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Old 03-24-2008, 12:30 AM   #11545  /  #1
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Some systems which appear to behave randomly or probabilistically may be highly sensitive to initial conditions - a small change in initial conditions may lead to large changes in outcomes. Weather, for example, or a die-roll. In theory, the behavior of such systems could be entirely deterministic with no "random elements" at all.

But what if the small change in initial conditions is provided by the probabilistic behavior of quantum events?

Then we have an interesting situation where the deterministic explanation for an apparently probabilistic event depends on probabilistic events!

For a specific example, imagine controlling all the initial conditions of a die-roll. Toss it from enough height and with enough spin so it seems to behave probabilistically. An edge or corner would eventually strike the surface of the craps table - maybe the position and velocity of an electron at that edge or corner would be the "butterfly" which determines the resulting trajectory, velocity and spin of the die - which ultimately determines which face would end showing up. But those factors - the position and velocity of that electron - are fundamentally indeterminate!

Iow, even though we exactly control the initial conditions, and assume a deterministic explanation for the behavior of the die, it may still behave probabilistically. (!)

My point is that chaos theory, intended to provide a determinstic explanation for probabilistic events, may actually fail to do so. Chaos theory can be true and determinism can still be false!
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Old 03-24-2008, 12:52 AM   #11555  /  #2
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I've always thought of successive layers of randomness and determinism, like an onion.

Quantum randomness, in aggregate, makes Newtonian atoms. Newtonian atoms, in aggregate, make chaotic systems, like brownian motion. Brownian motion, in aggregate, makes deterministic, Boyle-esque pressure dynamics. Which in turn lead to chaotic turbulence, which add up to straightforward currents, which add up to chaotic meteorology... etc etc etc.
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Old 03-24-2008, 01:14 AM   #11567  /  #3
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Originally Posted by His Noodly Appendage View Post
Quantum randomness, in aggregate, makes Newtonian atoms. Newtonian atoms, in aggregate, make chaotic systems, like brownian motion. Brownian motion, in aggregate, makes deterministic, Boyle-esque pressure dynamics. Which in turn lead to chaotic turbulence, which add up to straightforward currents, which add up to chaotic meteorology... etc etc etc.
There is a closely related observation of Mandelbrot's which you might be interested in, namely that the dimension of objects depends on how closely you look at them. This would in and of itself be a triviality, the interesting part is of course that the notion dimension can, as you probably know, be defined to include the possibility of any non-negative real dimension in general and that the dimensions of diverse phenomena can be quantified.

So atoms are 3D, then 1D when you get further away, their interaction gives way to the Brownian motion would be a fractal of dimension 2, ideal gases/fluids would I assume be regular 3D objects, and Navier-Stokes turbulence are, according to Mandelbrot, "concentrated" in areas of dimension around 2.5. (His book was very confusingly written, so I'm afraid I can't elaborate any more on that.)
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Old 03-24-2008, 01:29 AM   #11585  /  #4
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I need to make a time thread. Every thread about causality, determinism, etc. demonstrates the underlying assumptions we all make about time that we may not even realize we are making (or that they are unnecessary assumptions).
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Old 03-24-2008, 01:31 AM   #11586  /  #5
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*notes the irony of planning this as a future action*
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Old 03-24-2008, 01:33 AM   #11589  /  #6
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*notes the irony of planning this as a future action*
Can you explain it for me?
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Old 03-24-2008, 01:54 AM   #11607  /  #7
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Time does not exist - at least as we see it! Causality is just an artifact of our perception!

Every thread on these topics has been misguided, because this point has not been established. I will, in the future create a thread on this topic and then, as a result this will be rectified.
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Old 03-24-2008, 09:03 PM   #12303  /  #8
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Who said that?
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Old 03-25-2008, 03:33 AM   #12594  /  #9
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I don't see Ian having said that either. I agree Ian, someone needs to create a thread on Time. But since you made that suggestion in this thread, it could be interpreted just as HNA does. Please do make a thread on Time and let us get back to the OP.
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Old 03-25-2008, 06:31 AM   #12635  /  #10
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I've always thought of successive layers of randomness and determinism, like an onion.
Very interesting. Your description makes sense.

However, if determinism is true, the layers of randomness are actually just more layers of determinism - and chaos theory is the leg that theory stands upon.

And I kicked that sole support out from under determinism.

I'm saying that maybe the layers of determinism are actually just more layers of randomness.
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Old 03-25-2008, 06:41 AM   #12637  /  #11
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Whether layers or levels, you can't make a final determination on determinism (no pun intended) unless know where the foundation begins (or core begins, going on the onion metaphor). We might start with indeterminate chaos and pass through determined predictability, only to head into more indeterminate chaos at another level. I agree, it is an interesting description.
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Old 03-25-2008, 03:21 PM   #12824  /  #12
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It seems to me that determinism is just a model -- a paradigm, if you'll allow the tired old buzzword -- that informs a belief system. It's essentially theological, or to put it less offensively, metaphysical. Of course there are deterministic systems, such as those that chaos theory is meant to harness, which is to say that the mathematics used to describe them involve no randomness.

I think this is an important distinction to make. Deterministic systems versus determinism.

When people argue free will versus determinism, I think they are engaged in essentially a theological debate. The science is used to support the belief, but as usual the science is not conclusive in regard to proving a metaphysical point.

(And HNA, please start a thread on any of the topics you mentioned, if you're so inclined.)
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Old 03-25-2008, 05:00 PM   #12904  /  #13
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It seems to me that determinism is just a model -- a paradigm, if you'll allow the tired old buzzword -- that informs a belief system. It's essentially theological, or to put it less offensively, metaphysical.
How so? Can we not test whether a system is deterministic or not? If we can, why would you say that determinism is "metaphysical"?
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Old 03-25-2008, 05:15 PM   #12918  /  #14
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If determinism implies that something is at least in theory predictable, then I would argue that we don't live in a deterministic world.

Quantum stuff is one thing, but there is something else.

Consider the possibility that a high energy gamma ray from some stellar explosion will impact the earth tomorrow, and in doing so have some sort of macroscopic consequence, like perhaps causing a mutation in a cell, leading to further consequences.

Since gamma rays are approaching at the speed of light, there is no way for us to predict that. As far as I can conceive, anyway.

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Old 03-25-2008, 05:22 PM   #12922  /  #15
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How so? Can we not test whether a system is deterministic or not? If we can, why would you say that determinism is "metaphysical"?
I think I just stated why, but maybe it wasn't clear. I'm pointing out that there's a difference between determinism and deterministic systems.
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Old 03-25-2008, 05:27 PM   #12923  /  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David B View Post
If determinism implies that something is at least in theory predictable, then I would argue that we don't live in a deterministic world.

Quantum stuff is one thing, but there is something else.

Consider the possibility that a high energy gamma ray from some stellar explosion will impact the earth tomorrow, and in doing so have some sort of macroscopic consequence, like perhaps causing a mutation in a cell, leading to further consequences.

Since gamma rays are approaching at the speed of light, there is no way for us to predict that. As far as I can conceive, anyway.

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Determinism does not imply predictability.
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Old 03-25-2008, 05:29 PM   #12926  /  #17
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Determinism does not imply predictability.
I agree.

Not sure that everyone would agree,though.

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Old 03-25-2008, 05:33 PM   #12929  /  #18
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Consider the possibility that a high energy gamma ray from some stellar explosion will impact the earth tomorrow, and in doing so have some sort of macroscopic consequence, like perhaps causing a mutation in a cell, leading to further consequences.

Since gamma rays are approaching at the speed of light, there is no way for us to predict that. As far as I can conceive, anyway.
Determinism is not really about predictability, IMHO. It's about causality. Do we think that there is a causal chain or web that connects all events in the world.

Predictability is just a feature of one's frame of reference. Like I cannot predict how many trees will fall down in a forest on a planet 7 million light years away, but this does not affect whether or not I believe the universe is fundamentally deterministic or not.
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Old 03-25-2008, 05:48 PM   #12939  /  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dug_down_deep View Post
I think I just stated why, but maybe it wasn't clear. I'm pointing out that there's a difference between determinism and deterministic systems.
Yes, just like there is a difference between fascism and a fascist state, now what does this trivial terminological reminder that have to do with metaphysics? If the universe followed Newtonian laws, it would have been deterministic. How is that a metaphysical claim?
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Old 03-25-2008, 05:56 PM   #12947  /  #20
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Quantum randomness, in aggregate, makes Newtonian atoms.
What is a Newtonian atom?
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Old 03-25-2008, 05:59 PM   #12949  /  #21
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Yes, just like there is a difference between fascism and a fascist state, now what does this trivial terminological reminder that have to do with metaphysics? If the universe followed Newtonian laws, it would have been deterministic. How is that a metaphysical claim?
It's determinism when you decide that the fundamental description of reality is deterministic. If you think not, then please show me where someone has demonstrated a scientific fundamental description of reality. It ain't there, because fundamental descriptions of reality are the business of theologians and metaphysicians.

And what do you mean by the universe following Newtonian laws? What part of the universe are you referring to? The physical part? Physicalism is a metaphysical position.

Do you see my point now? It's not just a 'trivial terminological reminder', it's a distinction between a useful mathematical description and a vague, probably untestable notion of how the fundamental stuff of reality behaves.

ETA: Fascism vs fascist is not a good analogy. Try probabilism vs probabilistic.

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Old 03-25-2008, 06:04 PM   #12950  /  #22
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Originally Posted by dug_down_deep View Post
It's determinism when you decide that the fundamental description of reality is deterministic. If you think not, then please show me where someone has demonstrated a scientific fundamental description of reality. It ain't there, because fundamental descriptions of reality are the business of theologians and metaphysicians.
Determinism is the belief that the universe is deterministic. I have no idea why you gratuitously add such phrases as "fundamental description of reality" into the definition.
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And what do you mean by the universe following Newtonian laws?
A universe following Newtonian laws is a universe, where processes happen according to the kinds of laws we imagined they do before we discovered QM.
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What part of the universe are you referring to? The physical part? Physicalism is a metaphysical position.
What are you talking about? A universe is (fully) deterministic if its future state is uniquely determined by its present state. There is nothing more metaphysical in saying that the universe is deterministic than in saying that salt is soluble is water. I don't see what that has to do with "physical parts" or other kinds of parts. Of course if your gratuitously add non-sense to a definition, you will get a non-sensical definition. But why would you do that in the first place?
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Do you see my point now? It's not just a 'trivial terminological reminder', it's a distinction between a useful mathematical description and a vague, probably untestable notion of how the fundamental stuff of reality behaves.
No, I don't see your point. Your point appears to be that you can gratuitously add random words to definitions in order to discredit perfectly acceptable concepts.

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Old 03-25-2008, 06:08 PM   #12951  /  #23
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OP: For a specific example, imagine controlling all the initial conditions of a die-roll. Toss it from enough height and with enough spin so it seems to behave probabilistically. An edge or corner would eventually strike the surface of the craps table - maybe the position and velocity of an electron at that edge or corner would be the "butterfly" which determines the resulting trajectory, velocity and spin of the die - which ultimately determines which face would end showing up. But those factors - the position and velocity of that electron - are fundamentally indeterminate!

What if the position and velocity of the electron *are* determined, even though we can't predict them (yet? ever? doesn't matter). Logically, can we ever step back all the way (and know it is all the way) and get a bird's eye perspective and see what is at the bottom of the causal chain?

Randomness is such a weird concept.

Anyway, I'm not arguing that quantum events are deterministic, but I don't think we have proven they are not. Even a proof that we can't predict them doesn't mean they are deterministic (as others have pointed out, the limits of our reference frame don't speak to the metaphysical state of causality).


I think someone else in this thread may have been on the right track to say that the question of determinism at a fundamental metaphysical level is almost a question of faith (don't overinterpret that with theological baggage though). But regardless of the bottom level metaphysical condition (whatever it is, if it exists), all we can do is look at what happens and try to find ways to predict/explain things that account for what happens.

We can never logically prove that it isn't all random (randomness can account for any state and can never be fully falsified), and I doubt we can logically prove that it isn't all determined. But we can inductively 'support' any deterministic theories (at a given scale, macro, atomic, sub atomic,...) insofar as we can find a model to make predictions that keep standing up to test over and over again. When we can't make predictions at that level, it could be because they are unpredictable or because we don't know how to predict them yet, and even if they are completely unpredictable they could still be metaphysically determined by some prior causal chain no one can in principle have access to (e.g. a metauniverse that has rules we can't access which are determining what happens at a quantum level in our universe).
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Old 03-25-2008, 06:17 PM   #12958  /  #24
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Determinism is the belief that the universe is deterministic. I have no idea why you gratuitously add such phrases as "fundamental description of reality" into the definition.
You're right. It's a belief. And like most metaphysical beliefs, it is vague and usually untestable. How would we test to see if the universe is deterministic? (First we have to define the universe of course.)

This distinguishes determinism from 'deterministic system', which is a term that denotes something specific and verifiable.

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What are you talking about? A universe is (fully) deterministic if its future state is uniquely determined by its present state.
Unless you define 'state' specifically, you're not really saying anything meaningful.

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No, I don't see your point. Your point appears to be that you can gratuitously add random words to definitions in order to discredit perfectly acceptable concepts.
No, that's not my point.
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Old 03-25-2008, 06:36 PM   #12967  /  #25
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Originally Posted by dug_down_deep View Post
You're right. It's a belief. And like most metaphysical beliefs, it is vague and usually untestable. How would we test to see if the universe is deterministic? (First we have to define the universe of course.)
First of all, I don't have to define everything in order to meaningfully talk about it. Second of all, talking about the universe does not commit me to metaphysical beliefs of any kind.
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This distinguishes determinism from 'deterministic system', which is a term that denotes something specific and verifiable.
Huh? So the fact that the world is deterministic is metaphysical, but saying that something is deterministic needn't be, therefore, you seem to have the bizarre belief that in order to talk about the world, I must commit myself to some metaphysical belief. Why?
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Unless you define 'state' specifically, you're not really saying anything meaningful.
Of course I am, but you can imagine that I am talking about my observations instead. You seem to be missing the point that I can reduce talk of universe to talk of observations. How is talk of observations "metaphysical"?
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No, that's not my point.
Then why do you gratuitously add phrases like "fundamental description of reality" to otherwise sensible definitions?
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