Cellular Automata

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Is Science Unveiling Rules of Design?

Stephen Wolfram and
Cellular Automata

"Natural Selection is not all that important."

Stephen Wolfram is a scientific genius, author of the upcoming book "A New Kind of Science" and is regarded by some as "the next Newton." He is challenging the foundations of all modern sciences with his work in cellular automata, discrete rules which define the outcome of seemingly random phenomena.  "I've come to believe," says Wolfram, "that natural selection is not all that important."  If he's right, "Complexity is destiny—and Darwin becomes a footnote,"  as stated in an article in the November 27, 2000 issue of Forbes ASAP, an extract of which is presented below.

Life is based on rules, not randomness

His work doesn't say that evolution didn't happen.  It doesn't say that God exists or doesn't exist.  It just gives us a new understanding of the world around us, and shows us, as history has before, that we should not assume that today's science will be tomorrow's truth, especially when it comes to explaining the mystery of our origins and existence.

From Forbes ASAP:

This new field of science is challenging the foundations of all modern sciences

Wolfram won't allow science to hide. Never again will scientists be able to look at cellular automata through the biases of their own disciplines—he will force them to look at their fields through the lens of cellular automata.

And they won't like what they see. For at least four years now, Wolfram has been challenging the mathematical center of each of the major scientific disciplines in turn: biology, chemistry, physics, philosophy, evolution, fluid dynamics, cosmology, human cognition, music theory, the material sciences—the list grows by the night. He even takes on mathematics itself. There is practically no corner of the scientific world that, in Wolfram's mind, can't be revolutionized by his model. And so chapter after chapter of the new book sets down new paths—or more accurately, throws down gauntlets—challenging scientists in those fields to rewrite their disciplines according to Wolfram's new rules.

In case the world still chooses not to listen, Wolfram also tosses in one more bomb to make sure he isn't ignored: He demolishes some of the foundational theories in many of the fields. This last, he says, wasn't planned but occurred because, "I was surprised to find errors at the heart of many of these disciplines."

Wolfram says that Gould's math has errors

Take seashells. One of the most esteemed documents of modern paleontology is Stephen Jay Gould's doctoral thesis on shells. According to Gould, the fact that there are thousands of potential shell shapes in the world, but only a half dozen actual shell forms, is evidence of natural selection. Not so, says Wolfram. He's discovered a mathematical error in Gould's argument, and that, in fact, there are only six possible shell shapes, and all of them exist in the world.
In other words, you don't need natural selection to pare down evolution to a few robust forms. Rather, organisms evolve outward to fill all the possible forms available to them by the rules of cellular automata. Complexity is destiny—and Darwin becomes a footnote. "I've come to believe," says Wolfram, "that natural selection is not all that important."
The more sciences he probes, the more Wolfram senses a deeper pattern—an underlying force that defines not only the cosmos but living things as well: "Biologists," he says, "have never been able to really explain how things get made, how they develop, and where complicated forms come from. This is my answer." He points at the shell, "This mollusk is essentially running a biological software program. That program appears to be very complex. But once you understand it, it's actually very simple."

Wolfram confidently predicts, "Within 50 years, more pieces of technology will be created on the basis of my science than on the basis of traditional science. People will learn about cellular automata before they learn about algebra."

Could the entire universe have been started by a First Mover using a dozen rules?

There is one implication of Wolfram's work that he chooses to dismiss, but others may not.  Is it a coincidence that the designers of the Life game began to talk of God when they saw the implications of their creation? Wolfram says "there's no place for God" in his new science. (1)  But what about just outside? What will theologians say when they see a theory that proposes that the entire universe—with its perplexing combination of good and evil, order and chaos, light and dark—could have been started by a First Mover using a dozen rules?

Observation by Evolution of Truth:

(1) "There's no place for God" in this new science should not be taken to  mean that God does not exist, but rather that this IS science, not philosophy or theology.  Even if we find that cellular automata describes every aspect of our physical existence, we need to ask even more how and why these rules came into being in understanding all there is to know about the truth of life's origins and purpose.

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