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Does randomness exist?

  1. Nov 15, 2006 #1
    Evolution states that organisms evolve due to random mutations. I question as to whether there is such a thing as randomness. It could be that what appears as randomness to the limited human mind could very well be a extremely complex ordered state that just appears as chaos to us humans who at this point are incapable of seeing the deeply hidden organization. This could very well apply to “inorganic” systems as well such as the conditions immediately after the big bang. Physicist David Bohm believed this. He called the organization that we could see as the explicate order and the hidden organization as the implicate order.

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  3. Nov 15, 2006 #2


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    It's one thing to state the truism that our finite capabilities limit our ability to distinguish complex or subtle causality from randomness. It's quite another to reify that uncertainty into some cosmic principle.
  4. Nov 15, 2006 #3
    I see what you are saying. Thanks for your reply.
    I thought for certain I would immediatly receive a reply with concerns of the uncertainty principle and determinism. Bohm believes in determinism and I believe in at least some free will of conscious beings. How much randomness in the universe if any is the question? If there is no randomness does that mean determinism is true and what role would that play with morals?
  5. Nov 15, 2006 #4


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    Why do you ask questions that no one can honestly answer? What's the point?
  6. Nov 15, 2006 #5
    I always thought the movement of water between two identical bodies of water was purely random etc.

    Also, I don't see how the absence of randomness = determinism.

    Maybe determinism in one sense but not determinism in the anti-free-will sense.
  7. Nov 16, 2006 #6
    "Randomness" is a term that only has meaning when you provide a context. It basically means a lack of information. For example, if we know the state of every molecule in the universe at every point in time since the Big Bang, well those genetic mutations would not be random. But we don't know what sorts of chemicals those fish are going to bump into or what sorts of mistakes are going to happen in the copying of DNA, so we model that as a random process due to a lack of information.

    Same deal with determinism. It's a term that only has validity if you consider the entire system of the universe from the dawn of time until the end of time. In that case, yes everything has been predetermined. But in the system of your life at this point in time, no. Too many uncertainties for you to say that your life has been predetermined.
  8. Nov 16, 2006 #7
    If you consider that cause exists Now and that its effect, as a predetermined consequence of cause , is the next Now, to become the next cause, and that this is an infinite progression of events only within Now, because the future does not exist, only the present.
    And if you consider that Now, or the present, or reality, or your perception exists within a discreet unit of spacetime that governs a conceptual unit of energy and so time, because time is not absolute, and that the universe is only alive within that unit of time, somewhere between the Plank dimensions and zero point energy, then randomness does not exist.
    What does exist is the free will of an intelligent observer within the superposition of that discreet unit to influence that cause to achieve a predetermined effect.
    This is in the quantum level of unit perception
    At the macro level of brain induced cohesive perception finite possibilities of effect would occur
  9. Nov 16, 2006 #8
    We don't know for sure whether the future already exist or not. Paul Davies seems to think so. I am not quite sure about this but if the future is already there then determinism does exist. The problem I have with determinism and cause and effect is first cause. It is an infinite regression.
  10. Nov 16, 2006 #9
    If randomness is just a lack of information then you are agreeing with Bohm. Later on you state that to some degree that determinsim is limited . I think determinism either is 100% or does not exist at all. There is no in-between ground with determinism
  11. Nov 16, 2006 #10
    Its called philosophy
  12. Nov 16, 2006 #11
    That claim needs justification
  13. Nov 17, 2006 #12
    Does Order Exist?

    Does Order Exist? Some words are easy to use but hard to really understand. People use the word order a lot. Say that we live in an ordered universe... But few people ever actually say what order means. I've given it a lot of thought. The best I've come up with is that order relates to a persons ability to make a prediction rather then anything intrinsic or universal. I was looking at polkadots and the reason that they seemed ordered to me is that given any dot I could make up a rule to tell me where the next dot is. If found some dots and I couldn't come up with a rule or the rule was too complicated to retain entirely then my brain would (figuratively) cover over them by labeling them random. What is clear to most everyone is that just because something appears random doesn't mean there isn't some rule that could predict it. On the other hand it's not obvious to eveyone but just because something appears ordered doesn't mean there is anything more to order then the way we answere the question: "Can I make up some rule about this?"

  14. Nov 21, 2006 #13
    just because we are ignorant and lack information doesn't mean that everything is chaotic . you see there was a saying that goes like that : "there is more order in chaos , than in order itself" . you can't just say that nothing is predetemined , only because there are too many uncertainties . the uncertainties are there only to make us weak so we are not able to control our lives , which moreover suggest that everything is predermined in a twisted way , which we don't know
    p.s. @Blueplanetbob great post
  15. Nov 21, 2006 #14


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    Where did the quantum get into this? And what evidence is there for the free will you speak of? What little evidence we have suggests that free will, in the ontological sense, is an illusion.
  16. Nov 22, 2006 #15
    ^ Could you please point me to some evidence for what you suggest. Are our choices not free to make ? If not ours then whose ?
  17. Nov 22, 2006 #16


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    Here's the wiki article on Libet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Libet.

    Libet discovered that our brain reacts to on oncoming muscle action (lifting a finger) before we decide to perform that action. Although Libet himself tried mightily to preserve free will in the face of this evidence, it is generally believed that he failed, and that it shows our belief in free will to be a mistake. If not ours then whose? Nobodiy's.
  18. Nov 23, 2006 #17
    So SA, does that mean the 'thought' of us wanting to lift our fingers and hands is an event caused by the brain's pre-emption? Is so how does this account for me thinking about writing this sentence?
  19. Nov 23, 2006 #18


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    Determinism would say that you and I were destined to write these posts from the beginning of the world, driven by a chain of prior causes. This is not to say that determinism is true, just that simple minded asssertions of free will won't fly.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2006
  20. Nov 23, 2006 #19
    Right, so the absence of randomness isn't = to determinism?
  21. Nov 23, 2006 #20
    I wish philosophers spent some time learning to program computers. If they did, they would understand that randomness cannot be achieved by any algorithm. And that implies it is absolutely impossible to describe randomness in any logical way.

    Now if randomness can't be described, then we can't even establish if it exists. Whatever it is that we have in mind when we think of randomness, it's some form of determinism we don't yet understand. Which is why determinism is so attractive.

    There is only one possibility for randomness to exist, and that is if the universe is incomprehensible. In other words, if the world is fundamentally random, then it is fundamentally mysterious and ultimately irrational.
  22. Nov 23, 2006 #21
    I don't see how a failure in engineering or engineering logic means we cannot describe randomness. I'm not a philosopher but I'm pretty sure randomness is just unpredictability, not something without a cause but just where the result is pure probability. Isn't the chance of measuring an electron to be at a certain spot inside a certain radius of the nucleus just probability/chance? Obviously it's not without cause, but isn't that random?

    And how does the existence of a single situation of randomness suddendly make the universe incomprehensible?
  23. Nov 23, 2006 #22
    It's not a failure in engineering, it's a logical impossibility. Except for hardware failure, computers are 100% predictable - given the same initial conditions, they will always do the same thing. That is why they are useful.

    What you described above is pseudo-randomness, not true randomness. That is the kind of randomness that can, in fact, be generated by computer programs. It appears to be random but it is fully predictable, except it's very hard to predict due to the large number of variables.

    True randomness would be something that cannot be predicted at all, even if you knew all the variables.

    I don't know if there is still a debate on whether quantum phenomena involve hidden variables. In any case, I think it's a silly debate because you can always postulate that our failure to predict is due to the existence of variables we cannot measure. (I think they got away with that hypothesis precisely because of that fact, but I'm not sure)

    I didn't say incomprehensible, I said "fundamentally mysterious". That is, the universe may not be predictable at fundamental levels, but it's obviously predictable on average. You cannot know which number you'll get when you throw two dice, but you can make a safe prediction that you'll get more 7's than any other combination.

    If the universe is mysterious doesn't mean it's not predictable, and the fact that it is predictable does not mean it's not fundamentally incomprehensible. An intelligent observer will always find a way to perceive order even in a completely chaotic situation. But if there is true chaos the intelligente observer will, from time to time, be confounded by unpredicted observations.
  24. Nov 23, 2006 #23


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    Statistical predictablity, "How many Prussian Cavalry Sergeants will be kicked to death by their horses next year" tells us nothing about the life of any particular Sergeant. The statistical predictability you invoke is simply irrelevant to the issues around determinism and free will.

    And do you have a source for your claim that true randomness is logically impossible? Have you or any computer scientist actually proved this? How?
  25. Nov 24, 2006 #24
    Regarding libet's findings : to say it removes free will is a bit of a jump. All I think he has proven is that our consciousness exists in absolute time and our bodies react in local time. Thats not to say that if we are our consciousness (and it exists outside of our bodies) then we don't choose what we will do in any given circumstance rather than just react to outside stimulus in a controlled environment.
  26. Nov 24, 2006 #25


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    ABsolute time? Consciousness existing outside our bodies? This is your response to Libet? Why not god, Buddha, and the IFSM too?
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