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Dynamical Systems and Intelligent Design

  1. Mar 11, 2004 #1
    I've been thinking, and I've come up with a sort of Intelligent Design argument in reverse against the existence of a God.

    It occurs to me that perfect shapes, such as circles, squares, rectangles, right triangles, etc .. are the product of an intelligent mind. In other words it takes an intelligent mind to conceive of, and create these shapes.

    Non-linear systems on the other hand, are capable of producing (through iteration of a very simple function) patterns of astounding complexity, complexity that arises without the intervention of an intelligence.

    If I said to you, "graph a shape such that it has three straight sides, the angles add up to 180 degrees, the length of one side is equal to the square root of the sum of the other two sides squred, etc .." you would graph points that formed a triangle. You would have to carefully plot each point so that it obeyed these rules.

    If on the other hand I said "create the Mandelbrot set". All you would have to do essentially is "flick the switch" and start the simple equation x->x^2+c iterating. The amazing shape would be generated without you having to think about how and where each point should be plotted.

    The Mandelbrot set is one example of a function of a dynamical, or non-linear system. The signature of the dynamical system is the fractal shape. Not smooth, not straight, not square or perfectly round, but fractal. These very complex fractal patterns are generated without intervention by intelligent beings.

    When you look out the window, excluding man-made objects, virtually everything you can lay your eyes on bears a fractal pattern. Not a square, not a circle, not a sphere, but fractal. Therefore, no intelligence was required to generate every non-man-made object and phenomenon we can experience.

    An idea of an "intelligent designer" by definition includes intelligence. Since all the patterns of nature bear a fractal fingerprint of a non-linear process requiring no intelligence, then it follows that it is not necessary to explain the existence of all we survey by attributing it to an intelligent designer. And in fact, since perfect shapes requiring intelligence do not occur in nature, we can say it is likely that there is no intelligence behind the existence of nature.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2004 #2
    Great post, and it outlines one of the major flaws in the use of information theory in ID arguments. ID proponents will claim that complexity is a sign of design. In fact, as often as not simplicity is a sign of design. A sphere is less complex that an randomly shaped stone, yet according to complexity proponents, the random stone must be more likely to have been designed than the sphere.
  4. Mar 11, 2004 #3
    Actually, fractals and Mandelbrot sets do not occur in nature either. There are shapes that look similar to fractals, but then the planets look like spheres and their orbits are elliptical. If your argument is right, then you have to explain why intelligence is not needed to draw a rainbow in the sky

    (I know why intelligence is not needed for a rainbow, I just think that little fact doesn't agree with your argument. But of course facts can always be dismissed if they don't agree with our theories)

    Intelligent Design will never catch. Intelligence is not needed to explain the existence of anything. Everything, absolutely everything that exists, can be explained without mentioning intelligent beings. Explanations are just lies that seem true to a misinformed observer. So Intelligent Design is as much a lie as Evolution Theory, but Evolution is a better lie, so it wins for now. Until someone comes up with a better lie, that is.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2004
  5. Mar 11, 2004 #4
    Re: Re: Dynamical Systems and Intelligent Design

    I've read that experiments have been done ( by whom escapes me at the moment) where the phase-states between changes in states of various liquids were studied mathematically, and the mandelbrot set did in fact emerge at certain points in the phase-space.

    As for the planets, yes they do look like spheres from our perspective, but its a matter of scale. If you moved close to the surface of a planet from space, it wouldn't look like a smooth sphere, you'd see moutains, or mounds of clouds as the case may be. Even things like glass, if you zoom in on a certain scale, the surface would no longer appear smooth. The rainbow, that one is tougher, but I suppose at some scale you'd see the light as a mass of particles (or waves as the case may be) and it wouldn't appear smooth.

    Sure, calculus works in the real world, but its really just an approximation, although the margin of error is well within acceptable limits for most of our purposes.
  6. Mar 11, 2004 #5
    Rainbows are not circles, they are rays. It is merely our perspective that creates the illusion of a circle. Photons fly in a (relatively) straight line from the source (sun) to our atmosphere, then bounce off water molecules and back into our eyes. Each wavelength of the light is reflected at a different angle. Due to the limited angles at which the source light approaches, and the limited angles at which light may be reflected through the atmosphere such that the light remains in the visible wavelength, the only possible configuration of light which could bounce off the air and back at us within a visible wavelength is circular, even though the light is actually being reflected in all directions (that's why the rainbow moves when you do).

    So it is, in fact, OUR intelligence that is 'drawing' the rainbow in the sky using the data we have received from our eyes. From an omniscient perspective, the light is chaotic, not circular.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2004
  7. Mar 11, 2004 #6
    but there is a problem in assuming that the lack of simple/perfect geometry points to an absence of an intelligent designer (i'm not saying the inverse follows). the reason we don't see any perfect circles, for example, (circles being the fundamental shape of the macro and micro universes, due to gravity/electromagnetism/nuclear forces) in nature is that perfect circles cannot fundamentally exist (unless and until we calculate the last decimal place of pi). therefore all circular objects deviate from theoretical perfection in some degree - it's just a matter of 'on what scale'...

    so when we see the deviations from a theoretical circle on the surface of a planet, say, we are simply designating the plane of measurement at which these deviations are first salient to us - a completely subjective judgement.

    intelligent designer or no, we are living in a universe that will not tolerate perfect geometry in all scales but is actually quite fond of coalescing matter around plain geometry in certain discretely comprehended scales, orbits of electrons and planets for example...

    one might argue that the nature of a universe that allows perfect geometry in certain scales due to the nature of infinity but chooses to show them to us so often (orbits) is indicative of intelligent design.

    but then one could just as easily argue that circular shapes are more often than not the result of gravity/electromagnetic/nuclear forces and the only reason the simple structure of a theoretically perfect circle seems distinct to us is due to our innate familiarity with these forces - existing on a physical plane that is bound by these forces.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2004
  8. Mar 12, 2004 #7
    I'm not an ID enthusiast, but I don't think that's what they're claiming. I think what they mean by complexity has nothing to do with appearances. Surely an object of perfect shape is better evidence of intelligent labour than a chaotic think like a stone. But, to a simple-minded being, a Michelangelo sculpture would seem closer to a stone than a to a mathematically-perfect sphere. Simple-minded beings tend to overlook the difference between the complex harmony between a large number of elements and sheer randomness, because from a mathematical perspective both look exactly the same.
  9. Mar 12, 2004 #8
    See, that's the problem...ALL they are talking about is appearances. It is basically a lie and a cheat, because they change the terms as needed to make their "point". If it is going to be based on "complexity", then complexity can only have one meaning. If complexity is the sign of design, then simplicity cannot ALSO be the sign of design, or else the argument is meaningless.

    As far as he wonderful world of "specified complexity"(which is fancy-speak for cherry-picking the data), tell me folks, which of the following simulated coin toss sequences is the most probable to occur randomly?(H=heads, T=tails):

    A) T H T H H T H T T H H H T H

    B) T H T H T T T H H T T H H H

    C) T T T T T T T T T T T
  10. Mar 12, 2004 #9
    Are you suggesting that fractals have created beings that can create perfect non-fractal shapes? Where's the complete theory that explains how this happened?

    Also, the use of words like perfect to categorize shapes that you define to be created by intelligence is a subjective and somewhat egocentric term. Just because the only intelligence that you are aware of creates these shapes doesn't mean that some other form of intelligence must also do the same thing.
  11. Mar 12, 2004 #10
    Couldn't the same be said of random evolution as well? You're getting into the wrong debate: which scientific theory is true. The problem with ID is not that it's not true, the problem is that it's useless to make predictions. In fact, any theory which invokes "intelligence" as part of the explanation of natural phenomena is useless, since the only use of a theory is to make predictions, and intelligent agents are unpredictable by definition. ID is a complete waste of time.

    Now I disagree with what I think you had in mind. An ordered sequence is far less likely than a disordered one, and you can't use statistics to disprove that because "order" is not a mathematical concept. If you toss a coin 12 times, get 12 tails, and think there's nothing wrong with the coin, I suggest you stay away from casinos.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2004
  12. Mar 12, 2004 #11
    We're on the same page against ID, confutatis. I'm just coming at it from a different angle, specifically how ID tries to claim information theory as support. But, of course, evolution isn't random, it is guided and shapped by the environment.

    As far as my coin flipping example, you make my point for me. "Order", as you are defining it, is not a mathematical concept, therefore the mathematics of information theory do not support the ID claims. On the other hand, an "ordered" sequence is just as likely as any other sequence, period. A straight flush in poker is just as likely as any other hand, until we add the subjective factor that we give to certain combinations.
  13. Mar 12, 2004 #12
    well, you have given a mechanism, but you need to proove that the quantum world is fractal in nature, or that the origins of the universe are derived fractaly.

    if so, then that is a mathmatical proof against the NEED for God, but does not proove that there is no God.
  14. Mar 12, 2004 #13
    Well, no one has ever rightly claimed to be able to 'prove' anything using science, especially not for or against "God". However, you CAN disprove certain statements or methods used to support the hypothesis.
  15. Mar 12, 2004 #14
    ahhh...you fail to see that you can proove something about the universe creation though.

    Mathmatics can proove things.

    fractals are based in math soif you can show through experimentation or mathmatics that the observable foundations of the universe are derived fractaly, then you have prooven mathmaticly that the universe does not need inteligent design.
  16. Mar 12, 2004 #15
    Well, you can show that something isn't needed, but you can't show 100% that it doesn't exist.
  17. Mar 12, 2004 #16
    Of course this is true. But this implies that everything ordered has no statistical significance beyond what a human places on it. And I don't believe that to be true. FZ and I have gone around with this many times. A deck of cards is like a lottery in that every ticket has the same chance of winning. There is nothing miraculous about any one person winning the lottery. Much like any hand of cards is equally as likely as any other hand. But there are some arrangements of order that may not be as likely because they produce emergent properties that other arrangements don't (not functions, but properties).

    For example crankable engines don't assemble themselves. If you shook up a crate of auto parts and dump them out do you think they would ever assemble themselves into a crankable engine? This ought to be evidence that this arrangement is less likely than other arrangements. What makes this arrangement stand out is that it can crank when you turn the key. Note that we don't have to know what an engine is or that cranking is useful to humans. This is always the rebuttal. We can just note that it has a property to make alot of noise and use fuel and no other arrangment can do that.

    I don't think we could ever conclude design with certainty from this. It is a subjective process at some point but it should at least make us open to the idea and influence our methods of further inquiry. And I would argue that we all do this anyway.

    EDIT: I'm not suggesting that arrangements that produce emergent properties are designed or even that they are less likely. Just that there may be cases where an arrangement of parts that produces emergent properties could be less likely. And it would be easy to tell this from our knowledge of nature and the special distinction that this arrangement has compared to other arrangements(like an engine). And one that is less likely may require special inquiry as to why it happened.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2004
  18. Mar 13, 2004 #17
    that was my origional point.

    it is possable that you can proove that the universe is fractal in nature, but that just shows that it is possable the universe had no inteligent design. it does not say that a God did not design it to be fractal.

    though prooving a freactal universe does proove that there has been no divine action taken on the universe, otherwise, it would mess up the fractal nature of the universe and actualy show proof that God does exist......unless what we call God is a part of this universe, in which case, God is finite.

    this is of course all predicated on the rhetorical hypothisis that the universe is fractal.
  19. Mar 14, 2004 #18
    Again, this theory doesn't explain how a fractal, un-designed universe created beings that can willingly create non-fractal, "perfect" shapes. The problem with this whole approach is that it makes a very subjective and egocentric distinction about what is "intelligent" and what is "designed" but yet it never postulates how that "intelligence" was originally created by the unintelligent. It just assumes it always existed for the sake of the argument. For many people it is the existence of that intelligence that is the strongest evidence for design. Not whether a tree is made up of circles or fractals.
  20. Mar 14, 2004 #19
    This is another one of those silly arguments where the pro-ID and pro-magic people insert their "it is amazing that there is intelligence, there must be a design, there must be a soul" idea...whatever. I have little respect for that sort of worldview, generally, because it usually involves intellectual weakness and/or dishonesty, as is the case with using information theory as a support for ID.
  21. Mar 14, 2004 #20
    Are you referring to what I wrote? Because if you are then you aren't even close to understanding what my point is. Actually, I was just pointing out the flaw in this fractal reasoning. It isn't intended to imply anything about design or not. It's very hard to prove anything one way or the other(including for design) using arguments like this without assuming a lot of subjective, egocentric criteria. Fractals by definition create more fractals. So I'm asking the question "where did the "perfect" shapes come from?" From human intelligence? Ok, where did that come from? Fractals? It's simply the next logical question to be asked with the assumptions that have been given.

    It's laid out like this:

    Assumption 1: Intelligent humans create "perfect" unnatural shapes(circles, triangles etc). They don't occur naturally.
    Assumption 2: Fractals occur naturally in the universe without the assistance of human intelligence.

    Conclusion: Universe is not designed because it's made up of fractals and not perfect shapes.

    So it follows from this that the creation of human beings can be explained by a fractal equation. I'm asking where is this equation? This argument has so many logical flaws. This is but one. This doesn't even touch on the egocentric assumption that known human intelligence is equivalent to all intelligence. And I haven't even mentioned that it assumes it's conclusion.

    Also, maybe the admins of PF can start up a new "magic" forum for those of you who like discussing it so much in favor of what is actually being discussed in the philosophy forums.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2004
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