Gödel, God, & Guess what? – Bacteria Talk.

Today in my mailbox I got a message from a website called Cosmic Finger Prints. It contained an invite to view a talk by Bonnie Bassler on communication in unicellular world. Her talk is absolutely fascinating as any new discoveries about nature are. It had also this startling bit of information. Cell for cell, independent (bacterial) cells or their colonies outnumber the cells that cooperate to form us by a factor of 10. That is right. Humans are made of some 1 trillion cells, whereas the bacteria that live on and in us count to some 10 trillion cells. Overwhelming number of these co-travellers are absolutely essential for our well being as they help by modifying our environment beneficially or by facilitating our bodily functions. No one notices the yeoman services they render, and in fact are dreaded by all because of the virulent attacks some of them launch and even cause life threatening situations to develop. Unluckily for them, and for us, they only receive bad press. More surprisingly, all unicellular life communicates with each other through some chemical molecules that are dedicated to intra specie communication while some other molecules serve the inter-species communication. But, what is the need for this communicating? Discovering this riddle, her team came upon the technique adopted by the bacteria, which they have called “Quorum Sensing”, to find out if their colony has reached the critical numbers necessary to embark upon their mission. The possibility of disabling this communication her team finds has exciting possibilities for overcoming the obstacles such as multi drug resistant mutations that conventional antibiotics face. Over to her fascinating talk Here.

But my quest didn’t end here as through another catchy link on that page I was guided to “Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem”. In 1931 Gödel came up with this remarkable proof that put paid to the efforts of some stalwart mathematicians like Gottlab Frege, Bertrand Russell, David Hilbert, Ludwig Wittgenstein, et all, who were trying to box in recursively enumerable theories, such as natural number theory in to ‘consistent completeness’. Cosmic-Fingerprints illustrate this dense topic to laity, and I reproduce its exertions here.
Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle – something you have to assume but cannot prove.”
You can draw a circle around all of the concepts in your high school geometry book. But they’re all built on Euclid’s 5 postulates which we know are true but cannot be proven. Those 5 postulates are outside the book, outside the circle. You can draw a circle around a bicycle. But the existence of that bicycle relies on a factory that is outside that circle. The bicycle cannot explain itself. You can draw the circle around a bicycle factory. But that factory likewise relies on other things outside the factory. Gödel proved that there are ALWAYS more things that are true than you can prove. Any system of logic or numbers that mathematicians ever came up with will always rest on at least a few unprovable assumptions. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem applies not just to math, but to everything that is subject to the laws of logic. Everything that you can count or calculate. Incompleteness is true in math; it’s equally true in science or language and philosophy.
Once this take off is made on the “wings of incompleteness”, the arguments take in deductive & inductive logic, information theory, and finally makes a magic landing with the following flourish :
Quote :
We can apply the same inductive reasoning to the origin of information:
  • In the history of the universe we also see the introduction of information, some 3.8 billion years ago. It came in the form of the Genetic code, which is symbolic and immaterial.
  • The information had to come from the outside, since information is not known to be an inherent property of matter, energy, space or time.
  • All codes we know the origin of are designed by conscious beings.
  • Therefore whatever is outside the largest circle is a conscious being.
When we add information to the equation, we conclude that not only is the thing outside the biggest circle infinite and immaterial, it is also self-aware.
Isn’t it interesting how all these conclusions sound suspiciously similar to how theologians have described God for thousands of years?
It is now that we understand the true import of Cosmic-Fingerprints. It is neither about mathematics nor about science, but an attempt at reconciling the wide and dazzling array of knowledge about the universe the human mind is continuously unearthing with the notion of God. It is the fingerprints of the God that it is looking for in the footprints of science. Does it succeed in its mission? That would be decided by the adherents it gathers. But does it’s attempt at conflation stand the scrutiny of reason can be tested.
Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem states : “Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any consistent, effectively generated formal theory that proves certain basic arithmetic truths, there is an arithmetical statement that is true, but not provable in the theory ”. Gödel’s theorem applies to only effectively generated theories, i.e. to recursively enumerative theories. In mathematics, enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all its elements, whereas recursion refers to self referencing. ‘I have twenty alphabets’ is a trivial case of a recursive statement as it describes itself accurately. Thus conclusions of Gödel’s theorem are proven for the formal theories that satisfy this condition. The theorem is not for application to any axiomatic theory let alone some arbitrary sets or hypotheses. Overarching reach of this God argument far beyond what Gödel’s own brief mandates would have been a laughable attempt at God-proof had it not been effective at assuaging the doubts of believers and may be ensnaring the unwary.
Further it is argued that genetic code is symbolic and immaterial, and therefore not contained by the matter, energy or space that lie within the set of universe (or the so called largest circle). As such creation of such code or information has to essentially presuppose a conscious being (God), who is outside the circle. QED! Hey, but wait a minute. How does this code or information gets transmitted from God outside the circle to the universe inside the circle? The transmission pathways have to be non-immanent or material, or how else transcription will take place. But then this creates difficulty by bringing transmission pathways within the larger circle or universe. It would make transmission pathways look suspiciously like the genetic code itself – a sort of meta genes. Unfortunately, this hardly serves the purpose of God-project. What this implies is that whether God exists or not outside the large(st) circle, S/he has no way of communicating or influencing what is happening inside the circle. Put another way, the language of science and of faith are mutually exclusive, and any attempt at conflating them is bound to end in irreconcilable contradictions. Yet, in USA, probably only in USA, there is huge interest and abundant funding for the propagation of such “Intelligent Design” projects.

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