Re: The NABT controversy

George Andrews (andrewsg@letu.edu)
Tue, 17 Feb 1998 16:17:27 -0600

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Christopher Morbey wrote:

> Moorad Alexanian wrote:
>
> > Dear Loren,
> >
> > In quantum mechanics there is a dynamical theory that indicates the possible
> > outcomes of given experimental measurements and the associated probabilities
> > for such outcomes. Can someone tell me what is the dynamical theory that tells
> > us what are the possible outcomes and the associated probabilities in
> > evolutionary theory? Any theory that uses the notion of randomness must makes
> > such issues clear; otherwise, it is not a scientific theory and are mere
> > words--on the same status as Genesis vis a vis the question of origins.
> >
>
> Dear Moorad:
>
> You have put your finger on an interesting point.
>
> The greatest part of my whole scientific career has been making models of
> astronomical or astrophysical processes, then comparing how observations fit
> these models. Even though I don't do those sorts of things now I can't help but
> think back to what I actually did. In every case I was interested in showing how
> much the observations were different from random. In fact, most of the science
> with which I am familiar tries to extract what is not random out of the
> observations. We calculate significance levels based on certain hypotheses,
> always hoping to convey a quantitative estimate of how much our observations
> differ from that which is random or that which has no deterministic influence.
> What is deemed to be random is deemed to convey no information.

I believe a word of caution is needed here. The ubiquitous Monte Carlo technique of
simulation, based as it is upon assumed randomness, affords tractability to
otherwise intractable physical models. Hence, randomness ought not to be considered
as necessarily adverse to or even devoid of information. In fact, it is the
assumption of randomness inherent in nature that provides cognition to the quantum
theory via the Copenhagen interpretation. Hence, it provides the most
comprehensible - therefore positively informative - point of view. Statistical
mechanics provides another example, for it was Gibb's genius in introducing the
statistical ensemble approach - with its a priori assumption of equally probable
states - that afforded thermodynamics its theoretical grounding. Additionally,
modern complexity theory provides the next logical step in attempting to
reformulate the foundational laws of nature to include irreversibility. Thus,
randomness (at least its assumption) is actually an integral part to our modern
understanding of nature providing us with a wealth of information.

>
>
> There is some irony to be pointed out. Some scientists spend their livelihood
> trying to diminish the randomness that confounds their observations. They want
> to show that their data are worth something, that their conclusions have some
> authority. Other scientists, or even the same ones will go to extreme lengths to
> prove that science over eons can only proceed by means of purposeless and random
> mechanism. It's quite odd, I think.

Again, it is the creative tension between physical law and random fluctuations
that make the complexity paradigm so attractive; it explains how observed "trends"
in the data can result from the inherently intractable interactions affecting
randomness.

>
>
> Then there are those who claim that philosophical and religious statements are
> irrevelent to actual scientific theory. They forget that the very words they
> speak or statements they write are based on basic assumptions of information
> transfer and understanding.

While I would agree that we all are products of our times, and even with
Dooyeweerd's assertion that all theoretical thought is inherently religious due to
the human condition, I again feel the need for caution. To some degree or at some
point religious statements are irrelevant to actual scientific theory. For example,
can we imagine any scientific theory or procedure that would produce or even
corroborate such notions as redemption, the existence of Nirvana, or Israel's
election?

>
>
> I would LOVE to read about significance tests with respect to "evolutionary"
> randomness. Imagine. Trying to extract something random out of the confusing
> perfections conjured in a perfect mind! This is the stuff of comedy or
> balderdash.
>
> Christopher Morbey

While I do not know what "evolutionary randomness" is, I suspect you mean random
mutations. Complexity notions of random fluctuations (mutations) exploring (at
least but probably actual) infinite sequence or state space, only to be "selected"
via self organization and reproduction (autocatalysis), in fact not only afford
explanation for evolutionary concepts, but provide - at least the beginnings of -
a foundational mathematical formulation for its dynamics.

Besides, randomness is scriptural.

Take care.

George A.

--
George Andrews Jr.
Assistant Professor of Physics
LeTourneau University
andrewsg@letu.edu

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Christopher Morbey wrote:

Moorad Alexanian wrote:

> Dear Loren,
>
> In quantum mechanics there is a dynamical theory that indicates the possible
> outcomes of given experimental measurements and the associated probabilities
> for such outcomes. Can someone tell me what is the dynamical theory that tells
> us what are the possible outcomes and the associated probabilities in
> evolutionary theory? Any theory that uses the notion of randomness must makes
> such issues clear; otherwise, it is not a scientific theory and are mere
> words--on the same status as Genesis vis a vis the question of origins.
>

  Dear Moorad:

You have put your finger on an interesting point.

The greatest part of my whole scientific career has been making models of
astronomical or astrophysical processes, then comparing how observations fit
these models. Even though I don't do those sorts of things now I can't help but
think back to what I actually did. In every case I was interested in showing how
much the observations were different from random. In fact, most of the science
with which I am familiar tries to extract what is not random out of the
observations. We calculate significance levels based on certain hypotheses,
always hoping to convey a quantitative estimate of how much our observations
differ from that which is random or that which has no deterministic influence.
What is deemed to be random is deemed to convey no information.

I believe a word of caution is needed here. The ubiquitous Monte Carlo technique of simulation, based as it is upon assumed randomness, affords tractability to otherwise intractable physical models. Hence, randomness ought not to be considered as necessarily adverse to or even devoid of information. In fact, it is the assumption of randomness inherent in nature that provides cognition to the quantum theory via the Copenhagen interpretation. Hence, it provides the most comprehensible - therefore positively informative - point of view. Statistical mechanics provides another example, for it was Gibb's genius in introducing the statistical ensemble approach - with its a priori assumption of equally probable states - that afforded thermodynamics its theoretical grounding. Additionally, modern complexity theory provides the next logical step in attempting to reformulate the foundational laws of nature to include irreversibility. Thus, randomness (at least its assumption) is actually an integral part to our modern understanding of nature providing us with a wealth of information.
 

There is some irony to be pointed out. Some scientists spend their livelihood
trying to diminish the randomness that confounds their observations. They want
to show that their data are worth something, that their conclusions have some
authority. Other scientists, or even the same ones will go to extreme lengths to
prove that science over eons can only proceed by means of purposeless and random
mechanism. It's quite odd, I think.

Again, it is the creative tension between  physical law and random fluctuations that make the complexity paradigm so attractive; it explains how observed "trends" in the data  can result from the inherently intractable interactions affecting randomness.
 

Then there are those who claim that philosophical and religious statements are
irrevelent to actual scientific theory. They forget that the very words they
speak or statements they write are based on basic assumptions of information
transfer and understanding.

While I would agree that we all are products of our times, and even with Dooyeweerd's assertion that all theoretical thought is inherently religious due to the human condition, I again feel the need for caution. To some degree or at some point religious statements are irrelevant to actual scientific theory. For example, can we imagine any scientific theory or procedure that would produce or even corroborate such notions as redemption, the existence of Nirvana, or Israel's election?
 

I would LOVE to read about significance tests with respect to "evolutionary"
randomness. Imagine. Trying to extract something random out of the confusing
perfections conjured in a perfect mind! This is the stuff of comedy or
balderdash.

Christopher Morbey

 While I do not know what "evolutionary randomness" is, I suspect you mean random mutations. Complexity notions of random fluctuations (mutations) exploring (at least but probably actual) infinite sequence or state space, only to be "selected" via self organization and reproduction (autocatalysis), in fact not only afford  explanation  for evolutionary concepts, but provide - at least the beginnings of - a foundational mathematical formulation for its dynamics.

Besides, randomness is scriptural.

Take care.

George A.

-- 
George Andrews Jr.
Assistant Professor of Physics
LeTourneau University
andrewsg@letu.edu
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