As I (mis)understand the laws of physics, there is nothing preventing a toaster from suddenly jumping into existence from nothingness. The odds against it are in the fergetaboutit range, but that assumes the universe is only a tad over 14 billion years old. And it assumes there aren't many universes.

Suppose the Big Bang was just a Big Comma, separating what came before from what came after. After a trillion years times a trillion, the toaster's odds of springing into existence improve. The same holds true if there are lots more universes that we don't know about.

Now suppose instead of a toaster, a robot jumps into existence. (Hey, if you believed a toaster could materialize, it's not such a big leap.)  The hypothetical robot is coincidentally hardened against the harsh forces of the universe and capable of surviving almost anything. Its program, created by entirely random forces, tells it to manipulate the building blocks of nature to create life in a way that allowed evolution to occur.

In such a hypothetical situation, would you say Intelligent Design was involved in creating the universe Remember, while the robot might be extraordinarily capable, he has no free will. And his intelligence isn't the sort we generally attribute to a designer. The robot had no reason to create life. It simply followed its program.

What interests me about this hypothetical question is that most people won't be able to answer it with a yes or a no because it smells like a trap.

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Nov 15, 2008
I reject the argument that the creation of life on Earth by robots (Vonnegut, Jr.), contamination from space (Hoyle, Wrickhamsingh), or gods created by random processes (immortal Broca brains) is anything like ID. Because they just push back the question of origins by one step.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 15, 2008
Broca brains.

But who designed the designer? ID is just a stalking horse for dumbamentalist interpretations of the Bible.
Nov 15, 2008
In dialogue with your thought experiment, I posit the question Roger Penrose asked in his book, Shadows of the Mind (Oxford University Press, 1994, pg. 164): “Does the robot need to believe in M?”

Also, excerpting from Mr. Penrose, this time from the fable in the epilogue to his book, The Road to Reality (Vintage Books, 2007):

“Antea, a postdoctoral student of physics, came from a small town in southern Italy, and she possessed remarkable artistic as well as mathematical talents. [On this night] she stared at the clear night sky through a large eastward window of the Albert Einsten Institute in Golm, Near Potsdam, Germany….”

“It was a peaceful night and the stars were unmistakably clear. For a while Antea stood in a pensive state…. She always felt awe as she contemplated, in that vast seeming hemispherical dome, the great distance of those tiny pinpricks of light, though it counted but little compared to the greater enormity of cosmological scales. Yet, she mused, if some cosmic explosion were to become visible to her now, no matter how far away, its little photons would have experienced no time at all in reaching her….”

As she stood there looking to the east, she was startled by a momentary and unexpected streak of green light, just as the dawn was about to come upon her, whereupon the deep red of the sun broke through. The phenomenon of the ‘green flash’ and its well-established physical explanation were known to her, but she had never actually witnessed it before and it created in her a strange emotional effect. This experience mingled with some puzzling mathematical thoughts that had been troubling her throughout the night.”

“Then an odd thought overtook her…”

My question (from an old song): “Is this our beginning? Or is this the end?

+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 15, 2008
"After a trillion years times a trillion, the toaster's odds of springing into existence improve."

Isn't that the "gambler's fallacy"? The odds don't improve, they stay the exact same. I'm no expert myself, but I think this can be likened to flipping a coin. The odds of heads or tails is 0.5. If you throw 250 heads in a row-extremely unlikely- it is easy to think "well, we're due for a tails!" But the odds do not change, they are 50/50.

At any point in time the toaster is equally unlikely to pop into existence.
Nov 15, 2008
From MY (mis-)understanding of physics, out of "nothing" comes BOTH an electron and a positron. Usually they collide, and return to "nothing". This happens all the time.

Other more massive particles, like quarks, can also come into existence, with their antiparticles. A bit rarer, but not not infrequent.

Now it may happen that instead of anhilitating eachother, the antipaticles wander off, and the particles combine to form, say, a proton. Unlikely, but could happen.

And now your trying to extend that a googleplex times, all in the same vacinity, to form the existence of a robot, which just happens to be tough enough to survive a collision with a planet; which just happens to have a method of gathering energy for itself, and which just happens to have a program written for creation instead of destruction.

And you're asking us to judge such an impossiblitiy as to whether that connotes intelligence or not?

It's more likely that the amoeba that it would create would just pop into existence than it would. So that's the better answer, by Occam's razor. There was no intelligent design, life just "happened".
Nov 14, 2008

Perhaps the more interesting question would be if a Dilbert (complete with stripey tie) pops into existence and runs over you,Scott Adams, with a truck full of rutabagas would it be more ironic or satiric?

Nov 14, 2008
I like reading your blog, but every time you get into anything religious, I get frustrated. Things popping into existence for no reason and out of nothing at all? "Ex nihilo, nihil fit" - it's been around for a long time, and it's something humans understand at a basic level. The extent to which man will go to rid himself of God is astounding. We're not robots, God is not a robot - there is objective meaning and purpose in life. Why is that so complicated? Why would someone even want to rid themselves of that?
Nov 14, 2008
Which is kind of proof that life is not the result of a robot tinkering with the universe, since the evidence is against intelligent design.
Nov 14, 2008
To be honest, after two readings, (well, a reading and a skimming) I didn't see a question.

Therefore, I said to myself, "Hmmm, that a torturously contrived chain of thought, I wonder where he's going with it."

So, the answer is not so much "Yes or No", as it is "Nowhere". (So far).
Nov 14, 2008
If your incredibly complex robot had the good fortune to spontaneously appear through entirely random forces, what's to say that biological life couldn't come into existence through the same process? The robot theory is therefore unnecessary.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 14, 2008
I can't answer it with a "yes" or a "no" because it's really a trap....

There's no question in your post....

But a lot people answered the question....

I think it's because you said they wouldn't....
Nov 14, 2008
I have yet to hear a compelling argument for why any sort of "origin science" has any bearing on anything. Whether or not we evolved, it doesn't really have any bearing on anything. Teaching Evolution doesn't further scientific minds any further than teaching Intelligent Design. Even people who don't believe we evolved from apes or pigs or squids or whatever generally agree that microevolution (that is to say, evolution within a species) exists, which is the only application in biology anyway. No matter what you think we were 2 trillion years ago, we can't reproduce that now so it's irrelevant. It isn't curing cancer or even increasing food production to improve poor peoples' lives. It's all pointless nonsense.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 14, 2008

If the universe created a deity, and the deity created the rest of the universe, having designed it, using some process that would generally be regarded as intelligent, then I'd say the rest of the universe had been created by intelligent design.

I'm curious about where you're going with this. Are you trolling the deists or the free will advocates?
Nov 14, 2008
Yes, of course silly, a toaster, robot or even a human (or any other species) can materialized from nothingness. It happens all the time on the Federation Spaceship Enterprise.

Nov 14, 2008
Funny. I'm a physics major and am currently learning Quantum mechanics. Basically, there's nothing stopping the electrons in your body from jumping from Earth to Alpha Centauri. It's improbable by a factor of about ten to the minus ten thousand (about one over a googol). So by that theory, the possiblity of a robot jumping into existence randomly isnt a stretch. I dont think any "designer" can do something so randomly, so it makes sense that intelligent design was not involved.
Nov 14, 2008
Intelligent Design implies the existence of something that transcends nature and the laws of Physics. Therefore, by definition of having been created naturally through the action of the laws of Physics, the Robot and all its subsequent creations cannot be called Intellignet Design.
Incidentally (I know I'm nitpicking), a trillion times a trillion universes doesn't even come close to making the odds of this happening significant. But there is some number that does.
Here's a nice description that I think fits the kind of odds you are talking about here. It's from David Lodge's book "The Picturegoers": " Imagine an iron ball as big as the Earth, and a fly landing on it once in a million years. When the ball disappears from the erosion, eternity has not even begun".
Nov 14, 2008
In your hypothetical situation, the answer would be yes. Regardless of whether the robot had free will, it using something resembling intelligence to create and/or guide evolution.

I feel remiss unless I point out that your hypothetical situation is preposterously hypothetical. As I (mis)understand physics, it is possible for something to pop into existence, and some scientists claim that photons and neutrinos and such pop in and out of existence on some regularity. But I think they're horribly wrong, that it hasn't really been demonstrated, and a lot of so-called "research" into this type of physics takes place on a whiteboard. The primary experiment involves the hallucinogenic properties of Expo marker fumes.
Nov 14, 2008
A robot in an Isaac Asimov novel has already created the universe. After existing for eons and watching the universe fade away through entropy and becoming one with the universe, it had one last thought: "Let there be light."
Nov 14, 2008
In a random universe, this is possible. Think in terms of predicting a coin toss, 1000 times in a row. The chances of predicting all 1000 outcomes are astronomical. Yet, some resulting order will occur. The universe could be seen as a cosmic coin toss. Who knows how many times its been tossed? All we know is that some result will occur. A robot that creates all other life is a possible result.

On the flip side, if you don't believe the universe is random, then a robot cannot spring into existence. Then you must acknowledge some driving force behind the order. (and it can't be a robot because he can't randomly spring into existence into an ordered universe)

If you believe in a God ( or gods) who is omnipotent and omnipresent then nothing in the universe can occur without his knowing and his allowance. Robots only spring forth by persmission. So, there is no trap for the believer in this question. Whether or not a robot sprung into existence and followed a program does not disprove intelligent design, it just shows an intelligent designer allowed this thing to happen, thereby stamping order onto its occurrence.
Nov 14, 2008
You're just making a case for Unintelligent Design. Won't work, it's already been done.
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