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Laws of Nature

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This discussion was spawned in the Artificial Life commentary and I think it deserves thread of its own.

First of all Laws of Nature are those things which are observed over and over and over again without exception. We need not have physical theories to explain them. One such Law of Nature is the law of gravity. We have observed its effects countless times without exception. Mass is attracted to other masses. We don’t have a physical theory to explain the mechanism by which gravity works but due to empirical observations it is considered a law nonetheless. An exception may exist that disproves the law but until an exception is observed the law remains intact.

Another law that doesn’t get as much press is called the Law of Biogenesis – life comes only from life. It is supported by countless observations without exception. An exception may exist but until it is observed the law remains intact.

In Artificial Life pursuits there are two distinct approaches. One is a hands-off approach where natural environments are simulated, inanimate chemical suspects are put in contact, and we watch to see if anything interesting happens – if more and more complex self-replicators evolve without help. That has not yielded any fruit after many decades of trying. As the prior article pointed out even simulating this process in a computer has not borne fruit. In the words of principle investigators “something is missing”.

In the other approach we attempt to create artificial life with no holds barred. We throw all the intelligent intervention at the problem we can possibly come up with. This approach holds significant promise. And, here’s the kicker, this approach if and when successful is no exception to the Law of Biogenesis – life in that case still comes from life. It doesn’t come from inanimate chemicals dancing to the tune of law and chance alone. It comes together through the efforts of another living thing.

After getting into a discussion about Artificial Intelligence it occured to me there’s another law that is at work. Intelligence only comes from intelligence. This law, like all laws, is supported by countless observations without exception. Until an exception is observed the law remains intact.

Like the pursuit of Artificial Life the pursuit of Artificial Intellegence has two main approaches. One is a hands off approach where we throw together all the components we think are required for intelligence and see if anything interesting emerges by law and chance. This approach has not yielded any fruit. Nothing we could possibly call an independent intelligent agent has emerged.

On the other hand when we employ all the intelligent intervention we can come up with we have things with promise. Some even meeting a rudimentary definition of intelligent agency. The best example of this I’ve seen is the autonomous vehicles that completed the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge. The challenge was to get a vehicle to self-navigate through 100 some miles of difficult desert terrain filled with obstacles. The vehicles were not allowed to contain a detailed course map. They were basically given the goal of getting from point A to point B with no more than the map a human driver might have. The vehicles were given sensory apparatus to gather input from the real world, they were given controls to alter their course and speed, and they were given the ability to model reality so that different control inputs could be tested in the abstract to see which result in furtherence of their goal. In other words as these vehicles go along they observe, predict, decide, and act accordingly. This is rudimentary intelligent agency. Granted it’s light years away from the sophistication of human intelligence but there’s nothing in principle that says we can’t keep improving the intelligence in these devices until they are that sophisticated.

But even if that happens, we do create an artificial intelligence similar in capability to our own intelligence, the law remains unbroken. It will be a case of one intelligence creating another intelligence. That will do nothing more than add further evidentiary weight to the proposed law that intelligence only comes from intelligence.

#15: I fail to see how that distinction is warranted. As far as we know, laws only come from intelligence. Isn't a law a designed parameter that intentionally establishes order? Isn't that what Newton, et. al., assumed those parameters were - intentionally set parameters? William J. Murray
Natural laws are called that to distinguish them from artificial laws. DaveScot
Is there a law that describes how natural laws are generated? Doesn't science require such a mechanism before they can even begin to assert that some imagined extra-natural source can "produce" variant sets of natural laws (i.e., multiverse)in order to come up with our friendly set? I've always wondered why natural laws are called natural laws, when itis agreed that their qualities were set by something prior to the existence of nature. William J. Murray
And it was a Baylor scientist who figured it out. jerry
Dave, A law of nature broken. Warp drives a reality and the speed of light has not been broken. See the following article http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/earth/2008/08/15/sciwarpdrive115.xml Beam me up Scotty jerry
I've been thinking about this (i.e. DaveScot's original post), and here is a question that occurs to me; a genuine question, as I'm not particularly trying to stimulate discussion or controversy - I just genuinely don't know the answer, but I'd like to. Amongst those doing abiogenesis research, has any one successfully 'resuscitated' a dead organism (even at the simplest level - not necessarily even a cell, just a bacterium or even an algae)? It's just that in this case, all the necessary chemistry is present already (assuming there are no toxins present), and the DNA and RNA are all present and correct, so it should be a much simpler task than conjuring up life ab initio from a 'soup'. Yet I've never heard of it being done, and if it hasn't then that suggests some other element missing from our understanding of how life starts up. Of course, by 'resuscitation' I mean the restoration of normal life-processes (metabolism, reproduction etc.), not simply galvanic 'twitching' in response to a stimulus. Stephen Morris
Thanks Dave. Although I certainly often disagree with the mainstream here, I think I focus an addressing the issues. I'm hoping to have some time, then, to offer a few comments here and there. Jack Krebs
Jack Krebs I noticed your email address on the blacklist barring commenters. Since I could not find a reason given anywhere for why your name was added I removed it. Given the years you've been a member here I think you've earned at least a public explanation of why you were banned and who did it. DaveScot
I would go even further: Intelligence is attracted to intelligence. Intelligence can recognize itself. EndoplasmicMessenger
Fair comment, I guess I'm showing my physics background, but biology is certainly capable of doing "proper science". Every time the behaviour of an organism, for example its response to a pathogen or perhaps an antibiotic, is properly predicted then that's an example of proper biological science being done. In my professional life I'm just moving into the field of in-vitro diagnostics and there's plenty of solid biological science going on there. It's just that Darwinism has nothing to contribute to it. Stephen Morris
Good points! No law and no theory of evolution. Yet I generally say I believe in "evolution" in the sense that life overall on this planet has had a history---a history reminiscent of human technological evolution. Thus evolution---to the extent there is such---is evidence---evidence of design. As for "the scientific method", here I think we have our work cut out for us. There isn't such! Theory and refutation is more descriptive of physics; biology is mostly observation---is it not then "science"? There is investigation and finding things out---always with degrees of certainly (for sure, probably, maybe, possibly, etc.)---this goes for every discipline. There is no theory of evolution! And there is no scientific method! Rude
DaveScot, You have hit the nail on the head with your statement "We have no theory of evolution". I tend to get rather annoyed with people in the Creationist camp who say "well of course, evolution is only a theory" because as you rightly point out it is NOT EVEN a theory. In discussions on this point I then normally launch into a standard lecture on the scientific method: first you make a hypothesis, then you design an experiment to test the hypothesis, if it passes the test then the hypothesis becomes a theory, and only then can you apply the theory to do useful things. Darwinism has been stalled at stage one of this process for the last 150 years and shows no sign of progressing further anytime soon. Stephen Morris
Interesting that there are no reasons raised by critics for why we should not consider "intelligence comes from intelligence" as a law of nature. Let me summarize then the state of things and ask for reasoned objections. Do we have a: Theory of Gravity - no. Law of Gravity - yes. Theory of Biogenesis - no. Law of Biogenesis - yes. Theory of Intelligence - no. Law of Intelligence - yes. Theory of Evolution - no. Law of Evolution - no. In regard to evolution all we have are failed hypotheses and untested hypotheses. We have no theory of evolution. Calling something a theory does not make it a theory anymore than calling a tail a leg makes it a leg. I say we don't even have a law of evolution because as far as we can tell from comparing the fossil record to species alive today we find many of what are termed "living fossils". These are species that for all we can tell have not evolved for hundreds of millions of years. So we can't even say that there's a law "Living things change form over time" which could otherwise be considered a law of evolution. DaveScot
Beautiful work David. Stephen Meyer has been saying it for years. The "something is missing" part is the part that will ultimate define intelligence and design and seperate it from the other. This is where my interest is in ID. How do we truly sceintifically define design, intelligence and their gateway, information? For me it comes down to the question of the origin of "form." What is it that prodices order and disorder and what is the best understanding and interpretation of this "thing"? Is it an intelligently acting force or some kind of a random chance stochastic entity? This question is particularly pertinent in disscussion of laws of nature. What is it that brings forth "order." Why should it exist at all? (much less how) These questions are not arbitrary to evolutionary biology; they are at the very heart of it. Frost122585
JDH says:
The thing I found interesting about the discussion of Laws is no one brought up Newton’s second law. F=ma As we now know, this is wrong. But it is accurate to any order of measurement possible for all circumstances where the relative speeds are much less than the speed of light.
I believe a better way of wording the above is: F=ma is not applicable at the planetary/cosmological level. However, it is still applicable at the level of medium-sized bodies (i.e. people, buildings, machines, etc). Newton's laws of motion are used every day by every engineer. When used properly, they have a darn good track record. At the cosmological level, we have Einstein's theory of gravity, but even that may not cover it all. (HT: Grandma O'Leary) JJS P.Eng.
The thing I found interesting about the discussion of Laws is no one brought up Newton's second law. F=ma As we now know, this is wrong. But it is accurate to any order of measurement possible for all circumstances where the relative speeds are much less than the speed of light. So what happened. Do freshman physicists now learn Newton's Second hypothesis, conjecture, empirically observed but actually incorrect forumla?. No it is still called Newton's second law, under the caveat that the realm where it gives correct answers is limited to non-relativistic velocities. So even if an exception is found some day, it appears that "only life begets life" is an observable law for right now. However, biologists will never call it that because of the implications. Motion of simple objects is so much simpler than life and all its complications. JDH

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