Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mathematical versus Alphabetical

The early scientists thought the physical laws could be understood in the same way as the laws of mathematics. In mathematics there are basic premises whose truth is obvious if you understand their meaning. You then proceed to deduce the whole system based on those premises. There may be problems that are difficult, but once you have the premises all the conclusions necessarily follow from thoseomes complicated. You have to deal with quantum mechanics, which says that below a certain size, we can only measure the movements of a particle as probabilities. There is chaos theory, which says that for complex systems, small changes in initial conditions can have major effects down the road. Living things, even in their simplest forms, are complex systems which do not seem to be deducible from their component elements. While I do not accept neo-Darwinian evolution, it is based on  accidental conjunctions of mutations and environment, not necessary logic. The mathematical model for the physical laws has serious problems.

An alternative approach would be the alphabetical. The alphabet starts with simple elements that can be arranged in complex ways. There are rules for how these should be arranged, but they are not determinative rules. It is not possible to start with the alphabet and deduce Shakespeare's plays. Understanding the universe in this way would suggest there is either a mind that made the universe or it is the result of pure chance-- chimps on word processors. But the old idea of a deducible universe does not fit with the real world.


  1. "deducible universe" - I like that Mike and agree with your take. Too much complexity to be understood in full.

  2. I am convinced in just about every discipline we always think we know more than we really know and sometimes God has to remind us of that fact.