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Darwinism, Reproduction and QM

  1. Nov 19, 2009 #1
    This is a whacky idea but i thought why not try it out here and see what folks think.

    This theory is based on accepting an observer-centric interpretation of qm. Many wont agree with that but its important in order to make sense of my argument. So lets pretend that the existence of an information processing observer is absolutely vital for physical reality to occur as we experience it in this universe.

    So if observers are vital for the universe to exist, then the only way the universe becomes sustainable from the perspective of an unfolding reality, is if those observers/biology go on to reproduce new observers which "hold open" the physical reality. So reproduction could serve the purpose of allowing the universe to exist and continue evolving new complexity.

    Bolting on the theory of evolution and how it seems nature has a tendency towards complexity we can take this idea one step further. As species evolve with more complex sensory organs and better ability to process information/reality we are better able to define in greater detail our physical environment (universe).

    I know there are problems with this idea because one can argue that the universe appears to have existed a few billion years before any biology evolved, but as anyone who studies qm understands the early universe could have evolved in a large wave function of probabilities before self-selecting the reality of a universe which eventually brought about observers.

    Outlandish yes, but i think it offers a reasonable solution for the existence of biology whose first and foremost objective appears to be reproduction.

    Any comments or arguments most welcome.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2009 #2
    Sounds interesting and a little like biocentrism.


    It also sounds like Wheeler's it from bit and participatory universe:

    "Wheeler: It from bit. Otherwise put, every 'it'—every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself—derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely—even if in some contexts indirectly—from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits. 'It from bit' symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom—a very deep bottom, in most instances—an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic) in origin and that this is a participatory universe."

    Basically we get out of the universe what we put into it.
  4. Nov 19, 2009 #3

    Yes it's absolutely based on PAP. "Biocentrism" being a derivative of PAP itself. However Wheeler is quoted in his later years as having decided "observers" are not vital. Not sure why he changed his mind other than perhaps because he did not want to step too far outside the mainstream.

    However i am trying to look at it from the point of why all biology has reproduction as its primary objective. Is it about the continuation of species or about the continuation of reality?
  5. Nov 19, 2009 #4
    Because they wouldnt be here if reproduction wasnt their primary objective. It's like asking why are animals so adamant about protecting their young. Because those who werent lost all their successors. Only the ones with that trait are still around. Same goes for reproduction.
  6. Nov 19, 2009 #5
    Yes that argument is a lot like the anthropic argument which says we would not notice the biocentrism of the universe if it did not have the finely tuned properties which enable biology to evolve. usually that argument is accompanied by a need for there to be an infintie amount of universes to explain our luck in existing in the one which can harbour life.

    I dont buy it on the following grounds.

    1) Quantum fluctuations which pop in and out of existence are (if we go with the mainstream thought) borrowing and paying back energy from some finite well of total energy. I say its finite because why would there be a need for payback if energy is available in limitless quantities? That makes no sense, at least to me.

    2) And if the other universes are based on a quantum mechanical framework as is ours and there can be universes(realities) with no observers able to reproduce, then that would make nature very wasteful of energy resrources. So that would contradict with the laws of conservation we observe in nature at least in our own universe.

    Of course thats assuming that all universes in the multi-verse emanated from the same forces of nature. hence they should follow the same basic principles of energy conservation.
  7. Nov 19, 2009 #6

    It also appears to imply that the universe is in a sense 'alive' and straining towards what we term objective existence(collapsing the wavefunction to an actual state for all observers).

    Honestly, this sub-forum has become depressing - there is no other place, where one feels like a taliban as in the Philosophy forum. There is so little that we know about reality that trying to build a model of our experience without knowing what conscious awareness, life, time, space and even matter are, is often quite depressing.

    Sorry for my rant, the thread is interesting by itself and i will get back to it.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
  8. Nov 19, 2009 #7
    That has nothing to do with it. I dont think you know how evolution and natural selection work.

    Random mutations happen. A ton of them. And then selective pressures decide whether those traits survive. Out of all those random mutations at least some will be beneficial. Like a mutation that makes a cheetah run a little faster. That cheetah survives and passes on that trait. The gene pool fills up with faster cheetahs because they are better at hunting and passing on their genes. The same thing with reproduction. Why does sex feel good? It started as a random mutation. It stuck because it is beneficial to survival.

    Organisms ARE finely tuned. They are fine tuned to their environment because they have had billions of years of trial and error to become so. We have an explanation why animals are fine tuned. We dont as to why the universe is.
  9. Nov 19, 2009 #8
    Freeman Dyson, i think Caldcall is trying to come up with a general framework for why Life is what it is, not how it is(which can hardly be disputed given the evidence in favour of the TOE). The TOE does not explain why life formed or why it has to mutate. It could have simply died out 2 minutes after being formed as a rna structure(and never re-surface again), but it did not. There is likely more to this than "it happened like that for no reason".
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
  10. Nov 19, 2009 #9
    Well I'd agree with that, though not sure about the "taliban" reference :-)
  11. Nov 19, 2009 #10
    Hi Freeman,

    You've misunderstood me as wavejumper has point out, though its probably my own fault for sort of going off on a tangent. I am not questioning how evolution works, and I'm totally signed up advocate of Darwinian theory. PAP or a derivative of it can easily co-exist with a theory of evolution.

    My point was that your statement: "Because they wouldnt be here if reproduction wasnt their primary objective. It's like asking why are animals so adamant about protecting their young. Because those who werent lost all their successors. Only the ones with that trait are still around. Same goes for reproduction." - is more more or less the same as that used in weak anthropic principle to explain away the phenomenal fine tuning necessary of physical laws in order for biology to occur.
  12. Nov 19, 2009 #11
    Are you familiar with teleological arguments? They are a class of arguments, historically for the existence of God, that appeal to apparent fine-tuning of things towards certain purposes evidence of their intelligent design. Your argument sounds very similar, except instead of God being the creator, you have observers as the creator.

    The problem with teleological arguments is that the apparent design is often easily explained by other factors. Even if teleological arguments are not easily explained in another way, philosophically they do not offer logically valid justification for their claims.

    The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a good overview of the current state of things in http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments/. It even discusses QM and "Cosmic Fine-Tuning." Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" was probably the first and most influential book on the particular ideas you bring up.

    Your concept of observers maintaining reality is not necessarily related to the teleological portions of your post, however. George Berkeley, a 17th century British Empiricist, famously argued that all reality depends on its observation. He concluded, however, that the limited and subjective scope of observation by individuals was not sufficient to maintain objective reality, and therefore an omniscient God must exist, observing all at all times, and maintaining reality.

    He presented this argument very accessibly in his 1713 "http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Three_Dialogues_Between_Hylas_and_Philonous" [Broken]. The thesis is known as idealism.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  13. Nov 19, 2009 #12
    Hi Kote,

    I think the problem is that traditionally religious folks have used a sort of telelogical argument as some sort of evidence. Personally i think its a bit of a stawman argument.

    For instance Wheeler's delayed choice experiment demonstrated telelogical behaviour in quantum systems but we dont need to invoke "god" into the equation, as its just how nature works. Retro-causal behaviour as we see in quanutm entanglement is basically telelogical. Thats not to say one can send signals backwards through time - just in case anyone thinnks i am saying that :-)

    When we say that we need to disturb the atom in order to make a measurement we are admitting a form of teleology exists because our measurement will not only effect the current position but also the distribution and potential of its historic position.

    However i don't agree with Berkeley's view that when no observer exists it is "god" which maintains the objectivity of a physical reality.
  14. Nov 19, 2009 #13
    Berkeley's point was that a constant omniscient observer was necessary to the idea that reality depends on the observer. If there isn't someone watching at all times, then it would be true to say that my desk doesn't exist when I'm not looking at it. It would also be true to say that reality really is different depending on your point of view, and that nothing is objective.

    Berkeley's program in the Dialogues was to be as consistent with common sense as possible - more so than the materialist. Doing so requires him to invoke a constant observer, and he brings up some very good arguments against distributed subjective observers as the maintainers of reality.
  15. Nov 19, 2009 #14
    Hi Kote,

    Quantum cosmology initiated by theories such as Wheeler's PAP explains how it does not matter when the observers turn up, they may in fact have a retro-causal effect on the birth and early evolution of the universe when no observers are present.

    Unfortunately Berkeley missed the quantum revolution by a few centuries.
  16. Nov 19, 2009 #15
    He didn't miss anything relevant :smile:. Note that I'm not in support of Berkeley's idealism, but I think he did have a lot of good things to say. QM seems to support Berkeley's arguments further in that it provides more support against a naive materialism. Philosophically, Berkeley almost predicted much of what happened with QM and a resurgence of the role of the observer or subjective.

    I would argue that the notion of retroactively creating reality is inconsistent. If nothing were real at t=0, and then an observer came into the world, you can't magically say that something was actually real at t=0. (By the way, how do we get observers out of nothingness? - that's another thread I think!) Either you were plain incorrect when you first claimed nothing was real at t=0, or you've got a logical contradiction. t=0 is a way of identifying the world at a point in time according to any philosophy of time I am familiar with. The world cannot both be real and nonreal at the same point in time. P=P.
  17. Nov 19, 2009 #16

    This is the essence of retrocausailty - measurements/observations now influence 'events' in the past. Maybe it wasn't real back then, but because of retrocausality - it is real now(by collapsing wavefunctions representing past events).

    Judging by the OP, he'd likely suggest by way of a conscious mind, though "nothingness" can have many connotations so it isn't clear what you mean.

    This is the bare essence of a mind-dependent reality, as suggested in the OP.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
  18. Nov 19, 2009 #17
    Ah, I see. Instead of the how; by what means, you want to know the why. We are talking about purpose now. I forgot this is a philosophy forum for a minute.

    I am very interested in this question too. In teleology in general. Could it have been any different? Does the universe and its laws have purpose? Or is that just the way things are and the only way they could be? Does the universe have a plan? Was some thought put into it? Is there an idea behind it? A principle?

    Here are some quotes coldcall may like:

    "A life-giving factor lies at the centre of the whole machinery and design of the world."


    "Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, that when we grasp it - in a decade, a century, or a millennium - we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise? How could we have been so stupid?"


    "Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study."


    "There is a certain sense in which I would say the universe has a purpose. It's not there just somehow by chance. Some people take the view that the universe is simply there and it runs along–it's a bit as though it just sort of computes, and we happen by accident to find ourselves in this thing. I don't think that's a very fruitful or helpful way of looking at the universe, I think that there is something much deeper about it, about its existence, which we have very little inkling of at the moment."


    "There is a coherent plan in the universe, though I don't know what it's a plan for."

    -Fred Hoyle

    "I do not feel like an alien in this universe. The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming."

    -Freeman Dyson
  19. Nov 20, 2009 #18
    Hi Kote,

    I agree both Berkeley and slightly later Whitehead were ahead of their time and pioneers in ideas which have since been partly legitimised by 20th century QM. I just dont agree with the idea that an observer-centric universe requires observers at its birth. Then i came across Wheeler's PAP which i believe makes a very good case for self-referential universe based on qm retro-causality.

    "I would argue that the notion of retroactively creating reality is inconsistent. If nothing were real at t=0, and then an observer came into the world, you can't magically say that something was actually real at t=0. (By the way, how do we get observers out of nothingness? - that's another thread I think!) Either you were plain incorrect when you first claimed nothing was real at t=0, or you've got a logical contradiction."

    Yes it is somewhat inconsistent until one includes the retro-causal (telelogical) behaviour of quantum states and we accept the pretense that only an observer can effectively collapse a wave function. I suggest you read a paper on Wheeler's PAP because it explains better than I but i will do my best in layman's terms:

    First of all our universe appears to have evolved out of nothing other than perhaps being triggered by a quantum fluctuation which broke symmetry causing the BB. This is more or less the standard understanding of how we got a universe out of nothing. So the early universe was a pure quantum system. As we understand qm, wave functions if undisturbed (not collapsed), will just continue evolving becoming ever larger with an ever larger set of probabilites. Given enough time to evolve in this sort of massive virtual computation the universe with the correct properties leading to the rise of observers (ours) self selects itself because the coming of those observers means only they are capable of collapsing the wave function on itself, selecting the only viable universe - the one where observers emerge.

    So, as we see with Wheeler's delayed choice or the more recent derivative the "quantum eraser" experiment; One can make an observation today which will impact on events buried deep in history through qm enatnglement which makes reality consistent and objective. The fact that entanglement appears to act instantaneously even from one end of the universe to the other means that actions today will have an impact on events that took place billions of years ago. So while it seems weird qm has shown itself capable of this incredible feat of retro-causality.

    So if observers are vital for wave function collapse (as i believe) then one can see how the late arrival of observers can act as retro-causal trigger, in effect, selecting our living universe from the cosmological wave function consisting of an almost infinite amount of universal probabilities.

    So all the universes which would not have produced observers die a virtual death in the wave function and are never realised. Observers look back and collapse the wave function and select the universe which has all the properties necessary for them to emerge.

    I much prefer this scenario compared to the alternative which purports that all those universes without observers actually exist in a physical reality. Can one imagine the energy resources which would be squandered if all those infintie universe are real? Nature just does not seem that wasteful, and her laws of conservation appear to be primary at least in our universe which is the only example we have.

    Sorry if that is confusing :-)
  20. Nov 20, 2009 #19
    Hi Freeman,

    Thanks for interesting quotes.

    "I am very interested in this question too. In teleology in general. Could it have been any different? Does the universe and its laws have purpose? Or is that just the way things are and the only way they could be? Does the universe have a plan? Was some thought put into it? Is there an idea behind it? A principle?"

    Perhaps the universe's only purpose is to exist and if we accept the observer-centric view of qm, then only observers can create "reality" and help the universe exist in a physical format. This makes observers useless without a universe and the universe useless without observers. So they need eachother.

    This is why i brought the conundrum about reproduction into it, because one could view reproduction not from our personal point of view but from the much larger perspective of the universe needing the "reality" to continue. If observers are vital then reproduction makes a lot of sense.

    I suppose one could ask who created nature's qm laws because they appear to be the key to how something emerges out of nothing. So there is still room for a "god" if religious folks feel so inclined.

    Same as why i never understand why religious folks need to question Darwinian evolution. There's plenty of room for "god" before or at the momment of the BB.
  21. Nov 20, 2009 #20

    This, i believe, is the main reason why this idea isn't studied more closely in secular societies. It is rejected on estethical grounds, though all other interpretations of QM implicitly imply creation(fine-tuning of initial conditions; origin of physical laws, etc), unless one chooses to believe that there are 198 thousand trillion universes.
    I was thinking about posting a thread on this same topic, but you were obviously faster.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2009
  22. Nov 20, 2009 #21
    Ok so it seems to me this universe needing observers is dependant on the fact that observers do have an effect on the universe. I'm not totaly sure they do. It seems like they should but if I try to think up a way that an observer would have an effect on the universe in the purest sense I can't really. The best I can think of is that the observer is the universe. But in that case the universe would only have one observer, itself. If observers do have an effect on the universe then I wonder to what extent? If you could control the way your observing and your observing has an effect then you could basicaly control the universe possibly? Does that make any sense?
  23. Nov 20, 2009 #22

    Not necessarily and we can't know for sure. Even if "we" affect and cause reality as it is, it doesn't appear that we are consciously and willfully affecting it. The way i understand the OP is that it is implied that we might be a sort of 'medium' through which reality is manifested. And the only thing that 'objectively' exists is the illuminated moment of 'now' in which through retrocausality, wavefunctions of past events are collapsed to form a meaningful and comprehensible reality.

    This reminds of De-Broglie's implicate order and the oneness of everything in reality.

    This cannot be answered without a definition and at least a basic understanding of what constitutes an 'observer'.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2009
  24. Nov 20, 2009 #23
    Well I think it goes against the literal interpration of how man was created. They dont want to think we came from "lower" animals.

    And I think a lot of atheists use evolution to say that life and the universe has no purpose. And they will use cosmology in the same way. But that is a philosophical statement. The how doesnt answer the why.

    Here is one of them:

    "Above all, Darwin's theory of random, purposeless variation acted on by blind, purposeless natural selection provided a revolutionary new kind of answer to almost all questions that begin with "Why?" Before Darwin, both philosophers and people in general answered "Why?" questions by citing purpose. Since only an intelligent mind, with the capacity for forethought, can have purpose, questions such as "Why do plants have flowers?" or "Why are there apple trees?"—or diseases, or earthquakes—were answered by imagining the possible purpose that God could have had in creating them. This kind of explanation was made completely superfluous by Darwin's theory of natural selection. The adaptations of organisms—long cited as the most conspicuous evidence of intelligent design in the universe—could be explained by purely mechanistic causes. For evolutionary biologists, the flower of the magnolia has a function but not a purpose. It was not designed in order to propagate the species, much less to delight us with its beauty, but instead came into existence because magnolias with brightly colored flowers reproduced more prolifically than magnolias with less brightly colored flowers. The unsettling implication of this purely material explanation is that, except in the case of human behavior, we need not invoke, nor can we find any evidence for, any design, goal, or purpose anywhere in the natural world.

    It must be emphasized that all of science has come to adopt the way of thought that Darwin applied to biology. Astronomers do not seek the purpose of comets or supernovas, not chemists the purpose of hydrogen bonds. The concept of purpose plays no part in scientific explanations."

    I always hear people like Richard Dawkins saying life and the universe is an accident and has no purpose at all. And that science proves is. They are obsessed with removing any meaning from the universe and see any hint of it as a threat to their belief system. The same way many theists do. Dawkins says, the entire universe is "lacking all purpose".

    Here is Freeman Dyson again:

    "Weinberg himself is not immune to the prejudices that I am trying to dispel. At the end of his book about the past history of the universe, he adds a short chapter about the future. He takes 150 pages to describe the first three minutes, and then dismisses the whole of the future in five pages. Without any discussion of technical details, he sums up his view of the future in twelve words:

    "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."

    Weinberg has here, perhaps unintentionally, identified a real problem. It is impossible to calculate in detail the long-range future of the universe without including the effects of life and intelligence. It is impossible to
    calculate the capabilities of life and intelligence without touching, at least peripherally, philosophical questions. If we are to examine how intelligent life may be able to guide the physical development of the universe for its own purposes, we cannot altogether avoid considering what the values and purposes of intelligent life may be. But as soon as we mention the words value and purpose, we run into one of the most firmly entrenched taboos of twentieth-century science. Hear the voice of Jacques Monod (1970), high priest of scientific rationality, in his book _Chance and Necessity_:

    "Any mingling of knowledge with values is unlawful, forbidden."

    Monod was one of the seminal minds in the flowering of molecular biology in this century. It takes some courage to defy his anathema. But I will defy him, and encourage others to do so. The taboo against mixing knowledge with values arose during the nineteenth century out of the great battle between the evolutionary biologists led by Thomas Huxley and the churchmen led by Bishop Wilberforce. Huxley won the battle, but a hundred years later Monod and Weinberg were still fighting Bishop Wilberforce's ghost. Physicists today have no reason to be afraid of Wilberforce's ghost. If our analysis of the long-range future leads us to raise questions related to the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, then let us examine these questions boldly and without embarrassment. If our answers to these questions are naive and preliminary, so much the better for the continued vitality of our science."
  25. Nov 20, 2009 #24
    Exactly. People are so biased against religion that they have become biased against the idea of any kind of purpose or design to the universe. And that is unscientific imo. Atheists like Susskind and Weinberg WANT to believe in the mutliverse because of the reasons I just mentioned.
  26. Nov 21, 2009 #25
    Are you guys saying, in a sense, that we are the ones fine tuning the universe in order to view it?
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