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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Don Limuti: on 3/23/17 at 3:15am UTC, wrote Hi George, I could use some of your level headedness. Don Limuti

George Gantz: on 3/22/17 at 22:34pm UTC, wrote Thank you Don - I look forward to reading your essay. Perhaps I just have...

Anonymous: on 3/22/17 at 22:06pm UTC, wrote Hi George, I like your essay and I like your positive philosophy. It is a...

Vladimir Rogozhin: on 3/22/17 at 10:14am UTC, wrote Yes, George, I totally agree with You. It is very important that Voevodsky...

Richard Benish: on 3/22/17 at 7:55am UTC, wrote Dear George, I would not presume to know that there was a beginning...

George Gantz: on 3/21/17 at 22:56pm UTC, wrote Well said, although I would point out that It is only a fight to those who...

George Gantz: on 3/21/17 at 22:51pm UTC, wrote Thank you Richard - Gravity is an EXAMPLE of intentionality, not the...

Richard Benish: on 3/21/17 at 22:04pm UTC, wrote Dear George, Life and consciousness clearly exist at the present moment....


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FQXi FORUM
March 24, 2017

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: The How and The Why of Emergence and Intention by George Gantz [refresh]
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This essay's rating: Community = 5.1; Public = 5.5


Author George Gantz wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 17:29 GMT
Essay Abstract

Over the past few decades, considerable progress has been made in explaining how complex, intelligent behaviors emerge in dynamic systems. The overall architecture can now be discerned, although much work remains to be done on the particulars. At the same time, the question of why the universe works this way remains as elusive as ever. There is a direction to the process, and we do not understand the nature of that intentionality. We are left with contradictory hypotheses for why the universe is the way it is. Do you believe that what exists is fundamentally an expression of randomness within mathematical forms? Or do you believe in a cosmic intentionality that provides generative guidance for the emergence and evolution of our uniquely specified universe? I believe this question is, and always will be, from an empirical standpoint, undecidable. Yet our choice of answer is fundamental to how we think about the world and how we live in it. We had best choose wisely. I make an argument for cosmic intentionality.

Author Bio

George Gantz is a writer, philosopher and retired business executive with a life-long passion for mathematics, science, philosophy and theology. He has a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors Humanities from Stanford University, directs the Forum on Integrating Science and Spirituality at www.swedenborgcenterconcord.org and blogs on related topics. His essay The Tip of The Spear earned 4th place in the 2014 FQXi essay contest.

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Ines Samengo wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 18:39 GMT
Dear George, I just read your sunny essay. I search for knowledge when I read this forum, yet you made me joyful. Thanks for that! I must ask the question, however, even if it may sound bitter. If I get you well, you believe that from rational grounds, the answer to your main question is undecidable. Yet, you opt for conscious intentionality, as an act of free will (assuming there is such thing, which you seem to assume). Would it be a good summary to say that your choice is based on the fact that it makes you happier? That you do not want to represent the universe as purpose-less, in your mind, because that would mean choices are only illusory free, and therefore opt for the intentional alternative? Please let me know if I got you right. I myself argue that there are no goals per se, but that we choose to see them. Not exactly because their existence makes us happier, but rather, because their detection allows us to make predictions, and thereby, to be more fit to pass on our genes.

By the way... congrats for the grandson! You did succeed in passing on your genes - in combination with others. Whether your positive view of the world is causally related to such a success is another question (or is it the same question?).

inés.

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Author George Gantz replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 00:48 GMT
Thank you inés. I'm glad my essay made you happy. Yes, I tend to be optimistic, but I believe the evidence for cosmic intentionality is very good, in fact compelling. But one has to be open to the idea. I quite agree that one can hold a rational and consistent belief in randomness, in which case one will also tend to reject or de-emphasize the evidence which I find so compelling.

Your comment about our choosing to see goals, which makes us more fit to pass on our genes, is interesting. I agree with you. I also see, in that statement, one small piece of the intentionality of evolution. Our universe intends us to be successful in anticipating the future and rewards us by passing on our genes. Over time, this leads to increasing knowledge, wisdom and mastery for the whole of humanity.

By the way, there is considerable evidence in recent psychological literature that those with a positive outlook tend to live more positive lives. This idea could lead us into a long discussion of Pascal's wager --- and whether evidence is mounting in favor of the choice he was arguing for.....



Ines Samengo replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 10:03 GMT
I fully agree with everything you say. Best! inés.

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Alexey/Lev Burov wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 23:31 GMT
Dear George,

I enjoyed reading your poetic essay two years ago; it’s a pleasure to read your new text, both rational and spiritual. Pointing to the metaphysical choice between the fundamental chaos and intentionality, you state that the case is undecidable from the empirical standpoint and suggest strong argument for the intentionality on the ethical ground. Lev and I more than agree with your ethical reasoning, but we do not completely agree about impossibility to decide on the scientific ground. If you remember our two-year old essay, “Genesis of a Pythagorean Universe”, we showed there that the laws of nature are so specific, that only upper Mind can be their source. Briefly, we repeat this argumentation in our text suggested for this contest. However, we still agree that ethical argumentation is needed, since on the ground of the laws of nature one cannot tell why the Demiurge could not be sort of Descartes’ evil demon. Your essay presents the ethical argument in a new and interesting way, and we are giving you a high score.

Good luck!

Alexey.

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Author George Gantz wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 02:04 GMT
Alexey / Lev -

Nice to hear from you again. Ah, yes, the Demiurge strikes again. I enjoyed your essay last time and look forward to reading the new one.

I'll be most interested in seeing how you can sail the empirical arguments through the treaturous shoals between the rocks of Godel and QP. and to hear how the Upper Mind conceives of intentionality.

Cheers - George




James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 06:25 GMT
George,

"I believe this question is, and always will be, from an empirical standpoint, undecidable. Yet our choice of answer is fundamental to how we think about the world and how we live in it. We had best choose wisely. I make an argument for cosmic intentionality."

Your words perhaps indicate the inscrutability of this topic. My idea of a cosmic intentionality involves mindless laws furnishing restraint and direction for our daily flow of actions. Survival involves instinctive mechanisms for living and actually non-living things for physicists like Jeremy England. Goals arise in a decision context, according to Aristotle and we have a remarkably similar cycle of life, death and rebirth from molecular life to galaxies and the universe/s and metaphorical similarities between the human womb and the universe's womb.

I'm not really sure what your cosmic intentionality means, other than my rambling.

I would like to see your thoughts on my essay.

Jim Hoover

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Author George Gantz replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 12:32 GMT
James -

As you say - "... our daily flow of action"

For every action there is intention. Without intention there is mere wandering, and the universe would go nowhere, or perhaps, according to the multiverse, everywhere.

Thanks for reading my essay. I look forward to reading yours!

-George




Harry Hamlin Ricker III wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 15:43 GMT
George, Nicely written, and thought out.

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Author George Gantz replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 20:54 GMT
Thank you Harry. I look forward to reading yours when I have a chance!




Gavin William Rowland wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 23:48 GMT
Dear George. I very much enjoyed reading your essay. Engaging, inspiring and a pleasure to read. I think you are pointing correctly at the gaping hole in science - one that includes the universe's global trajectory towards increasing complexity and at the same time our heartfelt desire for a better existence.

I think it is brave, too, to step out and say this in such an open way, as too often anything optimistic is seen as subjective bias, where pessimistic outlooks are seen as objective. (A correlation between pessimism and being a critic perhaps?)

I am interested in your differentiation between intentionality and agency. Can you enlarge on this at all?

Finally, I think you will find my essay "From Nothingness to Value Ethics" interesting. I am trying to turn the "gaping hole" issue I refer to into something more defined.

best regards, Gavin

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Author George Gantz replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 01:43 GMT
Thank you Gavin. I look forward to reading your essay.

As I said in the essay, intention is a behavior (motion and direction) and agency is an internal conscious capacity, something we only observe in the case of our self. I think the case for intentionality in the universe is clear - that behavior is present and observed at all levels of creation and evolution. Addressing the question of whether there is agency behind it requires a leap of faith, as it were. That's a different kind of conversation for a different day.

Regards - George




William L Stubbs wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 21:51 GMT
George Gantz,

Your essay is interesting and has a sort of metaphysical feel to me, which, based on some of the other essays submitted, does not appear to be out of bounds for this competition. I noticed you tend to personify non-living systems, which, in my opinion, can make them appear to act with intent when, in actuality, they are at the mercy of their environments. This is something I touched on in my essay. For example, you say:

“… flowing water seeks out a stable structure …”

Perhaps it does “seek out,” but maybe it just settles into a stable structure that it had no choice in assuming. In another example, you say of emerging galaxies:

“The system searches through available configurations …”

with a goal of minimizing local entropy. Again, I wonder if the galaxy had no choice but to adhere to the configuration dictated by the laws of physics that applied to the various situations occurring within it.

I may be digressing into semantics here, but I do not believe that when the white billiard ball you speak of in your essay strikes the red one, it intended to strike it. Based on the physics of the situation, it had no choice but to strike it. If, given the physical constraints that should lead to a collision, the white ball somehow changed its course to avoid the red ball; that would signal intent on the part of the white ball, to me.

All this said, I believe I know what you were trying to say, and I think you did a good job of presenting your case. What I am struggling with is whether or not you believe mindless mathematical laws can give rise to aim and intentions; and if so, how? You likely covered this in the essay, but somehow, I missed it. If you could just briefly respond to this question, I would greatly appreciate it.

Regards,

Bill Stubbs.

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Author George Gantz replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 13:20 GMT
Thanks, Bill. Good observations. Semantics are important in dealing with difficult questions. I tried to distinguish my use of the word “intention” from the more common meaning that conflates intention with conscious choice (agency). The billiard ball is not conscious. But it’s movement plays a role in moving the universe forward and, in my definition, demonstrates intention. I would also argue that as we drill down from the apparent determinism of classical physics into the quantum realm, or up into the dynamics of complex systems, it becomes clear that choices are being made manifest in the intention demonstrated at the system level. I do not claim these are necessarily conscious - that’s a different discussion.

To be clear, I do not think mathematical laws give rise to aims and intentions. Mathematical laws do not act alone - they have to be activated by intentions. Mathematics provides permissible pathways for intentions to flows.

As to being metaphysical, I believe the FQXi questions (at least the three I have participated in) are fundamentally metaphysical in character, and answering them requires inquiry that extends beyond the empirical. This was a key thesis in my 2015 essay The Hole at the Center of Creation.

Regards - George



Joe Fisher replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 16:58 GMT
Dear George Gantz,

Please excuse me for I have no intention of disparaging in any way any part of your essay.

I merely wish to point out that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Physicist & Nobel Laureate.

Only nature could produce a reality so simple, a single cell amoeba could deal with it.

The real Universe must consist only of one unified visible infinite physical surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light.

A more detailed explanation of natural reality can be found in my essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY. I do hope that you will read my essay and perhaps comment on its merit.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Author George Gantz wrote on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 17:38 GMT
Thank you Joe for reading my essay - I look forward to reading yours.

I'm always wary of arguments that begin with that quote of Einstein's, an elegant variation of Occam's razor. Things can be made very simple by choosing not to see the complexity, by avoiding the nuance, or by relying on rhetoric. This was a key finding in my 2015 essay, The Hole at the Center of Creation. That said, while I am a big fan of infinity and zero, I really am not sure the one can stand alone........

Cheers - George




Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 14:00 GMT
Nice essay Gantz,

I am quoting few words from your essay……

Imagine 100 monkeys typing (presumably randomly) on 100 typewriters for a limitless period of time. Eventually, hidden somewhere in the seemingly endless streams of nonsense, they would produce a perfect replica of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. How can you tell the difference between nonsense and a work of art created...

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Author George Gantz wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 14:36 GMT
SNP Gupta -

Thank you for reading my essay and for your remarks. I look forward to reading yours!

As for the 100 monkeys, please note that they type for a limitless period of time. Also, your probability estimate of 1 in 10^10^11 is still quite small compared to the number of quantum multiverses at 10^10^10^7.

Many blessings and good luck with your essay - George




Steven Andresen wrote on Mar. 18, 2017 @ 14:21 GMT
Hi George

You messaged me earlier, me being the author for (Dirty Wet Chemical Universal Awakening) however I have been away camping and hadn't had opportunity to properly respond. I read your essay the other day while on camp, and so briefly revised it again just now. I much enjoyed your ideas, questionings and contemplation's and will be rating your essay generously, in the minutes...

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Author George Gantz wrote on Mar. 18, 2017 @ 14:36 GMT
Hi Steven -

Thank you. I will take a look at your page and respond.

I admit that I intentionally (consciously!) ducked the question of "intellectual choosing" because of the quagmire that besets arguments concerning cosmic consciousness. The speculation that a direction / intention is at work in the evolution of the universe stands on its own and can be observed. The speculation that such intention is a conscious choice of some universal agent is rather more difficult to support and requires a significant leap of faith. This leap is compelling for some and anathema for others.

Cheers - George




Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 15:02 GMT
Dear George,

Very interesting and deep analytical essay. You give constructive concepts and ideas that will help us overcome the crisis of understanding in fundamental science through the creation of a new comprehensive picture of the world, uniform for physicists and lyrics filled with meanings of the "LifeWorld" (E.Husserl).

I believe that the modern "crisis of understanding" » (K.V.Kopeykin "Souls "of atoms and "atoms"of the soul: Wolfgang Ernst Pauli, Carl Gustav Jung and the "three great problems of physics"), «trouble with physics (Lee Smolin," The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next") I believe that the modern "crisis of understanding" is a deep crisis of ontology and dialectics. Your essay gives hope that we will still be able to unravel the "thought of the Creator before the Creation Act" and build a model of the "self-aware Universe" (Vasily Nalimov) . My high score. I invite you to read and evaluate my ideas

Yours faithfully,

Vladimir

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Author George Gantz replied on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 17:17 GMT
Thank you, Vladimir - I look forward to reading your essay. What an immense breadth of ideas we are all struggling with, eh?

-George



Vladimir Rogozhin replied on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 18:58 GMT
The winner of the Fields Award, Vladimir Voevodsky said well about the outcome of the "struggle":«… There is a crisis of world science. Real progress will consist in very serious fight of science with religion which will end with their integration. And do not punch my face.»

Cheers - Vladimir

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Author George Gantz replied on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 22:56 GMT
Well said, although I would point out that It is only a fight to those who are entrenched in their respective dogmas. Humility and curiosity are the virtues to which we should aspire, and which may yet lead us to the integration that both Voevodsky and I foresee.

Regards - George




Richard J Benish wrote on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 17:50 GMT
Dear George,

The poetic flavor with which you've tied together and built up an image of a living, intentional Universe I found curiously comforting.

It's the kind of comfort longed for by Martin Fairweather, protagonist in John Updike's short story, The Accelerating Expansion of the Universe. Unfortunately, Fairweather accepts the 1998 supernova observations as sealing the fate of all life to a cosmic Big Freeze. He therefore finds no such comfort, but rather, sinks into an "estranging fever of depression."

Since you too appear to accept the basic assumptions of Big Bang cosmology, your warm and fuzzy poetry--much as I really do like it--runs into a seemingly fatal contradiction. The Universe evidently intends to permanently put out our candle's brief hour upon the cosmic stage. According to prevailing ideas, we're quite inevitably doomed. Not much love in that.

Nevertheless, I think the gist of your thesis may yet ring true, because I think the prevailing ideas are based on an utterly incorrect conception of gravity.

It is commonly believed that Einstein's theory has been well-tested on scales from mm to the Solar System. Over this whole range, however, resides a vast untested regime: The most ponderable half of the gravitational Universe, inside matter. Gravity may seem to be well-tested over the surfaces of massive bodies, but empirical evidence from below the surfaces of massive bodies is woefully inadequate.

My essay, Rethinking the Universe, draws attention to this empirical gap, as the idea of filling it arises by instinct from the perspective of an imaginary alien civilization who come to discover gravity for the first time. If their prediction for the result of the experiment (which is doable in an Earth-based laboratory or an orbiting satellite) is confirmed, the cosmic implications include an eternal, perhaps even living and loving Universe.

I hope you enjoy it.

Richard Benish

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Author George Gantz replied on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 18:13 GMT
Thank you Richard - I will look forward to taking your essay for a ride when I have time!

I appreciate your comment. I would, however, suggest that the "fatal contradiction" you refer to is neither fatal nor disheartening. If the universe intended to snuff the candle, then why provide for dissipative adaption and the evolution of sentient beings?

There are contradictions, however! These are essential and unavoidable, a necessary feature of recursive functions and consciousness alike. This was the topic is my 2015 essay: your link text]The Hole at the Center of Creation But nothing to feel discouraged about - just curious and joyful!

Cheers - George



Richard J Benish replied on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 22:04 GMT
Dear George,

Life and consciousness clearly exist at the present moment. Playing Devil's Advocate, I would then argue that this is a marvelous stroke of luck. Given what is assumed to be known about our primordial beginnings (approximately infinite temperature and density) that this deathly state should, for the cosmic blink of an eye, give rise to all the wonders of conscious life is arguably a quite temporary fluke.

(Continuing as Devil): We may like to invent comforting stories to explain our existence and to animate that which is more reasonably regarded as lifeless stuff, but validating such stories with scientific evidence remains a rather wishful dream. This becomes all the more obvious when contemplating the eventual fate of the cosmos, as it asymptotically approaches zero temperature and zero density--forevermore.

(Exit Devil Mode): I disagree with this dismal prognosis because I think the "something [that] gets [and keeps] the ball rolling" is gravity; that, properly understood, gravity is what maintains (regulates?) the Universe at a constant temperature and density. I have a hunch that you will warm up to the "Rotonian perspective"--as presented in my essay, which explains this as a not only viable but testable alternative.

According to this view--if one is allowed to wax a bit lyrical--the Cosmic Background Radiation temperature may be thought of as the body temperature of a living cosmic organism that never dies. The life-giving mechanisms that you so eloquently described in your essay have always existed and always will.

Poetry rules! When backed by empirical evidence, words are not even needed.

Cheers,

Richard Benish

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Author George Gantz replied on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 22:51 GMT
Thank you Richard -

Gravity is an EXAMPLE of intentionality, not the cause. Consciousness is not a stroke of luck - it is the final cause (teleologically speaking) to which the universe has been heading since the beginning...

Regards! - George




Richard J Benish wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 07:55 GMT
Dear George,

I would not presume to know that there was a beginning prior to conducting a test of the gravitational interior solutions. Categorical statements about universal consciousness and gravity's role in it surely may need to be revised if it should turn out that prevailing conceptions of gravity and cosmology are deeply wrong.

When a test object is dropped into a hole through the center of a larger massive body, does it oscillate in the hole (standard prediction) or not ("Rotonian" prediction)? Do accelerometers tell the truth about their state of motion, or not?

It is not scientific to pretend to know the answers to these questions before actually doing the experiment. Sadly, this is the standard response to the proposal to conduct the experiment, even as the the idea has been on the books at least since Galileo 385 years ago. What we think we know about gravity derives almost entirely from observations over the surfaces of gravitating bodies. We are way overdue to fill the gap inside matter by at last bringing Galileo's proposal to fruition.

Among the many consequences---if the Rotonian prediction should be supported---would be radical changes in cosmology (and the occurrence of life therein) as argued above and in my essay.

Thanks for your good work.

Richard Benish

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Anonymous wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 22:06 GMT
Hi George,

I like your essay and I like your positive philosophy. It is a much welcome counterpoint to that of Mad Max and his Minions. I wish I could be as gracious as you are....but I need to say it as I feel it. I do think emotion is a part of the mix of reality and is a strong factor in "choice".

For example: I posted on one of the minions blogs "your emperor is totally nude (in Italian)". This minion was a determinist but his emotion (or greed) caused him to delete my post (followed by my score plummeting). Was his choice determined by mathematics?

Do take a look at my essay, before "they" remove this post.

Thank you for your comprehensive, readable, and joyful essay.

Don Limuti

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Author George Gantz replied on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 22:34 GMT
Thank you Don - I look forward to reading your essay. Perhaps I just have a sunnier disposition than many - I do think civility and humor are a better way of getting a message across, but it can be hard not to "rise to the bait" as the saying goes.

Science does not do itself a favor when it is cloaked in arrogance and dismissiveness. But then, neither does religion....

Regards - George



Don Limuti replied on Mar. 23, 2017 @ 03:15 GMT
Hi George,

I could use some of your level headedness.

Don Limuti

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