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Teleology and ID in physics, ID-inspired least action principles

Teleology has been completely rejected by evolutionary biologists. This rejection is unfortunate, because, teleology is alive and well in physics

Frank Tipler,
World Renowned Cosmologist on Sci Phi Show!

Much of the discussion of ID has been in biology. But the notion of ID and teleology has permeated the history of physics from the beginning to the present day.

Commenting on the history of physics, Tipler with his co-author Barrow describe the ID-inspired least action principles that are the foundation of many theories in physics:

The principle of least time was the bases of the next use of a minimal principle, by the seventeenth-century French mathematician and lawyer Fermat
……
Fermat’s work led the German philosopher Leibniz to argue in a letter written in 1687 that in as much as the concept of purpose was basic to true science, the laws of physics should and could be expressed in terms of minimum principles
…….
The first such formulation was given by the French scientist Maupertuis who in 1744 presented a paper to the French Academy of Sciences showing that the behaviour of bodies in an impact could be predicted by assuming the product mvs, where m is mass, v is velocity, and s the distance, to be a minimum. He contended that his formulation indicated the operation of final causes in Nature, and that final causes imply the existence of a Supreme Being. Maupertuis, following Leibniz and Wolff, call the quantity mvs, whch has dimensions of energy times time, the action.

Barrow and Tipler
Anthropic Cosmological Principle

the great scientist Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) wrote:

All the greatest mathematicians have long since recognized that the [least action] method…is not only extremely useful in analysis, but that it also contributes greatly to the solution of physical problems…the fabric of the universe is most perfect, and the work of a most wise Creator

Edwin Taylor writes of this ID inspired idea:

Not only does the [ID-inspired] least-action principle offer a means of formulating classical mechanics that is more flexible and powerful than Newtonian mechanics, [but also] variations on the least-action principle have proved useful in general relativity theory, quantum field theory, and particle physics. As a result, this principle lies at the core of much of contemporary theoretical physics.

Barrow and Tipler echo the importance of ID-inspired least action principles:

Nevertheless, many physicists have contended that the action principle formulation of mechanics is more fundamental than the mechanistic formulation…Max Plank also felt the action formulation was a more fundamental view of natural phenomena than the mechanistic approach, primarily because he was partial to teleological explanations for religious reasons…..

Helmholtz assertion that action principles can suggest new physical laws has been confirmed in the twentieth century. The German mathematician Hilbert discovered the final form of the Einstein field equations independently of Einstein by combining hints coming from earlier attempts by Einstein to construct gravitational field equations with the requirement that the equations be derived from a ‘simple’ action integral. In this case adopting the attitude that the action–and hence by implication, a teleological process–is basic to nature led to a major discovery.

Barrow and Tipler
Anthropic Cosmological Principle

In contrast one has to wonder what scientific benefit has there been to assuming the world is pointless and purposeless as Richard Dawkins contends. It would be informative to contrast in contributions between the ID-leaning physicist James Maxwell and Charles Darwin. [See: Comparing Darwin to a real math and physics genius.] A case can be made that Darwinism has been an enormous hindrance to scientific progress and the progress of civilization.

When balancing the value of teleological versus ateleological perspectives, it seems clear, from the record of history, science has everything to gain by continuing in the tradition of ID-inspired teleological theories.

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16 Responses to Teleology and ID in physics, ID-inspired least action principles

  1. I wouldn’t stop there, even. This goes far beyond physics and biology, and shows up in sociology as well.

    Whether they realize it or not, secular humanists believe in teleology. They like to think of human society as “evolving” in a kind of way that leads to progress.

    How that’s not teleology is beyond me.

  2. One thing I can’t see here is how you substantiate the claim that least action principles are ID-inspired. Where does this come from? I thought ID started in the 1980s, so I’m wondering if Fermat forgot to scribble a note about his time machine in the margins of his copy of the Principia.

    Bob

  3. Bob,

    I was referring to the presumption that the universe was intelligently designed. Hence, that presumption is ID by the standards of modern ID, certainly ID by the stadards of Darwinists who lump view creationists and ID proponents as the same thing, and scientists prior to Darwin were for the most part creationists as can be seen by their writings.

    Salvador

  4. We’ll leave aside your happiness to conflate ID and creationism (I’m sure others will follow that up, either here or elsewhere :-)). But I’m still interested in knowing what evidence you have that it as ID that inspired the development of least action principles. From what you’ve presented, I can’t see any evidence of an explicit connection: OK so the people who developed the theory were probably creationists, but did this actually affect the way the theory was developed?

    Bob

  5. Bob O’H,

    I’m not a creationist by any stretch. However, for the purposes of the OP, I think it’s enough to illustrate the close (even intrinsic) relationship between the sciences and teleology in the past and present.

    Remember, one of the main claims against ID is that the mere attitude hampers scientific discovery and research – assume there’s a powerful Creator/creators, and somehow you’ll be prone to write things off as “unknowable, because it’s fate/God/whatever”. But, as for additional evidence: Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis is, according to the wikipedia, “often credited with having invented the principle of least action”. From the page:

    “Hence the principle of least action is not just the culmination of Maupertuis’s work in several areas of physics, he sees it as his most important achievement in philosophy too, giving an incontrovertible proof of God.”

    Again, I suppose you could say ‘Aha! That just means Maupertuis believed in ID, and that he saw the principle as ID friendly. But it doesn’t mean ID itself led to the formulation of the concept.’ But then again, it doesn’t have to.

  6. 6

    I think that biologists tend to be more phobic than physicists towards scientific ideas that might appear to be pseudoscientific. For example, some people say that “string theory” is not testable and hence is not scientific, yet string theory is a major research area in physics. IMO this phobia of biologists is part of an inferiority complex resulting from the attitude expressed by Lord Rutherford that “all science is either physics or stamp collecting.” This inferiority complex also causes biologists to wage a prestige war against other branches of science by boasting that biology has something that the other branches of science don’t have, a stroke of genius that is a grand overarching unifying “theory of everything,” Darwinism.

  7. It’s funny to me that people will write off the Bible on the basis that it says that there was a talking donkey or snake (Dan Barker said this was an impossibility of the Bible, so it is no Straw Man), but they are willing to grant that reason can ultimately come from non-reason. Just baffling.
    The distinction between biologists and other scientists that Larry #6 was talking about is also very interesting. Since the biologists do have “the theory of everything” regarding life, they should also answer our epistemological questions. This would be fun to watch; the attempt to invoke reason out of ultimate non-reason given their few tools.

  8. nemesis,

    The evolutionary theory of everything is not being confined to biology, if Daniel Dennett and others like him have anything to say about it. Dennett didn’t title his book “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” because he thought Darwin’s idea was dangerous to biology alone.
    His descriptive phrase “universal acid” is prima facie evidence that he doesn’t want it limited strictly to biology.

  9. 9

    The Wikipedia articles on Fermat’s principle, Snell’s Law, and the brachistochrone curve have some interesting comments about the principle of least action.

    It is interesting that the catenary curve of a freely hanging cable or chain (suspension bridge cables are parabolic because the cable’s weight is negligible compared to the weight of the roadway) is by coincidence both the equilibrium shape and the shape having the least overall gravitational potential energy. If the cable is initially of a different shape, the cable will make the necessary adjustments to assume the catenary shape. In adjusting its shape to the catenary curve, the cable will perform work, and under the conservation of energy principle, that explains why the catenary curve is the configuration with the least overall gravitational potential energy. A lot of scientific and engineering analyses are based only on the beginning and/or end states and are independent of the path of going from one state to another.

    Also, the photons of light that take the path of shortest time between two points cannot go back and make any adjustments in their paths if they take the wrong path — so how do the photons “know” in advance which path to take?

  10. angryoldfatman,

    I was being sarcastic when I said that the biologists have the “Theory of everything,” because I was alluding to what Larry Fafarman was saying about biologists boasting to other sciences that they “own” it. Sorry, I should have made that clearer.
    Anyway, I really liked that video you made on YouTube, but it took me awhile to realize that you didn’t make a url mistake when “equator” popped up. I expected a number or something, but then read the first few lines of the description and it made sense. Very clever!
    P.S. “Universal Acid” would be a great name for a metal band.

  11. “Hence the principle of least action is not just the culmination of Maupertuis’s work in several areas of physics, he sees it as his most important achievement in philosophy too, giving an incontrovertible proof of God.”

    Again, I suppose you could say ‘Aha! That just means Maupertuis believed in ID, and that he saw the principle as ID friendly. But it doesn’t mean ID itself led to the formulation of the concept.’ But then again, it doesn’t have to.

    Exactly. I said “ID-inspired” which is not the same as “ID-inferred”.

    You can see the connection of teleology to the least action principles at Wiki:

    Principle of least action

    the fixing of the final state appears to give the action principle a teleological character which has been controversial historically.

    [Tipler argues that (contrary to the Wiki claim), QM is also teleological.]

    Maupertuis (author of least action principles):

    “The laws of movement and of rest deduced from this principle being precisely the same as those observed in nature, we can admire the application of it to all phenomena. The movement of animals, the vegetative growth of plants … are only its consequences; and the spectacle of the universe becomes so much the grander, so much more beautiful, the worthier of its Author, when one knows that a small number of laws, most wisely established, suffice for all movements”

    Hmm, “wisely established” by the “Author” of nature, as in INTELLIGENTLY DESIGNED!

    Ah, but let us go to the original paper to settle the question:
    Derivation of the laws of motion and equilibrium from a metaphysical principle

    Newton states that the uniform motion of the planets reveals an Intelligent Designer, that it is not possible that a soulless universe could make them rotate in the same direction and in concentric orbits.
    ….
    All these things seem to feature intelligent design in their construction
    ….
    If we could, we would undoubtedly find the marks of God’s wisdom as well as His intelligence in its execution. But, given our limitations, let us not confuse the two attributes. For although an infinite intelligence necessarily brings with it wisdom, a finite intelligence may yet lack wisdom; and there is as much evidence showing that the universe is a soulless machine, as showing it to be the work of an Intelligent Designer.

  12. [...] Recent Comments scordova: “Hence the principle of least action is not… Jehu: I understand, before Darwin there was no advancement of huma… Jehu: gerardharbison, Read the following quote again. “… Borne: “…a dangerous attack on scientific knowledge.” This is h… angryoldfatman: Meanwhile, other nations who have tried … Jack Golightly: Hilarious, as usual. Not just “Brite”, Brilliant!… gerardharbison: Johannes Lerle was not convicted for teaching ID. He was not… Mats: The only crime ID makes is the “crime” of saying that there… kairos: Have hou noticed the following phrase in the link provided v… eddiehaskell: http://www.rfmedia.o… … feed » [...]

  13. Teleology Is Universal

    http://www.physforum.com/index.....ntry333405

    A. Again, the probable reason for life’s amino acids chirality:

    Darwinian evolution started at life’s day one, with the genesis of the first organisms, the replicating oligomers, the pre-archaea genes. It started under yet-unknown energetic conditions, by a serendipitous occurrence, with oligomeric (RNA?) conformations, in a soup containing all their essential molecular progenitors. These conformations happened to maintain balance of energy in the direction of their polymerization to lengths precipitated out of their soup as determined by the nature and conditions of the soup.

    The sugars and the nitrogen-based compounds that, together with the phosphates, are the components of genes, of life’s organisms, are chiral. There probably is an energetic advantage in homochirality and chiral homogeneity for the self-replication of these biopolymers.

    This serendipitous occurrence set up a matrix-field of energy with a potential extended between its source, on-Earth incoming energy, and the precipitating organisms, the genes. This was the genesis of the ongoing formation and maintenance of Earth’s biosphere.

    And since the biosphere had thus started it could only evolve in the directions of more favorable energy balances-packages and towards stabler energy-packages conformations. Survival was the direction. Earth’s biosphere had embarked on the course of its evolution.

    B. Some definitions, with “end” replacing dictionary’s ’cause’ or ‘design’ or ‘purpose’

    - tele-, telos end

    - teleology = a doctrine explaining phenomena by final end; the fact or character attributed to nature or natural processes of being directed toward a specific end; the referral to the end of universe as an explanation of natural phenomena.

    teleonomy = the quality of survival of structure or function in living organisms due to evolutionary adaptation.

    C. Teleology exist in all nature’s systems, both living and nonliving. It is universal.

    Since the Universe (including its sub-systems, also Life) is a continuously evolving fractal system, ergo energy is the base element of everything. Cosmic evolution is evolution of energy. At the beginning of the present cosmic cycle was the energy singularity. At its end there will be a small amount of mass and an infinite dispersion of the beginning energy. In-between, the universe undergoes continuous evolution, consisting of myriad energy-to-energy and energy-to-mass-to-energy transformations.

    Evolution ensues from and consists of systems’ modifications (“mutations”), inherently ever more of them as more new options arise for the systems, be they non-living or living.

    Life systems are temporary packages of energy. On Earth they are components of the grand, temporarily constrained, biosphere energy store. Their ‘end’ is to enhence and maintain their matrix, the biosphere, bio.

    In life systems modifications of genome’s functional capabilities can be explained by the second-stratum organism’s ubiquitous culture-life-experience feedbacks to its genome, its prime/base organism. The route-modification selection of a replicating gene, when it is at its alternative-splicing-steps junctions, is biased by the feedback gained by the genome, the parent organism, from the culture-life-experience of its progeny organisms. THIS IS HOW LIFE EVOLUTION COMES ABOUT.

    For non-life systems there is no mediating culture. The interaction between environments and systems are direct, in the direction towards the ‘end’ of the present phase of the universe.

    Suggesting,

    Dov Henis
    http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog.....8211;?cq=1

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  15. Natural Selection Is Ubiquitous

    Higgs Particle? Dark Energy/Matter? Epigenetics?
    These Are YOK!
    Update Concepts-Comprehension…
    http://universe-life.com/2011/.....d-whither/

    Evolution Is The Quantum Mechanics Of Natural Selection.
    The quantum mechanics of every process is its evolution.
    Quantum mechanics are mechanisms, possible or probable or actual mechanisms of natural selection.
    =================

    Universe-Energy-Mass-Life Compilation
    http://universe-life.com/2012/.....mpilation/

    A. The Universe

    From the Big-Bang it is a rationally commonsensical conjecture that the gravitons, the smallest base primal particles of the universe, must be both mass and energy, i.e. inert mass yet in motion even at the briefest fraction of a second of the pre Big Bang singularity. This is rationally commonsensical since otherwise the Big would not have Banged, the superposition of mass and energy would not have been resolved.

    The universe originates, derives and evolves from this energy-mass dualism which is possible and probable due to the small size of the gravitons.

    Since gravitation Is the propensity of energy reconversion to mass and energy is mass in motion, gravity is the force exerted between mass formats.

    All the matter of the universe is a progeny of the gravitons evolutions, of the natural selection of mass, of some of the mass formats attaining temporary augmented energy constraint in their successive generations, with energy drained from other mass formats, to temporarily postpone, survive, the reversion of their own constitutional mass to the pool of cosmic energy fueling the galactic clusters expansion set in motion by the Big Bang.

    B. Earth Life

    Earth Life is just another mass format. A self-replicating mass format. Self-replication is its mode of evolution, natural selection. Its smallest base primal units are the RNAs genes.

    The genesis of RNAs genes, life’s primal organisms, is rationally commonsensical thus highly probable, the “naturally-selected” RNA nucleotides.

    Life began/evolved on Earth with the natural selection of inanimate RNA, then of some RNA nucleotides, then arriving at the ultimate mode of natural selection, self-replication.

    C. Know Thyself. Life Is Simpler Than We Are Told, Including Origin-Nature Of Brain-Consciousness-“Spirituality”***

    The origin-reason and the purpose-fate of life are mechanistic, ethically and practically valueless. Life is the cheapest commodity on Earth.

    As Life is just another mass format, due to the oneness of the universe it is commonsensical that natural selection is ubiquitous for ALL mass formats and that life, self-replication, is its extension. And it is commonsensical, too, that evolutions, broken symmetry scenarios, are ubiquitous in all processes in all disciplines and that these evolutions are the “quantum mechanics” of the processes.

    Human life is just one of many nature’s routes for the natural survival of RNAs, the base primal Earth organisms.

    Life’s evolution, self-replication:

    Genes (organisms) to genomes (organisms) to mono-cellular to multicellular organisms:

    Individual mono-cells to cooperative mono-cells communities, “cultures”.

    Mono-cells cultures evolve their communication, neural systems, then further evolving nerved multicellular organisms.

    Human life is just one of many nature’s routes for the natural survival of RNAs, the base Earth organism.

    It is up to humans themselves to elect the purpose and format of their life as individuals and as group-members.

    Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)

    ***????? ?????? ?? “?????????”, ???? ??????????,
    ?????????? ?????? ?????????, ?????? ??????? ????

    An Embarrassingly Obvious Theory Of Everything
    http://universe-life.com/2011/.....verything/

    Tags: brain origin, gravitation, gravitons, lifeevolution, nerved organisms, RNAlifehood, spirituality, universeevolution

  16. Talk About About Teleology…:

    On The Essence And Matrix Of The Universe-Life
    The following three sentences are the shortest data-based TOE…seriously. Very seriously.
    The clearer the shorter

    Natural Selection to Self Replication is Gravity

    - Self-replication is the ultimate mode of natural selection is the essence and drive and purpose of the universe. Period.
    - The pre-Big-Bang singularity is the ultimate self-replication (SR) of the cycling mass-energy universe. Period. (mother of universal SR mode…)
    - Earth’s RNA nucleotides life is just one of the myriad modes of self-replication.

    Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)
    http://universe-life.com/
    http://universe-life.com/2012/11/14/701/
    -The 20yrs development, and comprehensive data-based scientism worldview, in a succinct format.
    -The Genome is a base organism evolved, and continuously modified, by the genes of its higher organism as their functional template.
    - Everything in the universe derives from mass-energy duality, from the universe cycle between its two poles all-mass/all-energy.
    - The Origin Of Gravitons is the ONLY thing unknown-unexplained in the Scientism Universe.

    PS: Spoon feeding

    The universe is a (circa 20 hillion yrs?) cyclic affair between all-mass and all-energy poles. NATURAL SELECTION of a mass format mandates energy intake because since the big-bang the resolved mass is reconverting at a constant rate from inert mass to energy, to moving mass. The mass that reconverts to energy SELF-REPLICATES to mass, in black holes, for the eventual re-singularity. The energy-to-mass SELF-REPLICATION process is GRAVITY. All this is enabled and goes on and mandated by/due to the small size and shape and inter-attraction of the gravitons that enable zero distance between them to re-form singularity.

    I hope that now you understand what gravity is and why it is the monotheism of the universe…DH

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