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For probability theorist, “absolute randomness” made no more sense than “absolute determinism”

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Kolmogorov/Konrad Jacobs

ID theory depends on probability questions, in the end. So this Nautilus article on Andrei Kolmogorov, who pioneered probability theory, should be of considerable interest:

For Kolmogorov, his ideas neither eliminated chance, nor affirmed a fundamental uncertainty about our world; they simply provided a rigorous language to talk about what cannot be known for certain. The notion of “absolute randomness” made no more sense than “absolute determinism,” he once remarked, concluding, “We can’t have positive knowledge of the existence of the unknowable.” Thanks to Kolmogorov, though, we can explain when and why we don’t.

But Kolmogorov’s interests inclined him in more philosophical directions, too. Mathematics had led him to believe that the world was both driven by chance and fundamentally ordered according to the laws of probability.

Incidentally, he took part in Stalinist purges in order to gain the freedom to continue his own work. This essay is a clear-eyed look by Slava Gerovitch, a lecturer on the history of mathematics at MIT at that aspect of things, the real story of science in unfree societies:

He had already displayed an apparent readiness to make political compromises for the sake of his career, accepting a position as a research institute director when his predecessor was imprisoned by the Bolshevik regime for supporting religious freedom.

So, an instructive read on several topics.

5 Replies to “For probability theorist, “absolute randomness” made no more sense than “absolute determinism”

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    this comment,,

    The notion of “absolute randomness” made no more sense than “absolute determinism,”

    ,,,for some reason reminds me of this quote,,

    Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to me. I am simply stating the dilemma to which our present fundamental conception of physical law leads us.,,
    The dilemma is this: Surveying our surroundings, we find them to be far from a “fortuitous concourse of atoms”. The picture of the world, as drawn in existing physical theories shows arrangements of the individual elements for which the odds are multillions to 1 against an origin by chance. Some people would like to call this non-random feature of the world purpose or design; but I will call it non-committally anti-chance. We are unwilling in physics that anti-chance plays any part in the reactions between the systems of billions of atoms and quanta that we study; and indeed all our experimental evidence goes to show that these are governed by the laws of chance. Accordingly, we sweep anti-chance out of the laws of physics–out of the differential equations. Naturally, therefore, it reappears in the boundary conditions, for it must be got into the scheme somewhere. By sweeping it far enough away from the sphere of our current physical problems, we fancy we have got rid of it. It is only when some of us are so misguided as to try to get back billions of years into the past that we find the sweepings all piled up like a high wall and forming a boundary–a beginning of time–which we cannot climb over.
    Eddington AS. 1931. The end of the world: from the standpoint of mathematical physics. Nature 127:447-453.

    Although Eddington found, for whatever severely misguided reason, ‘a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant’, he had good reason for his forebodings about sweeping ‘anti-chance’ under the rug towards the beginning of the universe. For not only does a beginning present a high wall that atheists cannot climb over but it is also a high wall that comes crashing down upon any atheist trying to climb over it, for it is here, at the beginning of the universe, that the epistemological failure inherent within atheistic naturalism is most clearly revealed:

    Notes to that effect:

    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
    (NASA Astronomer Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, p. 116.)

    Multiverse and the Design Argument – William Lane Craig
    Excerpt: Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of our universe’s low entropy condition obtaining by chance alone are on the order of 1 in 10^10(123), an inconceivable number. If our universe were but one member of a multiverse of randomly ordered worlds, then it is vastly more probable that we should be observing a much smaller universe. For example, the odds of our solar system’s being formed instantly by the random collision of particles is about 1 in 10^10(60), a vast number, but inconceivably smaller than 1 in 10^10(123). (Penrose calls it “utter chicken feed” by comparison [The Road to Reality (Knopf, 2005), pp. 762-5]). Or again, if our universe is but one member of a multiverse, then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events, like horses’ popping into and out of existence by random collisions, or perpetual motion machines, since these are vastly more probable than all of nature’s constants and quantities’ falling by chance into the virtually infinitesimal life-permitting range. Observable universes like those strange worlds are simply much more plenteous in the ensemble of universes than worlds like ours and, therefore, ought to be observed by us if the universe were but a random member of a multiverse of worlds. Since we do not have such observations, that fact strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis. On naturalism, at least, it is therefore highly probable that there is no multiverse. — Penrose puts it bluntly “these world ensemble hypothesis are worse than useless in explaining the anthropic fine-tuning of the universe”.

    The End Of Materialism? – Dr. Bruce Gordon
    * In the multiverse, anything can happen for no reason at all.
    * In other words, the materialist is forced to believe in random miracles as a explanatory principle.
    * In a Theistic universe, nothing happens without a reason. Miracles are therefore intelligently directed deviations from divinely maintained regularities, and are thus expressions of rational purpose.
    * Scientific materialism is (therefore) epistemically self defeating: it makes scientific rationality impossible.

    The Absurdity of Inflation, String Theory and The Multiverse – Dr. Bruce Gordon – video

  2. 2
    Axel says:

    Is there not something totally surreal about the refusal of atheist, putative scientists to accept sovereign mathematical truths – of which, of course, this has to be one, if not the paramount one – given that the barminess of their conjectures is matched only by the simple-minded acquiescence in their dogged nescience of their colleagues in the governing bodies of physical research.

    I’m only half-joking when I ask bornagain to ‘keep it anecdotal and family-friendly’; no truculent, tendentious mathematical proofs.

  3. 3
    prhean says:

    We can’t see or measure dark energy but we observe its effects, even to the point of quantifying the amount of dark energy in the universe. The same applies to dark matter, we can’t see it (hence the name) but we can hypothesize its existence based on the effects we observe in the universe.

    I haven’t read of any scientists who question these terms as “place holders” until we discover more about dark energy and dark matter.

    So why not simply refer to the organization of the universe and life processes as “dark intelligence”. We can’t see it, but we can observe its effects, even to the point of quantifying some of these effects.

    Of course, in each of these terms, “dark” refers to the difficulty in observing the subject itself, not in anything sinister. With that clarification, “dark intelligence” sure beats “anti-chance” and in some ways is an improvement on “intelligent design”.

  4. 4
    JDH says:

    prhean –

    The problem with the term “dark intelligence” is the word intelligence. “Dark matter” is just that, “matter”. It does not have any purpose of its own and can not communicate.

    Calling something “dark intelligence” would imply that the intelligence which had some purpose in inventing this world, left it alone and has no desire to communicate with other intelligences which it created in this world.

    I instead believe in the “light of the world”. Makes a lot more sense to me.

  5. 5

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