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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?
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  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.
  22. Dec 1, 2005 #21
    so then, orefa, it appears you are right.

    and not to seem like a dick, but merely, to engage the notion from a different perspective, I would like to ask: where is the "past"? causality depends on a "past" that causes the "present" and will extend causality into the "future". can we say that there exists such a "past"?

    to consider this question means that, as in any case where we are "thinking outside the box", we must detach our minds from the rigid beliefs that we have about "reality" and then to "see" It in a whole new way. (this is creativity).

    in truth, can we say that a "past" or "future" exist? causality depends on their existence, but can we say that they do? If so, where is the past? and/or the future? we must ask ourselves.

    if past and future don't exist, can causality exist? certainly, it seems that they can't.

    now, i was reading an article that said, "the so-called laws of nature are more like habits." you may have read this article. it was posted in another forum, but i will provide the link here.


    habit is a function of mind, can we agree? perhaps it is the nature of mind, as all action is founded in the "past" and then re-calculated, based on the present, to be projected into the "future". its always using the same kinds of equations, and parameters. you see? always limited in possibilities, is such a mind.

    so now, i am some what tangent of the "original" idea, but we can get a picture of the universe in some kind of, relative, "neuron-loop", if you will.
    this gives the perception, via our identification with "mind", and therefore "time", that there are causal laws, that govern action. the universe never really does anything new, because it is self-limited perhaps.

    regardless of speculation, about the universe and mind-properties of it, we will turn again to "your" perception of time. "time" we can surely see, is the construct of our "mind". in fact, they are so inherently tied together that we can say, "mind is time" and vice-versa, "time is mind". without mind, there could be no concept of time, and if there were no concept of time there would be no mind.

    causality, then, does not really exist and every event is occurring spontaneously in the now, for there can be no "cause"

    this is "radical" you might say, but is it, really, any more radical, than QM is to classical mechanics. classical mechanics, we might say, is the kind of mind that most people are functioning with, and QM is the kind of mind of those who are engaging, philosophically and scientifically, into the more fundamental questions. CM seems to work just, fine, but isn't satisfactory, so we have needed to develop QM. QM is also unsatisfactory, so we are needing to look, more and more fundamentally, into the issues and see if we can develop/discover more essential ideas.

    if it turns out that time and space aren't Real, our place of identification, within the universe, is fundamentally altered. we will have found ourselves to have been living ignorant of the truth, and have, consequentially, not fully actuallized our existence. there may be far more to reality and to our selves than meets the eye. our perception is a very crude one, indeed. we may find that our Being is far more powerful and expansive than we once imagined. the change in our perception would mark the change in our powers and abilities, and also our responsibility, having such power.

    of course, we can say, "any way you slice it, when we are of no-mind, we will have no conflicts or breaches of responsibilty." this may turn out to be most fundamentally true, if "time", "space", "cause-effect", "mind", "me", "you" and all other creations of the mind are, indeed, false.

    when you ask you for proof, you are really asking for the truth. so we are trying to look at the truth, from all angles, freely... hopefully, the widest, so that we may have the best view.

    truth is very much enfolded within our pre-conceptions. we must unfold our minds (in other words: open them) so that we gain clear and clear understanding of truth.
  23. Dec 1, 2005 #22
    Thank you sameandnot, but since I have not made up my mind either way, I don't know what I am right about. Un-caused events may happen or they may not. But I don't know which it is since there is no proof either way.
    Ah but I see nothing "dicky" about this question, it is perfectly relevant to the topic. The notion of cause and effect is indeed contingent upon the notion of a past and present.

    In turn, the notion of time is contingent upon the notion of change. If change does not happen then time itself is meaningless. Consider a constant universe where the past is identical to the present and to the future. What possible use is there for the notion of time itself? As well, without the notion of time, how could the notion of change exist? If no time passes then nothing can possibly change as we are frozen in a single moment. While the nature of time could occupy a whole different thread, my own interpretation is that time is simply the fact that everything is not constant. In other words, time is change. Both concepts are equivalent to me.
    If they do not then time does not exist. Since I equate time with change then that would mean that change does not exist either. And if nothing changes then I cannot be writing this...
    I agree and claim even more than this: if there is no past or future then there is no change either. If there is no change then there is neither causality nor spontaneity.

    But this is a matter of perception. Some people (perhaps yourself) see reality as a somewhat fixed model where past, present and future coexist. But this is merely a mental model. The impression that time "passes" may also be nothing more than a mental model. However, it does not really matter which model is used, we only need to decide if changes happen or not. I would continue with the assumption that changes DO happen, otherwise this discussion is moot. With the assumption that changes indeed happen we could continue to discuss cause and effect as well as spontaneous events.

    But I should stop here because the notion of time you describe in the rest of your message is very different from the notion I have just presented. This can signal an impass that could only be resolved by a protracted discussion on the nature of time itself, and I cannot presently embark on something like this.

    However I should report a different discussion on this very subject in the Metaphysics & Epistemology section, which I had not seen before starting this one. This is what I have just found about an hour ago:


    The discussion is quite interesting even though it becomes repetitive at some point as they often do. Obviously I was not the first person to wonder if determinism can be either proven or refuted. One of the participants claims that such a proof cannot be produced. I will have to re-read parts of it to understand why that is (but not today). Maybe my initial question should have been "prove that determinism cannot be proven" instead. :smile:
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  24. Dec 1, 2005 #23
    si, senor, orefa.

    u may have mis-understood one notion. when i say thay past and future do not exist, but only as conceptions of the mind (which perceives the continuity of past to present, and therefore and coined the terms past and future, to assimilate with a very apparent perception of change occurring), i mean that they have their existence only in the mind. surely past, present and future are all entertwined and interconneted, but i must note that even "present" is a notation given by the mind to express the idea of the happenings occuring in the immediate field of awareness. so actually past, present and future are constructs of the mind and therefore cannot be said to be "objective" realities. this is fundamental in relativity theory. so then, "what is", now, entirely transcends the minds/thoughts ability to understand/touch it. some refer point to "what is" by calling it the "ever-present moment". we can not say that the moment is 1/100 nanoseconds long or 100 years long. it is entirely indefinable.

    some philosophers have said that "nothing is moving". there is "nothing happening". they say this, it appears, because they have seen that, through the transcendence of name and idea (mind, in general), nothing can be said to "be happening/moving". it is as though the mind constructs reality in exactly the same way that a movie is constructed. it perceives, through assumption, that there is a continuity, or flow, that is really occurring, when actually, what it perceives are "momentary" still-life's, moving in succession, too quickly for the perceiver to perceive that the "flow" is in fact, not really occurring, but merely seems to occur. we know a movie is made in frames, so we know what the reality of films are, but the nature of mind is not different from this activity, in "reality".

    every moment is complete and whole. nothing can be given to or taken from it. the perception of causality is, then, an illusion produced by the mind, and its fallibility of knowing through sense perception. "stopping the mind", is, in essence, no different from "stopping the world". when the mind is no longer acting to "fill in" the gaps, "time" is naught as well. as time is but a construct of the mind... a way to "make sense".

    in the words of the great philosopher/sage david byrne... heh... "stop making sense."

    this is what i mean by seeing the truth of it.

    reality always defies interpretation, because by the time the mind acts to interpret it, it has already changed and the mind is interpreting "what was" instead of perceiving "what is". so we say: thought can never touch Reality, for Reality must be "what is", and can not be "what is not". yes?

    i spoke of free will "in the past" because it has shown itself to be apparent, to me, that free action can only occur when the mind is naught. and is therefore not influencing action. so free-action, is in fact a not-acting, but being... beyond limitations imposed by the "finite mind".
  25. Dec 2, 2005 #24

    Orefa; I approve of the subject of your thread, " Prove or disprove spontaneity"; that is why I came in for a peek. I was just hoping to see an exception to cause and effect worthy of refutation so that I would not have to watch you endure countless speculations. Sorry about the :redface: misunderstanding, I was a little overeager :tongue2: to help.
    Good luck with your thread. Hopefully someone will come along soon and show that cause and effect are axiomatic.
  26. Dec 2, 2005 #25
    to see "an exception of cause and effect" would imply that some event occured, which cannot be understood in our present understanding, of causality. no?

    since we only understand in terms of "causality", it is quite impossible to talk about an occurrance, such as this. even "miracles" we assume to have some "cause"... namely, "God". but this gives no exception to causality, it only poses the possiblity that there is a presently unknown realm of causation. which is to say that, Reality is not sufficiently understood, and hence, we do not have and explanation. This occurs all the time, but we do not say that "causality has been violated".

    is "walking on water" a violation of causality? or does it imply that there is more to Reality than is presently known... that "laws" themselves are not entirely understood, and that there was a "cause".

    in the present, common, scientific, philosophical and religious world-views, causality is never questioned, and therefore it is impossible to suggest that some event "violated causality". neither can we show that they are axiomatic. we have faith in our perception that causality is axiomatic, even though events occur that are not explainable. we say that they are not yet explainable, or we say that God is the only cause there is and that He causes all events and things.

    unfortunately, outside of the previous posts about seeing in a radically new way, the question, there can be no "exception to cause-effect", and you will never "find what you were looking for".
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