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Life inside a computer

Build a device to simulate evolution
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  [vote for,

First off, I'm not sure if this is the right category for this entry. With that said:

I propose that life should be defined as anything that maintains a thermodynamic order, can reproduce or was reproduced by an entity similar to itself using its surroundings (i.e. food and/or other such entities), and after sufficient time or environmental disruption (such as lack of food, penetration by sharp object, infection by disease, etc) will cease to maintain it's thermodynamic order and become part of the environment.

With this in mind, I invite one to recall Conway's "Game of Life", the cellular automatan game where you have a 2d grid which have pixels on or off, and where the future state of a pixel is determined by its neighbors in a set way. Certain rules give rise to very interesting phenomena, like stable structures, "spaceships" which would travel about, and even oscillators and things that could be used to compute primes. Of course on today's machines, simulation is slow on large grids. But if we had a tiny integrated circuit for each cell, we could conceivably build a computer board that could perform millions of iterations each second, and provided the chips were sufficiently miniaturized, we could fit trillions onto a computer board. Put tiny LEDs on each chip to see what's going on. I would imagine that, given enough time, stable, life-like structures would begin to evolve if we had a big enough grid (say, 10 million by 10 million on a 1 meter square board, using 100 nm ICs). No idea if this is feasible, or even if one could see interesting output because there is just so much data. Maybe we'd have to wait for quantum computing to take off first. But I still think it would be an interesting experiment, to see if we could simulate life (and by my proposition _create_ life, since no where did I mention that the things had to be made out of a physical substance). After a few years and several trillion iterations, we might even get a cell or two. Wouldn't that be a kick in the face for creation scientists and proponents of intelligent design?

estreet, Jul 13 2005

AVIDA. Crazy. http://www.carlzimm...les_2005_Avida.html
[daseva, Jul 13 2005]

Vernons version. [bungston, Jul 15 2005]

Robot Battle http://www.robotbattle.com/
"The full version of Robot Battle supports massive arenas with thousands of combatants." [bungston, Jul 15 2005]

Tierra http://www.kk.org/o...control/ch15-a.html
Artificial evolution [MikeOxbig, Dec 04 2005]


       Show a little respect when you're on a public site... I believe in God, and creation, but not kicks in faces. I'm not sure there's all that much of an idea here - basically you're saying run game of life in hardware, make it massive and see if by some incredible chance involving big numbers life emerges. I think that what you'll get is just a big game of life.
david_scothern, Jul 13 2005

       P.S. I am not saying that creation is false or that God doesn't exist. What I am saying is that the view that independent evolution of life is impossible is arrogant. Many intelligent design theorists claim that complicated structures can't evolve without some help. Whether or not we or bacterial flagellum evolved or were created is besides the point. I'm just saying the view that such a thing is impossible is short sighted. But this is besides the point. I just think it would be interesting to see what would happen.
estreet, Jul 13 2005

       //I believe in God, and creation, but not kicks in faces// But kicks in faces can be shown to exist - the other two can't.
EDIT I hasten to add that wasn't a threat, merely an observation
coprocephalous, Jul 13 2005

       I'm with [d_s], here. Game of life dosen't even evolve much before hitting a limit on its complexity. There are much better evolutionary programs out there, but they all have limits, not like this world. Unless man is a limit, which I don't believe. Within a set of rules, and a landscape to execute them, many complex things can happen, but I wouldn't call them life.
daseva, Jul 13 2005

       An awful lot of supercomputer cycles are devoted to protein folding simulations - I really don't think a simplistic 2D approach is just going to cut it (though I'd pay good money to come back after a year or two to see "42" in metre-high figures on the display) [-]
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jul 13 2005

       [estreet] great idea, but it has been done before - also, if you want to deliver a kick in the face to creationists, then intelligently designing a system in which life develops really isn't going to deliver quite the blow intended.   

       Rather, the creationist types worth their salt will point to your experiment as an scientific study proving that life did indeed have an intelligent creator/designer, in this case, you (or Conway).
zen_tom, Jul 13 2005

       [zen tom], how can I be an intelligent designer when all I have done is provide the laws of physics governing the system? It seems to me the position of I.D. is that certain structures can't arise purely as a result of the laws of physics as we know them.   

       If intelligent design wants to say that all God did was to provide a particularly nice set of physical laws to govern the universe, then I misunderstood the whole premise of the theory. In fact, I'd have to bow down to them at that point because it is such a weak proposition that there's no way to determine if it's true or not, and as such, useless to argue against. Furthermore, it would cease to conflict with current evolutionary science, as evolution doesn't concern itself with who or what determined the laws of nature, it simply concerns itself with the implications of said laws. So if God set the universe's laws of physics, nay, even if God was responsible for the Big Bang, then good for him...I don't care either way. But, alas, I digress.   

       Also, I'd be really interested in seeing where this was done before. Do you have any more info? Certainly it must have been on a much much smaller scale.
estreet, Jul 13 2005

       I'll try and find some links - there have been very long runs of Conway's, as well as full and open ended genetic and evolutionary simulations.   

       The tricky part is being able to get a set of rules that allow for enough dynamic interaction to generate new and increasingly complex emergent properties, behaviours and fitness landscapes. Not an easy task.   

       //[zen tom], how can I be an intelligent designer when all I have done is provide the laws of physics governing the system?//   

       Isn't that enough? You will have still created/designed a system in which evolution and life can occur, doesn't that make you the designer?   

       It might rule out strict I.D. arguments, but certainly not the looser 'Architectural' ones.   

       Just playing God's advocate.
zen_tom, Jul 13 2005

       //You will have still created/designed a system in which evolution and life can occur, doesn't that make you the designer// I can fill a junkyard with scrap, but the likelihood that a passing tornado will build me a 747 doesn't make me a designer.
TolpuddleSartre, Jul 13 2005

       I dare say the possibility of life emerging on this planet was anywhere close to a tornado making a 747 out of scrap.   

       Check out the Gaia hypothesis, it's got its hands filled with trying to explain the biota as an emergent process whereby the earth acheives stasis with its surroundings. Mi gusta!
daseva, Jul 13 2005

       [Tolpuddle] If you manage to arrange the parts in the appropriate manner, and with enough forethought so that they do arrange themselves should a tornado passes through, then yes, I'd say you would qualify as a particularly intelligent (albeit rather eccentric) designer indeed!
zen_tom, Jul 13 2005

       The anthropic principle may be of use here.   

       Only a small range of possible values for the universal constants (such as the mass of an electron) are consistent with the presence of life as we know it. The significance of such apparent fine-tuning of the universal constants is disputed by those who regard it as trivial and those who argue from it to the necessity of life in the universe.   

       Some say the universe have been evolving, capable of mutating its universal constants in each iteration. That universes capable of reproducing themselves survive, whereby nonreproductive ones vanish. That life, itself, is required for this reproductive process to ensue, thereby making life an auxillary, albiet necessary, aspect of a reproductive universe. Since our universe exists, and the chances that any given universe will be nonreproductive is exceedingly small after a generous length of time, then we can be certian that our universe is reproductive and, hence, contains the necessary ingredients for life. Now, look down. Your hands are poised in defiance to such an anomalous idea. But, there they sit, each fiber in your skin contributing to this CREATIVE AGENT that is your being, capable of lending itself to this great order that is universal reproduction, on the cusp of existential generosity, for the greater good, that's why you're here. Keep the Universe alive!
daseva, Jul 13 2005

       [daseva], that is interesting, but entirely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Most people seem to be missing the point. The point is, whether or not a being is responsible for the laws of physics as they stand, these laws have been constant over the time they have been studied (since antiquity, but only in detail for the past 3 or 4 centuries). Moreover, there is evidence these laws have been the same way back until planck time after the big bang (the existence of which is also supportable by evidence, but which I can't get into here). As such, evolutionists claim that the laws of physics, as they stand and have stood, are consistent with a spontaneous evolution of life on earth. How these laws came to be is irrelevant, and the idea that God was responsible for them is not inconsistent with evolution. What _is_ inconsistent is the belief that evolution is _impossible_ just because of the enormous complexity and diversity of life.   

       If pile up junk and a 747 pops out after several (or billions) of tornadoes, and someone wants to worship me as the creator of a race of 747's, then that's their prerogative. But my current understanding of I.D. theory is that in this hypothetical situation, a proponent of the theory is akin to a person seeing a videotape of the spontaneously evolving 747 and saying that it's impossible, even with the highly convincing evidence in front of them.   

       Just because something is unlikely doesn't mean anything. Because there's a lot of space out there and a lot of planets probably just like ours. Ours just got lucky.   

       I think that what I have done here is to show that if my proposed experiment is successful in creating artificial life, then it would indeed strike a blow in I.D. theory. Therefore, if someone wants to comment, I think it would be far more constructive to comment on the feasibility (like how to make 100 nm IC's and to make 100 trillion of them) or whether they think life might arise, rather than turning this into a religious or philosophical discussion. I'm interested, and think we'd agree so is this website, in technical aspects, not ideological or theological ones. I think even moral or ethical discussions can be OK too.
estreet, Jul 13 2005

       If life did arise you could never turn off that computer and you would have to have all kinds of power safety mechanisms to make sure it never shut off or you would have a genocide on your hands. : )
Aegd, Jul 13 2005

       Evolutionary programs are baked. This simple fact lends to the plethora of bullshit currently infecting your post. Consider it an... evolution.   

       This one guy made a program to replicate itself, sexually (kind of), and take up a small amount of hard drive space. Upon every reproduction, the child program would contain a short random modification to one line of its functional code and take up it's own bit of space. He woke up with the space completely filled, and all sorts of different programs. They lied to eachother, they were decietful, codependent, all sorts of wild unpredictable stuff. But, as it stands, none of them had any idea what was going on.
daseva, Jul 13 2005

       And, to close the books (linky).
daseva, Jul 13 2005

       [daseva], I know that. But such programs are built with evolution in mind. I doubt very much Conway had what I propose in mind when he thought up his game, and I doubt very much that something done completely on hardware and to such a massive scale has ever been attempted. Personally I feel like if interesting results were found (like an entity that had the ability to reproduce and had a kind of DNA and everything), it would be a discovery on the order of finding life on mars. But hey, that's just me.   

       [Aegd], you've got my attention. This experiment would raise all kinds of questions. Can the electronic organism feel pain? Of course there's no mechanism for it to communicate to us. But it's conceivable that it becomes so complex it has its own thoughts (let's expand to a device that's several square kilometers, maybe even make it three dimensional?) and could even begin doing its own science, realizing how its own universe worked and figuring out Conway's 3-2 rules or whatever they are. Then it realizes it's in a computer simulation and starts banging on the metaphorical glass begging us not to turn it off (though we might upset descartes here, but I said to put philosophy aside). Is it moral to turn the machine off? Or are the chances of such a being evolving beyond reckoning? These are the real questions I wanted to get people talking about, so thanks [Aegd]!
estreet, Jul 13 2005

       Well, as I thought about it, it would probably be possible to make it a solid state sort of system so that if the power ever did go out, the system would just be in stasis... to the intelligence inside, it would be like a skip in the outside world... Assuming it had at that time some view of the outside world.
Aegd, Jul 14 2005

       I'm not sure that we're covering any new ground here technically. Each individual operation is utterly trivial - check some basic rules, turn a light on or off - but the operations have to occur sequentially; neighbouring lights must change their state one after another. Software implementations are quite capable of performing long strings of sequential operations. I don't think that doing this in hardware would offer much benefit, therefore. If we are to do it in hardware, why set an arbitrary limit on unit size? If you can't make it with 100nm chips on a 1m grid then make it with bigger chips. Furthermore, they don't have to be positioned physically next to one another; the system just has to treat them as if they were.   

       Also, I'm not sure you've adequately considered the link between the cause and the effect. Essentially you're saying, "why not set up a room full of monkeys and typewriters; wouldn't it be amazing if they wrote shakespeare?" Well yes, it would, but there's no explanation here of how they might other than that they will take a long time if they do it at all.
david_scothern, Jul 14 2005

       [david scothern], the point of doing this on hardware is that each chip considers only itself and its immediate neighbors. What would be done is the following:   

       Each chip has two on/off switches. One is a current state, and the other is a previous state. At each iteration, a bus wire, which is connected to all chips, sends an update signal to every chip, upon which the chip transfers whatever is in the current state to the on/off switch corresponding to the previous state. Now, the chips all compute which neighbors are on and off by refering to the neighboring chips' _previous_ states, and then updates its _current_ state, overwriting what was previously its own previous state. This way, causality is preserved. There doesn't need to be any sequential rule checking, just as long as iterations are done one at a time. I know absolutely nothing about computer hardware, integrated circuits, and I don't even know if "bus" was the right word to use right there, but common sense tells me that this scheme would indeed do the same thing as your average software implementation, and it would do it much, much faster.   

       Now, the entire system is run at a few megahertz. Let's say that each iteration requires 8 computations (cycles, flops, whatever word you want to quantfy an operation with) per chip, and we run at 10 MHz. With 100 trillion chips, we're doing 8 x 10^21 Hz, much much faster than today's fastest supercomputers. This is why hardware is so much better than software. When built for a specific purpose, such as the routine calculations done for say, graphics, or playing chess (the best chess playing machines have 64 processors, one for each square, or so I've heard), computers run much much faster because there can be massive parallelism. One iteration of this size board on an average desktop would take many years, I would guess.   

       My claim is that given enough time, we might expect to see random patterns evolve into stable entities.   

       Also, the numbers I threw out for size and quantity were based solely on my desire to make this board of mine both not too unwieldy but also with a large enough universe in order for interesting things to happen. I was merely shouting out some numbers to get an idea of the scale I was envisioning. If 100 nm doesn't work, then go to 200, or 10000.   

       Finally, this setup is different than the old monkeys in a room with typewriters thought experiment. In that set up, the system is not dynamic - the output is just random letters and we rely on the finite probability of an incredibly unlikely event. In my scenario, there is the possiblity for emergent properties and dynamic interation within the output. The input would be probably be something like just filling in random cells at first, and then let the thing go for a few years. After that first random big bang, the system is entirely determined, and there is no random events.
estreet, Jul 14 2005

       Boring & sophomoric [-].
contracts, Jul 14 2005

       Soporific and sophomoric?
//cycles, flops, whatever word you want to quantfy an operation with// I doubt floating-point operations are necessary here.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jul 14 2005

       You are envisioning a potential *jump* in complexity of the game of life just because you make it really big. I'm not saying it won't work, but, let me put it like this: you can grow a 1000 kg pumpkin, but, it's still just a pumpkin.
daseva, Jul 14 2005

       Agreed, the previous/next states would allow it to be broken down into very small units; embarrassingly, I'd not considered that. I'm still not convinced that we're much beyond the monkeys with typewriters in terms of understanding the link between experiment and expected results. Granted, the experiments are very different in terms of what we think might happen, but I still maintain that we're only hoping for, not expecting, a successful outcome in each case.   

       On our wider differences, I think that we're interpreting the same facts differently. Both of us agree that evolution from raw chemicals is highly unlikely. You improve the odds by supposing a very long timescale; I believe that God created the universe. Show me that evolution can work and I'll happily believe you; there's nothing to say it can't. I will, however, stick to the belief that it's not how we got here.
david_scothern, Jul 14 2005

       [daseva], wrong again. I anticipate no such increase in complexity in the basic environment. What I do anticipate is a vastly larger environment within which greater complexity can arise. I picture current Conway implementations like a drop of ocean from the primordial soup of earth 3 billion years ago, and letting that drop of ocean sit there for about a day, and see if life evolves. My idea is akin to taking a giant lake of the stuff, and letting it sit there for several years. Sure, it's still water with all the basic ingredients of that prehistoric mixture, just a lot more of it and with a lot more time. But now we can realistically expect some interesting things to happen. My main idea is in how to go from the very limited scale of software implementations, to the vastly larger scale of hardware. And it is here where I expect interesting things to happen. Yes, I am relying on the law of large numbers to produce results, and it's not more internally complex than any other implementation. But let me put it this way. Supposing life did spontaneously arise out of water and organic molecules, do you expect the resulting organism to be much more complex in a puddle of water than signle celled? If we didn't have vast oceans and vast atmosphere, I doubt life would have progressed past this stage. But here we are, we have giant whales and 300 foot tall trees, for which we owe the scale of our planet some credit! Just because the water is no more complex whether it's an ocean or a drop of water, doesn't mean the results won't be more complex.
estreet, Jul 14 2005

       To [d s], I respect that viewpoint. Indeed, spontaneous generation of life is incredibly unlikely. And there's no saying in the end whether or not we got here by God or by chance. Thus, our differences are actually reconciliable. But there are others out there that do not believe that this experiment would even produce results. There are those that think that organisms are static and cannot change outside of certain limits. These individuals think that the fact that a structure can't work if a part is removed implies it was "designed". This experiment would serve to show such thinking is false.
estreet, Jul 14 2005

       //You are envisioning a potential *jump* in complexity of the game of life just because you make it really big.//   

       //[daseva], wrong again. I anticipate no such increase in complexity in the basic environment. What I do anticipate is a vastly larger environment within which greater complexity can arise.//   

       Alright, are you even listening to me?   

       I'm only half skeptical of you, after all. I just think life emerges from an already emergent environment, its all very organic compared to your static digital backdrop. You'll just have a bunch of gliders and shit running around. Only time will tell, [estreet], you don't know any more than any of us, after all.
daseva, Jul 14 2005

       I'm fully skeptical. This game is just a bunch of pixels turning off and on. No matter how many of them you have, or how long you let the game run, or how complex the patterns become, they will still be just a bunch of pixels turning off and on and nothing more.   

       Having said that, I think the last rhetorical question heavily detracts from the idea and is not necessary.
waugsqueke, Jul 14 2005

       Please stop calling Intelligent Design a theory. A theory is:   

       "A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena."   

       Since no testing is possible regarding Intelligent Design (short of asking God) and no predictions are remotely possible (short of asking God), Intelligent Design seems more like an assumption, which is:   

       "Something taken for granted or accepted as true without proof; a supposition:"   

       Unfortunetely, I am afraid this clarification may excite gung-ho atheists and antitheists, but this reaction would not be justified. Instead, one's scientific mind ought to ask it's (I dont know if the mind deserves the gender proper to the body) self: In what way is my understanding of all things helped or hindered by the assumptions I make? Which, again, I fear will provoke an unintended response, e.g. while all those stupid creationists are busy worshiping the sun, I'll be studying physics, understanding "real" truth, and building a means of subjugating them.   

       Maybe I'm being to cynical in my view of those denying Intelligent Design, in fact, I'm sure I am. The real meat of the issue is that one MUST make an assumption concerning whether or not the universe exhibits purpose, and consequently meaning. To deny Intelligent Design is to do just that, i.e. make an assumption that there is no plan or purpose to the universe. The very hubris that "science people" despise in those that support Intelligent Design is present in their own idology. Both positions are assumptions, and no ammount of scientific evidence, mind-boggling statistics, or selected bible verses can settle the issue one way or another.   

       So first and foremost, no. I am afraid there is no kick in the face present here to anyone. I'm sure your big computer light display thingy might be pretty neat, but it wouldn't really prove anything concerning whether or not God planned the universe. Sorry.   

       We can take this a step further and attempt making life in the conventional sense (as opposed to your dubitable sense) by building a machine that fired random proteins, or better yet, random atoms at one another at various temperatures again and again and again. Checking my Speculation Calculator (TM) I find that the odds of configuring a duck-billed platypus are: 42 centillion to 1. Great! Now the arguements start running. All those for Intelligent Design focus on just how big the number 42 centillion is, "C'mon, God must have planned the universe, just look how high that number is!" Whereas those rallying against Intelligent Design will focus on the 1, "Hey, with enough time and enough stuff, there is a chance! It's possible!"   

       But what's possible, to create life randomly? So what? That doesn't mean that randomness spawned life. While it is possible that Hitler could have conquered all of North America, it does not mean that it indeed happened that way; all the random WWII generators in the world couldn't prove that it did.   

       If it wasn't obvious, I do accept Intelligent Design as true. This is not because of the fear of retributive deity (Pascal's wager), personal insecurity, or a South Carolinian rural upbringing (which I did not receive). The reason I believe in Intelligent Design is because I feel it to provide a broader and more fruitful area of inquiry. The universe begins to appear beautiful, elegant. That the universe has laws, cause and effect, etcetera, no long appears hopelessly unaccountable. Utter randomness is not preferable in any way to purpose and meaning, notions which vaporize into pure artifice once one rejects Intelligent Design. As long as I have no evidence one way or another, I choose the better universe, the one I want to live in, the one that makes sense. To adopt the opposite point of view denies making sense, which denies coherence, which denies order, which denies systematic arrangement. Random is the antonym of all of these things. A wholly random universe by definition cannot make sense.   


       Incidently, since proof concerning the validity of Intelligent Design is never due to arrive, only wimps will refrain from judging the issue (which is as old as Lucretius and the swerve). Anyone can judge a thing to be true in the presence of overwhelming data and explanation. It takes a real strong individual to step out on a limb and hold a belief not verified in scientific journals.
natural_slave, Jul 15 2005

       //It takes a real strong individual to step out on a limb and hold a belief not verified in scientific journals// Or a very stupid one.
coprocephalous, Jul 15 2005

       I would only respond that one would be stupid in myopically assuming truth synonymous with certainty, or moreover uncertainty with falsehood. Any string-theorist will agree with me.
natural_slave, Jul 15 2005

       Extraordinarily well-expressed, n_s.
waugsqueke, Jul 15 2005

       [n_s] It isn't necessary to cut'n'paste a heap of Aristotle onto your home page, a simple URL would suffice.
coprocephalous, Jul 15 2005

       bloomin' Nora.   

       That is to say, you know how to express yourself.
david_scothern, Jul 15 2005

       Why, thank you, [d_s].
[n_s] will be getting a few plaudits too, I imagine, once the spelling is sorted out.
coprocephalous, Jul 15 2005

       So let me get this straight [n_s], suppose I do an experiment (now that we're completely off topic) that shows that I can get single celled organisms by mixing up some ammonia, methane, and a bunch of other stuff and swirling it around. One of the major arguments for ID is that the complicated motor-like flagellum on some prokaryotes and eukaryotes is too complex to have spontaneously arisen. Suppose further that in this mixture I get something similar like a bacterial flagellum. Not that I or anyone believes such an experiment will ever succeed in our lifetimes, but suppose it worked. Are you telling me this has no ramifications for ID? You're telling me that even if after I succeed in getting a bacterial flagellum out of nothing but raw chemicals, that doesn't bother you? I'm sorry but everyone I've talked to has described ID as the idea that certain things just can't happen...i.e., you're never going to get a bacterium to evolve a flagellum without help from God. And the success of this experiment would prove them wrong. True, no one will ever show that God did or didn't create life. But to deny the possiblity that he didn't is quite shortsighted and, frankly, arrogant. If you will sit there and tell me you don't care whether this possibility exists or not, then you and I have no qualm. That is until we start discussing how old the planet is. I'll tell you right now 10,000 years doesn't cut it, and there's not a piece of evidence besides some book, written by _people_, that says that 10,000 years is logn enough.   

       You say that you believe ID to be true because it makes more sense, that it makes the universe less random, less arbitrary, and gives our experience within it more meaning. What would happen if this logic were applied to any other facet of life? Suppose I want to go out on a limb, disregarding all scientific and experiential evidence. Name one other instance where this is a good idea. Evidence is what drives us to make educated decisions. Indeed, it is is uneducated decisions that are the roots of many problems across the globe, especially religious wars. Talk to some islamic extremists and they will tell you that their beliefs make the most sense to them, and that their beliefs include the directive that anyone that believes other that what they do is an infidel and is an enemy. But this is what makes sense to them, and they believe as strongly as any devout christian does. As varied as these religions are, there is no way to say who is right, and as such, wars will continue to rage between those of different beliefs. There are even such extremists with degrees in the United States, so it has nothing to do with lack of education. The problem is that people take for truth things which have no evidence to support them. Strong physical, scientific evidence is much harder to misinterpret. As soon as people start basing their beliefs and decisions on things which can't be supported by evidence, we start to get differing viewpoints, and this breeds hatred and violence. This is not to say that different viewpoints are bad; it's bad when these viewpoints are chosen without good educated reasons. This is not to say that scientists never argue, but you'd be hard pressed to see one scientist suicide bomb another because one thinks a compound is one thing and the other thinks it is something different. Even in this case, one scientist will eventually prove himself correct and the two will later have a beer together.   

       Sure, it's easy to decide based on facts and evidence. But it's also the right thing to do.
estreet, Jul 15 2005

       [estreet] I am tempted to say I was misunderstood, but instead I think I only need clarification.   

       // I'm sorry but everyone I've talked to has described ID as the idea that certain things just can't happen...i.e., you're never going to get a bacterium to evolve a flagellum without help from God. And the success of this experiment would prove them wrong.//   

       Again, how do we know there was not help from God, in the form of the much revered theory of evolution? Does it really seem so implausible that the supreme being which created all existing things, isn't as intelligent as Charles Darwin? I posit that an intelligent designer created both the bacterium and the flagellum through the beautiful system of evolution, which may look random enough to us, but we aren't the creator of all things. (I think Leibniz and Pascal will agree with me on this one, both very influential mathematicians and scientists)   

       To further my point, it doesn't even make sense that God would "interfere" or "help" the created universe. This implies an error occurred. Instead of God exerting will on the creation of nature unnaturally, it seems more plausible that it would happen by natural causes, e.g. when Moses saw a burning bush talk to him, a chemically induced fire may have started because of the dry desert air, while at the same time, rocks could have been rolling down a hill in the distance simulating what Moses interpreted as speech. While this example seems implausible, I need only remind how "implausible yet possible" forming life from nonliving things seems to be. (Baruch Spinoza would agree with me here)   

       //Suppose I want to go out on a limb, disregarding all scientific and experiential evidence. Name one other instance where this is a good idea.//   

       I can't, but like I said, don't hold your breath for scientific evidence on intelligent design. I did not say that because it is easy to believe things with lots of evidence, we ought to take the hard road and reject these things. Instead, I think there are many issues where evidence is unavailable on both sides, and I think we will greatly narrow our understanding of the universe if we refuse to deliberate on these matters.   

       //Indeed, it is is uneducated decisions that are the roots of many problems across the globe, especially religious wars. //   

       I would argue that resourses and, more importantly, man's desire to further his own power are truly the roots of these wars. Religion, like partiotism, is merely the vehicle of manipulation in this case. But to say this is religious thinking's fault is like blaming uranium for the atomic bomb.   

       //it's bad when these viewpoints are chosen without good educated reasons.//   

       I don't think there was anything uneducated about what I have written so far. Like I said, this is not an issue that can be settled with evidence.   

       //Sure, it's easy to decide based on facts and evidence. But it's also the right thing to do.//   

       I agree, let's go get a beer.
natural_slave, Jul 15 2005

       I believe I'm beginning to understand where you're coming from. But correct me if I'm wrong. You seem to have just said that evolution is responsible for the diversity of life we see. Your claim is that any life that arises spontaneously only does so because the supreme being willed it to happen when he/she/it began the universe. Though the life may have arisen by completely natural processes, (chemical, nuclear, etc.), it was the will of our supreme creator to set things in motion in the very beginning in just such a way so that the laws of physics (which he/she/it also designed) inevitably play out to lead to this spontaneous creation of life. And you're right, it only makes sense that the influence of the being was exercised completely at the start of the universe, though one might argue that this influence is still occuring and is spread out through all time and space in the form of the laws of physics still governing the universe. There are, then, two viewpoints, each without any chance of being shown superior to the other. One is that this supreme being really did perform this amazing feat of planning and foresight. The other is that we just got lucky. Of course, maybe we just got lucky that this supreme being existed in the first place (perhaps "being" is the wrong word and we wish to express our idea of this supremity in a more general or abstract sense, such as a "force" or "will").   

       Nonetheless, the important issue to me, and the one I really wanted to address in the first place, was whether or not evolution occurred as a natural consequence of these laws of physics. My interpretation is that you are not against this idea. Do you believe that mankind came from apes, and so on down to the very first single celled organisms, through a process of mutation and recombination of DNA as posited by evolutionary theory (regardless of how the process of evolution came to be, whether it was a lucky consequence or if God made the universe in such a fashion that it occurred inevitably)?   

       My qualm is with the people that think that God formed man a few thousand years ago, that species only vary within certain limits, and that every species here today has been here the whole time.
estreet, Jul 15 2005

       /My claim is that given enough time, we might expect to see random patterns evolve into stable entities./   

       My understanding is that the pattern evolution in the Game of Life is nonrandom. So one could predict from starting pattern if a given configuration will or will not become another given configuration. As it is set up, there is nothing random - no mutation. If I recall, [Vernon] introduced some randomness in his mutating version of the game of life, which I have linked.   

       Rather than the game of life, I would like to do this mutational iteration in the Robot Battle forum. A given Robotic warrior is intelligently designed with simple code. A then fights 1000 battles with its progeny, each of whom are mutant versions. The winner is then used as the template for subsequent battles with its own mutant progeny.   

       The trouble with these simulations is the nature of mutation. One has to build it in. The nature of mutation is a very interesting subject. Do organisms permit some mutation? The HIV virus seems to benefit from this - facilitating the evolution of the virus. Bacteria take up random DNA they find around them - also facilitating mutation. Do slow reproducing organisms also benefit? A whole seperate discussion!
bungston, Jul 15 2005

       It's an essential element, Darwin knew it. It's what puts million years of fluke accidents leagues beyond human understanding. But, survival of the fittest is flawed, and new theories emerge that accomodate for symbiosis, static state variables in the biota, and the like. The cooperative evolving unity is an evolving concept of its own. Emergent, reflective, pure.
daseva, Jul 15 2005

       [bungston], All I'm saying is if we give the game a random starting configuration and let the thing go, interesting things may result. The interesting thing is that at the scale I propose, there may be enough time to see the spontaneous generation of a pattern of pixels that give the system the chance to start operating under the law of survival of the fittest. In my view, the universe is the same as the game of life. Something happened when it began in order to give it a beginning state, and the laws of physics determined where it will go, no randomness involved.   

       Now just because DNA mutates "at random", doesn't mean that these mutations aren't determined. In a sense, nothing is truly random (some students of quantum mechanics might disagree here), whatever caused the genes in an organisms DNA to mutate, i.e. a gamma ray, or a mistranscription by the polymerase-3 protein (it's been many years since bio), had itself a cause, i.e., two hydrogen fused together in the sun, or another chemical got in the way of the protein. Who knows, someday we might realize that our universe is really just a giant cellular automaton.
estreet, Jul 15 2005

       //But, survival of the fittest is flawed//   

       This just shows that your understanding of it is flawed. Survival of the fittest is a meaningless statement. "Fitness" is really just defined by a thing's ability to perform a certain task. In this case, that task is survival, passing on of the genetic information. Thus, survival of the fittest really means "survival of the things that survive". Sure, our model of what is fit and what is not might need some work. But make no mistake, a thing which is not fit will never survive.
estreet, Jul 15 2005

       Yes, exactly. The fitness landscape for earth is very intricate. I suspect less intricacy in your computer. Inevitably less.
daseva, Jul 15 2005

       I've been watching this discussion with interest over the last few days but we had an island wide blackout since (the electricity plant exploded on) Thursday morning which meant I've been running about refuelling generators and have been unable to post for a while.   

       I'm not sure about whether this experiment would produce results that would be any more interesting than existing Life simulations for a couple of reasons.   

       1) Conway's has been run on pretty big configurations already - mostly simulated in software rather than being hardware based - but I don't see any real difference except for the speed and thus the number of iterations that can be run in a given time. Anyway, in running Conway's, interesting things have been shown to emerge (gliders and guns for example) that couldn't have been predicted from study of the rules themselves.   

       I think this shows that interesting things emerge from suitably arbitrary and deterministic rules, as well as showing that the emergent structures can further interact with one another on a higher level of complexity i.e. the discovery of 'guns' that manufacture gliders, and later developments of flip-flops and other logic gates - it's possible that you could develop a working computer, and thus achieve anything deemed possible with a computational device. Whether you believe in strong AI or not will allow you to decide on whether such structures could be classed as life or not. Either way, this aspect of 'Life' and spontaneous emergence from chaos has already been established.   

       2) Following on from point 1, if a system is allowed to be large enough, you can start postulating about the infinate monkeys hypothesis - that's been done elsewhere and this experiment simply allows us to test such hypothesis, just as a large room and an ambitious monkey breeding program would.   

       3) More importantly, I don't see much room in the system for evolution. Sure, as larger structures develop, only those capable of self-sustainment will remain - random mutation (by interaction with other structures, most likely sliders) will allow for change, and the establishment of more stable structures (as more tenous ones die out) but since there is no inherent thermodynamic principle, such structures will simply survive based on their stability. For diveristy to develop there needs to be competition for resources, and the environment in which the structures develops needs to be plastic - i.e. it needs to change in response to the systems inhabiting it. I don't immediately see how this plasticiy and dynamicity can be achieved. As [waugs] states, all we have is a series of things that are on or off.   

       As far as arguing against ID, I think the overwhelming evidence is already out there. It is interesting to think of an experiment that would further illiustrate that evidence - but in order to do so, I think you need to create a model that more closely matches the natural world. For example, a pixel in a conways grid has access only to its 4 (or 8) neighbours. The universe (as far as it looks to me) is more interconnected than that. I'd prefer to see a more up to date system used (Conway developed his on paper) that works on more dimensions and allows for more interesting things to develop.   

       I do like the idea of a massively distributed computing device that models (for example) the brain (lots of individual cells that interact with lots of other individual cells) and think that devices built in this manner will eventually become far superior to the linear stepped systems we are all probably using to read this. With that move towards more organic modelling of comutational power, I predict we will see some very interesting and amazing results, not least of which will be artificial sentience at some level.
zen_tom, Jul 16 2005

       I'm not going to lie, d_t, you're most likely right about complex lifelike structures not emerging. The system would have to be 3 dimensional, have some kind of conservation of matter and energy, etc. I more or less wanted to get an interesting discussion going between intelligent people (unlike myself - young and naive).   

       Though I will point out that all the large Conway implementations pale in comparison to what I've proposed, if you just look at the numbers involved. The hardware approach I suggest has a combined processing power many orders of magnitude greater than any software or similar hardware based computation existing today. The idea of many tiny circuits working together with a small degree of interconnectivity was my main intented emphasis. But I do appreciate everyone's input.
estreet, Jul 17 2005

       // all the large Conway implementations pale in comparison to what I've proposed, //   

       Well, in scale only. In any other respect, unlikely.
waugsqueke, Jul 17 2005

       [estreet] See one of the articles on this site entitled Everlasting/evolving computer virus and check out my link. I just gave a good explaination to a guy with a similar idea. Also, your idea is good, but wouldn't it be easier just to have a kind of virtual simulation instead of a huge electronic grid. It would make things a lot simpler. All in all you have my vote. Oh yeah, and don't let guys like [daseva] discourage you, those creationists tend to get very defensive when someone brings up an idea that will finally prove them wrong.
MikeOxbig, Dec 04 2005

       If I turn on the swith the light on the ceiling turns on. What happens in between?
daseva, Dec 04 2005

       how do you "turn on the swith" ? is there provocative dancing involved ?
xenzag, Dec 04 2005

       Ok. Flipping the switch made the light turn on in either case: with and without provocative dancing. We may assume then, that the dancing has absolutely nothing to do with the switch.
daseva, Dec 04 2005

       I think dancing has a lot to do with flipping a switch.
MikeOxbig, Dec 09 2005

       [Mike], as I said earlier,   

       /Show me that evolution can work and I'll happily believe you; there's nothing to say it can't. I will, however, stick to the belief that it's not how we got here./   

       However, I accept that that could easily have been missed amongst the mighty annotations this has attracted...
david_scothern, Dec 09 2005

       If your mind is open to alternative interpretations of how we got started on this rock, you may wish to review what Larry Niven has written regarding Pak Protectors, or C.J. Cherryh's Hammerfall.   

       Remember, the driving forces behind ANYTHING getting done appear to be politics and sex.
normzone, Dec 09 2005

       Alright, sorry [Dave], must have missed that one. I'll take your name out of my previous statement.
MikeOxbig, Dec 09 2005

       Very kind, [mike].
david_scothern, Dec 10 2005

       (sarcasm) I just love it when someone insults evolutionists/designists.   

       Party A says to Party B: There is nothing you can show/tell me that will change my beliefs.   

       Party B, if intelligent, says to party A: That's fine, I'll go talk to someone else then.   

       If looking for a fight, Party B says to Party A: (anything else).
5th Earth, Dec 10 2005


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