Do Heat Seeking Missiles Have Teleology?

This is incorrect. The missiles only operate based on prior causes, so they only have the appearance of purpose.

My claim is all of life is intrinsically teleological, which necessarily means life cannot be reduced to determinism + chance. This is vitalism, plain and simple.

I disagree with this.

I’m not convinced that “intrinsically teleological” actually means anything. For that matter, I’m not convinced that “determinism”, taken to be a property of the cosmos, is meaningful.

When we say “X is determined”, what do we really mean? If we say “X is determined by Y”, then it is far clearer what we mean. But if we only say “X is determined”, then something is missing. This gets us to philosophical questions about the relation between physical laws and reality. And that’s why I suggested we continue this part of the discussion in a more appropriate thread.

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I’m pretty agnostic on the matter. I don’t think there are clear cut arguments either way, which makes sense since it deals with the distant past. I prefer to deal with more precise matters, such as mathematics and engineering, where we can approach absolute certainty in our answers.

P(X) = 1 means determined. P(X) < 1 means not determined.

Indexing X by time, such that X[n] occurs before X[n+1], we can say an entity is intrinsically teleological if P(X[n]|X[n-1) < 1 and P(X[n]|X[n+1) = 1.

If you believe that men taking vows of celibacy and wearing robes can, by saying words of incantations over a bowl of gluten containing wheat wafers, change said gluten containing wafers into the actual remnants of the body and blood of a 2000 year old human corpse, it really makes your mathematical arguments suspect. I know this is discriminatory but I was a skeptical child when I was seven years old and my skepticism has made my BS detector really good. So I question your math and your science.

Note that the hosts in a Roman Catholic Church mass must contain gluten. The Pope ruled a few years ago that gluten free hosts are not allowed. Apparently gluten is required in the transubstantiation process preformed by the priests in magically changing the gluten contain wheat into biological human remains with ancient DNA structure with 23 chromosomes pointing to Palestine 2000 years ago.

What is P(X)?

Probability of X taking place, though it is not clear from whose point of view we are talking.

Isn’t this just causality? I.e the arrow of time moves only in the forward direction?

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So nothing is determined, as fundamentally everything is governed by quantum mechanics. Thus, nothing is teleological.

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I think this might be just equating determinism with teleology. Once again, I’m not sure if we are talking about the true probability of our best guess of the probability from a human point of view. My guess is that he means the true probability. However, that means if the world is deterministic, everything is teleological.

We do not know of quantum randomness is determined from God’s point of view.

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OK, but then we would not be able to know if something is determined or not unless if we have access to the mind of God.


Maybe God knows how the flip of the quantum collapse before it happens.

Then God would be in violation of Quantum Entanglement.

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My point is that Eric’s simple probabilistic formulation of determinism and especially teleology is puzzling if the implication is that we can never identify teleology empirically, as we don’t have access to the mind of God and to which phenomena He has willed to be determined, and which to be inherently random, whatever that means. Perhaps he can refine the formulation so as to allow a continuum of teleology, so that events that are highly probable but not certain can still be considered teleological. Then we can think about this further.

In addition, probability is very puzzling to be used as a definition of teleology. Philosophically speaking probability doesn’t have a clear cut interpretation if you try to use it as something more than a useful heuristic of the world. It’s difficult to use it to define the ontological status of the world. Often people who hold a standard frequentist interpretation say something along the lines that the probability of X is the fraction that X comes up in N amount of trials where N tends towards infinity. But if we have the mind of God in the picture, does it even make sense to talk about multiple trials? From God’s POV maybe everything in the universe is super determined.


So, just to be clear, you are not sure there are clear cut arguments for an old earth?

How do you, for example, process this? Lake Varves, Volcanic Ash, and the Great Isaiah Scroll. At the very least, it looks like an old earth, right? Or do you feel this is not clearly established?

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I laughed at that. But I am not buying that as a definition of “intrinsically teleological.”

In a different thread, I illustrated a different point by raising the example of driving to Los Angeles from here (near Chicago). That seems to also work to illustrate teleology.

The thing is, as I drive to LA, I might miss a turn. So I will correct that somewhere later on, so that I still get to LA.

What you can see, though, is that the sequence of events (the locations passed while driving) is not fixed. So modeling as a stochastic process seems a tad simplistic.

Here’s my account.

There is a purpose – in this case reaching the destination of LA.
The system (me as driver) is monitoring progress toward achievement of that purpose, and is periodically adjusting behavior so as to be consistent with progress toward that purpose.

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You don’t even need to go down to quantum mechanics. I am hard pressed to think of an energy scale in which physics have the kind of determinism and predictability that is required for Eric’s formulation. From highest to lowest energy scale (handwavy rankings for some):

  1. Quantum gravity is presumably only deterministic up to a wavefunction level and therefore has determinism problem
  2. GR+QFT has both determinism problem (from both GR and QFT) and predictability problem (from GR)
  3. GR+quantum mechanics has determinism problem (from QM and GR) and predictability problem (from GR)
  4. QFT has determinism problem due to its quantum nature
  5. QM alone has determinism problem
  6. GR+Classical mechanics: Has both determinism and predictability problems from GR
  7. Special Relativity+Classical mechanics: Has predictability problem from SR
  8. Classical mechanics: Has determinism problem without SR

Edit: Quantum mechanics can be made deterministic, but one has to give up locality.


5 posts were split to a new topic: Predictability Problems in Physics