Empirical evidence for atheism: math

Whateverman

Well-known member
TLDR: check out the last link

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With an exception for the few open-minded Christians and fence sitters who hang around in this forum, this post is mostly for atheists. It's not mean to change any fundamentalist Christian minds (for which change is precluded).

Mathematical models produce remarkably life-like behaviors. By this, I mean that startling things are found in math systems; things which appear to behave in ways recognizable if they're modeled correctly. A simple reference for this claim is Conway's Game of Life, in which strangely life-like behaviors are found by applying simple shapes to a few simple rules. For those not interested in reading Wikipedia, the concept involves placing dots on a grid, and subjecting them to rules as follows:
  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbors dies, as if by underpopulation.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbors lives on to the next generation.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbors dies, as if by overpopulation.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbors becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.
Generations are simulated by applying the rules against the board, seeing what's ;eft, then applying them iteratively, etc. Sections of the board behave life-like behaviors - such as eating everything that comes near them, gliding along straight-line paths, generating new blobs of cells which leave the parent, etc.

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Anyhow, this one example only barely touches the evidence I'm referring to with the thread's title. The fact is that systems like math (and the alphabet, software development platforms, physical models, etc.) often appear to contain disturbingly lifelike phenomenon. These things were discovered only after man was able to outsource bulk computing (and the display of its products) to fast technologies like computing and digital displays.

Here's a long and very nerdy (yet unquestionably interesting) video from someone describing art found in computer code. It should be interesting to at least a few of the atheist here, and possibly to a few of the open-minded theists as well.

 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
TLDR: check out the last link

---

With an exception for the few open-minded Christians and fence sitters who hang around in this forum, this post is mostly for atheists. It's not mean to change any fundamentalist Christian minds (for which change is precluded).

Mathematical models produce remarkably life-like behaviors. By this, I mean that startling things are found in math systems; things which appear to behave in ways recognizable if they're modeled correctly. A simple reference for this claim is Conway's Game of Life, in which strangely life-like behaviors are found by applying simple shapes to a few simple rules. For those not interested in reading Wikipedia, the concept involves placing dots on a grid, and subjecting them to rules as follows:
  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbors dies, as if by underpopulation.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbors lives on to the next generation.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbors dies, as if by overpopulation.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbors becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.
Generations are simulated by applying the rules against the board, seeing what's ;eft, then applying them iteratively, etc. Sections of the board behave life-like behaviors - such as eating everything that comes near them, gliding along straight-line paths, generating new blobs of cells which leave the parent, etc.
I believe things like Conway's actually blur the distinction between life and non-life.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
I believe things like Conway's actually blur the distinction between life and non-life.
Absolutely.

Did you watch any of the video, on art in coding? It goes a bit deeper into the subject, on the emergence of life-like traits from things that aren't alive.

It may be a bit obscure, but the point of this thread is that we've got evidence of life emerging from non-life.
 

Komodo

Active member
If I understand you correctly...
1) A popular argument for theism is that life could not have emerged naturally, but must have been intelligently designed by a supernatural mind.
2) Conway’s Life game undermines that argument by showing that many features of life could emerge from simple beginnings and simple laws.
3) any time an argument for theism is undermined, that constitutes evidence for atheism, by Bayesian standards: it is more probable that theism is false, if a particular argument for theism turns out to be weak, than it would be if that argument stood unrefluted.

In which case, my first reaction would be that even if the analogies between Conway’s “life forms” and biological life are compelling enough to carry 2) — and I think that pointing to the general weakness of ”God of the Gaps” arguments already makes a strong case against ID — this kind of BayesIan evidence would probably be more suited to making an atheist “more comfortable in his atheism,” as Dawkins put it, then in making a theist question his theism. Would you disagree?
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
If I understand you correctly...
1) A popular argument for theism is that life could not have emerged naturally, but must have been intelligently designed by a supernatural mind.
2) Conway’s Life game undermines that argument by showing that many features of life could emerge from simple beginnings and simple laws.
3) any time an argument for theism is undermined, that constitutes evidence for atheism, by Bayesian standards: it is more probable that theism is false, if a particular argument for theism turns out to be weak, than it would be if that argument stood unrefluted.

In which case, my first reaction would be that even if the analogies between Conway’s “life forms” and biological life are compelling enough to carry 2) — and I think that pointing to the general weakness of ”God of the Gaps” arguments already makes a strong case against ID — this kind of BayesIan evidence would probably be more suited to making an atheist “more comfortable in his atheism,” as Dawkins put it, then in making a theist question his theism. Would you disagree?
From the op: "this post is mostly for atheists. It's not mean to change any fundamentalist Christian minds".
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
If I understand you correctly...
1) A popular argument for theism is that life could not have emerged naturally, but must have been intelligently designed by a supernatural mind.
2) Conway’s Life game undermines that argument by showing that many features of life could emerge from simple beginnings and simple laws.
3) any time an argument for theism is undermined, that constitutes evidence for atheism, by Bayesian standards: it is more probable that theism is false, if a particular argument for theism turns out to be weak, than it would be if that argument stood unrefluted.

In which case, my first reaction would be that even if the analogies between Conway’s “life forms” and biological life are compelling enough to carry 2) — and I think that pointing to the general weakness of ”God of the Gaps” arguments already makes a strong case against ID — this kind of BayesIan evidence would probably be more suited to making an atheist “more comfortable in his atheism,” as Dawkins put it, then in making a theist question his theism. Would you disagree?
No, not at all; I'd agree. Stated explicitly, this isn't the kind of evidence meant to convert anyone from a deeply-held position. It's simply justification for the atheists' position.

Now, for people sitting on the fence (and honestly, there probably aren't many of them here), Conway's life and all the evidence/information related to that field of study - might be somewhat persuasive. I'm talking about degrees of movement, rather than a wholesale shift from fence-sitting to atheism.

On a more casual level, I hope you had a chance to look at some of the attached video. That actually was supposed to be the meat of my "argument" here. It's heavily-geared towards software developers, but some of it should be graspable by geeks who simply find the subject material interesting...

Of special interest to me was the segment about teaching a computer to recognize faces in a maze of non-face data - and then "reversing" that process, producing the emergence of faces where there aren't any.
 
With an exception for the few open-minded Christians and fence sitters who hang around in this forum, this post is mostly for atheists. It's not mean to change any fundamentalist Christian minds (for which change is precluded).
I understand the idea that mathematic and other systems can exhibit lifelike behavior. I do not see the connection to proof of atheism. Can you explain the connection?
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
I understand the idea that mathematic and other systems can exhibit lifelike behavior. I do not see the connection to proof of atheism. Can you explain the connection?
Well, I never actually used the word "proof". Instead, I referred to "empirical evidence"...

Without criticizing you, the link and the video both demonstrate that strikingly lifelike behaviors/phenomena can be found in math; you should check some portion of the video. If I abstract that out one step further, I'd say that "language" can display these things if it's poked at long enough.

Emergence and related fields of study demonstrate that lifelike behaviors can apparently be found in things which never lived, which is empirical evidence gods may not be needed for life to have appeared in this universe.

EDIT: here's an interesting spot in the Art/Code lecture:

 

Tercon

Active member
TLDR: check out the last link

---

With an exception for the few open-minded Christians and fence sitters who hang around in this forum, this post is mostly for atheists. It's not mean to change any fundamentalist Christian minds (for which change is precluded).

Mathematical models produce remarkably life-like behaviors. By this, I mean that startling things are found in math systems; things which appear to behave in ways recognizable if they're modeled correctly. A simple reference for this claim is Conway's Game of Life, in which strangely life-like behaviors are found by applying simple shapes to a few simple rules. For those not interested in reading Wikipedia, the concept involves placing dots on a grid, and subjecting them to rules as follows:
  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbors dies, as if by underpopulation.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbors lives on to the next generation.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbors dies, as if by overpopulation.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbors becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.
Generations are simulated by applying the rules against the board, seeing what's ;eft, then applying them iteratively, etc. Sections of the board behave life-like behaviors - such as eating everything that comes near them, gliding along straight-line paths, generating new blobs of cells which leave the parent, etc.

---

Anyhow, this one example only barely touches the evidence I'm referring to with the thread's title. The fact is that systems like math (and the alphabet, software development platforms, physical models, etc.) often appear to contain disturbingly lifelike phenomenon. These things were discovered only after man was able to outsource bulk computing (and the display of its products) to fast technologies like computing and digital displays.

Here's a long and very nerdy (yet unquestionably interesting) video from someone describing art found in computer code. It should be interesting to at least a few of the atheist here, and possibly to a few of the open-minded theists as well.


Actually Conway's Game of Life is game and more akin to a hypothetical scenario than it is the truth and reality, it is literally the pretending of representing the truth and reality. When in reality the truth is ONLY representative and demonstrable in and by itself. And outside of itself the truth and reality are not demonstrable nor represented. Reality like consciousness is ONLY knowable and experienceable in the present tense, and outside of the present tense that a conscious mind can ONLY duplicate, the truth and reality are unknowable.
 
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Emergence and related fields of study demonstrate that lifelike behaviors can apparently be found in things which never lived, which is empirical evidence gods may not be needed for life to have appeared in this universe.
Ah - thank you! I see the connection now - makes sense. Dr. Hawking said something similar. He said that science has not ruled out the existence of gods, but it has shown that gods are no longer necessary to explain the universe.

Very cool - thanks for sharing this :)
 

Torin

Active member
A possible objection would be that the Game of Life isn't actually simple, since it's dependent on the fancypants computer you're using to run it.

"A live square dies under conditions XYZ" is a massive oversimplification of what's going on if we think about the computer at the level of physics.

Anyway, along similar lines, Dawkins mentioned a couple of cool programs he had written in his book The Blind Watchmaker.

 

5wize

Well-known member
TLDR: check out the last link

---

With an exception for the few open-minded Christians and fence sitters who hang around in this forum, this post is mostly for atheists. It's not mean to change any fundamentalist Christian minds (for which change is precluded).

Mathematical models produce remarkably life-like behaviors. By this, I mean that startling things are found in math systems; things which appear to behave in ways recognizable if they're modeled correctly. A simple reference for this claim is Conway's Game of Life, in which strangely life-like behaviors are found by applying simple shapes to a few simple rules. For those not interested in reading Wikipedia, the concept involves placing dots on a grid, and subjecting them to rules as follows:
  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbors dies, as if by underpopulation.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbors lives on to the next generation.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbors dies, as if by overpopulation.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbors becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.
Generations are simulated by applying the rules against the board, seeing what's ;eft, then applying them iteratively, etc. Sections of the board behave life-like behaviors - such as eating everything that comes near them, gliding along straight-line paths, generating new blobs of cells which leave the parent, etc.

---

Anyhow, this one example only barely touches the evidence I'm referring to with the thread's title. The fact is that systems like math (and the alphabet, software development platforms, physical models, etc.) often appear to contain disturbingly lifelike phenomenon. These things were discovered only after man was able to outsource bulk computing (and the display of its products) to fast technologies like computing and digital displays.

Here's a long and very nerdy (yet unquestionably interesting) video from someone describing art found in computer code. It should be interesting to at least a few of the atheist here, and possibly to a few of the open-minded theists as well.

I'm an atheist, and a programmer of 40+ years back when computer science just graduated out of the math departments of universities and enjoyed their own space - as such we needed heavy math for the B.S. degree.

I did watch the parts of the video on the game and the face recognition and remember like discussions in my day. I must confess I never took these geeks (said with affection being a bit of one) too seriously when they discovered mathematical patterns and somehow attempted a bridge to life. You can model mechanical behavior, and even my AI classes were nothing but a modeling of behavior to programmed outcomes which is not sentience.

They never bridged the gap for me as a result of not being able to model thought as opposed to behavior, but I was a theist back then so I had partitions up already... but even as an atheist now, I struggle with patterns reflecting anything other than pattern which does not imply life for me. Complex patterns exist in chemistry, geology, and the hard sciences without implying sentient life.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
I'm an atheist, and a programmer of 40+ years back when computer science just graduated out of the math departments of universities and enjoyed their own space - as such we needed heavy math for the B.S. degree.

I did watch the parts of the video on the game and the face recognition and remember like discussions in my day. I must confess I never took these geeks (said with affection being a bit of one) too seriously when they discovered mathematical patterns and somehow attempted a bridge to life. You can model mechanical behavior, and even my AI classes were nothing but a modeling of behavior to programmed outcomes which is not sentience.

They never bridged the gap for me as a result of not being able to model thought as opposed to behavior, but I was a theist back then so I had partitions up already... but even as an atheist now, I struggle with patterns reflecting anything other than pattern which does not imply life for me. Complex patterns exist in chemistry, geology, and the hard sciences without implying sentient life.
That's fair. I think things like the Mandlebrot Set appeal to some people more than others. You've seen that certain mathematical patterns produce obviously natural shapes, though, right? Leaves, ferns, trees/broccoli, etc.

This last bit isn't meant to convince you of anything; if you don't find emergence (et al) intriguing, then so be it. I myself am fascinated by such things, and a number of scientists/mathematicians have expressed curiosity at the way Math seems to be able to model real life in very unexpected ways. For me, it nicely dovetails onto my justification for not believing in creator deities.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
A possible objection would be that the Game of Life isn't actually simple, since it's dependent on the fancypants computer you're using to run it.

"A live square dies under conditions XYZ" is a massive oversimplification of what's going on if we think about the computer at the level of physics.

Anyway, along similar lines, Dawkins mentioned a couple of cool programs he had written in his book The Blind Watchmaker.

I remember downloading one of Dawkins' programs (or at least a derivative of one) back when I started reading the book, playing around with it for a few days.

I don't see the utility of computers as adding complexity to Conway's game. The Wiki entry on it talks about people exploring its permutations on graph paper back in the 70s; the computer is nothing more than a tool through which exploration of the game is faster. However, real life is obviously more complex than a few rules for placing of dots on a grid.

On the face of it, I think the relationship of computer to GoL is similar to the relationship of GoL to biology. Both items on the left side of the analogy are simply tools for exploration...
 

5wize

Well-known member
That's fair. I think things like the Mandlebrot Set appeal to some people more than others. You've seen that certain mathematical patterns produce obviously natural shapes, though, right? Leaves, ferns, trees/broccoli, etc.

This last bit isn't meant to convince you of anything; if you don't find emergence (et al) intriguing, then so be it. I myself am fascinated by such things, and a number of scientists/mathematicians have expressed curiosity at the way Math seems to be able to model real life in very unexpected ways. For me, it nicely dovetails onto my justification for not believing in creator deities.
I do find emergence very intriguing, I just don't think these computer models add enough to the argument. Yes these patterns do lead to natural shapes, but I tend away from comparing them to living patterns like Leaves, ferns, trees/broccoli, etc., and categorize them more into lifeless patterns like crystalline, gravitational orbits and trajectories, wave patterns, etc...

I can however see that these models tend to break away from those more mundane patterns and get into a more biological mechanic.
 

docphin5

Active member
TLDR: check out the last link

---

With an exception for the few open-minded Christians and fence sitters who hang around in this forum, this post is mostly for atheists. It's not mean to change any fundamentalist Christian minds (for which change is precluded).

Mathematical models produce remarkably life-like behaviors. By this, I mean that startling things are found in math systems; things which appear to behave in ways recognizable if they're modeled correctly. A simple reference for this claim is Conway's Game of Life, in which strangely life-like behaviors are found by applying simple shapes to a few simple rules. For those not interested in reading Wikipedia, the concept involves placing dots on a grid, and subjecting them to rules as follows:
  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbors dies, as if by underpopulation.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbors lives on to the next generation.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbors dies, as if by overpopulation.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbors becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.
Generations are simulated by applying the rules against the board, seeing what's ;eft, then applying them iteratively, etc. Sections of the board behave life-like behaviors - such as eating everything that comes near them, gliding along straight-line paths, generating new blobs of cells which leave the parent, etc.

---

Anyhow, this one example only barely touches the evidence I'm referring to with the thread's title. The fact is that systems like math (and the alphabet, software development platforms, physical models, etc.) often appear to contain disturbingly lifelike phenomenon. These things were discovered only after man was able to outsource bulk computing (and the display of its products) to fast technologies like computing and digital displays.

Here's a long and very nerdy (yet unquestionably interesting) video from someone describing art found in computer code. It should be interesting to at least a few of the atheist here, and possibly to a few of the open-minded theists as well.
I really enjoyed the lecture, especially, the first half of it. The Mandelbrot set was the coolest for me. Unfortunately, I am not sure what conclusions I can draw from a philosophical or theological perspective so I think I missed your point. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

PS: If you like math then you might find this interesting. "The story behind 153". It suggests the authors/evangelists were making an association between Pythagoras, a famous Greek philosopher and mathematician and the symbol for Jesus, that is, a fish.

 
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Whateverman

Well-known member
I really enjoyed the lecture, especially, the first half of it. The Mandelbrot set was the coolest for me. Unfortunately, I am not sure what conclusions I can draw from a philosophical or theological perspective so I think I missed your point. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

PS: If you like math then you might find this interesting. "The story behind 153". It suggests the authors/evangelists were making an association between Pythagoras, a famous Greek philosopher and mathematician and the symbol for Jesus, that is, a fish.

Thanks for that! I've bookmarked and will check it out later, as I'm about to run out the door.

As a quick FYI only, my only point for the thread is that lifelike characteristics emerge from nonliving sources, which gives atheism some empirical evidence for the notion that gods may not have been necessary for the creation of life. It's not supposed to convince theists to deconvert, or even fence-sitters to become atheists. It's just one more addition to the pile of reasoning and justification for a lack of belief in deities.

Thanks again, I'll report back soon...
 

docphin5

Active member
As a quick FYI only, my only point for the thread is that lifelike characteristics emerge from nonliving sources, which gives atheism some empirical evidence for the notion that gods may not have been necessary for the creation of life. It's not supposed to convince theists to deconvert, or even fence-sitters to become atheists. It's just one more addition to the pile of reasoning and justification for a lack of belief in deities.
I kind of saw it the other way around, for example, just as the simulation (Conway's Game of Life) was created by someone/something (outside the simulation) to produce life-like features, so is life on our planet created by an entity (outside the creation) to produce life in us.

Likewise, the Mandelbrot set, is evidence for things that existed long before man invented the technology to discover it. I think the presenter even makes the point the set has always been there, we just needed technology and resources to discover it. Personally, I see that as supporting the existence of God because as we learn more and more about ourselves and our cosmos we discover something (i.e. God) who has always been there.

I guess our take-aways just depend on our perspective or on our personal bias.
 
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