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Prove or disprove spontaneity.

  1. Nov 30, 2005 #1
    Must everything have a cause? Or are spontaneous events possible, things that arise without any cause?

    First, it seems clear that whatever exist must have an effect of some sort on other things, otherwise they cannot be called real. Claiming otherwise is like saying that an infinite number of fictitious concepts really do exist, but they don't matter since they have no effect on anything. It's sort of a waste of words. So to exist is to have an effect and be a cause of some sort. The logical claim is that the existence of a cause implies the existence of its effect, or for short: cause implies effect.

    Unfortunately the reverse equivalent of this claim is "no effect implies no cause" and not "effect implies cause". It's too bad, but we cannot conclude that the existence of an effect implies the existence of a cause, so we cannot conclude that all that exists had a source. Not from the reasoning of the previous paragraph anyways. We only see that it seems to be the rule, but is there some logical proof that this is always so, beyond our common sense?

    Problem is, our common sense is just common, it is not a proof of anything. When we look hard enough, we usually find causes for almost everything we observe. But not always, research does not always bear fruit. Sure, there may also be theories a-la-QM that seem to work most of the time with certain postulates, but again a theory is not a final proof, theories are refutable. The question is: is there a logical necessity for everything to have a cause?

    So far, I have not found a way to either prove or disprove the possibility of spontaneous events. Anyone?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2005 #2


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    I don't think there is a logical necessity at all. Suppose there exists some world W wherein the only thing in existence is a single 'uncaused' phenomenon P. Is there a logical contradiction in supposing a world like W might exist? If there is, I can't see it.

    A better question might be, is there a nomological necessity for everything to have a cause? That is, in the actual world we live in, with its (perhaps) contingent laws of physics and so on, is there a necessity for everything to have a cause? I don't know the answer to that one. But, suppose it is true that such a necessity exists. If we carry this to its logical conclusion, we end up with an infinite regress of causes. I think, therefore, that it is more likely that it is not a nomological necessity that everything in our world must have a cause.
  4. Nov 30, 2005 #3
    So if everything requires a cause then the universe had no beginning. This possibility seems equally likely as the possibility that it poped out of nothing at an arbitrary moment. One of these must be correct, I just see no evidence of one over the other.
  5. Nov 30, 2005 #4
    if spontaneity is acting as the result of some cause for action, we are talking about free-will, no? or at least something very similar. are we, and everything, determined through an endless chain of cause-effect? i think is the question. well, i think that this immediate calls the mind to examination. if i am acting based on past knowledge, perceptions, prejudices, etc., it cannot be said that i am acting freely, no? i am acting based on a very complex set of limited, possible actualizations of action. in other words, i am merely unfolding the necessary actions that would directly follow from the previous model, of possible action... therefore, my actions are "caused" by the past, and the model from whence they are projected. it would seem, then, that free action can only come from a place where the mind is transcended, and the set of possible actions is not particularized, and therefore, infinite. from an infinte set of possible actions, can we say that there is any gorund for cause/effect to hold relevance, in actualized action? it appears that there cannot be such a relevance. therefore, it seems that spontaneity can only be manifest from the state of no-mind, or, rather, the transcendence of individual "past experiences and beliefs", and therefore, the transcendence of individual self.

  6. Nov 30, 2005 #5
    Well, this is not what I was talking about here. The concept of free will is an entirely different discussion. I started this topic just to discuss the possibility or impossibility of spontaneous events, as opposed to events that are the result of other events (the result of a cause).
  7. Nov 30, 2005 #6
    entirely different? really? is human action considered something other than an event that occurs/ed? can it be? maybe free-will of particles, and other material events, is what you mean, then? it is not absurd to consider a particulate event as being of free-will or determinism.

    actually, i see what is meant... perhaps something like a green unicorn/dinasaur appearing in NYC, apparently spawned from thin air, with no apparent or real cause. well, in this case, can we not say that the universe is either determined, or free of will, when generating events? let me know... we seem to be playing a type of intellectual volleyball, don't you think, orefa?
  8. Nov 30, 2005 #7
    I think so. I asked the question more in terms of physical phenomena than human condition. I could have asked instead: could a ball on the pool table move spontaneously or must it absolutely be knocked by another ball first? (And where is the proof either way?) No free will involved here. In my view that term is not defined clearly enough for this particular topic.
  9. Nov 30, 2005 #8
    you are right. that term is not well enough defined, as we do not have a sufficient meaning of "mind" or "event" even. we assume* the meanings of these terms, as we assume many things, in science and in the history of rationality, so we must be able to distinguish the reality from the term. In fact, we must see if the reality and the terms are Truly consistent parallels. i say they are not compatible, but then i seem to negate the value of science and rationality... i don't want to do that. surely we can understand the meaning of the relationship of the two, to each other. so understanding this relationship, to me, is of the most fundamental and high-priority undertakings, humanity and its institutions, could embark on. but then, there is the fear of the unknown... this seems to inhibit our growth and action so much. but why? is it better to live in ignorance or to dive into the unknown, with the possibility of exposing our ignorance and enlightening us to truth?

    ok, i have left the topic, but surely the topic has lost much meaning without the proper definition and understanding of the terms which we speak... if i am mistaken, then i am mistaken, which is entirely possible. i think that this topic could shed much light onto many other areas of inquiry so i am not suggesting that it dies, only that maybe we can try to examine the topic terms more closely.
  10. Nov 30, 2005 #9
    Using few words can help with this part so let me rephrase. Prove or refute: everything has a cause.
  11. Nov 30, 2005 #10
    randomness is really the expression of order, to a near-infinite or infinite degree. we perceive an event as being random because we lack the insight into the degree of order from whence it arises.
  12. Nov 30, 2005 #11
    Certainly complex interactions of a large set of deterministic rules and of prior states can make predictions impossible and we call this randomness. But of course spontaneous events would also make predictions impossible and provide randomness. There is still no proof either way.
  13. Nov 30, 2005 #12
    you should read a book on chaos theory sometime, even seemingly random events have their beginnings based on logical known interactions.

    were not at the stage yet to account for everything that takes place in the brain but i would argue that every action is the result of a previous thought/event/action/responce.
  14. Nov 30, 2005 #13
    Sure, this is the premise of all science therefore scientifically enclined people readily accept it without proof. It's like faith. But how would you prove to a non-believer that this premise always apply? By what principle would you rule out even the rarest or faintest spontaneous event?

    PS: I read "Chaos" by James Gleick ten years ago or so (I had read about it in Jurassic Park). Enlightening.
  15. Nov 30, 2005 #14
    same answer as before.
  16. Nov 30, 2005 #15
    well you can only go so far with science else someone would have published a paper by now still i tend to think within the realms of what has been proven so far.
  17. Dec 1, 2005 #16
    I guess that concludes it, I have never found a proof either. Besides, it may simply be an unanswerable question, unless someone else can address the problem from a different perspective that neither one of us is thinking about right now.
  18. Dec 1, 2005 #17
    doesn't the perception of something being spontaneous depend, relatively, on the knowledge of the perceiver. If you are of limited knowledge of the order, even the "random number generator" of a computer seems to defy all order, when in fact, the appearance of randomness could not exist without some fundamental order. maybe only the programmer knows the order, from whence, the "random #'s" are generated, but there is still an order that is unfolding as "random" #'s.

    for example: one such "random" # generator takes an 8 digit # and multiplies it by 8. then it takes the middle 8 #'s of that # and multiplies them by 8, and on and on and on, so it is always generating 8 #'s that seem to come from a lack of order, when in fact the order is of, i think, the second degree. correct me if i am wrong, for it may be of the first degree.

    order of an infinite degree, can manifest events that may be called "random," but know also, that it is really the unfolding of an order, that, to the perceiver, is perceived as being completely "spontaneous" or "random", due to the limited knowledge of the perceiver.

    does this shed any light?
  19. Dec 1, 2005 #18
    You presented the same idea at post #10 so I can only give the same reply as in post #11: an event can seem spontaneous if it results from causes that are too complex to process, but this does not imply that all events are of causal origin.
  20. Dec 1, 2005 #19
    Cause and effect has a completely unblemished track record fortified by the sheer number of observed instances of its occurrence. No one has ever shown of an instance of a verifiable exception. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that this is an immutable aspect of reality, other wise we must choose our actions based upon absurdity unless and until such an exception is noted. I vote we vacate these premises until such time as someone/thing posts something worthy of refutation.
  21. Dec 1, 2005 #20
    But this does not address the topic. No one denies that cause and effect is real (at least not me). Causality definitely exists because everything real has an effect of some kind. If something had no effect on anything else then it could not be said to exist.

    The question is: is cause and effect all there is?
    Which unfortunately proves nothing.
    I am looking more for a proof than an assumption. Of course a proof is nothing more than a convincing statement, and since some statements are more convincing than others then some proofs are stronger than others. But what I am asking in this thread is if anyone has a rationale stronger than statistical evidence. If you don't, you don't and that's fine. I don't either, which is why I'm asking.
    Well, I'm not about to start preaching that science is bunk and that you should talk to your psychic instead, far from that. If this is how I am coming through then let me reassure you of the contrary.
    I'm sorry to hear that you find the question unworthy. I would have hoped that this discussion would instead trigger an interest in finding a proof that the fundation of science (cause and effect) is either the only relevant approach, or that we should also consider other factors. I think the question has merit.
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