Wednesday, January 20, 2016

There's Nothing There - Part 11

Pattern recognition.

That's how we measure intelligence.

The smarter you are, the better you are at recognizing patterns.

Starts early. Like, you're wandering around the jungle (maybe now, maybe 20,000 years ago), and 1) you see some tracks and 2) you hear some noises and 3) you smell something nasty, and you figure out that if you don't get the heck out of there, something large and hungry is going to 1) see your tracks and 2) hear your noises and 3) smell something tasty, and you'll end up pattern recognized into something large and hungry's lunch.

All of life is recognizing patterns and learning what to do depending upon what the pattern is.

Like, she smiles at you, so you think she likes you.

Or, you have something hanging out of your nose.

So you learn to check your nose and everything else before you venture into wherever it is that someone might smile at you.

We all have different patterns we are good at recognizing.

Some are social. Some are mathematical or scientific. Some are literary or artistic. Some are political or economic.

There's a pattern - we're all different in figuring out patterns.

And the world rewards people differently at different times and places for figuring out different patterns.

The point, of course, is that life, the universe and everything are full of patterns. If there were no patterns, we couldn't figure stuff out, and we'd all get eaten by something large and hungry. Except, of course, the large and hungry would have no patterns either.

So there would be nothing in the universe if there were no patterns.

Because the patterns lead us to the laws of physics. Patterns are the clues that we've used to figure out how the universe and everything in it works.

And the laws of physics are what made everything happen.

No laws. Nothing happens.

Here're more questions to ask:

1) Why did the universe do anything?

2) Why is there something rather than nothing?

And the answers are, the universe did stuff because the laws of physics arrived just after the universe did, and there's something rather than nothing (inside the universe, that is) because the laws of physics produced everything.

Energy. Matter. Particles. Elements. Heat. Pressure. Gas clouds. Stars. More complicated elements. Planets. Life. You and me.

Extraordinary, unbelievable, subtle, beautiful, and profound patterns led us to the laws of physics and to the understanding we have of everything.

Patterns - used by intelligence, produced by intelligent beings. Order, structure, complexity, beauty, elegance.

So if the universe is full of patterns (and it is), and if SETI spends all of its time assuming that if they find patterns out there somewhere that are extraordinary, unbelievable, subtle, beautiful, and profound, then they will have found overwhelming evidence of intelligent alien life, then, well.

You can do this part on your own.

OK, I'll help a little.

It means that the universe is not accidental, but is the product of an intelligence so far beyond ours as to be incomprehensible to us.

Let me quote some smart guys:

Richard Dawkins: "When we were talking about the origins of the universe and the physical constants, I provided what I thought were cogent arguments against a supernatural intelligent designer. But it does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable--but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed."

Albert Einstein: The harmony of natural law "reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."

Alan Sandage: "I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God, to me, … is the explanation of the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing … If God did not exist, science would have to invent Him to explain what it is discovering at its core."

Paul Davies: "I belong to a group of scientists who do not subscribe to a conventional religion but nevertheless deny that the universe is a purposeless accident. Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact. There must, it seems to me, be a deeper level of explanation. Whether one wishes to call that deeper level ‘God’ is a matter of taste and definition." ... "To postulate an infinity of unseen and unseeable universes just to explain the one we do see seems like a case of excess baggage carried to the extreme. It is simpler to postulate one unseen God."

Antony Flew: "… some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature … biologists' investigation of DNA 'has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce [life], that intelligence must have been involved,'"

Fred Hoyle: "Would you not say to yourself, 'some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly miniscule.' Of course, you would! A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology..."

Francis Collins: "At the most fundamental level, it’s a miracle that there’s a universe at all. It’s a miracle that it has order, fine-tuning that allows the possibility of complexity, and laws that follow precise mathematical formulas … an open-minded observer is almost forced to conclude that there must be a “mind” behind all of this."

Roger Penrose: "There is something absolute and God-given about mathematical truth. Not only is the universe 'out there', but mathematical truth has its own mysterious independence and timelessness."

Stephen Hawking (35+ years ago): "It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us."

Simon Conway Morris: "There is, if you like, seeded into the initiation of the universe itself the inevitability of intelligence."

There are many, of course, who disagree. I find them cranky and disagreeable. 

Not stupid. They're pretty smart. 

Just. Cranky. 

And disagreeable.

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