Can random, unguided processes produce a rational brain?

97
1
I am fascinated by Einstein’s quote that the most unbelievable aspect of the universe was that it was intelligible. So my question is does anyone know whether it is so unlikely as to be absurd to suppose that random unguided processes could produce a rational brain in man in as little as 3 billion years. So that our rational brain can understand patterns, order and rules in a Universe that was also produced by random unguided processes? I know the story of monkeys pounding on keyboards for an infinite amount of time will produce all of Shakespeare works, but that is just a fact based on the special case of infinity. As our Universe has a beginning we can’t get away with arguing, given enough time anything could happen, including the evolution of order and intelligibility from randomness. Have computer models been built that take random inputs and yield rational outputs?
 

.Scott

Homework Helper
2,292
763
The key is reproduction within the biosphere. It wasn't necessary to go from seawater to Einstein in one shot. Each time something was able to reproduce is a more robust manner, it set a new standard. So the process was very guided - not specifically towards IQ, but towards adaptability and competitiveness.
 

russ_watters

Mentor
18,583
4,817
So my question is does anyone know whether it is so unlikely as to be absurd to suppose that random unguided processes could produce a rational brain in man in as little as 3 billion years.
Who says evolution is random/unguided?
 

WWGD

Science Advisor
Gold Member
4,204
1,759
Who says the brain/mind is rational? Maybe pseudo/quasi rational at best.
 

Drakkith

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
2018 Award
20,521
4,222
So my question is does anyone know whether it is so unlikely as to be absurd to suppose that random unguided processes could produce a rational brain in man in as little as 3 billion years. So that our rational brain can understand patterns, order and rules in a Universe that was also produced by random unguided processes?
Evolution consists of many different things, some of which are random and unguided, but some of which are not. For example, the chance that a mutation will happen at any particular nucleotide is completely random, but natural selection is certainly not random or unguided.
 

DaveC426913

Gold Member
18,062
1,640
Let's start small. And very, very early.

Oxygen atoms are strongly electro-negative. They will tend to snare any passing hydrogen ions - because they are positive and form water.

When this happens on the scale of huge star-spanning volumes, you get molecular water clouds.

Would you consider this reaction - and its outcome - to be random and unguided?
 
97
1
The basic question I’m asking, and it applies to both the universe and the brain, is how can persistent rational order (not a temporary aberration) arise out of a random process?
 

.Scott

Homework Helper
2,292
763
The basic question I’m asking, and it applies to both the universe and the brain, is how can persistent rational order (not a temporary aberration) arise out of a random process?
I wouldn't focus on the "rational" part. That's just a means to an end.

And although there are "random" elements of the universe, there is also physical laws that apply consistently throughout the universe.

So how can persistent order (rational or otherwise) arise from random arrangements in a universe with very consistent laws?
Of course, we have a story for that. Different types of stars formed, exploded, created new stars and planetary systems. All very orderly.
On planets such as ours, we have wind, seas, and land. Have you ever visited the coast and watched the waves come in. There are very persistent patterns - with random components.

Chemistry is based on an orderliness that arises from how atoms are formed. An given the physics of the universe, atoms were bound to form.

So there were lots of persistent patterns that formed well before life. In fact, if there is ever a mystery, it is not how we got from life to rational life - but how we got to life at all. But we obviously did.
 

BillTre

Science Advisor
Gold Member
2018 Award
1,069
1,653
the most unbelievable aspect of the universe was that it was intelligible.
The basic question I’m asking, and it applies to both the universe and the brain, is how can persistent rational order (not a temporary aberration) arise out of a random process?
The brain is the result of a biological process.
As such, its structure and function is largely determined by natural selection.
Natural selection works by selecting those variants that best fit the environmental conditions in which it finds itself.
Selection filters out variants that are not in synch with what goes on around it in the natural world.
Thus when it comes to understanding the universe around us, those aspects that are most similar to the conditions in which the human brain arose (unless there are physical difficulties in producing the required functions) would be expected to be understandable.

arise out of a random process?
You are continuing the wonder about why this can arise out of a random process. As stated above several times (both directly and indirectly), the randomness in the process of evolution resides (predominately) in the mutational process which creates the variability.
The variability is needed for evolution to select changes, but it is filtered by selection to give a non-random (but often very difficult to predict) result which comports well with the environment in which it evolved.

This synergy between evolved biological entities and their environment could possibly break down as we are able to explore aspects of nature which were not involved in the selection of the biological entities' structures and functions. Quantum mechanics may be such an example, however, it seems that the mathematics that your brains have come up with has so far been largely up to the task.

If we had evolved in other situations, where the basic physical laws were drastically different, our understandings of things might also be quite different.
 
Last edited:

russ_watters

Mentor
18,583
4,817
The basic question I’m asking, and it applies to both the universe and the brain, is how can persistent rational order (not a temporary aberration) arise out of a random process?
It can't. But since we know the driving mechanism of evolution (natural selection) isn't random, the question is based on a false assumption.
 
259
486
Anyway in the MWI no "natural selection" ever makes sense, as all the "evolutions" keep existing.
 

DaveC426913

Gold Member
18,062
1,640
The basic question I’m asking, and it applies to both the universe and the brain, is how can persistent rational order (not a temporary aberration) arise out of a random process?
You didn't like my oxygen-and-hydrogen-to-water example?
 
8
1
The basic question I’m asking, and it applies to both the universe and the brain, is how can persistent rational order (not a temporary aberration) arise out of a random process?
I think you're abusing terms such as "persistent", "rational" and "random". Organic chemistry had been proven multible times to spontaniously arise from inorganic processes, and both have favoured routes of dissipating available energy. All of this is already rational, not particularly random and, in the face of Heat Death, not particularly persistent either.
 

BillTre

Science Advisor
Gold Member
2018 Award
1,069
1,653
Anyway in the MWI no "natural selection" ever makes sense, as all the "evolutions" keep existing.
Actually, plenty of the "evolutions" go extinct.
 
474
288
Perhaps, these are not so random or unguided processes as we might think. Monkeys pounding on keyboards will almost surely type everything there is to type. Key word: almost surely. It's not a story, either, but a quick verification with pen and paper or chalk and board or however you roll.

The premises and the formulation are ambiguous, unfortunately, I don't see anything specific coming out if this keeps up.

Are you alluding to the 'why' of these processes? Are you looking for an invisible hand 'guiding' said processes?
 
97
1
It can't. But since we know the driving mechanism of evolution (natural selection) isn't random, the question is based on a false assumption.
It may be true that evolution on earth, guided by natural selection, led to intelligence, but what is the corollary to natural selection in the universe that led to intelligibility of the cosmos?
 
154
121
It may be true that evolution on earth, guided by natural selection, led to intelligence, but what is the corollary to natural selection in the universe that led to intelligibility of the cosmos?
If I were to be pedantic, I would say:
Intelligibility is defined as the state or quality of being capable of being understood or comprehended. Everything that is understood or comprehended is understood or comprehended by intelligence. Intelligence, which as above, was brought about by natural selection, thus: The corollary to natural selection you are asking for is natural selection.​

I don't think that was the spirit of your question, though.
If you're asking why the universe is the way that it is, I can only point you to those laws of physics which we have comprehended. If you ask why those laws and not others, I'd refer you to someone more knowledgeable than me.

So, what are you really asking?
 

russ_watters

Mentor
18,583
4,817
It may be true that evolution on earth, guided by natural selection, led to intelligence, but what is the corollary to natural selection in the universe that led to intelligibility of the cosmos?
Wow, that's a totally different direction, and it makes no sense to me. Evolution is a biological process/theory. Any analogue in other processes may exist, but need not work the same. As far as I can tell, there is no "natural selection in the universe". If you are asking how/why the laws of the universe are logically consistent, there is no answer we can really know. Maybe God did it. Maybe internally consistent laws were all that could produce a functioning universe (that's a how, not a why). But this has nothing to do with evolution. These laws don't evolve.
 
154
121
The basic question I’m asking, and it applies to both the universe and the brain, is how can persistent rational order (not a temporary aberration) arise out of a random process?
Let's try this: What would you give as an example of persistent rational order in the universe?
 
97
1
Perhaps I’ve taken this too far. Persistent rational order in the universe starts with the fact that there are laws, vs. no law or order, which would seem to be the more likely state. The fact that humans have the type of intelligence to perceive those laws seems like another unlikely state, albeit one that evolved under different selection pressures. I fall back on my original quote from Einstein in which he remarked how the greatest surprise he found was that the universe was intelligible. I also find it surprising.
 
12
4
Firrst we would have to define rational and then prove that randomness cannot generate "rational" proccesses. And who said that brain is rational?:)
 

DaveC426913

Gold Member
18,062
1,640
Persistent rational order in the universe starts with the fact that there are laws, vs. no law or order, which would seem to be the more likely state.
No. The universe doesn't start with the laws; laws are derived. The universe starts with the fact that it is quite simple in its construction.

What you are calling "laws" is nothing more than a limited set of objects (such as protons, electrons, photons) - each boringly the same as its identical twins.
Every proton behaves - quite unimaginatively - exactly like every other proton, all over the universe. Same with other entities.

This is a strong sign that the universe is very simple in its fundamental construction and behavior - a far more plausible state.

Look at it the other way around: In order for the universe to be "lawless", there would have to be a plethora of objects - all doing their own unique thing. That is the implausible state.

Example:
If you go to make the world's biggest LEGO town, but you only have two types of blocks to build with - say 2x3s and 2x4s - well - your town is going to look like it was designed with strict laws on what houses can look like. Laws are: 90 degree angles only, bricks only stay together in as many ways as there are knobs, etc.

Laws aren't a sign of an ordered city; they're a sign of a simple toolbox.
 
Last edited:

BWV

430
326
While the physics is simple, biology is not. We really have no clue about how cognition and consciousness works, let alone why it exists. It may be an area forever beyond the reach of science because we biologically lack the cognition to cogitate our cognition
 
12
4
Ironically enough cogitating our cognition might be the same as measuring quantum phenomena. The measurement interferes with the event therefore its "actuality" cannot be known.
 
12
4
quote:Look at it the other way around: In order for the universe to be "lawless", there would have to be a plethora of objects - all doing their own unique thing. That is the implausible state.

comment: each object exists in its own frame of reference doing its own thing if i understand correctly. No two electrons are in exactly the same state -if only considering spatial distribution and not the spin and path of spin.
 

Want to reply to this thread?

"Can random, unguided processes produce a rational brain?" You must log in or register to reply here.

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving

Hot Threads

Top