Can random, unguided processes produce a rational brain?

In summary: So 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?It is possible, but I don't think it is very likely.
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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?
 
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  • #2
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.
 
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  • #3
rasp said:
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?
 
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  • #4
Who says the brain/mind is rational? Maybe pseudo/quasi rational at best.
 
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  • #5
rasp said:
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.
 
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  • #6
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?
 
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  • #7
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?
 
  • #8
rasp said:
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.
 
  • #9
rasp said:
the most unbelievable aspect of the universe was that it was intelligible.
rasp said:
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.

rasp said:
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.
 
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  • #10
rasp said:
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.
 
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  • #11
Anyway in the MWI no "natural selection" ever makes sense, as all the "evolutions" keep existing.
 
  • #12
rasp said:
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?
 
  • #13
rasp said:
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.
 
  • #14
AlexCaledin said:
Anyway in the MWI no "natural selection" ever makes sense, as all the "evolutions" keep existing.
Actually, plenty of the "evolutions" go extinct.
 
  • #15
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?
 
  • #16
russ_watters said:
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?
 
  • #17
rasp said:
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?
 
  • #18
rasp said:
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.
 
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  • #19
rasp said:
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?
 
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  • #20
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.
 
  • #21
Firrst we would have to define rational and then prove that randomness cannot generate "rational" processes. And who said that brain is rational?:)
 
  • #22
rasp said:
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.
 
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  • #23
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
 
  • #24
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.
 
  • #25
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.
 
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  • #26
rasp said:
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.
You could apply the anthropic principle: if the universe weren't orderly (based on consistent laws), we couldn't be here to see it! Given that, it should be totally unsurprising that the universe is that way.
 
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  • #27
DaveC426913 said:
No. The universe doesn't start with the laws; laws are derived.
I believe the OP is referring to the "laws" as being the actual operating principles of the universe. The order that has been there since the universe was created. Not the man-made attempts to determine how the universe operates.
 
  • #28
russ_watters said:
I believe the OP is referring to the "laws" as being the actual operating principles of the universe. The order that has been there since the universe was created.
Of course. o_O That's what I'm talking about too.

The "law of gravity" isn't some grand, self-organizing cosmic principle - it's simply particles - untold numbers of them, all behaving exactly the same: bending space, and moving along geodesics. They know nothing of the natural laws of the universe - all each one knows is what it can do, locally, and what things are being done to it, locally.

I'll hazard the OP is seeing these natural laws as somehow pervading the universe, implausibly maintaining some sort of cosmic order.

The fact that the universe behaves virtually identically here as it does a billion ly away is not a testament to some overarching harmony of behavior - it's a testament to how few building blocs there really are for such a giant place.

If you only have two types of LEGOs with which to build your giant town, your west suburb must necessary look very much like your east suburb. No laws (natural or otherwise) needed.
 
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  • #29
rasp said:
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?

The answer to your question is YES - take output of advanced context modeling compression (like PAQ) such compressed data would look as a totally random without any patterns detectable by any (except one) statistical measures/means to distinguish it from a totally random data; yet, one particular statistical method such as PAQ decoder would take this random inputs and decode it to "rational" output such as Shakespeare's poems for example.

Probably your question was not intended to get such trivial answer I gave above but rather an invitation for broader discussion of such phenomenons as reality or/and existence... Physics, advanced math (as well as English) are not the expertise/skills I use to make my living, yet here is my 5 cents ;o)

Gödel’s natural selection of Boltzmann brains

Ander Boltzmann brain I assume the specific snapshot of particular state of Boltzmann brain or more specifically my brain. It includes ALL aspects of brain what constitutes me as me: my childhood memory, the hot cap of coffee in my hand right now, my current thinking about this text… anything what my brain perceives as reality, the reality it is part of... Apparently, it does not require the reality to actually be, it requires only Boltzmann brain to be in such state as it perceives to be part of some reality.

The assembly of identical Boltzmann brains is essentially not an assembly of many but a single sample since identical copies cannot be distinguished; therefore, the collection of different/unique snapshots of Boltzmann brain constitutes such assembly.

The subset of such assembly which is a composition of “slightly” different from each other snapshots and the order on such subset may represent the time evolution of one of Boltzmann brains (for example my brain).

The open question is: in what way it should be different and at what magnitude of “slightness” and what order on subset should be to have a “sane” Boltzmann brain along its timeline/evolution?

Two Kurt Gödel’ theorems:
1) Any consistent axiomatic is not complete. (*)
2) The consistency of axiomatic is not provable within its frame. (**)

Any observation is a true predicate (observations represented by false predicates are not observable). A sane Boltzmann brain must be capable to make observations.

Some subsets of Boltzmann brains assembly and the orders on these subsets may represent the Boltzmann brains capable to have observations along its timeline/evolution; therefore, all Boltzmann brains snapshots which violate this “abilities” get excluded/extinct since they cannot constitute a “sane” Boltzmann brain. According to first Gödel’ theorem (*) there is no way to have/predefine a complete subset & order of snapshots of Boltzmann brains which represent a defined “sane” Boltzmann brain along its timeline/evolution – such subset must be open and redefine itself along its time evolution to comply with second Gödel’ theorem (**).

This process resembles the natural selection where the environment is presented by Kurt Gödel’ theorems (*/**) and the ability to make observation represents survival.

Apparently, the neighborhood of particular sane Boltzmann brain may represent the superposition of quantum states of macro body (shalom to Everett’s relative state).
 
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  • #30
So , the dinosaurs got extinct because they were sick of observing each other.

Or, better, the fossilized dinosaur bones are necessary for the Boltzmann brain to remain sane (while live dinosaurs would be too dangerous for Boltzmann himself to meet personally)
 
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  • #31
It obviously can. But the brain hasn't evolved to do logic and understand the laws of physics. These are by-products. It has evolved for humans to survive better.
 
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  • #32
Thank you all for the dialogue. I’m thinking that the current scientific paradigm can be expressed roughly as: We live in a multiverse, in which there are a myriad of universes, each with its own set of properties. Most of those universes are not stable enough to exist for enough time to allow humans and their rational self aware brain to evolve. The anthropic principle states we shouldn’t be surprised that we live in a comprehensible universe because we couldn’t live any where else. If I have the broad outlines correct, then IMHO I find this explanation intellectually unsatisfying and probably unscientific.
 
  • #33
The scientific paradigm is as it has been for a long time. Find reproducable evidence to support hypothesis. #32 is philosophical.
 
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  • #34
For a long time, everything was considered as mechanically evolving material mechanism, and Darwin was based on that paradigm, and now it's hardly compatible with the QM.
 
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  • #35
I agree with Sean Carrol that it is vastly more likely that a Boltzmann brain fluctuated into existence complete with memory and sensation, then for our brains to have been created from a series of random fluctuations of particles to make a galaxy, star, earth, the biosphere and humans. However, he points out that the Boltzmann brain’s thought are delusions and so if we were a Boltzmann brain there would be no logical reason to believe we were. What I find really interesting about the discussion of Boltzmann brains is that it shows our evolution to be that much more unlikely an event. Yet, we happened. Do you not agree with me that our existence is surprising and worth a better explanation then simply the law of large numbers, that says given enough chances every event, even the most unlikely will happen?
 

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