On self-defining laws of physics

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Yes but there are still two ways to make things happen. We can construct actions. Or we can constrain possibility to the point where something has to happen. Both look like determinism in the extreme.
What do you mean by we can construct actions? Isn't determinism the infinite constraint of possibilities?
 

ConradDJ

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I'm with Spinoza on the idea that causality (or determinism), as an extension of symmetry, is an analytic truth... Ex nihil nihilo fit.
Interesting you should quote this -- nihil ex nihilo -- since this is the exact opposite of the premise from which I began, above, i.e. that anything can happen, without cause. I have lots of issues with determinism, even apart from the evidence of QM. For example, if there's no analytic solution to the simplest equations of motion, in a system involving only three gravitating point-masses, why should we imagine that a system as complicated as the universe can be precisely controlled by mathematical principles?

But the deeper issue for me is that determinism takes it for granted that things are precisely well-defined in themselves, and so also takes for granted the structure of reference-frames and interaction-contexts through which we're actually able to define things and measure them. So it bypasses what I think is most remarkable about the physical structure of the world, that it communicates information about itself, internally.

From my point of view, instead of assuming determinism a priori, I'm trying to understand how and why the structure of physical laws cold have evolved to support a world that looks so precisely deterministic, at a certain level -- though as we go deeper into the sub-atomic scale, or further back in time toward the beginning, things get more and more random, chaotic, hypercomplex and indeterminate.
 

apeiron

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What do you mean by we can construct actions? Isn't determinism the infinite constraint of possibilities?
Determinism in most people's books would still be LaPlacean - the billiard ball mechanical view that started with atomist philosophy and became scientific with Newton's laws of motion.

So anything complex is constructed by the addition of many locally simple actions.

Determinism as the result of constraints would be the unorthodox view in the mainstream world surely?

The key to a systems or hierarchy perspective is that complex worlds emerge from the results of both kinds of causality in interaction. In fact each creates the other in self-organising fashion.
 
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Determinism in most people's books would still be LaPlacean - the billiard ball mechanical view that started with atomist philosophy and became scientific with Newton's laws of motion.

So anything complex is constructed by the addition of many locally simple actions.
Ah, well, local spatiotemporal causality has been falsified by quantum mechanics and its experiments. So that idea's out :smile:.
 
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apeiron

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Ah, well, local spatiotemporal causality has been falsified by quantum mechanics and its experiments. So that idea's out :smile:.
Precisely. Construction is the view of causality that supports locality and global constraint is the causal model that slots right into QM non-locality.

The big mental shift for me in first coming into contact with these ideas - principly through Stan Salthe's Evolving Hierarchical Systems, which is a correctly spatiotemporal approach to hierarchy theory - was in getting away from the old either/or quandries and seeing how the proper answer was in fact "both".

So reality is not about making a choice between construction and constraint, or with QM, locality and globality, but about having a model of causality which is based on the interaction of these two things (which in turn arise via dichotomisation out of the symmetry of a vagueness).
 
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Precisely. Construction is the view of causality that supports locality and global constraint is the causal model that slots right into QM non-locality.

The big mental shift for me in first coming into contact with these ideas - principly through Stan Salthe's Evolving Hierarchical Systems, which is a correctly spatiotemporal approach to hierarchy theory - was in getting away from the old either/or quandries and seeing how the proper answer was in fact "both".

So reality is not about making a choice between construction and constraint, or with QM, locality and globality, but about having a model of causality which is based on the interaction of these two things (which in turn arise via dichotomisation out of the symmetry of a vagueness).
I guess I'm not sure how billiard ball style causation can play a role in your theory when we know it doesn't represent any basic physical mechanism. If it doesn't represent basic physics, and you don't want to derive it logically... I'm sure I'm missing something though.
 

apeiron

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Of course construction is "basic physics". You can add together force vectors to construct Newtonian actions. You can add atoms to construct molecules.

Remember, the argument is about the modelling of reality. And construction would be a basic model of causality (even if that does not mean it is the literal truth of reality).

Likewise constraint would be another model of causality.

The new thing would be showing how these two act in tandem to create the even bigger model of causality that is the systems view.
 
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Of course construction is "basic physics". You can add together force vectors to construct Newtonian actions. You can add atoms to construct molecules.

Remember, the argument is about the modelling of reality. And construction would be a basic model of causality (even if that does not mean it is the literal truth of reality).
If by construction you still mean billiard-ball style atomic causation, then we know it is not a basic model of causality. At least not a valid one. Location and momentum are not basic properties of matter. Newtonian particles are not the basic elements of physics. Basic optics confirms this.

QM shows us that beyond classical particles not being basic (real), basic physical properties cannot be described spatiotemporally at all. Relativistic space-time is not basic, and any objects defined solely in space-time cannot be basic objective physical elements.

Your construction, then, if it is meant to represent basic physics, must be defined outside of space-time. But to do this would be to deny atomistic billiard-ball style causation.
 

apeiron

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If by construction you still mean billiard-ball style atomic causation, then we know it is not a basic model of causality. At least not a valid one. .
You are trampling right over the essential point. The idea of construction is a model. And something that is then trickier for people to get, models are UN-real when properly developed. This is because they "stand outside the systems" they describe, which is impossible of course. So you are arguing vigorously against a stance others might hold but which is nothing like the position I take.
 
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You are trampling right over the essential point. The idea of construction is a model. And something that is then trickier for people to get, models are UN-real when properly developed. This is because they "stand outside the systems" they describe, which is impossible of course. So you are arguing vigorously against a stance others might hold but which is nothing like the position I take.
I'm trying to understand your position :smile:. What does construction add to your metaphysics if it is acknowledged to not be able to accurately represent basic reality?
 

apeiron

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To keep this thread on track - because I think it is a fundamental cosmological question whose time has come - I will hit the refresh button.

The question was about how a universe (or even multiverse) might emerge through some sort of self-organisation out of pure possibility, a chaos of geometry of some kind, a quantum foaminess of some infinite description.

To make a start on such an approach, we need some appropriate intellectual tools. We need some maths we can apply. Some causal model. Some kind of logic of self-organisation. Some wider metaphysical hand-waving description that can ground all these things. We need the general SO package that can be applied to a particular proposed example of SO.

It just so happens that SO systems is what I've been studying - both ancient and modern views on their modelling. So I have a personal take on what the best package is, and also a reasonable knowledge of the variety of approaches that are out there.

The vagueness/dichotomies/hierarchies story is a distillation of the core causal logic that can be used to model SO in general. It will seem a very alien logic to anyone only used to thinking in standard mechanical and atomistic terms when modelling reality. Indeed, it will seem to exactly contradict conventional logic on most key points. Which is actually OK because this systems approach can be developed as a formally dichotomous model of causality - it is the antithesis to the usual thesis. And furthermore, all logics are UN-real because they stand outside the complex, entangled realities they are used to describe. This is why we call them reductions - they leave out as much as possible to deal only in essentials.

OK, this is getting off track. I just wanted to make it clear that a logic/causality of SO may be very different from how people are used to thinking about systems.

To bring the discussion back into people's comfort zones, we could talk about all this in terms of phase transitions - as in Ising spin glasses and magnetisation of iron bars.

Vagueness would be like a state of poised criticality. The hot iron bar and its chaotically disoriented dipoles slowly approaching its critical point of cooling.

Then there is a dichotomisation. A global magnetic field emerges which is constraining. All the local dipoles line up - to construct that global magnetic field of constraint. You get order out of chaos (paid for by the export of heat in this closed system example, but paid for by the expansion of spacetime - the creation of the heat sink - in the "open system" example of a big bang.)

The phase transition of magnetic bar is not actually an ideal example of the full SO logic I am talking about, only an introduction. It is not properly a dichotomy and does not lead to an SO hierarchy. But it is still a start, a mental image, that can begin the understanding.
 

apeiron

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I'm trying to understand your position :smile:. What does construction add to your metaphysics if it is acknowledged to not be able to accurately represent basic reality?
The metaphysics ends up demanding that causality be dichotomised. Just having either construction or constraint would be the sound of one hand clapping. Reality emerges as the result of the sum over all possible interactions. And you need these two very general versions of causality to have causality in interaction with itself, so to speak.

And again, modelling is unreal - for the usual dichotomous reasons. If reality is real, then the modelling must be unreal (in some useful interactive way).

Only the unreal could "accurately" model the real - otherwise it would still be entangled in the system it hopes to describe.

This is the standard observer problem we find in QM. It is impossible for the observer actually to stand outside the system. But the best model is the one that manages to simulate such an impossible stance.

The same goes for anthropology or any other science. How do we observe a tribe in an "objective" fashion? Our relationship with reality is subjective, yet we must find a way to fake objectivity.

How many different ways can I describe the modelling relation? This should be very familiar and basic epistemology (even if the vagueness/dichotomy/hierarchy model of causality is way out on the fringe of things).
 

ConradDJ

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The question was about how a universe (or even multiverse) might emerge through some sort of self-organisation out of pure possibility, a chaos of geometry of some kind, a quantum foaminess of some infinite description.

To make a start on such an approach, we need some appropriate intellectual tools. We need some maths we can apply. Some causal model. Some kind of logic of self-organisation.
This is the standard observer problem we find in QM. It is impossible for the observer actually to stand outside the system. But the best model is the one that manages to simulate such an impossible stance.

To try to clarify the specific scenario I’m suggesting – it’s not so much a process of self-organization as one of self-selection. If you take a point of view “outside the system” and model this objectively, all you have is the original chaos, where all possible events occur at random, with no restrictions, and there is no definable information. I’m not supposing anything happens to change this.

The point is that there could exist within this chaos a very small subset of events that happened to be connected with each other in certain ways, such that from a point of view inside this web of connections, some kinds of information could be defined. From a point of view inside this set, events would appear to be lawful and determinate, to some extent; it might appear to unfold in a structured space and time. But this appearance is merely the result of self-selection, not any assumed physical process. From an objective standpoint, the events in this system are just as random and unconstrained as all the rest. They merely happen by accident to fall into a pattern which is able to define itself – i.e. which provides a context of definition for all its own information.

I think this is very far-fetched. Logically there’s no reason to believe such a system could exist. But my point is, we know such systems do exist, because we actually live in one. The structure of physical interaction we experience manifestly does provide an interactional context of definition for all its own information. That is, for every observable parameter in physics, there is a context of interaction in terms of which that parameter can be defined and measured, through other observables. This is so obvious and so necessary to the possibility of any experience that we take it for granted... but it seems to me it's not at all a trivial feature of the structure of physics.

So my argument is, we don’t need to assume anything about processes of self-organization happening ex nihilo. We don’t need to assume anything, because physics gives us a vast amount of detailed information about what an actual self-determining system looks like.

But I agree that we lack appropriate intellectual tools. We’re used to defining information in terms of the intrinsic properties of things-in-themselves, or in terms of the structure of systems seen “from outside”, or in terms of abstract logic. We don’t yet have tools for the analysis of observable information, i.e. information defined in terms of other observables.

So thanks for the links to Salthe – I’m definitely interested in the various approaches to the structure of the world “from inside”. I wish he were clearer up front about his principles, though! This is (as you say) pretty opaque.
 

apeiron

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I was using self-organisation and self-selection interchangeably. But you would be right that there would be differences.

However I don't really get your point about how a subset of processes could be internally ordered, yet externally still seem random.

My own presumption is that the self-organisation/selection would draw everything that exists into coherent organisation.

But minor issue. More important is that SO approaches to cosmology are flourishing now. There may be some convergence that narrows down the theories usefully.

Have you caught this thread for example?

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=331348
 

ConradDJ

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I don't really get your point about how a subset of processes could be internally ordered, yet externally still seem random.
The idea is that an "external" view would not have access to the selection criteria that define the set, since they refer only to interactions within the set. All the reference-frames that define its order are internal to the set.

Think of the many-worlds interpretation -- there each observer sees only his own world, but an "external" observer (if there could be such a thing) would "see" a superposition of all worlds, where everything happens. That would presumably be indistinguishable from the lawless chaos I began with, even though each of the MWI worlds is assumed to "obey laws" and be intrinsically well-defined.

The difference between my scenario and MWI is that I don't think there's any reason to believe that all these different worlds proposed by MWI would all be observable -- would all "work" to define themselves by providing contexts that define all their own information. MWI just makes the usual assumption that whatever "really happens" in any given world is observable. But there's only one world that we have reason to believe actually "works" to support observable information.

My suggestion is that the coherent reality and lawfulness of the world we observe come from the criteria of observability this system happens to develop for itself. Events that don't "obey" the "laws" (i.e. the self-selection criteria that happen to pick out this set) remain invisible, in that they can't have any specific observable character, or any definite effect on the things that are observable. They constitute a background of "virtual" events.

The idea of a set that defines its own selection criteria is bizarre enough that's it's not easy to bring it into focus, in the abstract. I'm going to try to come at this from another point of view in a separate thread... trying to clarify the kind of structure that would make information "observable".
 

apeiron

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My suggestion is that the coherent reality and lawfulness of the world we observe come from the criteria of observability this system happens to develop for itself. Events that don't "obey" the "laws" (i.e. the self-selection criteria that happen to pick out this set) remain invisible, in that they can't have any specific observable character, or any definite effect on the things that are observable. They constitute a background of "virtual" events.
I agree with this approach. It might help to clarify your ideas to make a vague/crisp distinction here (which is sort of like virtual/real).

Vagueness is a way of talking about pure potential - a something that is an everythingness because all would still be possible, but is also equally an infinite nothingness as nothing has actually yet - crisply - happened.

So we can also call it a virtual sea, a quantum foam. But metaphysically speaking, it is a more general way of talking about such a potential. Vaguness is an idea that can be applied to any kind of system, not just physical ones.

And then you can start to talk about the logic of vagueness - the principles under which a potential can self-organise. This is what CS Peirce set the ball rolling on. Smolin for one has recently started citing Peirce (but only in a superficial way).

The point really is that the way you are thinking about these things is the way a fair few people think about self-organising systems. And it really helps to find the right jargon.

I know what you mean by the dichotomy, virtual-real. But the idea has unhelpful connotations because only the real is "real", and the virtual is somehow sullied by its fake pretence to exist. It is a junior partner in the story that we would like to discard.

But vague-crisp is a better terminology because it has a long philosophical history, and there is no implication that one is more real than the other. The vague is just the undeveloped potential and the crisp is what has managed to SO into some more definite existence (or persistence).
 

baywax

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Now it seems that when we look deep into the quantum realm – for example, when we extrapolate back toward the very beginning of the universe, or when we describe the quantum vacuum of “virtual events” – we have something that approximates this sort of chaos where “anything goes.” So maybe it makes sense to think of the basis of things as an infinite plenum of unstructured happening, where any sort of event can occur.

The question is – could there happen to exist, within this original chaos, some sort of system that defined its own rules? Suppose for example there happened to be a web of the kind of events we call “interactions” – i.e. “relational events”, events that happen between other events. The “rule” defined by this system would just be that every event in the web has to link two other events within the system. A rule like this would be entirely “de facto” – it doesn’t make anything happen, it just selects the set of events that happen to “obey” it.
The only part of these ideas that is objectively correct is that fact that the physical laws are a result of "natural selection". There is no system nor being or other "intelligence" doing the arrangements... no conductor and no professor deciding how and when things should take place or if they should survive to continue to support this universe.

Just as life is a result of natural selection, so are the natural laws. The thing that is most titillating is that there must have spawned certain processes that didn't make it as part of the universal, natural laws. I would speculate that they must have been very chaotic or... "unhelpful" indeed.

It is hard to stay away from anthropomorphizing when talking about the universe's complex web of support-mechanisms. But that's all they are... naturally selected mechanisms. They only survive today because they provided undaunted support for all the other mechanisms holding this universe together. We really need to take a lesson from the cooperation shown between natural laws. Thank you.
 
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The only part of these ideas that is objectively correct is that fact that the physical laws are a result of "natural selection". ......when talking about the universe's complex web of support-mechanisms. But that's all they are... naturally selected mechanisms. They only survive today because they provided undaunted support for all the other mechanisms holding this universe together...
I think you're probably right, Baywax. I'm surprised that no mention has been made here of an essential feature of natural selection --- the happenstance stumbling by nature upon processes that promote themselves, like the self-replicating property of DNA or the erosion caused by flowing water, which accentuates channelling and more erosion --- autocatalysis, I believe it's called.
 

ConradDJ

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Just as life is a result of natural selection, so are the natural laws... the universe's complex web of support-mechanisms. But that's all they are... naturally selected mechanisms. They only survive today because they provided undaunted support for all the other mechanisms holding this universe together. We really need to take a lesson from the cooperation shown between natural laws.
I'm surprised that no mention has been made here of an essential feature of natural selection --- the happenstance stumbling by nature upon processes that promote themselves, like the self-replicating property of DNA or the erosion caused by flowing water, which accentuates channelling and more erosion --- autocatalysis, I believe it's called.

These comments make sense, thank you. I agree that the key issue is understanding in what sense all the different kinds of laws and invariants of physics support each other – define and determine each other. I’ve posted some thoughts related to this question in a separate thread:

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=332292"

As to self-promoting processes – this happens in many very different ways. Some happen very easily – erosion for example – and others, perhaps like the accidental emergence of self-replicating systems, may be extremely unlikely, even if the physical conditions that make it possible are there.

I think we may be able to identify processes like this at the basis of physics too... but the question is, starting from what? What are the basic conditions nature has to work with, in the beginning, that would make possible some sort of self-promoting process? What I want to avoid is making arbitrary assumptions about what the “initial conditions” were and what sort of “processes” would naturally arise.

In the past, metaphysics has been very fruitful with ideas about what “must be the case” at the basis of things, developed out of “pure reason”. But I think we’re mostly suspicious of that kind of thinking, nowadays, though it does keep getting reinvented.

On the other hand, I think quantum theory points to a kind of beginning ex nihilo that would hardly have been imaginable earlier – a “nothing” that consists of random lawless happening rather than absolute emptiness. (A “pure vacuum” sort of nothingness is in QM a very highly determinate state, and therefore can’t be taken for granted at a fundamental level.)

If that makes sense, it points us toward looking for “processes” – if that’s even the right word, when we can’t take for granted a well-defined space/time-continuum – that can define themselves, make themselves “meaningful” in some way – and so set up the conditions in which nature could “stumble upon” more structured processes.

Here I was just trying to make this starting-point plausible, by pointing out that the world we actually observe must in principle be a self-defining system, just by virtue of the fact that it’s observable. Once we believe that such systems can exist, we can start trying to understand their structure, and imagine what the most primitive information-processes may have been like – what would be analogous in base-level physics to erosion-channels, planetary orbits and other types of order that arise naturally once the basic structure of physical law is established.
 
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apeiron

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As to self-promoting processes – this happens in many very different ways. Some happen very easily – erosion for example – and others, perhaps like the accidental emergence of self-replicating systems, may be extremely unlikely, even if the physical conditions that make it possible are there. .
It would be important here to distinguish between evolution and development as forms of SO. Evolution is complex, development simple. So development is more likely to be the deep cosmological level story.

As an aside, here is another SO story fired in my direction this morning. The paper itself does not impress, but it does give some useful refs and context for SO approaches.

http://evodevouniverse.com/EDU2008Papers/HeylighenSOTimeCausalityEDU2008.pdf [Broken]
 
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It would be important here to distinguish between evolution and development as forms of SO. Evolution is complex, development simple. ......
Could you amplify this distinction, please, perhaps with examples of both processes? I had thought such a distinction was merely qualitative, with evolution being a process that includes both sudden (puctuated?) change and continuous development. But one hears a lot about evodevo these days, so I guess that I'm missing an important distinction. I need educating.
 

baywax

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Could you amplify this distinction, please, perhaps with examples of both processes? I had thought such a distinction was merely qualitative, with evolution being a process that includes both sudden (puctuated?) change and continuous development. But one hears a lot about evodevo these days, so I guess that I'm missing an important distinction. I need educating.
Its hard to distinguish evolution from de-evolution since both result in new forms of mechanisms. I would go as far to say that entropy is a function or precursor to another process the same way we see decay give way to new forms of life or types of structures.

We tend to view a process as an end rather than a gradient of a progression of events.

Thanks for the vote of confidence oldman I've mentioned the idea of natural selection as it applies to astrophysics and laws of nature in other threads but I have a feeling the idea smacks of metaphor and allegory. I don't blame anyone for being cautious around these methods of communication. However, I personally don't see natural selection as a metaphor when its used to describe the development of the physical laws and the formation of matter etc... over time.
 

apeiron

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Could you amplify this distinction, please, perhaps with examples of both processes? I had thought such a distinction was merely qualitative, with evolution being a process that includes both sudden (puctuated?) change and continuous development. But one hears a lot about evodevo these days, so I guess that I'm missing an important distinction. I need educating.
Development is "pure" self organisation. There is a bag of materials. A beaker of chemistry. Someone has set up some initial conditions (the local substances) within some global boundary constraints (the global form or organisation). And then this system runs down its gradient of development. A reaction proceeds to its equilbrium.

Evolution is then a system that can take some degree of control over the initial conditions/boundary constraints. It is a system with the memory mechanisms (the "semiotic" or symbolic stuff like DNA, membranes, words, neurons) to harness naturally occuring developmental gradients.

So with life for example, a bag of chemistry is literally create within a cell's membrane. The chemistry will find its equilibrium. Then the cell can throw in some enzymes in a timely fashion to tilt the equilibrium to some new developmental balance.

The information that is stored in these memory devices like DNA is derived by "natural selection".

You are probably thinking of evolution in the Darwinian sense of the evolution of a species, so natural selection seems the core idea. But I'm talking about more generalised notions of development and evolution which stress the SO aspect. It makes SO basic. It anchors the discussion to the second law and dissipative structures - the abiotic. Then allows you to define the "living and mindful" - the biotic - in terms of a capacity to evolve. A capacity to harness development through semiotic mechanisms like words and DNA.

Natural selection has got all the limelight because it was a quick way to knock intelligent designers out of the picture. But the cutting edge of theoretical biology for a long time now has been getting to grips with the deeper principles of SO. Selection was only the tip of the iceberg, intellectually.

A lot of books have been written about this stuff - Oyama's Ontogeny of information, Salthe's Development and Evolution, being two of the better ones.

As you say, the distinction seems qualitative. But I myself have been working on quantitative issues. Such as the argument that developmental processes have a natural powerlaw statistics (scale free, critical, tsallis, etc, due to their freely expanding design) while evolutionary processes have constrained gaussian statistics. Variety is for example one of the things a system has to bring under control - in the way height and other characteristics are anchored to a mean - so as to allow natural selection to work. The randomness that seeds a species Darwinian "development" has to be constrained to a single scale for selection to work with maximal efficiency.

This new evo-devo thing has nothing to do with the old sterile punctuated equilibrium debate. That was one of those contrived academic reputation making issues.

Well actually there is a connection. If we are saying that all evolutionary mechanism arises within a developmental context (you need an entropy gradient first for an entropy degrading system to arise) then the biosphere as a whole should show the statistics of "a development". So it should be no surprise if its is marked by scalefree or fractal statistics. You would expect powerlaw patterns of species creation and extinction. Intermitency rather than smoothness.
 
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.....I personally don't see natural selection as a metaphor when its used to describe the development of the physical laws and the formation of matter etc... over time.
I agree. As far as the mysteries of how the universe started (if it ever did) complete with matter, energy and 31 ruling constants, I think it is rash to adopt natural selection as a metaphor. We are just too ignorant to do anything other than speculate about how all this stuff --- which physicists so valiantly try to quantitatively describe --- got here in the first place. I'm quite sceptical about Smolin's "Cosmic Darwinism" .

But once things got going, evolution does seems to me to be the "name of the game", although I've got into trouble once before in this forum by generalising about evolution (in the 2008 thread How does evolution work).
 
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.......quantitative issues. Such as the argument that developmental processes have a natural powerlaw statistics (scale free, critical, tsallis, etc, due to their freely expanding design) while evolutionary processes have constrained gaussian statistics. Variety is for example one of the things a system has to bring under control - in the way height and other characteristics are anchored to a mean - so as to allow natural selection to work. The randomness that seeds a species Darwinian "development" has to be constrained to a single scale for selection to work with maximal efficiency...... all evolutionary mechanism arises within a developmental context (you need an entropy gradient first for an entropy degrading system to arise) then the biosphere as a whole should show the statistics of "a development". So it should be no surprise if its is marked by scalefree or fractal statistics. You would expect powerlaw patterns of species creation and extinction. Intermitency rather than smoothness.
Thutch, Apeiron (as Marcus says: "that means thanks very much") for clarifying the current situation for me.

I find it interesting that both you and Baywax mention "gradients" in an evolutionary context --- Baywax: "a process (as) a gradient of a progression of events" and yourself: " entropy gradient (needed) .... for an entropy degrading system to arise". You also mention the importance of "scale".

In physics much is made of the common "gauge symmetrical" character of its field theories (ED, QED, QCD and GR). In the oldest example (Maxwells ED) this shows up as an unobservable but convenient-to-formulate-with variable (potential) whose gradient is associated with measurable stuff (forces). And in GR scale (a property of coordinates) is redundant in the same sense. "Gradients" and "scale" just coincidentally important in evolution?

Just a passsing thought.
 

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