© Copyright 2003, Sean Sinjin. All rights reserved. Edition 1.2
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Fate. Can we predict the future? Absolutely not—not with 100% accuracy anyway. It is impossible to take into account all of the variables that our universe imposes on us. In order for us to be able to make 100% accurate predictions, we have to have a “closed” system, a scenario where all the variables are known. Dropping a heavy ball from your hand to the floor is very nearly a 100% predictable result.
No matter how many times you release the ball from your hand, the effect of gravity will push it to the floor. Very predictable.
Some nearly closed systems can be more complicated, but still exhibit some levels of predictability. Repeatedly rolling an evenly weighted cube die with numbers one to six on the faces will result in each of the numbers appearing topside with the same approximate frequency as any other number.
It may not be possible to always predict which of the six faces should show up on any given roll; however, it is impossible to roll a seven, for example, and therefore the results are somewhat predictable. This illustrates a very nearly closed system with predictable averaged results over many iterations. The predictability of knowing that each of the numbers will appear approximately the same number of times as each other, rests in the simplicity of a system with a limited number of variables involved. A simple mathematical formula will predict for what percentage of the rolls a given number will appear.
And still other systems can appear completely random. For example, to a jar full of water, add some tiny flakes that are visible in the water and are light enough to be caught by the motions of the water (like crushed tea leaves). Put a lid on the jar and shake it vigorously. Placing the jar on a table and observing the results reveals a collage of flakes winding chaotically and apparently randomly about, hapless victims to the water currents.
This is called “Brownian motion”, and is an example of conceivably “random” motion. The apparent randomness of any chosen flake’s motions is the product of our not being able to measure and incorporate all the variables that combine to give the result witnessed, into a mathematical formula that can predict the result. This may appear to be a closed system but there are also many variables that influence this system that may not be obvious, or are not even contained within the jar. Some of the variables of this system might be: water temperature, flake mass, flake count, glass surface friction, glass temperature, surrounding air temperature, ambient light, humidity of glass outer surface, etc. It would be very difficult to predict the path and orientation of any particular flake without knowing absolutely every single variable that affects it. In this example, those variables would be virtually impossible for us to completely enumerate and measure accurately enough within a meaningful timeframe and then process in a mathematical formula that exactly models our real-world system; hence, this system appears truly random to us.
That’s not to say that it is indeed “random”; quite the contrary, there is no such thing as randomness, only “apparent” randomness because of our inability to construct a mathematical model by which we can predict the system’s results. Even seemingly closed systems, like our ball-dropping example, still suffer from external influences (ball being caught by an unexpected hand, a meteor strike, etc.) that may have virtually no measurable probability but still negate the possibility of an absolute 100% predictability.
Sometimes the ball does not make it to the floor
It’s impossible to extract a truly closed system from inside our universe that can be considered independent of its surroundings, since there will always be the possibility of external influences on any system, no matter how slight they may be. The only truly closed system might very well be the universe itself. In order to predict what happens next in the universe, you would have to know the properties and energies of all locations of space, which includes all particles, photons, and empty space, and then incorporate all this information in a meaningful way such that predictions can be made. Not possible. So we are left with extrapolating predictions from limited, or grouped, information. This is not to say that since events aren’t 100% predictable, they must therefore have some degree of “randomness” to it, but rather that our observations of the universe will never be completely accurate and so our predictions and knowledge will always suffer at least somewhat from incomputable factors.
The non-existence of true “randomness” also means that “fate” is built into the universe. Nothing happens by accident. This is not meant to imply that fate was “consciously” constructed, but that the universe’s agenda will unfold in an exacting prescribed manner, with no more purpose than a boulder rolling down a mountain. Similar to our example of the ball dropping to the floor, all particles in the universe are constantly interacting with other particles and they will always interact in exactly the same prescribed manner every time for any exactly-defined scenario (assuming you had all the variables that define that scenario; the obtaining and combining mathematically of all those variables already having been described as incredibly difficult to accomplish). Understanding and believing that fate exists is fundamental to the understanding of the root meme of science: mathematics. Nothing in the universe is spared the mechanism of mathematical prediction, no matter how complicated its system may appear to be. Accepting that fate exists means that even the most apparently random mechanism (like the Brownian motion we looked at) is an exacting system that has a precise, predetermined outcome.
What is meant by the term “order”? Order is the organization and activity of particles and particle bodies that results in a common goal. On the other hand, we tend to think of chaos as that which lies outside of our ability to extrapolate any form of predictability, and it may seem natural to associate chaos with randomness, of which we have just denied the existence of; so is chaos then order? No. Chaos is a system just like order, but the difference between them is not randomness (which doesn’t exist), but the ability of individual elements to combine in function to achieve a common goal that the elements would be helpless to achieve alone. Our order mechanisms (such as DNA) are an assemblage of elements that work together to create more order. The constituents of a chaotic system (e.g., our Brownian flakes), however, do not work together, and this distinguishes it from order.
A: DNA is an example of “order”, where all parts are organized with an underlying purpose
B: Brownian motion is an example of “chaos”, where none of the parts combine for a common goal
The universe may seem randomly disorganized but it is indeed a perfectly closed predictable system, for which it is unfortunately well beyond our ability to gather all the necessary parameters for making predictions. Still, despite its incomprehensible size, everything in the universe is connected to everything else, all parts of the system are accounted for, and each part contributes to the universe’s agenda as a whole.
It might be acceptable to define the period just after the universe was created, as the most chaotic layout of all the particles that ever existed in the universe, more than at any other time in history. Things just can’t get more disorganized and seemingly random than what must have resulted from the Big Bang. As time passed though, eventually this chaotic mess started becoming more organized as the gravitational and magnetic forces of the universe exerted their properties upon all these particles such that eventually they formed stars, planets—and life. Life is the most concise form of order that currently exists in our universe, having the ability to intercept environmental energy (sunlight, chemical energy, etc.) and utilize it to rapidly create further order at an atomic level. Life at its most primitive stage was simply a collection of atoms that could replicate its design, and this process has now evolved over countless eons to produce these colossal vessels that are our bodies; and yet, each atom in our body is part of a larger purpose. Life is pure order.
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