Does Chaos Exist?

I’m wondering this because it seems to be a matter of predictability, which seems relative to the one perceiving things. I’m just thinking that maybe on a grand scale outside human notions that there is just order, but that chaos is more like the subject’s inability to perceive the causes behind things or to control them

Chaos theory has proven mathematically that a lot of random stuff is actually unpredictable.

You cannot reason a person out of a position they didn’t use reason to reach.

Yes, “chaos” in the sense of the scientific/mathematical “chaos theory” means that deterministic rules can produce outcomes that look random and unpredicticable; so I suppose you could say, as the OP does, that “on a grand scale outside human notions that there is just order.”

DrFidelius, I wish you wouldn’t keep including this in all your posts. It always causes me a moment of confusion, because it looks like it’s part of your specific reply to a specific thread, in which context it’s usually a non sequitur.

I’m not certain if you’re talking about Hidden Variable Theory (which is not a new idea), or something else.

Chaos theory is a misnomer. It indicates processes whose outcomes cannot be predicted because no physical measurement can be precise enough. So although conditions can be measured to any practical certitude, some outcomes cannot be extrapolated from them.

The truly nondeterministic processes are opposite to that. The breakdown of a radioactive metal is. Nothing can predict when any individual atom will fission, although statistical processes can be used to predict the average behavior of a mass of atoms to great accuracy.

Many quantum processes are also truly random, not predictable even in theory. Since QM is currently the underlying theory of the universe, there isn’t nor can there be order behind the curtain.

QM can’t be the ultimate theory and so a more encompassing theory might change our understanding. Right now, though, order is a statistical illusion not merely a human one.

Chaos is a ladder…


It’s random turtles all the way down.

The term “chaos theory” uses the word “theory” in the mathematical sense, i.e. a body of work or knowledge derived from a key set of mathematical ideas, see also “set theory”. That is to say chaos theory is a mathematical idea independent of the need of empirical proof for validation. That said it arose in the study of physical systems so the connection to physical science is obvious and it can be regarded as an empirical fact that certain systems exhibit chaotic behaviour (that is behaviour where small differences in the initial states of physical systems quickly grow to large differences over time).

Actually, I think I am going to take a bite at this. I was pretty sure my viewpoint was already described or at least I’m assuming you’re coming from a place in which you’ve likely thought about how over time stability returns to chaos, etc. So, following your open-ended train of thought, I am going to have to say I personally perceive that there is a higher law of order, at least, that must be perpetuating the pattern of things in existence repeatedly coming to a state of stability and then de-stabilizing. At least, considering how well so many countless systems in flux co-exist in the universe, one could easily hypothesize there is no chaos at all. Though, maybe coining a new term for this would save others from confusion.

EVERYTHING outside of human notions is chaos. Even most of that is chaotic. Randomness is not a bug, but the essence of reality. It is only because of the overactive pattern-recognition part of our brains that give rise to attempts at organizing the chaos into things like gods and god, karma, mysticism, predestination or the supernatural.

As the last two posters have intimated, IMO chaos is simply a changing system whose complexity is beyond the ability for humans to measure and calculate.

Chaos theory deals with systems which are extremely sensitive to initial conditions.

Quantum mechanics tells us that at a microscopic level, events don’t just look random, they really are random. So taken together, I think they mean our world is inherently unpredictable.

No, not at all. Chaos is the inherent randomness of this universe. It isn’t beyond human ability to measure and calculate. It isn’t possible in any way, shape or form to calculate. It’s random, really, truly random.

I like to simplify it to the Cynefin definition, which is a situation or system where there is no empirical or theoretical relationship between cause and effect. Given the initial state of the system, and inputs, you cannot determine what the end state will be.

The uncertainty could be because:
[li]Initial states can’t be measured finely enough[/li][li]Initial states can be adequately measured, but they haven’t yet been measured.[/li][li]True randomness is involved. True randomness exists even if humans have a hard time producing it.[/li][/ul]

So, some of this is a matter of framing and prior of knowledge, and some of it is indeed a function of the unknown and seemingly unknowable.

I’m not at all certain that I understand what you mean by the term “chaos”. In my opinion the universe is functionally deterministic, meaning that the way things happen is entirely driven by the prior state of the universe. (Or “entirely” enough for government work - randomity may occur but tends not to impact outcomes significantly.) So in that sense, if “chaos” is defined as unpredictability, I’d say that chaos exists only in the eye of the beholder - we only fail to predict outcomes because our knowledge is limited and incomplete.

Of course, that’s just one possible definition of ‘chaos’. If ‘chaos’ instead means ‘disorder’, then yes it exists, and most of my apartment is living proof.

How do you reconcile that view with quantum mechanics?

Put simply, I don’t. When my quantums break down I take them to an expert to fix it rather than trying to do it myself.

But it’s also worth noting the sentence immediately following the one you quoted: “(Or “entirely” enough for government work - randomity may occur but tends not to impact outcomes significantly.)” That there is the answer to your question - quantum mechanics is the realm of the teeny tiny, and I don’t believe that the macro world is influenced in any discernible way by quantum events in 99.99999% of cases (estimated).

So if machinaforce is talking about chaos regarding things where a subject might want to perceive the causes behind things or to control them, I think that sort of thing is very firmly macro and quantum stuff has no effect at all. Chaos theory still does, because it’s damned hard to predict how precisely those fifty gallons of jelly beans will bounce when you tip the tub over, but that’s the case even in a purely deterministic world too.

But if there is even a 0.000001% chance a quantum event can have macroscopic effects, the world is unpredictable.

It’s predictable enough for government work. (And yes, I did work for several years for the government.)

I do confess that much of my thought on determinism comes in the context of free will discussions, and given that I believe the brain mechanically corrects for negligible random effects, I’m even less impressed by the impact of quantum randomity than the average person might be.

And of course regarding this thread in particular, I’m pretty sure the OP isn’t concerned about the effect of something that, statistically speaking, has confounded him precisely zero times in his lifetime.