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If the universe is at base computational, who is the programmer?

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18 Responses to If the universe is at base computational, who is the programmer?

  1. The disconnect from empirical basis was excruciating to watch Dr. Dembski.

  2. I tend to agree. This is another example of interesting facts that don’t bear any real significance. Emergent patterns being obtained form simple rules is nothing special – it’s simple expected. Drawing conclusions as profound as Stephen has done is a fruitless exercise. He seems to have an inflated opinion of what he has achieved over the last 30 years. Having said that I liked the idea of his web site.

  3. I actually worked for Stephen for quite some time. Interesting fellow! His company helped my family out in tough, tough times, and I will always be in their debt.

    Anyway, it wasn’t until later that I realized the importance of his work, though I doubt he would agree with me on its significance. It largely shaped my reformulation of Irreducible Complexity.

  4. Though very cutting edge in his work, The main weak point in all of Stephen Wolfran’s assertions is that he has extrapolated far past the actual empirical basis he has established with his program. (For one example: expecting the unification of General relativity and Quantum Mechanics to be forthcoming) Now don’t get me wrong, the search engine Stephen has spearheaded is a very significant step forward, but that is exactly what it is; A search engine on steroids! Though the program is very good at organizing preexisting information in a way that may be very interesting to the user, the program will in fact create no new “functional information”, which lies at the basis of the program itself, though it may very well greatly expand the ability to optimize solutions within already known established parameters:

    In the following podcast, Robert Marks gives a very informative talk as to the strict limits we can expect from any evolutionary computer program (evolutionary algorithm):

    Darwin as the Pinball Wizard: Talking Probability with Robert Marks – podcast

    Evolutionary Synthesis of Nand Logic: Dissecting a Digital Organism – Dembski – Marks – Dec. 2009
    Excerpt: The effectiveness of a given algorithm can be measured by the active information introduced to the search. We illustrate this by identifying sources of active information in Avida, a software program designed to search for logic functions using nand gates. Avida uses stair step active information by rewarding logic functions using a smaller number of nands to construct functions requiring more. Removing stair steps deteriorates Avida’s performance while removing deleterious instructions improves it.

    LIFE’S CONSERVATION LAW – William Dembski – Robert Marks – Pg. 13
    Excerpt: Simulations such as Dawkins’s WEASEL, Adami’s AVIDA, Ray’s Tierra, and Schneider’s ev appear to support Darwinian evolution, but only for lack of clear accounting practices that track the information smuggled into them.,,, Information does not magically materialize. It can be created by intelligence or it can be shunted around by natural forces. But natural forces, and Darwinian processes in particular, do not create information. Active information enables us to see why this is the case.

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity – David L. Abel
    Excerpt: “To stem the growing swell of Intelligent Design intrusions, it is imperative that we provide stand-alone natural process evidence of non trivial self-organization at the edge of chaos. We must demonstrate on sound scientific grounds the formal capabilities of naturally-occurring physicodynamic complexity. Evolutionary algorithms, for example, must be stripped of all artificial selection and the purposeful steering of iterations toward desired products. The latter intrusions into natural process clearly violate sound evolution theory.”

    As for the unification of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics into a theory of everything Stephen alluded to, I personally believe that was already “unified” in a very personal way, 2000 years ago:


    The Physics Of The Large And Small: What Is the Bridge Between Them? Roger Penrose
    Excerpt: This, (the unification of General Relativity and the laws of Quantum Mechanics), would also have practical advantages in the application of quantum ideas to subjects like biology – in which one does not have the clean distinction between a quantum system and its classical measuring apparatus that our present formalism requires. In my opinion, moreover, this revolution is needed if we are ever to make significant headway towards a genuine scientific understanding of the mysterious but very fundamental phenomena of conscious mentality.

    Yet, this “unification”, into a “theory of everything”, between what is in essence the “infinite world of Quantum Mechanics” and the “finite world of the space-time of General Relativity” seems to be directly related to what Jesus apparently joined together with His resurrection, i.e. related to the unification of infinite God with finite man:

    The Center Of The Universe Is Life – General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and The Shroud Of Turin – video

    The End Of Christianity – Finding a Good God in an Evil World – Pg.31 – William Dembski
    Excerpt: “In mathematics there are two ways to go to infinity. One is to grow large without measure. The other is to form a fraction in which the denominator goes to zero. The Cross is a path of humility in which the infinite God becomes finite and then contracts to zero, only to resurrect and thereby unite a finite humanity within a newfound infinity.” http://www.designinference.com.....of_xty.pdf

    Philippians 2: 5-11
    Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    “Miracles do not happen in contradiction to nature, but only in contradiction to that which is known to us of nature.”
    St. Augustine

  5. It is not even a good search engine. I put in intelligent design and got a movie. I put in “what is intelligent design?” and it punted. I put in a couple other interesting questions and got essentially nothing. Here is one sequence

    “What is Wolfram Alpha” a computational knowledge engine

    “what is a computational knowledge engine” – An engine that generates output by doing computations from its own internal knowledge base instead of searching the web and returning links.

    So essentially in the long run it will have to input into its data base all of google and then some.

  6. Jerry – I think site is about questions that are computable. So something that can be reduced to some numerical aspect is what its all about.

  7. I’ve on and off read about Wolfram’s and related theories for a while now, and I find it interesting that Prof. Dembski posted this talk with the single question he asks. In fact, I wish he posted more than that – I’d love to hear the thoughts of more ID proponents on the idea.

    If the universe is at base computational – if it is, in essence, simply a large (so to speak) program – who is the programmer? That a programmer is (strongly) implied certainly seems to be the case.

    To me, this continues to back up the idea that given our technological progress and discoveries about the world, the single weakest position available is atheism. Monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, deism, etc are all vastly more viable.

  8. I tried to type in a question and it didn’t work, not sure if I wa not usimng the correct terminology or what but my question was/is:
    How much force does it take for a 175lb man to vertically jump 2 feet?

    I got back from the website that it wasn’t sure how to interpret my question.

  9. Wagenweg @8,

    That may be because your question had at least one missing parameter: The distance the body can use for acceleration. If he can crouch and the acceleration is even, then the force will be smaller, while if he tries to use his ankles only, then the force will be much higher.

    On the other hand I also found Wolfram Alpha a disappointing experience. E.g. sometimes it could draw a plot but was unable to tell the value between two points. Wikipedia, with all of its bias etc, was more useful.

  10. @nullasallus

    -”To me, this continues to back up the idea that given our technological progress and discoveries about the world, the single weakest position available is atheism. Monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, deism, etc are all vastly more viable”

    I use to think that atheism was the most viable option and at a certain time it looked like a very tempting ideology. Then I started reading about atheism… The more I read the more absurd it sounded.

  11. I wrote a program a while back that attempts to miraculously answer questions from the Bible by returning the shortest sequence of individual verses containing all the words from the original query. It actually returned meaningful responses about half the time (and some times kind of spooky.) So far I’m 0 for 4 on WolframAlpha on the following:

    How many pounds of flour to make a deep dish pizza 12 inches in diameter.

    How many pounds of flour does a person in the U.S. consume annually

    How much does Stephen Wolfram weigh

    How many seconds will it take to answer this question.

  12. Alex73 @ 9

    I’m not sure if I’m following you. Wouldn’t it be the same amount of force exerted against the ground whether he used multiple joints versus only one joint such as the ankles only? In a deeper squat during the loading phase (prior to jumping) does not yield a higher vertical jump. In fact the opposite most likely will occur. Also if an individual were to use just their ankles, they could not yield a 2 foot vertical jump. What’s called a triple extension of the ankles, knees and hips are required for optimal jumping height. I’m I not understanding you correctly? If not please explain. I want to understand. Thanks.

    PS: Michael Jordan’s standing vertical jump was only 31 inches, but when he was able to get a running start… WOW!

  13. sorry that should read “Am I not understanding you correctly?” @ 12.

  14. 14

    Yes discovering great order in the Universe is a clue there is a being who ordered it.

    One thing about biology is that it is very consistent in its conclusions. Much of life has two, eyes, ears, mouth, legs and arms. Flora likewise about patterns of great consistency.
    its almost boring in the results of how creatures look and are formed.
    It looks like a computer program is behind biology and not chaos from selections on mutations.
    Nature seems to feel there is a basic model that is best.
    Surely this suggests a computer programer and not the fantastic potential of results of how creatures look as millions of selections are made on as many mutations.
    In diversity does one see CONTROL or CHAOS.?1
    Does anyone see 99?

  15. Wagenweg:

    The height reached by the jumper is not determined by the force, however, by the vertical velocity he has when leaves the floor. To achieve a particular velocity from stationary position the body has to accelerate. The longer time it has for acceleration (which means longer distance travelled as well), the smaller the necessary acceleration for the same final velocity. Using the ankles only the body has only very short distance to accelerate, one of the reasons you cannot jump high without bending your knees also.

    To solve the problem you will have to be able to calculate the following things:

    1. The velocity needed for an object to fly 2ft high
    2. Choose the distance you permit for acceleration.
    3. Assuming constant speed change calculate the acceleration necessary to achieve your speed.
    4. Assuming that the legs and feet are 0lbs and all the rest of the body is 175lbs calculate the force necessary to accelerate the body.

    Have you spotted how many assumptions you have to make for a very simple calculation? If you want to use an accurate model of the human body, well, then it is a gazillion times more complicated…

  16. Alex73:

    Thank you for taking the time for your explanation. I agree to calculate such a “simple” activity such as jumping is very complicated. Although I am not an expert in physics or mathmatics, I do work with athletes on a regular basis and although from a physics standpoint it makes sense that the more time for acceleration, the faster the velocity at take should yield a higher jump. However this simple is not true. There is a happy medium of to little hip/knee/ankle flexion and too much.

    Here’s a good demonstration that I think illustrates the idea better than I can. Notice how little hip/knee/ankle flexion is needed.


    The body is a very unique machine that’s for sure.

    Thanks for the discussion Alex73!

  17. Robert Byers,

    I honestly can’t believe someone is noticing the same thing I am. I’ve noticed the same redundancy within a chemical/physics sort of context (e.g. gravity and the structure of matter (atom) remain the same throughout the entire known universe similar to how programming code is uniform throughout a template). As a whole, physics of the universe resembles “apps” and algorithms of sorts that do in fact resemble computational software.

    I guess things just start making sense when you put it all in the perspective of 0′s and 1′s.

  18. I’ve just written it to John Davison’s blog.


    “Two weeks ago an interesting article appeared at German solon-line.de regarding great German linguist Wilhelm Humboldt.


    W.Humboldt dismissed “atomic” notion of language. His deep thoughts
    of language remember us of that legacy of Richard Goldschmidt who in his last works considered genes to be “fields” in chromosomes.

    Independent thinkers have always broader perspectives.”

    The first problem one should rethink is the relation between language and genes.

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