### Sunday, July 16, 2006

## Nature has no Scheme, only Relationships?

In the course of this blog, I have indicated that science in general claims that nature has no scheme. The reason that I use this particular term is that it leaves the aspect of intent an open question. That is because I would contend, that in of itself, it does not necessarily imply motive. Although, I have to admit that I would be hard pressed to give a example of a scheme that didn’t have one as its instigation. Where is this leading to? To explain, first then let's look more carefully at the term and its definition. In the Oxford the term is first described as “systematic arrangement proposed, or in action; outline” it also gives its Greek root as skhema which means form. So by framing it this way, I am trying to give science along with myself, as much latitude as possible and propose that a scheme is something although ordered does not in of itself imply intent.

Science would say, that what they have found instead of a scheme, is that nature has a set of relationships, that when taken together, give the description of the natural world and its workings. Now to discover them, it’s claimed they use only the tools of logic, which mainly manifests itself in mathematics and they compare that with what is found by observation in relation to the proposed theory, in conjunction with its predictions. If all appears to be consistent, it is accepted. If it is not, it is dismissed. This seems to be a convincing story on the face of it. Yet how do they begin, as to what is the starting point of this process and when they stop? We could be lead to assume, with this description, that they simply try one thing after the other, without reason or direction. A process that is reminiscent to how long it would take a monkey to type out precisely Shakespeare’s Hamlet. To give you a sense of this, the chances for a monkey on the first try to type out simply the single word “Hamlet”, is the same as the chance you would have of buying one lottery ticket each week for the next four weeks and winning all four lotteries. So therefore, there must be something else to the process. Of course there is observation, yet what is observation other then looking over the shoulder of the monkey to see when he first gets it right. Well scientists don’t readily tell you, but they have what I would refer to as hunches, that give them a starting point and a cut off point. In truth there are many of these hunches. However, I would submit that the two most widely used today are those referred to as “Symmetry”, which often forms the starting point and something called “Occam’s Razor”, which suggests the cut off point.

So now, the question is what are these hunches referred to as “Symmetry” and “Occam’s Razor”? Let’s examine the more abstract one first, which is symmetry. Now I know many of you have a general sense of what symmetry refers to in every day experience, yet to begin let's try to be more precise by referring to a definition. The following is taken from the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. It reads:

"Symmetry is a characteristic feature of systems, geometrical shapes, equations, and other objects; we say that such an object is symmetric with respect to a given operation if this operation, when applied to the object, does not change it. Two objects are symmetric to each other with respect to a given group of operations if one is obtained from the other by some of the operations (and vice versa)."

What many people perceive as symmetry is but only a limited case of the concept, which is referred to as “bilateral symmetry” or “mirror symmetry”. That is, when one divides a object down the middle and what is seen on one side is reproduced exactly on the other, only reversed. Probably one of the most thought of representations of this in architecture is the Taj Mahal. Symmetry, is thought by many to form the largest guiding principle in architecture, as well as in art and it is seemingly instinctively recognized. So why is that? That’s because it is found also in nature. The most personal experience of this is when one looks in the mirror in the morning. I could site many other examples but I think you get the picture. When science speaks of symmetry they take it in a more abstract or rather general sense. For instance in Physics it would be (again borrowed yet paraphrased from Wikapedia):

"Symmetry is generalized to mean invariance (=unchange) under any kind of transformation."

First, we need to flesh this out a little. Let’s say that a physicist was to propose (as they do), that the theory of gravity was symmetric. What would they be telling us? They would mean for instance that if they took a object and moved it to the other side of the universe or simply across the street that gravity would act on it as if it has not gone anywhere. In other words the force as exhibited on the object would remain unchanged. Now we have to be a little more precise about what this actually entails. In this and any such example we have to consider that all the relevant influences are moved along with it. Which would mean in approximation, I would have to move the entire earth, the same distance and direction. It sounds almost idiotic, doesn’t it? In truth though, it is a good test of its validity. For the way that the theory is written, such a change should have no effect.

Now it’s interesting to note, that this very thing is now at the focal point of one of the largest concerns and debates in cosmology. For when the cosmologists observe the rotational speed of stars at the edge of our galaxy and count in all the observable matter, they end up with speeds that are a lot faster then what the theory of gravity would predict. Now because this is not observed to happen within a more limited range, such as within own solar system, the reason sited is that there is more matter in the galaxy then we are as yet able to observe or account for. Hence the term you have probably heard about a lot lately, “dark matter”. On the other side of the coin, there is a much smaller group of scientists, saying that we shouldn’t be looking for ghosts, but to rather scrap the existing theory and write a new one that will account for the observations. However, because of things like this symmetry, which is percieved to exist in reference to gravity, the dark matter explanation is by far the more accepted one and thus the one being most actively researched. Now this doesn’t mean that all of nature in terms of physics has symmetric form, for as in particle physics, nature has proven not symmetric in some aspects . This to however, in respect to the phenomena involved, is in itself revealing . So in the context of when nature's symmetry holds or not has proven very useful in the expansion and evaluation of the theories.

We come now to “Occum’s Razor’", what now is this ? As I explained it is the stopping point in the process. What do I mean by this? Well, for instance, in the case of the monkey being observed in attempting to type “Hamlet”, we know to stop the process when finally the little guy types it correctly. In science at times, there is more then one theory proposed that appears to explain what is being studied. Which then is correct? This is where Occum’s razor comes in. This is a principle that is attributed to the 14th century English logician and Franciscan friar, William of Occam, which states that a true theory should have as few assumptions as possible and any that do not extend the observable consequences of the theory should be eliminated. In terms of deciding between competing theories, in which more than one gives explanation to the phenomena, then the simplest one should be taken. This is sort of a statement of economy. The modern but dangerously misleading equivalent is called K.I.S.S. for 'keep it simple, stupid'. Actually, Albert Einstein had his own slant on this for he said”

"The supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience"

So now you say, what is my point? The point I’m making here is that science contends that the question “why” is not relevant and therefore they don’t ask it. However, they do use what one could consider to be predetermined and assumed aspects of nature, to aid them in their quest for expanding knowledge of the natural world. These assumptions, form their sign posts or guides in knowing if they are following the right course and reach the correct ends. So in truth, they do use “why”. For if you asked them, "why" they contend a particular theory is correct, outside the fact that it explains the tested phenomena? In reply they might often respond, because it appears it can be considered within the terms of symmetry and is also economical in its form. So despite the fact that many scientists claim that nature has no scheme, they are convinced it has attributes or what might be better described as “qualities”. Further, these qualities are not simply of the benign type, as for example, hard, soft, light or dark and so on. These qualities are of a more general type, for they imply character. Now let’s rephrase and clarify this, by saying that science asserts that nature reveals its character within the qualities of symmetry and economy. So what is this describing? Is it describing, as science proposes, to be simply a set of relationships or is it actually describing a scheme? For me it is certainly a scheme. A scheme of which it could be asked if it does or does not contain intent? A question for which I have no answer and yet would maintain still is a valid one.

Comments:

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Symmetry is pretty much what I've decided to devote the rest of my life to, Phil. More on that later.

Occam's Razor is indeed as you say, the cutoff point. But we're not there yet. We may never be there in fact in our lifetimes. But someday? I hope so.

In the meantime, Occam's Short Sword will have to do do. If not the short sword, then Occam's Twin Scimirars. Currently, we're working with Occam's Long Sword, which is crude as hell, but effective enough given current 2010 technology, sigh.

Onward and upward, Humanity. Still a work in progress ...

Occam's Razor is indeed as you say, the cutoff point. But we're not there yet. We may never be there in fact in our lifetimes. But someday? I hope so.

In the meantime, Occam's Short Sword will have to do do. If not the short sword, then Occam's Twin Scimirars. Currently, we're working with Occam's Long Sword, which is crude as hell, but effective enough given current 2010 technology, sigh.

Onward and upward, Humanity. Still a work in progress ...

Hi Steven,

Yes the economy and the symmetry being seemingly inherent in nature has always fascinated me as well and lends testimony to the wisdom of Plato to have first recognized the inseparability of truth and beauty as being complimentary aspects of what he called the good and Robert Pirsig was later to refine to be simply quality. Noether of course gave a mathematical foundation to such notions and yet it has never been required to have a firm grasp of mathematics to recognize the signature for which it serves only to quantify it being present.

Best,

Phil

Yes the economy and the symmetry being seemingly inherent in nature has always fascinated me as well and lends testimony to the wisdom of Plato to have first recognized the inseparability of truth and beauty as being complimentary aspects of what he called the good and Robert Pirsig was later to refine to be simply quality. Noether of course gave a mathematical foundation to such notions and yet it has never been required to have a firm grasp of mathematics to recognize the signature for which it serves only to quantify it being present.

Best,

Phil

Hey Phil, and thanks. Yes that's right, a firm grasp of mathematics is in fact not required to enjoy life or be successful.

But you know something? What is "mathematics", anyway? I think when used it means mathematical notation, which I find to be equal parts wonderful and terrible. I think everyone does maths in their heads naturally.

Quick question:

Which is more important: teachers or students?

Also, you know you can clean up your own weblog but using the remove forever option, right? Sure wish I could do that at Bee's thread. :-)

Back on topic, if there are no objections:

The reason I didn't post here in so long is that the first paragraph of this post really hung me up about six months ago when I read it. I don't mean I didn't understand you, I did, what I meant was I didn't agree. Six months thinking about it helped though, so thx again, sir.

But you know something? What is "mathematics", anyway? I think when used it means mathematical notation, which I find to be equal parts wonderful and terrible. I think everyone does maths in their heads naturally.

Quick question:

Which is more important: teachers or students?

Also, you know you can clean up your own weblog but using the remove forever option, right? Sure wish I could do that at Bee's thread. :-)

Back on topic, if there are no objections:

The reason I didn't post here in so long is that the first paragraph of this post really hung me up about six months ago when I read it. I don't mean I didn't understand you, I did, what I meant was I didn't agree. Six months thinking about it helped though, so thx again, sir.

Hey Phil, and thanks. Yes that's right, a firm grasp of mathematics is in fact not required to enjoy life or be successful.

But you know something? What is "mathematics", anyway? I think when used it means mathematical notation, which I find to be equal parts wonderful and terrible. I think everyone does maths in their heads naturally.

Quick question:

Which is more important: teachers or students?

Also, you know you can clean up your own weblog by using the remove forever option, right? Sure wish I could do that at Bee's thread. :-)

Back on topic, if there are no objections:

The reason I didn't post here in so long is that the first paragraph of this post really hung me up about six months ago when I read it. I don't mean I didn't understand you, I did, what I meant was I didn't agree. Six months thinking about it helped though, so thx again, sir.

Btw, I'm lmao about your remark about Jimmy Wales at Bee's thread. Sheesh, think about how much money we could make if we were inherently dishonest.

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But you know something? What is "mathematics", anyway? I think when used it means mathematical notation, which I find to be equal parts wonderful and terrible. I think everyone does maths in their heads naturally.

Quick question:

Which is more important: teachers or students?

Also, you know you can clean up your own weblog by using the remove forever option, right? Sure wish I could do that at Bee's thread. :-)

Back on topic, if there are no objections:

The reason I didn't post here in so long is that the first paragraph of this post really hung me up about six months ago when I read it. I don't mean I didn't understand you, I did, what I meant was I didn't agree. Six months thinking about it helped though, so thx again, sir.

Btw, I'm lmao about your remark about Jimmy Wales at Bee's thread. Sheesh, think about how much money we could make if we were inherently dishonest.

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