Is Reality "Intelligent"?

Greetings to all, thanks for your participation here.

In recent months I’ve been learning about CRISPR, which you probably know is a new methodology which makes gene editing substantially easier. Jennifer Doudna won the Nobel Prize for her work on this. CRISPR imitates something bacteria have been doing for a very long time. It goes like this…

When a bacteria identifies an invading virus it grabs a bit of the virus’s DNA, and stores it within the bacteria’s own DNA. This allows the bacteria to more easily identify the virus the next time it attacks, and thus present a more effective defense.

That is, the bacteria is engaged in what we might call a data management operation. The bacteria grabs some information from the environment, stores that information, and then retrieves that information as needed for a specific purpose.

Bacteria don’t have brains or nervous systems. Bacteria are about 1/10,000th of a centimeter in size. And yet they are engaged in behavior which we would label as intelligent if we were doing it.

We might say that this behavior of bacteria isn’t intelligence but purely mechanical action which arose from evolution, natural selection. Ok, fair enough, but this just kicks the can down the road to another bigger mystery. If a human being had invented evolution we would have given them 99 Nobel Prizes, because evolution is a highly “intelligent” method of managing the relationship between living things and their environment.

Such CRISPR inspired reflection has led me to the question of the next post…

Is “intelligence” a property of reality?

As example, consider the laws of physics. These laws are obviously real, but they don’t exist in the sense of having weight, mass, shape, form etc. The laws of physics are not a property of any particular thing within reality, but rather a property of reality itself. These laws are expressed in an infinite variety of ways, depending on the nature of the particular things which they affect. A bouncing ball and rotating galaxy appear very different, but they are governed by the same laws.

Is “intelligence” like the laws of physics, a universal property of reality which expresses itself in a variety of ways?

I’m putting “intelligence” in quotes in recognition that what we call intelligence is an extremely local phenomena. It’s a useful concept at human scale when comparing, say, humans and donkeys. But human scale is infinitely small in comparison to reality itself.

I don’t know what word would describe a universal phenomena, a property of reality itself, which would result in something as small as bacteria acting in an intelligent manner, or a process like evolution proceeding in a manner which we would label intelligent if we invented it. So I’m calling such a proposed universal property “intelligence” until we find a better word for it.

How do we explain bacteria being involved in complex data management operations?

What is the source of that phenomena?

Wow, that’s good.

That was some of the soundest far reaching first time posts I’ve seen around here.

How we formulate our questions, dictates the quality of our question, and to my eyes, those are some well formulated questions.

I have no answers, but will chew on your formulation for sure, there’s intellectual nourishment within.

I’m wondering is this where notions of “God” and “Intelligent Design” come in.

 

This is where I’d suggest some prerequisites to achieving a serious appreciation for your questions and our ‘human condition’ in general. Along with how we understand the existence we find ourselves within - is .

A good place to introduce: “Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide.”

Namely, an appreciation that Earth is our touchstone with Reality, and that we humans are mammalian products of Deep Time and Earth’s Evolution.

As for the so-called Body/Mind “Problem” - it’s a contrived hangover, the product of egoistical Abrahamic religious thinking, like draft horse-blinders, intent on limiting our understanding of the Earth we depend on for our existence.

In reality it’s an EGO v God Problem.

All we know comes from within us. Gods belong within our Human Mindscapes. We create God to fulfill our personal needs. Our relationship with god is the most intimate relationship of any human’s life. Precisely because “God” is a notion from within ourselves, the crutches we need to make nature’s challenges and its overwhelming folds within folds of cumulative harmonic complexity, followed by our death, sensible and life livable.

In any event, God is real, but God is our own individual creation. A reflection of our creature need to learn and understand. Enter the Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide.

 

 

It helps to also have an appreciation that we cannot truly understand any organism, big or small, simple or complex, without also understanding it’s environment.

@tanny PS. I want to post your comment and this thread at my blog(s), this feels like a kick in the butt, I want to run with. Any objections? Check it out

That is… Check it out

I sincerely don’t want to ruin “…some of the soundest far reaching first time posts…-cit so I apologize for interrupting and try to be careful.

"Is “intelligence” like the laws of physics, a universal property of reality which expresses itself in a variety of ways?"-tanny
I think the answer lies within the process of the question. I'd agree to say:
"We might say that this behavior of bacteria isn’t intelligence but purely mechanical action which arose from evolution, natural selection. Ok, fair enough, but this just kicks the can down the road to another bigger mystery. If a human being had invented evolution we would have given them 99 Nobel Prizes, because evolution is a highly “intelligent” method of managing the relationship between living things and their environment."-tanny
But there seems to be a very slight misinterpretation of Evolution. [ I copy the use of "inteligent", because i see it to be apropriate. ] "..evolution is a highly “intelligent” method.."-tanny Evolution labeled to be inteligent is the point. Evolution is labeled as such becasue it makes the impression to be inteligent. But it isn't directly. [I refer later to that again] Evolution is the summary of causal action and reaction leading specific to the continous developement of something (mainly biologic). The fact that a individual needs to survive until reproduction in order to give on something of its own characteristics to the next generation via reproduction, while anything helping or harming with that will increas or deacreas the chances for it; is about as inteligent as the fact that the weakest part will be the first part to give way under pressure. As for my general understanding of the term this isnt inteligent at all. It's just the logical/"inteligent" way how things behave acording to the laws of physics.

This however does only shift the question from being evolution based to: Are the laws of physics an actual inteligence themselves? For such (and emerging stuff) to be labeled as inteligent every now and then. Frankly I’d say thats not he case becasue they don’t have the patern that would be recognized inteligent as we know it. But what if the laws of physics are somehow a part or a consequence of an inteligence? Its another angle to the question: “What is the source of that phenomena?”-tanny

This way to formulate the question arises to me becasue I jump ahead at once to search for any possible ways it can be grasped within the “physical” reality, and therefore we can confirm or disconfirm its actual existence more easily.

 

@citizenschallengev4 "In any event, God is real, but God is our own individual creation."
I totally agree.

What we are talking about here, however, I consider to be something that could apply in some degree to the general description of a “god”, at least more than any other phenomenon we know of.

I copy the use of “inteligent”, because i see it to be apropriate.
Why you see repeating a typo appropriate?
Evolution is the summary of causal action and reaction leading specific to the continous developement of something (mainly biologic).
"Mainly biologic" - seriously?

Seems a bit contrived. I like “evolution is cumulative change over time” - short and to the point.

What we are talking about here, however, I consider to be something that could apply in some degree to the general description of a “god”, at least more than any other phenomenon we know of.
How's that? Using evolution to describe the phenomenon of "god" ? Or?
“Mainly biologic” – seriously?
What about the first nine billion years of matter and the Universe?

Or mineral evolution here on Earth, (although biology did join in on that process rather early on)?

 

Oh and no apology needed - this is a public forum, the more the merrier. ?

I’m wondering is this where notions of “God” and “Intelligent Design” come in.
I'm sidestepping the G word because 3,000 years of Judeo-Christian culture have created primitive images in our mind that are very hard to escape. I'm also attempting to step out of the "reality is just a mechanism" assumption of modern science culture. So I'm imagining a fundamental phenomena which is very much a part of nature, but somehow related to what we mean by the word intelligence. Related how exactly I can't say, and it wouldn't surprise me if we're never able to nail that down.
I want to post your comment and this thread at my blog(s), this feels like a kick in the butt, I want to run with. Any objections? Check it out
No objection, go for it. Thanks for considering it worthy of sharing.

Confronting Science Contrarians? Hoo boy, you and I are going to have a lot of fun together. :slight_smile: More on that later.

In any event, God is real, but God is our own individual creation.
I understand, yes, that is a fundamental principle of atheist ideology. I don't object, and can't prove otherwise, but personally see no reason to accept this unproven faith based belief any more than I would some unproven claim from the Bible.
#tanny... but personally see no reason to accept this unproven faith based belief any more than I would some unproven claim from the Bible.
What's unproven? What needs to be proven?

Start with the basics:

All we know comes through our senses, and is then processed by our body/brain, which produces the mind, the sum total of all our thoughts.

The mind isn’t something outside, it is better understood as the inner reflection of the creature that is us.


 

...is about as inteligent as the fact that the weakest part will be the first part to give way under pressure. As for my general understanding of the term this isnt inteligent at all. It’s just the logical/”inteligent” way how things behave acording to the laws of physics.
I'm reaching for an understanding of "intelligence" that is beyond the idea that intelligence is a property of a particular thing. An example might be space. Space is a universal property of reality, it doesn't belong to any particular entity. There is not "my space" and "your space" but a single universal phenomena which unites all things. The laws of physics are another example.

So your point is taken that evolution is not intelligent in the sense of being the product of the intention of a particular thing, such as a God. I’m not proposing an actor, but a phenomena inherent in reality, like space, or the laws of physics. I agree intelligence is probably not the best word for such a phenomena, I just don’t yet have a better word.

But what if the laws of physics are somehow a part or a consequence of an inteligence?
Or maybe intelligence and the laws of physics are a single unified phenomena, and so far we can only wrap our minds around the laws of physics part? I dunno...

Maybe we should measure men’s heads to determine their violence level, just like they use to measure people heads to see how intelligent they are.

What we are talking about here, however, I consider to be something that could apply in some degree to the general description of a “god”, at least more than any other phenomenon we know of.
Maybe the ancient sages sensed this "something" but didn't have scientific language to describe it. And so they described it in the language of their time and place. Thus, God became a male king with a long white beard etc. It seems to me that we can discard the out of date language (and the power structures that are built on top of it) while still being open to the possibility that the ancient sages were perceiving something that is real.

I think there is some common ground between religion and atheism that is worth exploring. Atheism is built upon observation of nature, and the ancient sages lived in nature to a degree far beyond what is typical for we moderns. While we are more skilled at developing information about nature, the ancients may have been more skilled at exploring a relationship with nature. And maybe it’s in that relationship that this “something” is more easily perceived?

This however does only shift the question from being evolution based to: Are the laws of physics an actual inteligence themselves? For such (and emerging stuff) to be labeled as inteligent every now and then. Frankly I’d say thats not he case becasue they don’t have the patern that would be recognized inteligent as we know it. But what if the laws of physics are somehow a part or a consequence of an inteligence? Its another angle to the question: “What is the source of that phenomena?”-tanny --didirius
"the laws of physics" - to expand the "The laws of the universe" - are tuned just right for the eventual evolution of us.

If you entertain a “multiverse” scenario, other universes with different laws will not produce “Us”. So you could extend the results of evolution as chance instead of intelligent design, to these universal laws as a result of chance rather than intelligent design.

There are an infinite number of ways to NOT make humans. (or bacteria, or viruses …)

@citizenschallengev4 I copy the use of “inteligent”, because i see it to be apropriate.

Why you see repeating a typo appropriate?


I reffered to:

I’m putting “intelligence” in quotes in recognition that what we call intelligence is an extremely local phenomena. It’s a useful concept at human scale when comparing, say, humans and donkeys. But human scale is infinitely small in comparison to reality itself.

I don’t know what word would describe a universal phenomena, a property of reality itself, which would result in something as small as bacteria acting in an intelligent manner, or a process like evolution proceeding in a manner which we would label intelligent if we invented it. So I’m calling such a proposed universal property “intelligence” until we find a better word for it.

“Mainly biologic” – seriously?

What about the first nine billion years of matter and the Universe?

Or mineral evolution here on Earth, (although biology did join in on that process rather early on)?


“Mainly” because of its original and most common use to explain the evolution of biological species. - Shouldn’t exclude the way how all other things behave acording to the laws of physics.

Seems a bit contrived. I like “evolution is cumulative change over time” – short and to the point.
I wanted to be precisely; I didn't know that "cumulative change over time” would be sole accauted for evolution.
How’s that? Using evolution to describe the phenomenon of “god” ? Or?
No. If the laws of physics would be caused by “intelligence” then this “intelligence” came closest to the description of what the term a "god" stands for, as far I know. Doesn't mean that it would be a god, just the closest to fit a terms definition.

I’m going to church, and by that I mean golfing, but I’m looking forward to catching up with this thread. This has been a theme of mine since leaving religion:

I’m sidestepping the G word because 3,000 years of Judeo-Christian culture have created primitive images in our mind that are very hard to escape.
 
I think there is some common ground between religion and atheism that is worth exploring. - tanny
Our ultimate commonality is that we all exist in the same existence. And I guess, we all want to figure out this existence.
Maybe the ancient sages sensed this “something” but didn’t have scientific language to describe it. And so they described it in the language of their time and place. Thus, God became a male king with a long white beard etc. It seems to me that we can discard the out of date language (and the power structures that are built on top of it) while still being open to the possibility that the ancient sages were perceiving something that is real. - tanny
I don't see how these ancient sages sensed this "something" . But I think even without sensing it, they did try to formulate something like it. Maybe just to try to understand their own and sorrounding existence, while not being aware of the reason, or during time to forget the reason.
I’m reaching for an understanding of “intelligence” that is beyond the idea that intelligence is a property of a particular thing. An example might be space. Space is a universal property of reality, it doesn’t belong to any particular entity. There is not “my space” and “your space” but a single universal phenomena which unites all things. The laws of physics are another example. - tanny I’m not proposing an actor, but a phenomena inherent in reality, like space, or the laws of physics. I agree intelligence is probably not the best word for such a phenomena, I just don’t yet have a better word.- tanny
I realy think we have to agree to a common term in order to avoid any kind of misunderstanding. At least for me it becomes a bit difficult not to make a misinterpretation.
 

@mrmhead "the laws of physics” – to expand the “The laws of the universe” – are tuned just right for the eventual evolution of us.

If you entertain a “multiverse” scenario, other universes with different laws will not produce “Us”. So you could extend the results of evolution as chance instead of intelligent design, to these universal laws as a result of chance rather than intelligent design.

There are an infinite number of ways to NOT make humans. (or bacteria, or viruses …)


I don’t particularly like the multiverse scenario, the first thing that comes to mind: If we don’t know why and how the set of laws we have here, are like they are. - the laws of/for/behind the laws so to speak. On which basis are we describing a set of laws which is different from ours? Keep in mind that the main premise of the laws we have is to be the same everywhere. And so far this seems not incorrect yet. We would need a understanding of the physics on how laws of physics came to be in the first place. So that this underlying law we can build on remains unchanged. Without the understanding on such a bedrock law on how laws work and came to be, the most appropriate assumption would be pure chance anyway even without multiverses to fill this infinite loop . Pure chance so to speak is my placekeeper for anything untill more is known.

No. If the laws of physics would be caused by “intelligence” then this “intelligence” came closest to the description of what the term a “god” stands for, as far I know.
There is a problem here though. The god concept is typically (not always) used to refer to an entity, some particular thing distinct from other particular things. This god thing is typically defined as being hyper-intelligent, all powerful etc.

What I’m attempting to explore is fundamentally different, in the sense that I’m proposing “intelligence” not as being a property of any particular thing, but as a property of reality itself, a property of everything if you will.

The best example I can think of at the moment is space. The space inside my body is not mine, it doesn’t belong to me. The space inside my body is not a property of this particular thing, me, but is instead a universal phenomena uniting all things.

God is typically thought of as an outside agent acting upon reality. What I’m reaching for is more like the laws of physics, something real but non-existent, which forms the fabric of reality. Something like that…

 

Our ultimate commonality is that we all exist in the same existence. And I guess, we all want to figure out this existence.
And when we reach the boundary of what we can prove, we turn to faith. We place our trust in some higher authority. Theists choose one authority, atheists another, but the process is essentially the same.
I don’t see how these ancient sages sensed this “something” . But I think even without sensing it, they did try to formulate something like it.
Well, all the earlier societies who had an intimate primal relationship with nature, like the native American Indians as just one example, seem to have come up with some collection of stories to refer to this "something". There are many ways this might be explained, but it seems a shallow analysis to assume that all these different people in all these different times and places just happened to be deluded in essentially the same way.

The experiences might be of a real phenomena, while the explanations of the “something” experienced are of highly variable quality. You know, if someone thinks the “something” forbids us to eat pork on Tuesday, that is reasonably labeled an excessively creative explanation. :slight_smile:

You know, in all the religions there are truly sincere deep thinkers, and a lot of more mediocre folks blindly chanting memorized slogans. If you are an ancient sage and you realistically determine that most people will only be capable of the simplistic slogans, perhaps you conclude that’s better than nothing?

Keep in mind that the main premise of the laws we have is to be the same everywhere.
I once heard an astrophysicist interviewed on NPR claim that rare events at the quantum level could create an expanding bubble governed by a different law of physics. This bubble would eat everything in it's path, as our reality can't function outside of our reality's laws. Or so the story went.

“Everywhere” is an awfully big word.

I really think we have to agree to a common term in order to avoid any kind of misunderstanding.
We run in to more fundamental issues here. Nouns are used to define particular things. If the phenomena being discussed is not a particular thing, then nouns may prove useless.

Nouns are used to create conceptual divisions. If the phenomena being discussed is a property of everything, if there is no division which can be pointed to, what noun can we use?