• Metaphysician Undercover
    3.9k
    It is certainly an odd notion I have, but there is a logic that I find persuasive. If something 'comes from' somewhere, it is not new, but merely a rearrangement and continuation of the old; this is the dictatorship of the reasonable, and it governs much of our lives, and much of the universe.unenlightened

    Do you not believe in "change"? For me, the concept of change allows that something new comes from the old. A butterfly is something completely new, despite the fact that it came from a caterpillar. A human baby is something new despite the fact that it came from its parents.

    You rightfully claim, that a continuity of existence through time, denies one the right to claim newness. But I can question whether this continuity is real, or just assumed. Perhaps, your odd notion that there is a continuation of the old, is just an unsupported assumption. If we analyze "what" exists at each moment of time, and find that it is different from one moment to the next, then isn't each moment something new? Why are you inclined to say that this newness is a rearrangement? Does the caterpillar rearrange itself to make a butterfly? Do mom and dad rearrange themselves to make a baby?

    My opinion is that we need to separate the thing which is continuous from the new things which pop into existence. This would be a categorical separation, such that one type of thing exists in a way of continuous rearrangements, while another type of thing determines new rearrangements.

    So it seems to me that even if it is not true, the story we tell of ourselves must necessarily include our freedom, and freedom means unconditioned by the past, just as determined means determined by the past. It's curious how a discussion of consciousness involves these other philosophical strands of time and determinism...unenlightened

    I think consciousness is a very odd thing. It is the means by which we try to sort things out, to bring order to things, and understand them. But sometimes when things appear to be simple, we accept them as being simple, and ignoring the existing complications may cause us to proceed in misunderstanding. So for example, we hear the story you've told, about how nothing is new, everything is a rearrangement of the old, a continuity, and we have physical laws of conservation which enhance that story, so we accept the story, in its pure simplicity and ease of understanding.

    Meanwhile, the mystic is insisting wait a minute, something is not completely right here, your story is leaving something out. That story cannot account for origins, newness, creativity, and freedom. So we have to look for another story to account for these things. However, the mystic's story consists of demonstrations of creativity, things coming from nothing, magical appearances, so it is completely incoherent as "a story" and not even a story at all. The mystic's "story" demonstrates that history is full of incoherencies, things coming from nothing, magic. So even the idea that there ought to be one coherent story is misleading, a misunderstanding, because any story glosses over, obscures all of the creativity, the things coming from nothing, in order that it be a coherent story. And the origins, creativity must be accounted for by something other than a story.

    It's not myself that brings order; that would be intelligence.JJJJS

    But isn't your intelligence part of yourself? So for instance, if you use your hands to bring order to something around you, wouldn't you allow that this is yourself which is engaged in bringing order? And if you use your intelligence to bring order to things within your mind, wouldn't you allow that this is yourself which is bringing order?
  • unenlightened
    2.3k
    Does the caterpillar rearrange itself to make a butterfly? Do mom and dad rearrange themselves to make a baby?Metaphysician Undercover

    Well yes, the caterpillar does exactly the same thing in millions of cases and over millions of years. Not mum and dad, but their genes are rearranged to make a 'new' individual. In that sense, a fully deterministic system allows for change, and if you add a salting of randomness, evolution in the full sense can get going, producing not only new individuals but new species.

    So even the idea that there ought to be one coherent story is misleading, a misunderstanding, because any story glosses over, obscures all of the creativity, the things coming from nothing, in order that it be a coherent story. And the origins, creativity must be accounted for by something other than a story.Metaphysician Undercover

    An account is a story. 'A caterpillar turns into a butterfly' accounts for a butterfly in terms of a prior caterpillar. So the mystic is pointing to creativity, and saying that if there is creativity, there can be no account of it, because all accounts are of how the past became the present, or projections of how the present will be in the future and creativity simply is what is not accounted for by the past. Hence 'it comes from nothing' does not count as an account, but as a denial of accountability.
  • JJJJS
    206
    I think we need to decide what is 'order' to be honest
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    3.9k
    Well yes, the caterpillar does exactly the same thing in millions of cases and over millions of years. Not mum and dad, but their genes are rearranged to make a 'new' individual. In that sense, a fully deterministic system allows for change, and if you add a salting of randomness, evolution in the full sense can get going, producing not only new individuals but new species.unenlightened

    I suppose there is an issue of what differentiates a "rearrangement of parts' from a "creation of new parts". If you are one to insist that everything new is just a rearrangement of old parts, then you'd be inclined to insist that all new creations are just rearrangements. Consider "energy" though. To break things down into parts, energy is required. And sometimes when things are broken down into parts, energy is freed. That released energy may ne used in creating new parts. So the rearranging of parts is only a part of the story because there is a matter of the act of rearranging. The rearranging requires energy. Furthermore, there is also evidence that parts, physical things, can come into existence from energy. So the issue of creating something new is much more complicated than the description of rearranging parts.

    An account is a story. 'A caterpillar turns into a butterfly' accounts for a butterfly in terms of a prior caterpillar. So the mystic is pointing to creativity, and saying that if there is creativity, there can be no account of it, because all accounts are of how the past became the present, or projections of how the present will be in the future and creativity simply is what is not accounted for by the past. Hence 'it comes from nothing' does not count as an account, but as a denial of accountability.unenlightened

    Do you agree that the coherency of the story is a function of continuity? If you are telling the story of how a butterfly comes to be from a caterpillar, for example, and there is a break in your continuity, something unaccounted for in that break, then there is a problem with the story at that point. A critical analysis of the story will indicate that something has come from nothing at that point in the story. The new part is not accounted for by a rearrangement of the old parts, perhaps it's an electron or something like that, which has come from energy, and energy is not a part of any particular thing. A part comes into existence from energy and this cannot be described as a rearrangement of parts.

    So we have a new part, which does not come from the rearrangement of old parts, nor does it come from nothing, it comes from energy. But in the story, energy is only supposed to account for how the parts are moved around, rearranged, to create new parts through this rearrangement. Now it becomes evident that energy actually creates new parts. The whole story of "rearrangement" is suspicious. Why would we think that energy is rearranging parts, when the evidence is that it is annihilating old parts and producing new parts?

    I think we need to decide what is 'order' to be honestJJJJS

    That's a good point. You used it first, or more precisely you used "disorder", so do you have a definition?
  • unenlightened
    2.3k
    Do you agree that the coherency of the story is a function of continuity? If you are telling the story of how a butterfly comes to be from a caterpillar, for example, and there is a break in your continuity, something unaccounted for in that break, then there is a problem with the story at that point. A critical analysis of the story will indicate that something has come from nothing at that point in the story. The new part is not accounted for by a rearrangement of the old parts, perhaps it's an electron or something like that, which has come from energy, and energy is not a part of any particular thing. A part comes into existence from energy and this cannot be described as a rearrangement of parts.Metaphysician Undercover

    Here's a story. A brick with kinetic energy X hits a sheet of glass and the energy is transmitted from the brick to the glass causing lines of fracture to radiate outwards from the point of impact. The exact arrangement of those lines becomes more unpredictable as the glass becomes more uniform. The glass will break, but exactly where it will break is unknowable.

    This incompleteness is not incoherent. Energy is acting, but the unpredictable novelty is not what either of us mean by 'creative'. Or is it exactly that same creativity of the mind, but mindless? I'm not sure.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    3.9k
    This incompleteness is not incoherent. Energy is acting, but the unpredictable novelty is not what either of us mean by 'creative'. Or is it exactly that same creativity of the mind, but mindless? I'm not sure.unenlightened

    I don't think it's the same because breaking the glass is a matter of breaking down a complex structure, while creativity produces complex structures. So I think applying energy to randomly break something apart, and applying energy to create a complex structure, are two different types of actions.
  • unenlightened
    2.3k
    I think the broken glass is more complex than the unbroken. We are in the realm of entropy here: symmetry breaking, increasing disorder and increasing complexity. I need to do a bit of homework about the way life functions, but a first guess is that it uses available energy to make something of an eddy in the entropic flow increasing it globally but reversing it locally. Which might or might not relate to the order/disorder question of @JJJJS
  • JJJJS
    206
    increasing it globally but reversing it locally.unenlightened

    I'm not sure what you mean by this
  • Moliere
    1.1k
    I'm not sure what you mean by thisJJJJS

    What came to mind for me was Gibb's Free Energy. -- I linked the section without all the mathematical whatzits because it seems more pertinent, one, and wikipedia is horrible for actually explaining this stuff, IMX. It's written by people wanting to show off their knowledge rather than transmit it :D.

    Oftentimes what looks like a decrease in entropy for a given system (say, a body) is an increase in entropy for the universe.

    The phenomena of life is like that. At least, so the story goes. I'd be all for reading something more precise than the hand-wavey (though admittedly readable) section on wikipedia.
  • unenlightened
    2.3k
    Yeah, that. So much more understandable than what I said, not. So life can accumulate stored energy as wood coal and oil by utilising the sun's energy which is dissipating much faster.

    The bit that is harder to get my head around, though is the idea that complexity and disorder are somehow the same, and the nearest I can get to this is in terms of information. To the extent that information is patterned or structured, it can be compressed by specifying the structure. So the maximum information density is the same as random. Somehow this is equivalent to the energy thing, because it is the structure in the distribution of energy that allows for some 'free energy' to be released in it's dissipation.

    That's much clearer now isn't it?
  • Moliere
    1.1k
    So much more understandable than what I said, notunenlightened

    Heh, naw. I was hoping that last paragraph might be.

    The bit that is harder to get my head around, though is the idea that complexity and disorder are somehow the same, and the nearest I can get to this is in terms of information.unenlightened

    Complexity I'm less certain on. But I can speak to the notion of "disorder", at least -- disorder, I think, is a bit of poor wording.

    Consider a more simplified system: two jars connected by a small tube. The initial condition of said jars, for purposes of this thought experiment, has 10 molecules in the left-hand jar and 0 in the right-hand jar. Given time what you would expect is for there to be 5 molecules in the left-hand jar and 5 in the right-hand jar. This is because the entropy is increasing -- "disorder". But it's not exactly like disorder is chaotic or unstructured. It's simply the direction, meaning time-direction, in which we observe energy to flow.

    In another theoretical world we could reverse the thought experiment, with 5 molecules in each jar and we would expect to find 10 accumulate in one of the jars -- in this world the arrow of time would be observed to flow in the opposite direction from the world we actually live in.

    In one sense of the word "ordered" it would be more ordered. But not necessarily in a way that relates to complexity and simplicity.

    I'm not sure how you would actually relate the two. Like, what would unpatterend or unstructured information be, exactly? Would it just be unspecified? Or would it be exactly analogous, in that the states we might find any given bit are greater than they were before?


    My class on Statistical mechanics is what really helped me wrap my head around the 2nd law of thermo, especially the concept of entropy.


    One thing I want to note though:
    Somehow this is equivalent to the energy thing, because it is the structure in the distribution of energy that allows for some 'free energy' to be released in it's dissipation.unenlightened

    Free energy actually works on a system -- where a system is just anything that happens to be under consideration, and the universe is everything else (usually a room or a building, but it could also be the actual universe too). Not sure if it's pertinent here, but it's not being released from a system as much as it's either preventing or allowing some process to occur within the system under consideration.

    But, yes, the structure in the distribution of energy is what allows (or prevents) some process to occur.


    But I'm not read up enough on information theory to be able to say how these two things relate. Just trying to lend a helping hand where I can.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    3.9k
    Like, what would unpatterend or unstructured information be, exactly? Would it just be unspecified?Moliere

    It wouldn't be information at all if it were unpatterned or unstructured. That's the problem with this theoretical structure, the concept, "information", itself presupposes order. If there is no order, there is no information. So as information dissipates, it can never rid itself of the character of "information". Likewise, information cannot come into existence from a randomly unpatterned, unstructured existence, because something needs to "inform" it, giving it the character of "information".

    All this does is obscure the "something coming from nothing" problem.
  • unenlightened
    2.3k
    All this does is obscure the "something coming from nothing" problem.Metaphysician Undercover

    I think you need at least to be more respectful to these ideas, that have been thought through very carefully by folks much cleverer than me.

    Consider a square 10 pixels to a side, consisting of equal numbers of red and blue pixels. Start with a highly ordered state, where all the red pixels are at the top. This ordered state can be specified by a list:
    RRRRR... up to fifty, and then BBBBB... up to 100.

    Compare this with a totally disordered state; the same pixels in a completely random configuration. Now, I cannot specify the state other than by giving the full list, whereas the ordered state was specified above in half a line. To the extent that there is order, one can say something like "and so on" by way of abbreviation This is the principle that file compression works on, and a maximally compressed file is maximally disordered.

    Entropy, and thus the arrow of time then falls out of information theory as a statistical law, that for any isolated system that is changing, it is more likely to become more disordered than more ordered to the extent that there are more disorderly possibilities than orderly ones. Swap the colours of a random red and blue pixel, and disorder is introduced. Repeat until a completely disordered state is reached, and then carry on until an ordered state obtains again. Don't hold your breath for this last bit.
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