what god is and does. That was set in stone thousands of years ago by our much more intelligent and enlightened forefathers.

Given infinite universes and eternity, the probability for God would seem pretty high.

The concept of super intelligence would seem high, but you've already conceded god exists "outside" this universe. We have a universe right here, so the idea that other universes exist isn't that much of a leap. We have no god here, so I don't see how the probability of a god or gods existing in these other universes can be calculated let alone claimed to be "high." It would seem to me to be the same probability that exists here, zero.

Damn, I really gotta work on my syntax.
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How is "one God" simpler?

1. one god (or more), infinite universes
2. one god, one universe

I'm saying 2 is simpler.

Of course "one universe" is simpler still, but (I'd argue) lacks explanatory power, doesn't account for everything
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bdhinton doesn't like the absence of a first cause. That's the cool thing about quantum stuff and relativity. What is cause and what is effect may be completely relative. So to the question of which came first, multiverse or God, I would answer yes. Or no if I was feeling ornery.

1poorguy doesn't like the definition of multiverse. Unfortunately what I wrote is a distillation of one of the more recent and popular definitions of a multiverse in the scientific community. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028154.200-when-the-...

NigelGlitter doesn't like string theory, imagination, or his syntax. Not much I can do with that. Whether a fan or not, the multiverse and string theory are a part of the scientific discussion and are suggested by a lot of mathematics.

We have no god here, so I don't see how the probability of a god or gods existing in these other universes can be calculated let alone claimed to be "high."

But we do have examples of intelligence. Are there limits to intelligence? I'm not sure why one would assume so. If not, then why couldn't a sufficiently evolved intelligence create a multiverse? Seems in principle just a question of technology. And if the there are an infinite number of universes existing for infinite time, then the existence of such an intelligence would seem to be a certainty.
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NigelGlitter doesn't like string theory, imagination, or his syntax. Not much I can do with that. Whether a fan or not, the multiverse and string theory are a part of the scientific discussion and are suggested by a lot of mathematics.


No. I don't like explanations that resort to "infinity" as a solution. I happen to think string theory holds a lot of promise. To be fair, I also don't like the current mathematical punt of what occurs during singularity, but that doesn't mean I don't like black holes or the big bang.

But we do have examples of intelligence. Are there limits to intelligence? I'm not sure why one would assume so. If not, then why couldn't a sufficiently evolved intelligence create a multiverse? Seems in principle just a question of technology. And if the there are an infinite number of universes existing for infinite time, then the existence of such an intelligence would seem to be a certainty.

I not only agree with that, I stated so in my post. I just don't see what makes a super intelligence magically transform into a god if it came into existence in some other universe.
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I just don't see what makes a super intelligence magically transform into a god if it came into existence in some other universe.

Perhaps a variation of one of Arthur C. Clarke's three laws of prediction:

Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from deity.

?
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I don't like explanations that resort to "infinity" as a solution.

Don't think I am solving anything as much as considering a consequence. Whether or not you like infinity doesn't take away from its presence in at least some conceptions of the multiverse. There are consequences to having infinite universes and infinite time. It means for instance that even improbable events happen.

I just don't see what makes a super intelligence magically transform into a god if it came into existence in some other universe.

Suppose the super intelligence decides to remake the multiverse in its own image.
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From your first post:

Given infinite universes and eternity, the probability for God would seem pretty high.

Now:

Suppose the super intelligence decides to remake the multiverse in its own image.

I find these two comments to be mutually exclusive. The first has an infinite number of universes over an infinite time allowing for a super intelligence to emerge that might be able to create yet another universe, ours, all on his own. I call this guy Norm. He wears thick black glasses, a lab coat, and he has an abnormal obsession with pocket protectors. He may exist in several of the dimensions described in string theory but not apparent in our universe, and he may even have intelligence and longevity beyond our ability to ever comprehend, but Norm is still a product of the macro laws that produce a multiverse.

Now, we have a super intelligence that can remake the multiverse in his own image.....somehow out-thinking the shackles of the physical laws that produced him, and reshaping a whole lot of stuff.

Or you've now shifted to a new, more creationist friendly stance, and Norm is really god (wink, wink, nudge, nudge "We can see the hand of a creator in the design of life, but we're not really talking about god."), and you're standing on turtles.

Which is it? Norm the 5th, 7th, and 10th dimensional being from universe 2674MQ39, Norm's mind which has escaped the bounds of all the physical laws that created it, or an external creator/god that willed itself into existence?

Based on an infinite number of universes expanding and contracting over an infinite period of time, I can accept that there would be a decent chance that Norm was/is alive and well and contemplating his nifty new neon green pocket protector, but infinity still doesn't move me far enough to find either of the other two scenarios as plausible.

But perhaps I missed something as I usually do.
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Perhaps a variation of one of Arthur C. Clarke's three laws of prediction:

Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from deity.


I think that was applicable 30 years ago, but if we have the ability to explain the intelligence through string theory, it would really demystify the whole deity thing.

Kind of like when you first learn that women fart. They're just a little more human after that.
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NigelGlitter : No. I don't like explanations that resort to "infinity" as a solution. I happen to think string theory holds a lot of promise. To be fair, I also don't like the current mathematical punt of what occurs during singularity, but that doesn't mean I don't like black holes or the big bang.

I agree with this. Infinity is an easy support for wild theories. Who really has a grasp on the concept of infinity ?
There are infinite integer numbers, but you won't find one that is even and odd at the same time.

And to add a positive note to the discussion, the laws of nature seem to be symmetric with time, so an omnipotent engineer could probably travel back in tme and create the universe from which his or her intelligence sprang. I find this theory certainly no less likely than the other creationist hypotheses. The advantage is that there's no need for a "first mover".
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Which is it? Norm the 5th, 7th, and 10th dimensional being from universe 2674MQ39, Norm's mind which has escaped the bounds of all the physical laws that created it, or an external creator/god that willed itself into existence?

Yes. Or perhaps no to the last option. I don't know what would be the limit to how much a universe could be manipulated by an intelligence that developed within. Are physical laws inviolate, or can they be altered once one understands their nature? Can one change the algorithms of reality? Don't see why not. If physical laws can vary from universe to universe in the multiverse, why couldn't they be manipulated to produce a desired end? It's just a matter of knowing the computer code for the hologram that is reality.

And keep in mind that if the "many-worlds" view of the multiverse is correct, then it really is a matter of fact that all possible outcomes actually exist.

but infinity still doesn't move me far enough to find either of the other two scenarios as plausible

Why not? Do you believe there is a limit to evolution? or intelligence?
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And keep in mind that if the "many-worlds" view of the multiverse is correct, then it really is a matter of fact that all possible outcomes actually exist.

Not sure why "all possible outcomes" implies anything other than all possible physical deterministic outcomes possible given the 11 dimensions that exist to create different scenarios. An infinite number of universes are still subject to the macro laws that are at work. You'll have to demonstrate to me which combination of dimensions results in a universe where inhabitants are suddenly released from any physical boundary, and are only limited by imagination. All possible outcomes in no way suggests or implies to me that anything goes.

Why not? Do you believe there is a limit to evolution? or intelligence?

Yeah...don't you?

Evolution can't go beyond the chemical limits of genetics. Intelligence is bound by physical constraints. I don't see how an intelligence could exceed the physical size of the universe.
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An infinite number of universes are still subject to the macro laws that are at work.

You say that with such confidence. Using Tegmark's classifications, a level-2 universe will have different physical constants and particles. A level-4 universe will have different fundamental physical laws.

You'll have to demonstrate to me which combination of dimensions results in a universe where inhabitants are suddenly released from any physical boundary, and are only limited by imagination.

The multiverse is not defined by the physical. It is defined by mathematics. What is possible or not is dictated by abstract mathematics, the mathematical "imagination" if you will.

I don't see how an intelligence could exceed the physical size of the universe.

That's so adorably Newtonian. Many physicists believe that the fundamental reality is not matter/energy but mathematics. The distinction between mathematics and intelligence becomes a bit fuzzy to me. And once an intelligence fully understands the math...
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You say that with such confidence. Using Tegmark's classifications, a level-2 universe will have different physical constants and particles. A level-4 universe will have different fundamental physical laws.


Please explain the logical leap from "different fundamental physical laws" to fantasy. I can't make the connection.

The multiverse is not defined by the physical. It is defined by mathematics. What is possible or not is dictated by abstract mathematics, the mathematical "imagination" if you will.

Currently. But if the mathematical model has any basis whatsoever, it will only be so if it can be supported by physical evidence.

That's so adorably Newtonian. Many physicists believe that the fundamental reality is not matter/energy but mathematics. The distinction between mathematics and intelligence becomes a bit fuzzy to me. And once an intelligence fully understands the math...

Math is a description of what is observed. How quaint it would be that we simply could chalk up a board and be done with gravity and not need to build those expensive colliders.

A few may actually believe what you say, but it's not a significant percent.
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Please explain the logical leap from "different fundamental physical laws" to fantasy. I can't make the connection.

One example, if the conservation of matter/energy no longer applied, then things we now consider "fantasy" or "magic" could occur.

But if the mathematical model has any basis whatsoever, it will only be so if it can be supported by physical evidence.

The point is that it is the math dictating the nature of the physical, not the other way around.

Math is a description of what is observed.

Again so adorably Newtonian.

A few may actually believe what you say, but it's not a significant percent.

That's very true. But in the small percentage with Ph.D.s in quantum physics or cosmology, a lot more take it seriously (not what I have to say, but the general notion of a mathematical reality).

This is an old article that I probably have linked before: http://discovermagazine.com/2008/jul/16-is-the-universe-actu...

Also, I haven't read the book but it appears to be an attempt to explain the mathematical universe to a lay audience: http://www.thebigquestions.com/2010/09/30/the-mathematical-u...

Hey, when dealing with the multiverse, its all speculation that you can ignore as you wish. I'm just using some ideas that are taken quite seriously by physicist colleagues and extrapolating possible consequences.
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The point is that it is the math dictating the nature of the physical, not the other way around.

Is it? I hope T weighs in on this. I seem to recall having a long discussion with him a few years ago.

Mathematics is the language of logic. And it models (or can be used to model) the universe and everything in it. But I think it's a tricky stretch to assert that mathematics is not the description of, but is in fact the driver of everything.

I used to hold that view, but T talked me out of it.
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The point is that it is the math dictating the nature of the physical, not the other way around.

Our mathematical description of the physical world does not dictate the reality of nature any more than saying the word blue dictates what color you see. You may find Newton adorable on this point, but being condescending doesn't change the fact that our math models are and always will be our descriptive language to explain what we observe. We discovered two rocks. We invented a language to convey that knowledge to other humans.

Hey, when dealing with the multiverse, its all speculation that you can ignore as you wish. I'm just using some ideas that are taken quite seriously by physicist colleagues and extrapolating possible consequences.

I get that. All I'm saying is I reject the portions of string theory that lead to an infinite mverse where absolutely anything goes for the same reasons I reject god as the end all explanation for everything. I live in a universe where imagination is constrained by physical reality.

I may be stupid, but at least I'm consistently stupid.
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Our mathematical description of the physical world does not dictate the reality of nature any more than saying the word blue dictates what color you see. You may find Newton adorable on this point, but being condescending doesn't change the fact that our math models are and always will be our descriptive language to explain what we observe. We discovered two rocks. We invented a language to convey that knowledge to other humans.

Yes, I understand that is what you believe. That is what most believe I suspect. I'm just pointing out that physics seems to be moving in a different direction from what you believe. Sorry about being condescending, but I just get tired of people who won't even consider ideas and hypotheses that are supported by a fair amount of scientific data simply because it doesn't fit their world view.

I may be stupid, but at least I'm consistently stupid.

I wouldn't say stupid. I'd say more that you aren't willing to consider anything outside your comfort zone. You and bdhinton have different opinions, but share the same trait of being unwilling to consider things from a different perspective.

Some physicists see a mathematical universe where equations dictate physical reality. I'm exploring that idea and seeing what might be the theological consequences. You reject the whole notion out of hand. You provide emotional and anecdotal reasons, but have yet to provide an argument based on science why this line of speculation is invalid.
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You and bdhinton have different opinions, but share the same trait of being unwilling to consider things from a different perspective.

Now you've REALLY insulted him ;-)
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Yes, I understand that is what you believe. That is what most believe I suspect. I'm just pointing out that physics seems to be moving in a different direction from what you believe. Sorry about being condescending, but I just get tired of people who won't even consider ideas and hypotheses that are supported by a fair amount of scientific data simply because it doesn't fit their world view.

Would it make you less tired if I confessed I'd already given it quite a bit of consideration to arrive where I am now?

I'd say more that you aren't willing to consider anything outside your comfort zone. You and bdhinton have different opinions, but share the same trait of being unwilling to consider things from a different perspective.

I don't tend to get too involved in discussions when I'm truly weighing something. Ask a few questions, and do some exploring on my own, but I don't get too involved in expressing me thoughts, because I don't have any yet. The idea that we discover math, that reality doesn't exist without a consciousness to make it so, etc. aren't brand new ideas.

Experts can get enthralled with their own navels at times, and press their noses so close up to the tree that the forest gets lost.
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Would it make you less tired if I confessed I'd already given it quite a bit of consideration to arrive where I am now?

I'm glad you've thought about it some. Perhaps we can actually have a discussion. To be specific, what tires me are your declarations of fact without justification. What would energize me are reasoned supporting arguments for those declarations. These include (with my helpful prompts):

"An infinite number of universes are still subject to the macro laws that are at work." (Why assume there are macro laws?)

"Evolution can't go beyond the chemical limits of genetics." (What is the "chemical limit" for how much information can be carried by DNA?)

"Intelligence is bound by physical constraints. I don't see how an intelligence could exceed the physical size of the universe." (How do you relate intelligence with physical size?).

"Our mathematical description of the physical world does not dictate the reality of nature..." (Many scientists would disagree, so what is wrong with their reasoning?).

"I live in a universe where imagination is constrained by physical reality." (is that a personal choice or are you making a general statement about reality? If the latter, how is imagination so constrained?)

The idea that we discover math, that reality doesn't exist without a consciousness to make it so, etc. aren't brand new ideas.

No one said they were brand new ideas. They aren't even new to this board. But you seem to be implying that these are not simply old, but that you've resolved the issue to your satisfaction even though they remain an active area of contention in the scientific community. Would love to know what you know that the pretentious minority I belong to doesn't.

Experts can get enthralled with their own navels at times, and press their noses so close up to the tree that the forest gets lost.

Well let's take a look at that tree. That obviously can't be a mathematical abstraction. Yet when scientists take that tree apart and break it down to its fundamental components what they find are contradictions and complexity. All kinds of quantum weirdness that have been discussed before. Turns out that the only way to accurately express what these fundamental components are, whether they be quarks, photons, charm, etc., is by mathematics. Then the contradictions fade away.

But "hold on" you say. If I walk into that tree I can feel its solidity. Obviously not a mathematical abstraction. So let's consider what it means to perceive something. Input comes into your brain and gets processed in some way to produce the sensation of a solid tree. In fact every conscious personal experience you have of the real world is a brain-processed event. And when you break that process down to its fundamental components, guess what you find? A bunch of math.

So yeah, we all consciously perceive a physical universe made of stuff. But conscious perception is simply an "interpretation" of the information received. Program the brain a little differently and that information could just as easily be perceived as interacting algorithms. Would that be less real?

So what is reality really like? Is it the "stuff" we consciously perceive? Or is it the mathematics we objectively uncover? Turns out the latter has far more explanatory and predictive power.
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I used to hold that view, but T talked me out of it.

Hey that's cool although I don't remember that discussion.

I'm neither mathematician nor philosopher, but I've used math as a tool in scientific research and that's just how I consider it : a tool, a language. The best language we have to describe natural processes in physics or chemistry, even though it could perhaps be done adequately in some other way. Even though mathematic does well to describe the rules and axioms of a physical system, it's not at all easy, most often impossible, to find exact solutions to real problems. So maybe there exists some other, even better language for us to discover.

Usually there are several ways to model a physical system mathematically. So, when I was a researcher, we picked and chose the ones that worked best for our needs and because computing power back then in the early 1980's was not what it is now, we usually had to simplify the formula's in a way that they were still just adequate for the desired precision. This is probably the reason why I have a rather pragmatic view on the concept of math. An example of mathematical pragmatism ? If your bag falls out of the luggage rack on the train you could calculate its trajectory by applying Newton's laws relative to a rotating framework (the correct but difficult way) or simply use the centrifugal force formula and ignore the fact that there is nothing out there that exerts a force on the bag. Indeed the mathematics is entirely correct, but that fact alone doesn't "create" some demon that pulls on your bag . Mathematics cannot do this.

The following quote from the interview with Tegmark made me think of the pool of mud in Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy :
The physicist Eugene Wigner wrote a famous essay in the 1960s called “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.” In that essay he asked why nature is so accurately described by mathematics.

Well IMO, that's because our mathematics has evolved by natural selection also. We continue to make it better (and complexer) in several domains although there is still nothing that fits all of nature in its entirety.

Early in the 20 th century, Kaluza and Klein developed a model that unified gravitation and electromagnetism by introducing a 5th dimension in the general relativity formula's. With the discovery of additional forces and particles the theory lost its appeal and never fully came to maturity, but the idea of using additional dimensions to make the math "fit" came back with string theory. There is still no indication as far as I know to assert that these dimensions represent something real, or are just a mathematical "trick", like say, complex numbers. What's the equivalent of a complex number in nature ? Without them we would be nowhere in theoretical physics. If math is really the only thing that exists, and nature the emanation of math, then wouldn't such an important entity map to something real ? Maybe it does, I don't know what Tegmark and co. have to say about this, so if they have some explanation on the "reality" of i and similar concepts then it would be interesting to hear it.

Philosophy 101 says that after my thesis I have to address the antithesis. So I admit that the predictable power of the QM and unified theory formula's are impressive. Many (perhaps most?) elementary particles we know were predicted by math before they were detected. With Higgs probably coming soon as another cherry on the cake. The first particle so predicted was the positron, and as the concept of antimatter was unknown, all kinds of interpretations were given to that solution. When the positron was detected, the speculation could end. But this little history also shows the flexibility of mathematical interpretation. If something predicted by math doesn't make sense, it rarely counts against math. It is ignored as a solution without relevance in the real world or is a toy for philosophical speculation. Nevertheless the correct predictions do show that math describes some real "rules" of the universe, but from there concluding that math "is" the universe remains a strange leap.

This is getting way too long, but finally I also want to come back to this concept where anyting could exist in an infinite multiverse. Infinity is a difficult concept and, once more, a very useful one in mathematics, but can someone pinpoint a real instance of something infinite ? Thales of Milete thought he could divide a time interval into infinite slices and thereby create the paradox that Achilles cannnot bridge the distance to the tortoise. But hey, when the proper math is applied, the infinite series converges to exactly the time one would expect. So that should be a severe warning against using infinity in realtime problems without proper mathematics. This said, I would like to see a proof that "anything goes" in an infinite set of universes. How do you do that ? Well for instance there exists a proof that says that if one can find a single theorem that is both true and false in an axiomatic system, then every statement in that system is true. If you can find a similar proof for the infinite multiverse then that would be convincing to me, but without something like that, I'll just consider it as an unfounded speculation.
BTW, if someone would find a theorem in, say, number theory that is both true and false, I'm pretty sure that 100% of the mathematicians will go look for the flaw in the theory and 0% will say, okay, so that means anything goes from now on. But that seems to be centromere's attitude taken with respect to the infinite multiverse. Very unmathematic-like, IMO, and thus quite ironic in a discussion on math as the source of all reality.

So these were some random ramblings for centromere to consider. Now he can read his sources again and find some real answers to the points above and those made by Nigel and 1poorguy and others, instead of simply pointing to the math guys who propose the theory and letting us do his homework. :-)
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Another point: Even if one were to grant that science was moving toward a multiverse as centromere is speculating, I don't think religion is. Religion is generally much more personal and smaller scale, like:

http://boards.fool.com/i-understand-the-language-but-not-the...
http://boards.fool.com/ltlt-i-understand-the-language-but-no...
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Thales of Milete
Oops, that must be Zeno of Elea of course.
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NG: Our mathematical models are and always will be our descriptive language to explain what we observe.

A few of our mathematical models conform to this description, but not many. The vast majority of mathematics is completely divorced from any physical reality. A couple of anecdotes might illustrate what I mean.

I have a friend, a probabilist, who calls himself an "applied mathematician". Having read his papers — and even collaborated on a couple with him — I felt I had to challenge him on the "applied" part of his self-description. He picked up a representative paper, and pointed to a sentence that, in effect, said that a differential equation could exist which one might (with a lot of work) be able to prove satisfied the conditions of his theorem. "See?", he said, "that's an application."

I have another couple of friends who have been happily occupied for three decades on proving some beautiful theorems about the geometry of finite fields. Now, finite fields do not correspond to any notion of our usual three-dimensional physical geometry — at least none with which I am acquainted — but they are in a department of applied mathematics (my own department, as it happens). When I asked what conceivable application their work might have, they replied that the National Security Agency had once asked whether their results might apply to a certain class of decryption problem, but that they had flat-out refused to consider the problem under any circumstances — they just don't approve of the NSA. That was enough talk of applications, could we get back to finite fields please?

Of course we actually have folks around here who do little else but apply math to the real world, but most of them are statisticians who use an impossibly primitive notion of what a mathematical model actually is. Anything beyond a trivial algebraic nonlinearity is just not a part of their known universe. (I apologize if I offend anyone with that remark.) My point is merely that as a description of reality, statistical "models" leave a lot to be desired.

To step into real mathematics, as done by real flesh-and-blood mathematicians, is to step into an alternate reality with only the loosest conceivable connection to everyday reality, or even to the reality perceived by physicists. I call it "The Land of If". Dwell there long enough, and you inevitably start to believe that it has more concrete reality to it than anything in the so-called real world — and it is immeasurably bigger in scope, detail, and perhaps even beauty. Most mathematicians will confirm, if pressed, that this is indeed how they see their world, and that they are astoundingly fortunate to have had the chance to roam for a while in this exotic domain.

Loren
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Well IMO, that's because our mathematics has evolved by natural selection also.

You seem to be suggesting that mathematics is strictly empirical. Mathematics is defined by a set of formal rules that are abstractions. While one empirically identifies the "math" that best explains the physical world, what is surprising is that the latter so closely follows those abstract mathematical rules. There is no a priori expectation for that to be.

If something predicted by math doesn't make sense, it rarely counts against math. It is ignored as a solution without relevance in the real world or is a toy for philosophical speculation. Nevertheless the correct predictions do show that math describes some real "rules" of the universe, but from there concluding that math "is" the universe remains a strange leap.

Two points: First, the assertion that reality is mathematical does not mean that all mathematics must be real. Second, the predictive power of mathematics is significant. It suggests mathematical rules are fundamental to reality.

What's the equivalent of a complex number in nature ?

This layman's off the cuff guess would be something analogous to a general property of physical things, like momentum or inertia.

So that should be a severe warning against using infinity in realtime problems without proper mathematics. This said, I would like to see a proof that "anything goes" in an infinite set of universes.

We certainly have many demonstrations that very large numbers make highly improbable events likely. It's a bit ironic that this concept is being questioned by defenders of evolution, given its fundamental place in the credibility of the theory. Also keep in mind, a major reason for the acceptance of the multiverse idea is as an answer to the anthropic argument, which simply stated is that a universe suitable for intelligent life is too improbable to have occurred by chance. Obviously this issue goes away if the number of universes approach infinity. So the precedent was set for the "infinity" argument before I came along.

...so that means anything goes from now on. But that seems to be centromere's attitude taken with respect to the infinite multiverse.

Well, it's not like I'm suggesting a reality where Disney characters are real or reducing taxes actually raises revenue. Even I have my limits, so its not quite "anything goes". At the risk of repeating myself I'll just note that we know empirically that intelligence can evolve and that once present can acquire an exponentially increasing understanding of reality and capacity to manipulate the physical. I'm just taking that trajectory and extrapolating over really long times and really lots of universes about what might ultimately arise.
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...a universe suitable for intelligent life is too improbable to have occurred by chance. Obviously this issue goes away if the number of universes approach infinity.

Creationists love to assert that improbability, but none have ever bothered to prove it. (I don't consider made-up numbers about things they have no way of knowing to be a "proof" of any sort. We've already seen that complexity arises quite naturally in many different arenas.)

As Hitchens said, "What can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence." There is no evidence that life is "improbable" (we find it everywhere on this planet...everywhere...ocean vents under extreme pressure, boiling geyser springs, etc.)

So that rationale for the multiverse hypothesis falls flat (for me).

I accept the multiverse as a hypothesis. If it can explain something (e.g. why the rate of expansion is accelerating), then I'll accept it as a theory. Until then, it's an interesting idea that I would not assert is correct (nor incorrect). Though apparently the math does work, which in my book is a definite 'plus'.

1poorguy
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"Our mathematical description of the physical world does not dictate the reality of nature..." (Many scientists would disagree, so what is wrong with their reasoning?).

The part about it being *our* description that dictates reality. If we decided to change our description, would it change reality? No, that's just silly. We use mathematical descriptions because they're accurate and helps us understand reality, and that's all.
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T: What's the equivalent of a complex number in nature ? Without them we would be nowhere in theoretical physics. If math is really the only thing that exists, and nature the emanation of math, then wouldn't such an important entity map to something real ? Maybe it does, I don't know what Tegmark and co. have to say about this, so if they have some explanation on the "reality" of i and similar concepts then it would be interesting to hear it.

I'm not Tegmark, but perhaps I could take a crack at this one.

When things in nature have magnitude, then we try to measure those magnitudes with "real" numbers. As a practical everyday matter, we use "rational" numbers to approximate those magnitudes.

Complex numbers have magnitude, but they also have an additional property that makes them appropriate for measuring rotations. Rotations are the "things" in nature that map to complex numbers. Rotations are definitely not figments of our imagination, and complex numbers are "imaginary" in name only.

In school we learn about a short list of kinds of numbers: natural, rational, real, complex, and that's usually all. In fact there are many different kinds of things (in nature and otherwise) that behave in a numberlike way, and that therefore map to a kind of number.

Hyperbolic numbers, for example. These are based on a square-root of unity that is neither +1 nor -1. They map to hyperbolic motions in the same sense that complex numbers map to rotations. "Distances" in hyperbolic space map to the Lorentzian geometry of special relativity theory, not to the ordinary Euclidean geometry with which we grew up, and hyperbolic space is often called "Minkowski spacetime" in physics. In this space magnitudes can be negative as well as positive.

Path and surface integrals are done with differential forms, which are small pieces of oriented surfaces that behave in a number-like way. Hyperbolic numbers help make sense out of this behavior, and along the way they help with little things like tensor calculus and general relativity.

Instead of adding features to the real numbers, we can also play the game of subtracting features, like commutativity or the Archimedean property or multiplication itself. This is where the groups, modules, and rings of abstract algebra come from — and most members of this wild menagerie of number-like entities can be seen to correspond to some sort of operator or thing in ordinary reality that has similar number-like properties.

Alternatively, we can explore entire number systems in which we allow both infinite and infinitesimal numbers, in a carefully defined and rigorous way. The "hyperreal" numbers of nonstandard analysis is one such system, remarkable for having finally made sense of the 400-year-old dy/dx notation of Leibniz for elementary calculus. Now you can refer to dy and dx as hyperreal infinitesimals, and make perfect sense. In this system, a derivative is just the "standard part" of a non-standard ratio of hyperreal infinitesimals.

To summarize, the complex numbers map to rotational actions in nature, but they mark just the merest beginning of a whole world of number-like entities and creatures, some (like E8 — an exceptional Lie algebra of 248 dimensions) with astounding richness and complexity.

Loren
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centromere : Well, it's not like I'm suggesting a reality where Disney characters are real or reducing taxes actually raises revenue. Even I have my limits, so its not quite "anything goes". At the risk of repeating myself I'll just note that we know empirically that intelligence can evolve and that once present can acquire an exponentially increasing understanding of reality and capacity to manipulate the physical. I'm just taking that trajectory and extrapolating over really long times and really lots of universes about what might ultimately arise.


-----

Ok centromere, but the way you expressed the idea in the base topic is not at all clear then. "all things possible" in the context of God would mean "unconstrained, omnipotent" powers to most people. "all things possible" in the context of mind and intelligence would mean "everything imaginable" to me.

Below is the base post again so you don't have to go back.

-----


Multiverse: Reality is constructed such that all things possible happen.

God: Intelligence that can create all things possible

We are evidence that the multiverse can produce intelligence. The question is whether it is possible for an intelligence to evolve sufficiently to create or control a multiverse. Don't see any a priori reason why not. If so, then that intelligence would have the potential to create all things possible.
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"all things possible" in the context of God would mean "unconstrained, omnipotent" powers to most people.

Isn't there an inherent limit in all things "possible"?
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You seem to be suggesting that mathematics is strictly empirical. Mathematics is defined by a set of formal rules that are abstractions. While one empirically identifies the "math" that best explains the physical world, what is surprising is that the latter so closely follows those abstract mathematical rules. There is no a priori expectation for that to be.

You can't deny that there's a lot of trial and error involved into getting to a set of axioms and operators that describe (some part of) nature. Look how quantum mechanics arose. Failure to predict the high frequency domain of blackbody radiation. By quantizing the energy of light, Max Planck got the right curve and so it all started. But afterwards it turned out that Plack made 2 crucial mistakes : He should have used Bose-Einstein statistics (which could not be known before QM) and there is no zero energy level in quantised system (which also could not have been known before QM was established.) So there was quite a bit of luck involved here that the prediction worked. After the initial success comes refinement and cleanup. It is an evolutionary process. IMO it is the mathematical rules that closely follow nature, not the other way around like you state above. Why can nothing go faster than c ? Dunno, but if we put this constraint in the laws of motion then it works better than if we don't do that.

We certainly have many demonstrations that very large numbers make highly improbable events likely. It's a bit ironic that this concept is being questioned by defenders of evolution, given its fundamental place in the credibility of the theory. Also keep in mind, a major reason for the acceptance of the multiverse idea is as an answer to the anthropic argument, which simply stated is that a universe suitable for intelligent life is too improbable to have occurred by chance. Obviously this issue goes away if the number of universes approach infinity. So the precedent was set for the "infinity" argument before I came along.

Okay, so do you think it possible that the multiverse could have "black-hole" like universes that can gobble up and destroy all the other universes ? Probably not because then we wouldn't exist either. Infinity and probability, all nice and exciting, but my advice is not to rely on those two without detailed calculations.

Our own universe is pretty big and old also. Yet there seem to be a limited number of different kinds of stars. I don't quite know how many families there are, but wouldn't you think there should be an enormous variety based on the size of the universe ? IMO unconstrained probabilities are not a good way to think about the universe.
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Isn't there an inherent limit in all things "possible"?

Isn't that embedded in the definition of the word? The limit is anything that is impossible. Or am I not understanding your question?
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Creationists love to assert that improbability...So that rationale for the multiverse hypothesis falls flat

The rationale I'm referring to is coming from the string people, not creationists. My limited understanding of string theory is that it turns out the large number of variables that describe a universe are independent of each other. This means that there is an essentially infinite number of possible universes, each with an equal probability of occurring. Only an infinitesimally small subset of these possibilities are considered by cosmologists to be compatible with life. So the question is if only one universe was produced, how did it happen to be one so unlikely.

Now it certainly could just be blind luck, but many scientists find that uncomfortable. So these lean toward the multiverse idea.
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String theory may turn out to be the superluminiferous ether of our time. Or maybe it will be revolutionary. Time will tell.

I don't find the idea of infinite anything very plausible, much less infinite universes (including one where I didn't respond to this post...how far do we want to take this?). I could be wrong, of course. But I want to see the data before I'm going to buy into it.
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You can't deny that there's a lot of trial and error involved into getting to a set of axioms and operators that describe (some part of) nature. Look how quantum mechanics arose.

Well let's take a look. Wigner won a Nobel for his contributions to quantum theory. He also wrote this little article http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html... about the role of mathematics. He notes that the mathematics used to predict quantum events are all based on abstract mathematical formalisms. Examples include Hilbert space and matrix mechanics. You yourself brought up the concept of imaginary numbers, given that name because of its supposed uselessness when first derived, but now an integral part in the explanation of quantum events.

No one's denying the empirical component. Tegmark's conjecture is that different universes are based on different mathematical systems. So the empiricism has to do with discovering the specifics of the mathematical system that applies to our universe.

Look at it this way. Take anything physical and break it down to its component parts. What you eventually end up with is a freakin' probability wave. So here's the question for you (or NigelGlitter or 1poorguy or whomever), what non-mathematical "stuff" is that probability wave made of?

IMO unconstrained probabilities are not a good way to think about the universe.

What's your criteria for a probability that is unconstrained? I suspect if I had suggested that in the multiverse there is a high probability of finding a universe where an intelligence can create life, artificial intelligence, or an affordable single-payer health care system there wouldn't be much controversy. I'm only extrapolating from that. If the universe and multiverse are physical entities, then they should be susceptible to interactions and manipulations by other physical entities. Given that, it's not clear why one of those manipulating entities couldn't be an evolved intelligence. Especially since we have experience that intelligence can evolve and that at least the one example we know of likes to manipulate physical things.

Does that qualify as "unconstrained"?
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I'm late to the party, as usual. I suppose this could be an interesting as a philosophical exercise, though I'm not sure you'll like where it ends up.

We are evidence that the multiverse can produce intelligence. The question is whether it is possible for an intelligence to evolve sufficiently to create or control a multiverse. Don't see any a priori reason why not.

On the other hand, I don't see any a priori reason why it should be possible for an intelligence to be able to control a multiverse, either. It's probably irrelevant anyway. You're model, it seems, is that a multiverse creates God, who then creates anther multiverse that gives rise to our universe. Why insert an unnecessary complication? The most parsimonious answer is simply that the multiverse produced our universe.

In a way, though, by your definition you could call Man "God". We've produced a variety of universes: the World of Warcraft "universe", the Lord of the Rings "universe", and a host of other MMORPG "universes".

But, for the sake of argument, let's suppose that an intelligence can evolve as you suggest. Given infinite universes and eternity, a more powerful god that your God will be produced who will kick your God's a$$, smash his multiverse, and send him crying home to his mommy. :-) Carried to its logical conclusion, I don't see any convergence of "science" with the religions that I'm familiar with.

-Anthony
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what non-mathematical "stuff" is that probability wave made of?

What mathematical "stuff" is it made of? What is mathematical "stuff"? Math is an abstract concept that is very useful for modeling things (and subsequently making predictions). It is the language of logic. I'm not aware that it is "stuff" in any sense.

What is the probability wave (beyond a mathematical construct)? I don't believe we really know.
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"An infinite number of universes are still subject to the macro laws that are at work." (Why assume there are macro laws?)

Because everything within our own universe is subject to the physical laws that apply here. Why would you "assume" otherwise?

"Evolution can't go beyond the chemical limits of genetics." (What is the "chemical limit" for how much information can be carried by DNA?)

Your field, not mine, so I'll ask my expert: is potential DNA information limitless? In the extreme, explain how a living organism could build a DNA strand larger than all the matter available in the universe.

(How do you relate intelligence with physical size?).

I have a processor, I can do x. I have dual processors that work in parallel, I can do north or 2x. Until you can demonstrate a mind that operates without a physical component, assuming they are not bound by physical constraints has no factual basis.

"Our mathematical description of the physical world does not dictate the reality of nature..." (Many scientists would disagree, so what is wrong with their reasoning?).

The same reasoning that applies to the "the universe could not be this finely tuned without it having been created by god." How could the universe be this mathematically precise if it weren't the math dictating nature itself?

(is that a personal choice or are you making a general statement about reality? If the latter, how is imagination so constrained?)

You're taking me out of context. You can imagine you can flap your arms and fly to the moon all you want, but once you step away from your daydreams and insist because you can imagine it, it is a plausible and reasonable explanation for aerodynamics, you plummet from a cliff and go splat. One can imagine an infinite mverse where anything goes, but more realistically one can imagine than provide proofs of an mverse that has physical laws which actually operate and can be predicted and shown to exist.

But "hold on" you say. If I walk into that tree I can feel its solidity. Obviously not a mathematical abstraction. So let's consider what it means to perceive something. Input comes into your brain and gets processed in some way to produce the sensation of a solid tree. In fact every conscious personal experience you have of the real world is a brain-processed event. And when you break that process down to its fundamental components, guess what you find? A bunch of math.

No holding on, I fully accept that all that I perceive as real is merely a projected model my brain produces. I do object to the last statement you make, though. When you break it down you find a lot really gross stuff that when you're not handling it has a lot of really cool chemical things going on that we can describe by using math.

So what is reality really like? Is it the "stuff" we consciously perceive? Or is it the mathematics we objectively uncover?

Three: it's the stuff outside our brain that our brain interprets and models as real

Turns out the latter has far more explanatory and predictive power.

Turns out math is a convenient way for you or me to share what we observe and know with other people.
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Look at it this way. Take anything physical and break it down to its component parts. What you eventually end up with is a freakin' probability wave. So here's the question for you (or NigelGlitter or 1poorguy or whomever), what non-mathematical "stuff" is that probability wave made of?



I think you should be careful to avoid falling into circular reasoning, and the above is approaching it dangerously close imo.

The non-mathematical stuff are simply the things that we can observe and measure in the universe.

The measurable stuff on the quantum level is modelled by a formal system based on 5 axioms that basically assign a special kind of operator to every observable. These operators also have sets of functions so that when the operator is unleashed on the function, the result is exactly the same function multiplied by a constant, and that constant is one of the values that can be measured. No other value than one of this set is possible. The functions have other special properties, like they form a set that is in a sense comparable to spatial coordinates. Linear combinations of the functions also describe possible states of the measured entity, similar to the way that lc's of the 3 spatial co-ordinates can describe any point in 3-dimensional space. It's these linear combinations of wavefunctions that form your probability wave.

So indeed, the wave function is pure mathematics, as are the operators. (like -ih/2p.d/dx for a linear momentum operator : How much more mathematical can you get ? ) Neither the wavefunctions nor the operator itself are "observables" though.

So if you equate the physical to its mathematical description then it's no surprise that on closer inspection you find only mathematical stuff.

Look at it another way, if you break all physical down, you still want to measure something or observe something. That 's the non-mathematical stuff, which ultimately is the thing that our mathematics somehow must attempt to describe accurately.

Once more let me refer to the concept of centrifugal force. The mathematical model of something pulling (or pushing) you against the wall works perfectly, but it would be useless to start searching for the agent that is pushing/pulling you. As it turns out, you're simply inside a rotating barrel.



Does that qualify as "unconstrained"?

Unconstrained was probably not the right word. Don't really know how to call it. Especially when the discussion is about physics and the natural world, I think the concept of infinity should be handled with special care, with more specific mathematical detail than "improbable things become probable or even inevitable when there are infinite instances". Once infinity enters the reasoning I think we should walk on eggs. You can easily prove that 1 = 2 for instance by abusing infinity. I only wanted to warn against that. I have no problem with the statement that in an infinite multiverse there may be (much) more intelligent and complex living things than we (even in our own universe this is possible) But Godlike creatures that can actually create and control the physical laws of the universe is something else entirely, imo.
If some intelligence would succeed to create a universe in his own universe, the operation might just as well obligatory destroy the existing universe together with its creator. That seems just as speculative and unfounded as the possibility that intelligence could achieve Godlike status.
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Why insert an unnecessary complication?

It becomes a necessary complication if there is a reasonable likelihood for the evolution of an intelligence that can create universes and multiverses. That I think is where the debate lies. If the answer is yes, then it becomes a question of what came first, the multiverse that created God or the God that created the multiverse.

With respect to this debate, I'll note that MIT has already been trying to create universes for a while now: http://www.nytimes.com/1987/04/14/science/physicist-aims-to-...

BTW, this notion that infinity allows all things possible is a real and vexing problem in theoretical physics. Here is a PDF of a 2011 Sci-Am article on the issue. http://www.physics.princeton.edu/~steinh/0411036.pdf See Problem #3. The essence of the problem is that since anything that can happen does happen, how can science make testable predictions? In the multiverse, all possible outcomes occur.

It's an interesting read.
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Quick off the cuff response.

So if you equate the physical to its mathematical description then it's no surprise that on closer inspection you find only mathematical stuff.

The sequence is reversed. I read that physicists closely inspect the physical and find only mathematical stuff (i.e., the mathematics are sufficient to characterize everything known about the object). Therefore I find credence in the idea that the physical equals the mathematical stuff.

That's not circular.

the non-mathematical stuff are simply the things that we can observe and measure in the universe.

Observation and measurement are examples of physical interactions. We can readily construct programs where purely mathematical algorithms interact with each other. We can even do this in ways that accurately represent what is observed in the physical world. The rule of parsimony that someone else brought up would suggest serious consideration that maybe that's all there is.
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Isn't there an inherent limit in all things "possible"?

That's really the only point I've been trying to make.

I find the claim of "Norm" the creator of our universe a plausible event. I do not find god/s to be plausible until we have some genuine evidence that an intelligent agent can manipulate and operate outside the bounds of our physical laws.

I think Psalm 3:7 expresses my feelings best:

7 Arise, NORM!
Deliver me, my Norm!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.
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Because everything within our own universe is subject to the physical laws that apply here. Why would you "assume" otherwise?

I don't assume otherwise. I assume the possibility of the otherwise. I do so because there is no theoretical necessity (that I know of) why physical laws should be constant either between universes in a multiverse or even within a given universe. Furthermore, there is some provocative evidence that it might not be the case for our universe: http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/25673/

...is potential DNA information limitless? In the extreme, explain how a living organism could build a DNA strand larger than all the matter available in the universe.

It's not just how much info can be stored in DNA. It's also the quality of the information. I can see how DNA might be able to encode for more efficient higher order organization without having to make room for more information. I don't know how that relates to what you call "chemical limits", whatever that might mean.

I have a processor, I can do x. I have dual processors that work in parallel, I can do north or 2x.

Intelligence is determined not only by the amount of hardware. The quality of the "software" also counts. You might have hardware size limits, but I'm not sure why there should be similar limits on the software (i.e., the quality of the algorithms used to process information).

The rest of your post I don't understand.
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What is the probability wave (beyond a mathematical construct)? I don't believe we really know.

Sitting in my ivory tower I sometimes forget that what is "hot" in science may not be well known in the real world. Here is Sci-Am description of recent Nature paper. A bit "hyperbolic" (their word) but maybe not.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=quantum-the...

Title: Quantum Theory's 'Wavefunction' Found to Be Real Physical Entity.

If these guys are right, then the probability wave is not simply a description of a particle's behavior. It's a mathematical function that is a physical object.
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If these guys are right, then the probability wave is not simply a description of a particle's behavior. It's a mathematical function that is a physical object.

You people make my brain hurt.
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ermmm.... Haven't you just now shot down your own theory ?

centromere:
Look at it this way. Take anything physical and break it down to its component parts. What you eventually end up with is a freakin' probability wave. So here's the question for you (or NigelGlitter or 1poorguy or whomever), what non-mathematical "stuff" is that probability wave made of?

centromere:
Title: Quantum Theory's 'Wavefunction' Found to Be Real Physical Entity.
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Sitting in my ivory tower I sometimes forget that what is "hot" in science may not be well known in the real world. Here is Sci-Am description of recent Nature paper. A bit "hyperbolic" (their word) but maybe not.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=quantum-the......

Title: Quantum Theory's 'Wavefunction' Found to Be Real Physical Entity.

If these guys are right, then the probability wave is not simply a description of a particle's behavior. It's a mathematical function that is a physical object.


That's great, except it's not a Nature paper. The Scientific American story was a reprint of a Nature news story about a pre-print of a paper uploaded to the arXiv server. The math is way beyond what I have time to evaluate, but from their abstract, they've yet to find experimental evidence for their argument:

Here we show that, given only very mild assumptions, the statistical interpretation of the quantum state is inconsistent with the predictions of quantum theory. This result holds even in the presence of small amounts of experimental noise, and is therefore amenable to experimental test using present or near-future technology. If the predictions of quantum theory are confirmed, such a test would show that distinct quantum states must correspond to physically distinct states of reality.

To summarize: the paper does not appear to have been peer-reviewed yet and it only shows that it's possible that there will be an inconsistency. It may be a mathematical tour de force, but I'm not going to get too excited about it just yet.

-Anthony
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ermmm.... Haven't you just now shot down your own theory ?

Ha! That's interesting. My thinking was that the wave function is a probability distribution, which seems more like a mathematical construct than a physical particle. Thought it pretty cool that there might be a demonstration that such a construct has physical properties.

My brain is a bit twisted on this though, so I'm not really sure what it suggests (if anything) about the topic.

What's your thinking?
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That's great, except it's not a Nature paper. The Scientific American story was a reprint of a Nature news story about a pre-print of a paper uploaded to the arXiv server.

Thanks for clarifying. There were two articles I recalled reading a few months ago on the thread topic that had sensationalist commentary (somewhat rare in science). I was Googling around trying to find them. One is the paper in question that I misremembered as a Nature research paper and you correctly identified as only a News and Views.

The other is this New Scientist one (also about an arXiv paper) with the relevant title "Make way for mathematical matter" http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20927942.300-make-way-...

Again, this ain't in my field so I'll only say that if they are correct, it's pretty cool.
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But Godlike creatures that can actually create and control the physical laws of the universe is something else entirely, imo.

Just out of curiousity, but what is it about physical laws do you (and NigelGlitter, among others) find so sacrosanct?

Do you think they exist outside the physical universe (in some Platonic realm) and so cannot be touched by the physical? If not and are part of the physical universe, why can't they be influenced by the physical?
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Just out of curiousity, but what is it about physical laws do you (and NigelGlitter, among others) find so sacrosanct?

Do you think they exist outside the physical universe (in some Platonic realm) and so cannot be touched by the physical? If not and are part of the physical universe, why can't they be influenced by the physical?


If some rule thought of as a physical law can be changed via some method, then the rules governing that interaction would be the physical law instead of the rule previously thought of as a physical law.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_law
Several general properties of physical laws have been identified (see Davies (1992) and Feynman (1965) as noted, although each of the characterizations are not necessarily original to them). Physical laws are:

True, at least within their regime of validity. By definition, there have never been repeatable contradicting observations.
Universal. They appear to apply everywhere in the universe. (Davies, 1992:82)
Simple. They are typically expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation. (Davies)
Absolute. Nothing in the universe appears to affect them. (Davies, 1992:82)
Stable. Unchanged since first discovered (although they may have been shown to be approximations of more accurate laws—see "Laws as approximations" below),
Omnipotent. Everything in the universe apparently must comply with them (according to observations). (Davies, 1992:83)
Generally conservative of quantity. (Feynman, 1965:59)
Often expressions of existing homogeneities (symmetries) of space and time. (Feynman)
Typically theoretically reversible in time (if non-quantum), although time itself is irreversible. (Feynman)

(emphasis added by me)

If something we think of as a physical law changes then we're wrong about it being a physical law. The phrase is defined pretty well.
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Just out of curiousity, but what is it about physical laws do you (and NigelGlitter, among others) find so sacrosanct?

What Ben said.

What is different, to you, about physical laws, that makes them so easy to discount?

Do you think they exist outside the physical universe (in some Platonic realm) and so cannot be touched by the physical? If not and are part of the physical universe, why can't they be influenced by the physical?

They are the set of forces that govern how energy organizes itself. If the physical could influence then, molecules could spontaneously break down, you could float away into space, and a 500 million dollar turbine could spin away without producing any electricity.

So, how does a system based on pure chaos exist? What forces set a system into existence if no force is absolute within its own system?

Further, string theory is based on physical behaviors of energy. How does it predict the existence of something that is not based on energy? IOW, how does one get from a theory of the physical to one that is not based on anything physical?
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If something we think of as a physical law changes then we're wrong about it being a physical law.

Note that these "laws" are based solely on observation (nothing "appears" to affect them). They are laws only until they are violated and there is no underlying theory that I know of that tells us that they cannot be violated.

So the assumption that they cannot be changed is based mainly on the fact that we can't do it.

Or am I mis-stating?
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Just out of curiousity, but what is it about physical laws do you (and NigelGlitter, among others) find so sacrosanct?

You said earlier that mathematics is the universe, so this may help you understand.

Every formal mathematical system comes from a set of axioms together with some operations and rules that define what makes statements valid within the system. I can't think of any mathematical system where a theorem actually changes one of the axioms that define the system.

You could consider the laws of nature as something similar to the axioms in a mathematical system.
If number theory has the axiom "if a = b then b = a", there won't be a true statement within number theory that can change this.
The difference is that we perfectly know our mathematical axioms because we set them up ourselves. It 's not that clear for the laws of nature. Some that we think are fundamental may yet turn out not be so, but dependent on even more fundamental laws.
If a law of nature says that the laws of motion must be symmetric with time and you can violate that, then it was probably not a law of nature.
(Best not to do this, because that might also end your energy conservation law )
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So the assumption that they cannot be changed is based mainly on the fact that we can't do it.

Or am I mis-stating?


It's not an assumption. It's an understanding of what the phrase 'physical law' means. If it changes or can be changed, it's not a physical law. Ideally, over time, science will end up with less wrong ideas of what those physical laws are.

For example, relativity. We don't say that the physical laws governing force, mass, and acceleration can be changed by accelerating near c. We came up with a different understanding that is less wrong about the physical laws governing acceleration at all speeds.
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You could consider the laws of nature as something similar to the axioms in a mathematical system.

You seem to be saying that the laws of nature are sacrosanct to the extent that they resemble a formal mathematical system. That may be a strong argument to me but less so to you. Actually though it doesn't move me that much. The axioms of formal mathematical systems are inviolate because users of the systems impose the necessity of self-consistency. Not sure the universe is that way. What's a formal mathematical system's equivalent of a black hole singularity?

I can't think of any mathematical system where a theorem actually changes one of the axioms that define the system.

My bias is to think of reality as more like a computer program. I believe there are evolving intelligent systems where self-learning programs have the capacity to alter their code as they "evolve". Why not a universe structured along the same lines?
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It's an understanding of what the phrase 'physical law' means.

Got it. So the issue is whether there really are such things as physical laws as defined by Wiki and others.

So I amend my earlier question to now say why do folks here feel the laws of physics (which would seem to include those assumed to be physical laws) are sacrosanct?
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So I amend my earlier question to now say why do folks here feel the laws of physics (which would seem to include those assumed to be physical laws) are sacrosanct?

If the laws of physics refers to our best scientific understanding, they aren't sacrosanct. They get revised when they're wrong.
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If the laws of physics refers to our best scientific understanding, they aren't sacrosanct. They get revised when they're wrong.

Sorry, not making myself clear. There seems to be a lot of resistance here to the suggestion that an intelligence with sufficient technology could alter the laws of physics. My position is that if these laws are part of the physical universe, then they should be subject to manipulation. It's just a question knowing how. Many disagree indicating that for some reason these laws are out of reach from any physical influence. I just want to know reasoning behind this assumption.

Tarasicodissa gave a rationale based on formal mathematics, but since he doesn't support the mathematical universe idea, I think he's just humoring me. NigelGlitter posted something about physical laws keeping things from becoming chaotic, which may be true but not really relevant. You've focused on how the term "physical law" is defined, a good lesson in language but doesn't tell me much about why folks assume these laws are untouchable.
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My position is that if these laws are part of the physical universe, then they should be subject to manipulation. It's just a question knowing how.

But now we're back to semantics. If the physical universe is such that the patterns you're labeling as laws can be manipulated, they aren't physical laws. Physical laws, by definition, are patterns that never fail to hold.

We don't say that accelerating near c manipulates Newton's laws. We say that Newton's laws are not the physical laws of the universe - they have been falsified.
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Many disagree indicating that for some reason these laws are out of reach from any physical influence.

I agree with this. Some things are a part of how this universe works. You can't change them.

Only 1 fermion can occupy a single energy state. Ever. Even at absolute zero (where bosons would condense into the lowest energy level). A fermion will occupy its state by itself. You can never change that. It's a property of a fermion.
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My position is that if these laws are part of the physical universe, then they should be subject to manipulation. It's just a question knowing how.

If you know how to manipulate the laws, then you really just possess knowledge about a greater overarching set of laws. What you're calling the "laws" was just a special case of the greater set which only applied under certain conditions.
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Physical laws, by definition, are patterns that never fail to hold.

Then by that definition I think one would have to say that modern physics is at most agnostic about whether physical laws exist. Viable theories/hypotheses include a multiverse where each universe has a different set of laws, changes in the laws over time or space, and models for the creation of the laws by symmetry breaking shortly after the big bang.

And consider the naked singularity: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328474.500-naked-bla... "At a singularity, all our existing physical laws go out the window."
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If you know how to manipulate the laws, then you really just possess knowledge about a greater overarching set of laws.

benjd25 is insisting on a specific definition of what a physical law is, with the primary characteristic being that it is an Absolute. My point is that the assumption that any claimed physical law is absolute is just that, an assumption.

So sure, the pretend "laws" used to manipulate the current laws of physics would be considered higher in the hierarchy, but there is no guarantee that something even higher in the food chain won't come along.

Since we have no accepted theoretical foundation demonstrating the existence of absolute physical laws, I wonder why folks here accept the existence of such things with such confidence.
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Since we have no accepted theoretical foundation demonstrating the existence of absolute physical laws, I wonder why folks here accept the existence of such things with such confidence.

You mean why do I think it's a sure bet if I jump off a cliff I'll zip to the bottom below and flatten like a pancake even if gravity behaves differently in a black hole?

I accept that with such confidence because when I add salt to the ice water in the ice cream maker, the mixture stays fluid and doesn't freeze up, even though when I add the same water without salt to a tray and stick it in the freezer, it does.

I know, I know, you don't understand. I imagine a guy like you has never eaten ice cream and have no idea what I'm rambling on about.
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Then by that definition I think one would have to say that modern physics is at most agnostic about whether physical laws exist. Viable theories/hypotheses include a multiverse where each universe has a different set of laws, changes in the laws over time or space, and models for the creation of the laws by symmetry breaking shortly after the big bang.

The symmetry breaking proposed in the grand Unified Theories should not be considered a change in the fundamental laws of nature if I understand it correctly. The symmetries are still there, but they are not apparent in a single observation because of the state of the universe. A better term would be symmetry hiding instead of breaking.
(An analogy I once read to make this comprehensible was the spherical gravitational field of a mass. When a particle moves around it in a parabolic or elliptical orbit, the spherical symmetry of the force field is not observed, but it is there. The "breaking" is due to the initial conditions of relative position and velocity of the two bodies)
You could change the observed symmetry by contracting and heating the universe to a state like right after the big bang. So (if GUT is correct) manipulating this is in theory possible. But it's not a change in the fundamantal laws of the universe.
Yoru multiverse's fundamantal law seems to be something along the lines that every universe has a different set of laws. So that's what you would have to manipulate, e.g. by changing all the universes to one and the same set of laws. Does your multiverse allow that ?
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So that's what you would have to manipulate, e.g. by changing all the universes to one and the same set of laws.

As I "understand" it (understand here is used in its loosest form---more like "heard about somewhere"), the universe began with a singularity where the laws as we know them don't apply. The physicist Paul Davies said that what comes out of a singularity is unpredictable. Shortly after the Big Bang, symmetry spontaneously breaks down to produce the physical constants and, if you accept Tegmark's level-4 multiverse, the laws of physics. As far as anyone knows, this breakdown of symmetry is random, which if you accept string theory means that the physical constants and laws are randomly set. Hence, multiple universes have their own unique laws and constants.

So, all you would need is a sufficiently advanced technology that can create a singularity, induce a big bang, and direct the breakdown of symmetry to design a universe.

Now there is also evidence that one of the fundamental physical constants presumably set by symmetry breakdown, the fine structure constant, might vary across the universe. If this is the case, then it suggests that this constant can be influenced by physical factors. And since both the constant and the laws arise from the same source, perhaps the latter can be influenced as well.
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I know, I know, you don't understand. I imagine a guy like you has never eaten ice cream and have no idea what I'm rambling on about.

Pretty much, though I like ice cream. Mainly I don't understand what your posts have to do with the issue at hand. You seem to be addressing a different thread.

Certainly the laws of physics accurately describe what we see in the world and make physical events predictable. But what does that have to do with the question of whether those laws are potentially malleable?
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As I "understand" it (understand here is used in its loosest form---more like "heard about somewhere"), the universe began with a singularity where the laws as we know them don't apply.

Also as I understand it, that hasn't been thought true since inflation was first accepted.

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/04/did_the_univ...
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But what does that have to do with the question of whether those laws are potentially malleable?

I don't think they are. My point was that physical properties can appear to change due to all kinds of various influences, but deep down on some level, there is a set of forces that explains everything, and why physical properties behave the way they do in each circumstance. We just haven't figured it out yet.
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Also as I understand it, that hasn't been thought true since inflation was first accepted.

My fault for being glib. It is certainly possible that quantum gravity or something of that sort will explain away the singularity observed when extrapolating relativity theory to pre-Big Bang. Once conjecture gets to the point of wondering what "happened" before time was created, my brain stops working.

Nevertheless, I believe inflation theory still asserts that the physical constants and laws are formed in the moments post-Big Bang. I know of no linkage between initial conditions and what specific laws/constants are formed.
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My point was that physical properties can appear to change due to all kinds of various influences, but deep down on some level, there is a set of forces that explains everything, and why physical properties behave the way they do in each circumstance. We just haven't figured it out yet.

Yes, you've made your opinion very clear. You have personal experiences with these physical properties and from that you extrapolate as being necessarily true that these properties reflect laws that are absolute.

I was looking for reasoning that was a bit more objective.

Take a close look at what you are suggesting. You argue for "a set of forces that explains everything" in the physical world yet cannot be affected by the physical world.

That really sounds very similar to what a lot of people call "God".
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Take a close look at what you are suggesting. You argue for "a set of forces that explains everything" in the physical world yet cannot be affected by the physical world.

That really sounds very similar to what a lot of people call "God".


Really? It doesn't seem that way to me, unless you think that these laws are a person with will and intelligence. They may be powerful and ubiquitous, sure.. and gravity is powerful and ubiquitous (on the surface of the Earth), but it's not a person.
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Really? It doesn't seem that way to me, unless you think that these laws are a person with will and intelligence. They may be powerful and ubiquitous, sure.. and gravity is powerful and ubiquitous (on the surface of the Earth), but it's not a person.

Not all conceptions of God require "personhood". Let's take a closer look at what NigelGlitter is suggesting.

He proposes an unknown "set of forces" that lie outside the physical universe (transcendent), yet is a part of everything in the physical universe (immanent), and is unchanging (immutable). Transcendence, immanence, and immutability are all Divine qualities.

We can take this further by noting that this "set of forces" initiated the Big Bang (evidence of will?) and produced a universe that is both rational to the point of mathematical rigor (evidence of intelligence?) and expresses one of the very few combinations of physical constants that are compatible with the creation of life (evidence of purpose?).

That's better than most of the arguments you see in Answers in Genesis.
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He proposes an unknown "set of forces" that lie outside the physical universe (transcendent), yet is a part of everything in the physical universe (immanent), and is unchanging (immutable).

I never stated nor suggested they lie outside the universe. The physical laws are an integral part of our universe. If there is an mverse, there is a set of physical laws that are an integral part of that, the definition of universe changes, and our little piece of the pie is a subset. I'm not aware of any physics theory or hypothesis that sees the physical forces that dictate and shape our universe as being the result of anything but the big bang itself.

We can take this further by noting that this "set of forces" initiated the Big Bang (evidence of will?) and produced a universe that is both rational to the point of mathematical rigor (evidence of intelligence?)

Yes, like the perfect ball shaped area of an explosion is evidence of will. Look, see that pattern? Only an intelligence can make a pattern, nature can't.
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The physical laws are an integral part of our universe.

If the laws are physical, how can they not be affected or changed by the physical? Why do you insist that a sufficiently advanced technology could not alter those laws?

Only an intelligence can make a pattern, nature can't.

The argument is more along the lines of why is it that nature makes patterns that reflect abstract mathematical structures?

You just said: "I'm not aware of any physics theory or hypothesis that sees the physical forces that dictate and shape our universe as being the result of anything but the big bang itself." So the laws are a product of the big bang. OK, in the absence of pre-existing law, why would the big bang produce a rational universe?

Is it likely that chance alone in the absence of law can produce mathematical consistency?
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Why do you insist that a sufficiently advanced technology could not alter those laws?

Because technology is constrained by those laws.
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The argument is more along the lines of why is it that nature makes patterns that reflect abstract mathematical structures?

Are you suggesting that abstract mathematical structures didn't begin as our reflections of what we saw in nature?

Are you suggesting that all of our abstract mathematical patterns are reflected in nature?

If you want to see a wave, sit on the beach. If you want to see a sphere, look at the moon. Angles, triangles, all there long before abstract math came along.

OK, in the absence of pre-existing law, why would the big bang produce a rational universe?

Why wouldn't it? Like I asked before and you never answered, what kind of universe do you think would be produced in the absence of physical laws that defined how energy interacted, and who would be there to contemplate them?

Is it likely that chance alone in the absence of law can produce mathematical consistency?

It's the same argument put forth to discredit abiogenesis. And yet given the evidence we have, if in all the 13.5+ billion years of the universe, physical forces allowed for the spontaneous generation of life once and only once, it's still a more likely cause than a supernatural agent poofed life into existence.
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...what kind of universe do you think would be produced in the absence of physical laws that defined how energy interacted, ...

Given that a universe is composed of matter and energy, it seems a tautology that the physical laws of that universe would have to govern matter and energy. Anything else would be nonsensical.
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Are you suggesting that abstract mathematical structures didn't begin as our reflections of what we saw in nature?

Yup. A bit obvious since I've been advocating the mathematical universe idea for a while now.

Are you suggesting that all of our abstract mathematical patterns are reflected in nature?

Nope. Already answered this several posts ago.

Like I asked before and you never answered, what kind of universe do you think would be produced in the absence of physical laws that defined how energy interacted, and who would be there to contemplate them?

Beats me. I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be here though. So the fact we are here suggests the existence of laws that pre-date the big bang and our physical universe. Suggests transcendence.

It's the same argument put forth to discredit abiogenesis.

It's not. Abiogenesis occurred in a rational universe. No problem getting rationality from rationality. The question is in what context did our rational universe occur.

Again, you stated the laws came about after the big bang. So why would a big bang unconstrained by laws produce laws?
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Because technology is constrained by those laws.

You assume the laws are absolute. Cart before the horse.

If the laws are physical, they should be affected by the physical. You know, action = reaction sorta thing. If they are absolute, then they would have to be transcendent I think.

I used to think the laws were an intrinsic property of matter, i.e, if matter exists then it has to behave in a certain way or it wouldn't be matter. But since physicists think it is plausible that the multiverse can have many different physical laws, that's apparently not true.
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You assume the laws are absolute. Cart before the horse.

Sort of. Would you agree that there must be some underlying set of rules that govern the behavior of this universe? Even if we don't know them all yet (e.g. maybe we can go faster than 'c', but just haven't figured it out)?
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So why would a big bang unconstrained by laws produce laws?

We do not know that the big bang was unconstrained. At least I am not aware of any such data.
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Yup. A bit obvious since I've been advocating the mathematical universe idea for a while now.

I would substitute obtuse for obvious, but it wouldn't be a day at TMF with some kind of ball busting going on.

The shapes predate us, so you lose me with your fancy logic. We see 'em, we describe them. We abstract them. We even imagine a whole bunch that aren't found in nature.

Abiogenesis occurred in a rational universe. No problem getting rationality from rationality. The question is in what context did our rational universe occur.

Rational? What is rational about nature? Rational is a human based concept, and you're anthropomorphizing. There's nothing rational about water flowing downhill or us comfortably being able to cling to the surface of Earth without fear off zipping off into space. If we were able to exist under a different set of rules, they'd appear just as rational to a thinking being, so you lose me.

So why would a big bang unconstrained by laws produce laws?

That's the big question, and here's my stab at it. Energy has properties that dictate its behavior. Those properties are what create the mverse in the first place. For example, in this universe, gravity can't work right unless most of it slips off to another universe that operates with a need for more gravity. All those other universes are necessary for any to exist, a chain reaction of events, with each dependent on the other to either send or take some of the properties so that each is stable.

Let the ridicule begin.
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Would you agree that there must be some underlying set of rules that govern the behavior of this universe?

Sure. I've always believed there are rules/laws. The issue is whether these laws are absolute or not.

What string theory seems to be suggesting is that at the origin of things, a near infinite variety of laws are possible. The specific laws for any universe are formed as that universe develops. That means that the specific laws arise from physical processes. If so, then by understanding those processes it should be possible to create or alter laws at will. Given that and the infinite opportunity provided by the multiverse...well go back to my original post.

But NigelGlitter and others think I'm crazy, that these laws are unchanging and unchangeable. I'm trying to get them to tell me why. Seems to me that position requires transcendence, which gets you to either Plato or God and possibly both.

To avoid transcendence, NigelGlitter says the laws are physical and arise out of the big bang. He also says that in the absence of laws one gets chaos. Put these together and it means that at the initiation of the big bang itself, there are no laws and chaos reigns. Which leaves the obvious question of how does a chaotic event produce laws?

And that's where we are at the moment.
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Sure. I've always believed there are rules/laws. The issue is whether these laws are absolute or not.

What string theory seems to be suggesting is that at the origin of things, a near infinite variety of laws are possible. The specific laws for any universe are formed as that universe develops. That means that the specific laws arise from physical processes. If so, then by understanding those processes it should be possible to create or alter laws at will. Given that and the infinite opportunity provided by the multiverse...well go back to my original post.

But NigelGlitter and others think I'm crazy, that these laws are unchanging and unchangeable. I'm trying to get them to tell me why. Seems to me that position requires transcendence, which gets you to either Plato or God and possibly both.

To avoid transcendence, NigelGlitter says the laws are physical and arise out of the big bang. He also says that in the absence of laws one gets chaos. Put these together and it means that at the initiation of the big bang itself, there are no laws and chaos reigns. Which leaves the obvious question of how does a chaotic event produce laws?

And that's where we are at the moment.




To my understanding, the thing in bold seems to state that every manipulation will be constrained by the basic laws of string theory. So there you have your fundamantal laws. You can only manipulate those parameters that string theory allows you to. Basically we seem to be saying the same thing.

Much of the fundamental laws concern symmetries. Are symmetries physical or math ? They're both of course but it looks like symmetries would exist in nature even without math. Symmetry of shape and form obviously, but also less obvious ones, like having 2 identical red balls on a table and if you close your eyes 2 seconds you will never be able to tell if I swapped the balls or not.
These simple natural everyday occurances have huge consequences on the mathematics of natural laws and (if the standard model is to be believed) They determine the forces and matter in the universe.
So could a very very high intelligent intelligence see the difference between two identical balls ? Wouldn't that mean that in that case they are NOT identical ? These are the kinds of things that may be beyond control of anything physical.
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I've always believed there are rules/laws. The issue is whether these laws are absolute or not.

If (whatever set of rules we're talking about) are not absolute, you are left with 2 possibilities:

1. There is another set of rules that governs how these rules can be affected. If X happens, rule Y is modified in a certain way.

2. There is no other set of rules governing how the rules change. It is entirely random.

If it is 1, then the other set of rules would be the absolute ones. If it is 2, then there are no absolute ones and no way for intelligence to manipulate the rules.
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But NigelGlitter and others think I'm crazy

I was going to object, but I had to stop when I formed my mental picture of you. I always see you with a beet red face and a vein bulging out of your temple.
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It becomes a necessary complication if there is a reasonable likelihood for the evolution of an intelligence that can create universes and multiverses. That I think is where the debate lies. If the answer is yes, then it becomes a question of what came first, the multiverse that created God or the God that created the multiverse.

I'm not following how you're getting from point A to point B. Your model suggests that you could have a series of events: multiverse A produces god B which then produces multiverse C which produces god D who creates multiverse E which produces god F, etc., etc., etc. Actually, it's worse. Multiverse A creates an infinite number of gods B(n) which produce an infinite number of multiverses C(n) which spawn gods D(n), etc. So, which god and which multiverse are you talking about?

In a similar vein, just because multiverses can create gods and vice versa, there's nothing in you model that explicitly places a god before our particular multiverse.

You talk about "the evolution of an intelligence". If an intelligence is evolving, it seems reasonable that it must be evolving somewhere, and we would describe that somewhere as a universe/multiverse. It would be difficult for that intelligence, then, to precede a universe/multiverse.

-Anthony
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The specific laws for any universe are formed as that universe develops. That means that the specific laws arise from physical processes.

I disagree with this. My degree is quite stale now, but Grand Unified Theories proceed from the assumption that moments after the Big Bang there was ONE force. In effect, one law. As the universe expanded and cooled the forces "split up" into the four we accept today. By reunifying them the hope is to learn more about the Big Bang itself.

I do not read that as being the same as the laws arising from physical processes. On the contrary, they governed them from the moment of Event One.
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...every manipulation will be constrained by the basic laws of string theory. So there you have your fundamantal laws...

But what "constraints" are there at the beginning of things? Look at what the current thinking of these "fundamental laws" allow. At the very first quantum event you have the "many worlds" phenomenon where all possible quantum outcomes occur and exist in parallel worlds. And you have a string theory that suggests a near infinite variety of possible universes are equally possible. That's pretty close to "anything goes" lawlessness.

It appears that the end result of whatever fundamental laws govern the initiation of the big bang is infinite potentiality.

IMO there must be some process that leads from this initial uncertainty to the specific laws associated with each universe. Understand that process and one can specify the laws.
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If it is 2, then there are no absolute ones and no way for intelligence to manipulate the rules.

Don't see why. If random rules are allowed then so are arbitrary ones. Such as those imposed by an intelligence.
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I'm not following how you're getting from point A to point B.

Only that if A can cause B and B can cause A then there is the potential for circularity. But I'm not pressing the point. This whole thing is so speculative that it is difficult to argue the details.
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The shapes predate us, so you lose me with your fancy logic. We see 'em, we describe them. We abstract them. We even imagine a whole bunch that aren't found in nature.

The alternative is that we create abstract structures in our heads and apply them to what we see in nature. Here is a possible example:

Aristotle and a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar. Rabbi says to Aristotle while drawing on a napkin: "Hey look, if you go the same distance in all directions from a point you get a circle. That's so cool it must be Hole-ly!" Priest and rabbi laugh at pun. Priest speculates: "I wonder if the movements of the stars can be explained by circles..."

Rational? What is rational about nature?

Most consider mathematics a rational system. To the extent that nature is mathematically consistent and mathematically predictable, it can be said to be rational.

Let the ridicule begin.

No need really. Your posts are adequate.
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Most consider mathematics a rational system.

Pi is irrational. So is 'e'.

:-)
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