040-Physical laws are not programs but descriptions

This should go without saying, but it is important.  too easily we think of natural laws as being programmatic facts versus descriptions of phenomena.  If physical laws were programmatic facts, where is the rule set kept?  how does the rule set result in physical phenomena?  

It's a conceit to say "physical laws", because like all laws, there are exceptions or situations where the "law" doesn't seem to work.    But this is exactly what we would expect from descriptions.  Descriptions are only accurate to their detail of description.  isn't this why there is both general and special relativity?

Of course, we usually call our physical descriptions theories, but this is forgotten in our conceptualizing of phenomena.  Consider the theory of evolution and how we talk about evolution in biology and how we talk about in artificial intelligence as an example of this mistake.  There is talk of evolutionary pressures.  But where is this pressure?   We say that the process of natural produces variation in species.  Where is the natural selection rule?  We talk about the description of natural selection, as if there is some extrinsic rule which forces matter to naturally select for life and the survival of life. You cannot go unwind some DNA and see the program for natural selection encoded there.  

In computer science research, programmers decide the natural selection rules.  the programmers determine which species of programs or algorithms or computations will "survive" or "die".   Programmers decide the fact of natural selection as a process.  Do these "rules" exist in our physical environment?  If they do exist, where are they?  

And it is this way of speaking about evolution, natural selection, physical phenomena that is suspect.  We impute some mechanistic program to the execution these theories.  THERE IS NO SUCH PROGRAM.  (unless the universe itself is in fact a simulation).  Natural  selection is a fact, but it is a descriptive fact, not a causal fact.  There is not some force called natural selection that exist, where once you see biological life, the force of natural selection takes over.  If there is such a force, where is it?   Or, why does organism survival and natural selection occur at all?  

The mystery of evolution and life is why it happens at all.  There is no causative force the impels evolution and natural selection.  I don't mean there is some magical force either, because organisms are completely physical things.  

My point is that the development of organisms, their survival and evolution should not be seen as a result of physical laws, such as evolution, but as a by-product of phenomena.  We describe the phenomena, organisms, life, natural selection, etc, but we do not have a tautological view of the physical universe.  We gloss over the gaps of how phenomena exist and come into being.  There is an explanatory gap between our physics and chemistry and organic life.

Consider the idea of entropy.  Where is the "rule" of entropy?  Entropy is treated as some sort of programmatic rule.  Why should there be "entropy"  at all?   Entropy is especially, only descriptive, because organisms are the counter example to our conception of the rule of entropy.   We know that all matter is made of molecules and atoms.  When we look at the molecule, where is the entropy?  When we look at the atom, where is the entropy?  

People may argue that entropy is the absence of something, sort of a physical zero.  But that isn't how it works in our thinking.  We assert a force where energy is lost.  We assert entropy as a force that causes disorder.  This is magical thinking.    The fact that we rely on the ambiguous notion of entropy, as being some kind of causative force, tells us something about how either we view the universe, or how the universe actually is.  

When we dig under this perspective of entropy what do we find?  This conception of entropy rests on the idea that there is a causative impetus for making and an impetus for unmaking.  Entropy is a way to talk about the unmaking things.  But to be clear, there is no entropy.  There is no entropy anywhere.  

Electromagnetic force exists because there are electrons.  Mass, and thus gravity exists because of particles, particularly protons and neutrons (and those supposedly because of the Higgs Boson).  But there is no "entropicon".  Entropy is our way to describe what happens in our physical observations.  We assert entropy as a causative force, but it is a feature of our simulation of the physical universe, it has no physical corollary of it's own.  (eg. like electrons) 

There are molecules and atoms and other particles.  the physical forces are the interactions of those particles. We describe these interactions, such as the centripetal force, but there is no  centripetal "force".   the centripetal force is a description of what happens to molecules in certain situations.  It describes how masses of molecular objects will behave or interact.  But there is no centripetal program that causes the phenomena we call the centripetal force.  

[note: How we view force and causation are intimately tied to the ideas of making, unmaking, and action.  We should be clear about that and not obscure this representation based view of nature with the physical universe itself.  Our view of force and causation are not features of matter or a physical universe but are features of our simulations.  Force and causation are our own way of describing the physical universe.  We describe the universe in this way because we are confronted by the actual and conceptual problem of making and unmaking.  Our "forces" and causative viewpoint gives us away to talk about how things are made and unmade.  

Our experience and observations suggest the universe is slightly biased towards making.  ]

For example, when some atoms get together and form a molecule (say H20)  are they following some program or is that simply what they do?  We describe atoms and molecules as objects that follow rules.  this is the programmatic view I am arguing against.  You can't take the interaction away from the atom, from the molecule.  The interaction of molecules and atoms depends on the molecules and atoms involved, not on some extra-physical rule that determines the interaction.  There are no extra-physical rules. 

The behavior or functions of atoms and molecules is co-occurrent with the atoms and molecules themselves.  The distinction of the behavior from atoms and molecules themselves is a representation we make about the universe.  Rules, forces, laws, theories of physical interaction are not things in themselves but are descriptions of phenomena we see in the interaction of atoms and molecules.  We simulate what the world is doing, and we describe this simulation as rules, forces, laws, etc.  We talk as if these forces were programs that FORCE the atoms and molecules to do things.  But this is not what actually happens.  

There is no force.  There are atoms and molecules and subatomic particles interacting.  The particles are themselves the force 

This doesn't mean our descriptions of physical phenomena are not accurate, or predictable.  However we must distinguish between describing phenomena and thinking the interaction of atoms and molecules and structures of molecules is the result of some mechanism or is programmatic.   If there is a mechanism, it is the particles themselves.  The particles, the molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles are the functions of their interaction.

There is no extrinsic place that stores some rule which we are trying to apprehend, and when we apprehend that rule, then we can do fancy things and have more power.  This is magical thinking.  

Mathematics is very useful at describing physical phenomena.  this does not mean that physical phenomena are regulated or programmed or constrained by mathematics or mathematical rules.  Even when a mathematical description of how physical phenomena behave is absolutely accurate, the mathematical description has NO RELATION to the physical phenomena.  The physical phenomena are not following a mathematical formula, the formula is describing the physical phenomena.   

this is the basic problem with all simulation.  Simulation is what we are doing all the time, we live in a simulation.  But we should be clear that our simulation of phenomena, however accurate, are at best, correlative.  

[an argument against this notion is motion.  what is movement at all?  we derive our force ideas from the idea of motion and inertia.  but here again, force ideas are only descriptive, they are not, in fact, forces.  we rely on the idea of force as a way to model change. the motive forces are no generators of motion.  The molecules, atoms, and sub atomic particles are the generators of motion.  motion is one of the observable interactions.  the key point here is observable.  we do not observe gravity, we observe the motion induced by gravity.  And gravity is an interaction between atoms.]
previous next