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Evolution Was the Key in Joseph Campbell’s Loss of Faith

Joseph Campbell died in 1987 but remains influential. In this revealing video, Campbell clarifies why he left the Roman Catholic faith of his youth — EVOLUTION:

While many try to reconcile their faith with evolution, many find in evolution reason to leave the faith. Just because there’s no strict contradiction between the two doesn’t mean that the two aren’t in tension. Campbell felt the tension and left the faith.

SOURCE: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJmNBxbExuA

Postscript [added 06.14.09, 7:40AM CST]: It’s interesting to see Campbell disparage the biblical cosmology for being several millennia old and thus out of touch with current cosmologies — myths that impact our lives being myths that are compatible with contemporary cosmologies, according to Campbell. But when I studied ancient near eastern cosmologies at Princeton Theological Seminary, I found an interesting thing: they divided into cosmologies in which creation occurs through a spoken word by a supreme deity (the biblical cosmology was not unique in this regard) and cosmologies in which natural forces evolve and do all the creating, producing better and more powerful deities as time flows along (e.g., the Babylonian creation, in which Marduk is born several generations down and finally becomes the chief god). Given that this is an information age and that the Bible teaches that God created the world through a spoken word, would it not follow that the biblical cosmology is actually back in the saddle and ready again to engage culture? It would seem then that the provenance and length of time that a cosmology has been with us need not sap it of its cultural relevance or impact.

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122 Responses to Evolution Was the Key in Joseph Campbell’s Loss of Faith

  1. Campbell can say whatever he wants, and Dembski is free to believe him. But the scriptures make it clear that no one “leaves the faith.” One either rejects Christ and remains lost, or one is saved at some time and remains saved forever. There is no middle ground, and no going back and forth. Otherwise, Jesus, who promised “to never leave us nor forsake us” is a liar. Based on his own testimony, it appears that Campbell was never a believer in the first place (1John 2:19).

  2. riddick: The theological point you raise is irrelevant. Yes, from God’s perspective, God knows from eternity who are His and who are not His. But from a human vantage, we find people confessing the faith and then leaving the faith and giving reasons why they left the faith. Evolution is one of the prime reasons given. I regard this as significant. It raises the counterfactual question, Where would Joseph Campbell’s faith be if a cogent refutation of evolution had been available when he was first exposed to it? If you have a problem with this question, then ask yourself if you have a problem with the following question: Where would Riddick’s faith be if someone hadn’t present him with the Gospel?

  3. 3

    ” One either rejects Christ and remains lost, or one is saved at some time and remains saved forever”

    Well, read Return to Rome by Beckwith and see if you agree with him. I am not sure whether he would agree or not, really. I need to focus study on theology versus philosophy some tiimes. =0

  4. 4

    Sorry, that was somewhat off-topic. But I agree with the post and have no idea why people could not see why it’s correct: some idea, such as say an eternal universe or evolution, may in fact be false and hurts faith. Therefore, it’s diligent to test the theory to its limits.

    It boggles my mind why others get so offensive when they believe their theory is going to be subjected to rigorous standards. Of course, they think this is some false operation like something out of a good book I once read called Voodoo Science (of course, the “science” there was no constructive like ID is even if ID happens to be false).

  5. 5

    Um, I’d have to agree this thread has nothing to do with TULIP, so let’s have that discussion another time.

    I found Campbell’s remarks, confusing to say the least. I wonder what his goal is, since it appears not to be objective truth. I don’t have a lot of time for people without the cajones to say that if one thing is right its opposite must be wrong. Evolution here is just another compelling myth Campbell for whatever reason is unable to simply reject. Raised in the Catholic church, learned about biology and how it conflicted with Genesis, had not the masculinity to believe one is right and the other is wrong, embarked on a long journey of finding more such myths he couldn’t reject, built his own mythology of some overriding truth that declines to be any truth at all (from an information theoretic standpoint of course). In the end his philosophy makes perfect sense in his own mind, despite making no sense to anyone else.

    “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

  6. 6

    Oh come on… you ad hominem to the max.

  7. 7

    It’s a philosophy, not a person I object to. Wait, you didn’t take my “cajones” statement literally did you?

  8. riddick, are you not familiar with the parable of the sower? In particular the seed sown amongst the thorns.

    Further, it is not He who leaves us,rather it is us who leave Him.

    I don’t mean to turn this into a debate, I just wanted to point this out.

  9. 9

    I have no idea what it would mean to take that statement literally.

    You attribute anyone’s errors to a lack of nerve. That strikes me as incorrect.

  10. 10

    If that Biblical statement is taken in the sense you mention it, in fact, I believe Alvin Plantinga needs to just retract his advice essay from long ago.

  11. Exactly! That’s why so many of us are delighted wtih the ID movement. Not only is it personally encouraging, and not only does it lay the groundwork for the restoration of culture after the abomination known as “modernism,” but it is also helpful to seekers of an intellectual bent.

    Darwin’s purpose in proselytizing natural selection was to drive the flock away from the shepherd, following his father and grandfather. He was a brilliant propagandist, and he gave the intellectuals of his day just what they wanted: a reason to disbelieve.

    Sites like UD are like the great return. “We were like men who dreamed, our hearts will filled with joy.” Thanks for starting it.

  12. 12

    William Dembski (#2) asks: “Where would Joseph Campbell’s faith be if a cogent refutation of evolution had been available when he was first exposed to it?”

    Or better yet, Where would Joseph Campbell’s (or anybody else’s) faith be if evolution was simply not part of their worldview – if evolution was not mentioned or spoken about or even known about – if evolution was not just silenced but completely taken out of the knowledge base. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of intelligent design?

  13. There is an interesting painting from the pre Raphaelite, William Holman Hunt in 1851 expressing the general condition of distractions.

    http://members.tripod.com/prer.....epherd.jpg

    In the painting the shepherd is I believe to be the Church of England. And the temptress could be a lot of things. The sheep are a lot of people and Joseph Campbell could fit the description of one of these lost sheep.

    Interesting phenomenon about those who espouse naturalistic evolution so ardently. There is no room for doubt amongst any of them. Their adherence is absolute which I find the most interesting part of all the aspects of these discussions. There is no “I understand your point of view but I still think my point of view makes more sense.” It is a “give not an inch” attitude whether it is the atheist or the TE. It is amazing where ideology leads one in terms of behavior.

  14. jerry (#12) provides a link to William Holman Hunt’s “The Hireling Shepherd” – which did not work for me. There is a higher-resolution version at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi.....nt_001.jpg

    Hunt asserted that he intended the couple to symbolise the pointless theological debates which occupied Christian churchmen while their “flock” went astray due to a lack of proper moral guidance.” The painting’s title comes from John 10:12-13 (King James version) – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hireling_Shepherd

  15. 15

    @8:

    I have no idea what it would mean to take that statement literally.

    You attribute anyone’s errors to a lack of nerve. That strikes me as incorrect.

    The philosophy has no nerve by refusing to say any myth is wrong in the objective sense. This means that philosophy can make no truth statements and is therefore useless to anyone who is interested in objective truth.

    An ad hominem would be more along the lines of saying Campbell’s ideas are wrong because he never got a PhD. I’m attacking the ideas directly and therefore it’s not an ad hominem.

  16. 16

    Could someone more familiar with Campbell tell us what his bottom line is?

    He denies the objective truth of science and claims that the “cosmology” of the Bible is out-of-date.

    Campbell:
    “No scientist says, ‘I’ve found truth’. It’s a working hypotheses, and the next season will have another structure.”

    “The problem of mythology is to relate that found truth, to the actual living a life. The myth has to deal with the cosmology of today, and it’s no good when it’s based on a cosmology that’s out of date.”

    Campbell doesn’t appear to believe in scientific truth, and he doesn’t appear to think that the best myth is the one that’s closest to the truth. So what is the best myth?

    “A mythological image that has to be explained to the brain is not working. When you move through a cultural field that is so alien to your own that the images don’t click off any response, any recognition, then your out of sync.”

    Out of sync with what exactly? Is he saying that myth should not be subjected to reason, and if it must be then it’s not working? This is laughable. Any myth can be subjected to reason. To what end is myth supposed to be working towards? I’m sure Campbell has an end in mind it’s just not clear from this video, so I’d appreciate it if someone else could clarify.

  17. 17

    Dembski:

    “It would seem then that the provenance and length of time that a cosmology has been with us need not sap it of its cultural relevance or impact.”

    Is that what Campbell is after, “cultural relevance or impact”? If so, that’s a poor goal. People care about truth. Cultural relevance happens when you pursue truth. Aim higher.

  18. jerry,

    There is no “I understand your point of view but I still think my point of view makes more sense.”

    considering that, for example, you just went on at considerable length about how evolutionary biology is bs while at the same time acknowledging that you know very little about it, it is really surprising that it’s hard for us to find middle ground?

  19. How ironic and interesting. I abandoned my lifelong, religious-like faith in materialism and atheism when I discovered that the Darwinian mechanism of random mutation/variation and natural selection was the biggest joke and con job in the history of “science,” concerning what basically underlies living systems: complex, functionally integrated information-processing systems and the information they process.

    At that point my atheistic faith was totally destroyed by the evidence and simple mathematics about probabilities and combinatorics that I learned when I was a sub-teenager.

    Joseph Campbell’s faith was destroyed by completely unjustified extrapolations that would not be tolerated in any other area of real science.

    He was screwed and deceived by junk science.

  20. PaulBurnett:

    Or better yet … if evolution was not just silenced but completely taken out of the knowledge base. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of intelligent design?

    Oh, my, No!

    The aim of intelligent design, as I understand it, is to find the accurate place for evolution. No well-studied IDer rejects all of neo-Darwinism. Many of us see neo-Darwinism as a significant piece of the puzzle of how life came to be. Ie, it appears that much of nature was designed to evolve. At least neo-Darwinian evolution plays an important balancing role within nature.

    Further, evolution means much beyond neo-Darwinism. For instance, many see evolution to mean “change over time”. As such ID has no argument. Some see evolution to mean “universal common descent”. Many of us IDers believe that a very strong case has been made for UCD.

    Alas, Dr. Dembski, it seems that you are saying that as long as cosmology has a beginning, Biblical cosmology is somehow way more correct than a naturalistic perspective. On this I agree with you wholeheartedly. It seems that the scientific community is busy theorizing a way around the fact that the universe has a beginning, because the other option is anathema to the naturalist.

  21. I abandoned my lifelong, religious-like faith in materialism and atheism when I discovered that the Darwinian mechanism of random mutation/variation and natural selection was the biggest joke and con job in the history of “science,” concerning what basically underlies living systems: complex, functionally integrated information-processing systems and the information they process.

    At that point my atheistic faith was totally destroyed by the evidence and simple mathematics about probabilities and combinatorics

    It would be appreciated if you would keep stories about your own cult-like embracing of evolutionary science to yourself, and stop trying to paint the opposition with it. Nobody worships Darwin. Nobody takes a blood oath in order to become an evolutionary biologist. Your childish smear tactics automatically make me not want to hear anything remotely useful you might have to say.

    That being said, would you kindly share with us these revelation-bearing simple mathematics about probabilities and combinatorics? If it convinced you, I’m sure it would do a number on the rest of us.

    And also, you say that the nonsense put out by the evil Darwinist cabal wouldn’t be tolerated in other areas of science, but just recently in another thread somebody railed on the case of astronomers who use evolutionary concepts in order to “assume” that the solar system is 4.6 billion years old. Which one is it? You’re can’t have your proverbial cake and eat it too.

  22. RDK (21),

    You beat me to it with:

    “That being said, would you kindly share with us these revelation-bearing simple mathematics about probabilities and combinatorics? If it convinced you, I’m sure it would do a number on the rest of us.”

    Exactly my view.

    So come on Gil, stump up, this is your chance. It’s only “sub-teenager” stuff after all, so we should be able to handle it.

  23. RDK

    “Your childish smear tactics automatically make me not want to hear anything remotely useful you might have to say.

    That being said, would you kindly share with us….”

    This statement speaks for itself.

  24. GilDodgen @ 19: “I abandoned my lifelong, religious-like faith in materialism and atheism when I discovered that the Darwinian mechanism of random mutation/variation and natural selection was the biggest joke and con job in the history of ‘science,’”

    I’ve seen you say similar things before. How much training / indoctrination did you have in evolution? I graduated from high school in 1965, 7 or 8 years after Sputnik spurred the educational reforms that brought evolution into the high schools and created the modern creationist movement.

    Yet I can’t remember if evolution was even covered in biology class. If it was, we couldn’t have had more than one fifty minute hour on the subject and we may have had nothing on it at all. Our biology teacher’s main job was basketball coach and driver’s ed instructor. If he had any special thoughts on teaching evolution, they were probably about getting through the subject without a horde of religious parents complaining to the principal.

    Did you ever actually study evolution in a school? From reading your writings, I’m betting that if you ever did, it was along the lines of my “evolution education”: it only lasted an hour or two and the instructor didn’t go very deep into the theory.

  25. mad doc @ 23:”RDK

    “Your childish smear tactics automatically make me not want to hear anything remotely useful you might have to say.

    That being said, would you kindly share with us….”

    This statement speaks for itself.”

    Shameless atheist! Listening to what people say, even when he KNOWS they’re wrong!

  26. Gil: “At that point my atheistic faith was totally destroyed by the evidence and simple mathematics about probabilities and combinatorics that I learned when I was a sub-teenager.”

    Thanks for sharing your story. What happened next though. I believe you are now a Christian? Did you look into other world religions? To me there always seems a disconnect between a Designer who essentially has hidden the mechanisms of design and the Christian God who deliberately and purposefully communicates to the world, and has even described how the world was made. Why be a Christian when perhaps being a Deist is more congruent with ID? I”ve asked this before but never had a satisfactory answer.

  27. Gaz: “So come on Gil, stump up, this is your chance. It’s only “sub-teenager” stuff after all, so we should be able to handle it.”

    I’m interested too, because if my guess is right (that Gil must be in his forties/fifties)calculations are right, Gil’s sub-teenager years must pre-date all of the work of Dr. Dembski. What sources did Gil use?

  28. 28

    JTaylor

    Why be a Christian when perhaps being a Deist is more congruent with ID?

    The reason I’m a Christian instead of a Deist is because I believe human beings have free will. A Deist says that God basically does not act in the world and never has except to create it. I believe God sent his Son into the world to die for our sins, and furthermore I believe that when we submit our will to him, he acts in our lives. Submitting our free will to God allows God to live in us and act through us. As for the natural world, I believe God has done miracles but only in special situations. In general he acts through the free will freely submitted to him by those who believe. So God acts in the world and in my life every day without affecting the course of natural laws. A Deist does not believe that.

  29. 29

    Actually, it would be much simpler to say I’m a Christian because I believe in Christ. lol. It’s all in the name. A Deist believes in a Deity and not much else.

  30. The reason I’m a Christian instead of a Deist is because I believe human beings have free will.

    If that’s the only true reason you’re a Christian, then that’s a silly reason for you to be one.

    Free will is, for all intents and purposes, an illusion. Try defining for yourself what free will even means. Just think about it for a minute. What is “free will”?

    The idea that we have wants? Yes, people want things. But for your will to be “free” instead of merely a deterministic cause-and-effect process? What does it mean for your will to be “free”? That you don’t follow your will sometimes? I suppose if you wanted to frustrate yourself. But then again you’d only make that decision because you wanted to frustrate yourself, and because the desire to do so was stronger than some other desire that might have taken precedence.

    As individual organisms we react to the environment. As the environment changes, so does the individual’s concept of the “right thing”. The environment is dictating your input – perception is the key and it can be manipulated. It is a combination of pressures, some internal and some external, that collectively dictate our pathway through life.

    That’s why free will is bunk. Our personality – our will, or essence – is not free. If anything, it’s steady and solid. Humans are creatures of habit; it’s patterns in behavior that make us who we are, not some sort of quasi-religious entity called a “soul” hanging off in some other dimension.

  31. 31

    RDK,

    ——”If that’s the only true reason you’re a Christian, then that’s a silly reason for you to be one. Free will is, for all intents and purposes, an illusion. Try defining for yourself what free will even means. Just think about it for a minute. What is “free will”?”

    Silly why? I guess on your premises he couldn’t help himself, he had no free will in the matter.

  32. Silly why? I guess on your premises he couldn’t help himself, he had no free will in the matter.

    Whether or not he had free will in the matter doesn’t change the fact that it was a silly decision.

    Decisions can be made without notions of “free will”, which thus far has yet to be defined by its proponents. Could you give me a coherent definition of the concept of “free will”?

  33. 33

    RDK,

    ——”Whether or not he had free will in the matter doesn’t change the fact that it was a silly decision. Decisions can be made without notions of “free will”, which thus far has yet to be defined by its proponents. Could you give me a coherent definition of the concept of “free will”?”

    I guess he had no free choice in the decision, so I guess I had no choice in submitting that response, and you had no choice in not understanding.

  34. Hi Clive,

    Those are decisions, driven by your will. He had a desire to choose Christianity over deism, so he did. You had a desire to post a response on this website, so you did. What is “free” about any of this?

    It is merely a battling of many different desires, or “wants” inside the brain. If one desire is stronger, it wins out. And these desires are in part reactions to the environment.

    Let’s use a simple analogy. I tie up my dog Rex in the yard outside to a leash. A lady dog happens to walk by, and Rex gets a whiff of her; she just so happens to be in heat. This brings about certain extremely intense desires in Rex that he will try extremely hard to satisfy. Rex rushed towards the source of the smell, but is unfortunately thwarted by the leash he is tied to. Poor Rex.

    Obviously this demonstrates that some sort of will is in effect – but is it “free” will? How do humans have anything that transcends Rex’s dog-like yearnings?

    We have intense yearnings too (whether sexual or in some other area of life), and when they are satisfied we achieve happiness. When they are not satisfied, we are forlorn, like Rex in the above example.

    Again – what on earth does “free” will mean? What does it mean for your will to be free?

  35. JTaylor (27),

    “I’m interested too, because if my guess is right (that Gil must be in his forties/fifties)calculations are right, Gil’s sub-teenager years must pre-date all of the work of Dr. Dembski. What sources did Gil use?”

    Yes, I think you are right. But you know, I get the feeling Gil isn’t going to be very forthcoming….

  36. 36

    RDK,

    ——”It is merely a battling of many different desires, or “wants” inside the brain. If one desire is stronger, it wins out. And these desires are in part reactions to the environment.”

    I reckon you couldn’t help believing this way, this desire is strongest in your brain….if only your other desires had mustered up more strength…I guess might makes right.

  37. RDK says:

    Free will is, for all intents and purposes, an illusion. Try defining for yourself what free will even means. Just think about it for a minute. What is “free will”?

    Given that you were absolutely bound and determined to make that utterance by the causal history of the universe, it became evident that it was not necessary to read the rest of your post. After all, with no free will, and due to strict physical determinism, it cannot have been caused by a process of reasoning from premises to conclusions. If I am constrained to have to observe the mere outworking of physics and causal histories, it is preferable to me to watch the rustling of the leaves outside my window, rather than the rustlings of the text following your assertion. Besides, I think the rustlings of Gil Dodgen’s and other IDist texts are much more soothing than yours.

    But then I am absolutely constrained to do so, lacking free will and all. I just can’t help it. Others here might find resonance between their neural rustlings and your textual rustlings, but not me. Perhaps if the Big Bang had occurred a few Planck durations sooner or later, it might be an entirely different story. But, you know, all we can do is work with what we’ve been given.

  38. I reckon you couldn’t help believing this way, this desire is strongest in your brain….if only your other desires had mustered up more strength…I guess might makes right.

    When did I ever mention the moral implications of no free will in my post? There you go again Clive. Always looking into things that aren’t there.

    Which desire that happens to win out has nothing to do with what is ethically right. I have no idea where you’re getting this from.

    Oh, and I’m still waiting for those maths Mr. Dodgen.

  39. Given that you were absolutely bound and determined to make that utterance by the causal history of the universe, it became evident that it was not necessary to read the rest of your post. After all, with no free will, and due to strict physical determinism, it cannot have been caused by a process of reasoning from premises to conclusions.

    So the brain’s ability to reason and conclude is refuted by the fact that instead of free will, our actions are determined causally? Right. That makes perfect sense.

    Besides, I think the rustlings of Gil Dodgen’s and other IDist texts are much more soothing than yours.

    Forgive me for not wasting your time by telling you what you want to hear. Meaning ridiculous notions of some floating quasi-religious entity housed inside each and every one of our brains.

    Mr. Hayden. Do you believe chimps have free will? What about dogs?

  40. “Oh, and I’m still waiting for those maths Mr. Dodgen.”

    So am I, RDK……

  41. “Forgive me for not wasting your time by telling you what you want to hear. Meaning ridiculous notions of some floating quasi-religious entity housed inside each and every one of our brains.”

    Again, you had to say that, so there is nothing to forgive. Why, then, would you ask for forgiveness? Surpassing strange.

  42. Again, you had to say that, so there is nothing to forgive. Why, then, would you ask for forgiveness? Surpassing strange.

    Glad we understand each other! ;)

  43. “So the brain’s ability to reason and conclude is refuted by the fact that instead of free will, our actions are determined causally? Right. That makes perfect sense.”

    Hmmmm. If the brain is perfectly capable of carrying out purely physical computational operations in order to “reason” and “conclude”, then why, oh why, does it even bother to be conscious at all? No other physical computer needs consciousness to get the job done, so why would the brain? If a “floating quasi-religious entity housed inside each and every one of our brains” can’t really add a damned thing to any outcome, then why aren’t we merely unconscious meat robots? Why hasn’t Occam swung his magic razor in this case?

    Moreover, since what goes on in the subjectivity of any such “”floating quasi-religious entity housed inside each and every one of our brains” is wholly irrelevant as a cause to behavior (since computational physics gets the entire job done quite nicely, thank you), then how in the world could natural selection mold this wholly irrelevant subjectivity in such a way that it bears the slightest relation to reality? After all, since it can have no real causative effect, it simply doesn’t matter whether or not it bears such a relation, or indeed, exists at all.

    Feel free to give me your best answer.

  44. Hmmmm. If the brain is perfectly capable of carrying out purely physical computational operations in order to “reason” and “conclude”, then why, oh why, does it even bother to be conscious at all?

    You’re conflating free will with consciousness. Consciousness is a result of our ability to perceive ourselves, much like what some dogs (and chimps) can do; a “loop” if you will. Again – what part of consciousness makes our will “free”? I’ve asked the question a handful of times and nobody’s risked an answer to it.

    No other physical computer needs consciousness to get the job done, so why would the brain?

    Really now? So you’re purporting that the laptop or desktop you’re using right now can perform all the necessary functions to type on this message board without human input?

    But even that’s beside the case. Consciousness is an emergent property of sufficiently sophisticated perception systems; it’s not an add-on feature. You wouldn’t say mosquitoes, or any other lower life form, are conscious, would you?

    What about dogs? Chimps?

    Moreover, since what goes on in the subjectivity of any such “”floating quasi-religious entity housed inside each and every one of our brains” is wholly irrelevant as a cause to behavior (since computational physics gets the entire job done quite nicely, thank you), then how in the world could natural selection mold this wholly irrelevant subjectivity in such a way that it bears the slightest relation to reality? After all, since it can have no real causative effect, it simply doesn’t matter whether or not it bears such a relation, or indeed, exists at all.

    Read my answer to your question above. Consciousness is an emergent property of sufficiently complicated, sophisticated brain systems. Although I have to say I’m not catching the gist of this particular question. You’re asking me to explain the cause and effect of something that A) doesn’t partake in cause and effect, and B) doesn’t exist.

    Anyone care to answer my questions about free will? It’s very telling for the creationist side when my questions are met with more questions.

  45. “Consciousness is an emergent property…”

    In other word, everything is going along swimmingly, just running fine on pure physics, and then *poof*, emergence occurs? And a consciousness that can’t *really* steer anything just kind of pops into existence to enjoy the ride?

    And I thought materialists didn’t believe in magic.

    “Really now? So you’re purporting that the laptop or desktop you’re using right now can perform all the necessary functions to type on this message board without human input?”

    Very interesting you should say this, because you yourself are purporting that the brain can perform all of its functions without a “floating quasi-religious entity”. So which is it? Is the lack of input from something outside the computer a problem, or is it not?

    Do computers need a Programmer and an Operator or don’t they?

    Obviously we can choose to go back and forth on this endlessly, but I don’t think anyone of intellectual distinction would choose to decide one way or another based on blog comments. Might I suggest to you the choice of reading Miracles by C.S. Lewis and Philosophy of Mind by Edward Feser? Should you choose to do so, I think you might find them fascinating.

    It is possible that you might then choose to view the idea of “emergence” as a bit more problematical than you currently do. That’s the choice I made. But it’s up to you!

  46. 46

    I read Lewis’s Miracles about 25 years ago, and I don’t recall it dealing with emergence (which in any event wasn’t really an issue when the book was published). Can you remind me of what it says about emergent properties?

  47. “You’re conflating free will with consciousness.”

    Free will presupposes consciousness. If your schema cannot give a sufficient reason for consciousness, then the free will question becomes moot.

  48. David,

    It’s been a while since I looked at it, but in dealing with the idea of consciousness somehow being physically caused by arrangements of matter, “emergence” is effectively also dealt with. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lewis never referred directly to the term itself…

  49. In other word, everything is going along swimmingly, just running fine on pure physics, and then *poof*, emergence occurs? And a consciousness that can’t *really* steer anything just kind of pops into existence to enjoy the ride?

    And I thought materialists didn’t believe in magic.

    Once again; consciousness is not free will. Free will may suppose consciousness, but I’m not arguing for free will, so I don’t know why you keep asking me to. All I’m asking is to imagine a world without the notion of “free” will – a world very much like our own.

    Very interesting you should say this, because you yourself are purporting that the brain can perform all of its functions without a “floating quasi-religious entity”. So which is it? Is the lack of input from something outside the computer a problem, or is it not?

    Do computers need a Programmer and an Operator or don’t they?

    The human brain is not like a desktop computer. Not even close.

    Obviously we can choose to go back and forth on this endlessly, but I don’t think anyone of intellectual distinction would choose to decide one way or another based on blog comments. Might I suggest to you the choice of reading Miracles by C.S. Lewis and Philosophy of Mind by Edward Feser? Should you choose to do so, I think you might find them fascinating.

    It is possible that you might then choose to view the idea of “emergence” as a bit more problematical than you currently do. That’s the choice I made. But it’s up to you!

    Thank you for the suggestion; I’ll have to pick up Philosophy of the Mind, but I’m afraid I’ve already read most of C.S. Lewis’s works, and I’m not much of a Lewis fan to say the least. Most of my mind studies background comes from Dennett and Hofstadter.

    Free will presupposes consciousness. If your schema cannot give a sufficient reason for consciousness, then the free will question becomes moot.

    The emergence of consciousness comes about from the brain’s ability (once it becomes sophisticated enough) to loop back and perceive itself, very much like how some dogs and modern chimps are able to do.

  50. “The emergence of consciousness comes about from the brain’s ability (once it becomes sophisticated enough) to loop back and perceive itself, very much like how some dogs and modern chimps are able to do.”

    Again, magic.

    Look, I can certainly believe that the loopback and “self perception” is important to how the unconscious physical computational system operates, perhaps allowing it to do what it couldn’t do before, but there is still a radical disconnect. What am I doing in the middle of such a looped back physical computational system, what are you doing in the middle of one, what is anyone doing in the middle of one? Feedback can do some neat stuff, but last I checked, when you aim a video camera at its own monitor screen, no elves pop into existence. And I can certainly turn up my guitar amp to give me infinite sustain due to feedback, but I never saw Jimi Hendrix pop into existence via such a process.

    Feedback may well be necessary to give a mindless robot some higher level functional behavior, but if you’re asserting that it can put a genie into an empty bottle, well, I think you’re going to have to show your work on that one.

  51. 51

    RDK,

    ——”When did I ever mention the moral implications of no free will in my post? There you go again Clive. Always looking into things that aren’t there. Which desire that happens to win out has nothing to do with what is ethically right. I have no idea where you’re getting this from.”

    “Right” as in correct.

  52. 52

    RDK,

    ——”Mr. Hayden. Do you believe chimps have free will? What about dogs?”

    Yes. The only living thing that doesn’t have free will is a “freethinker” such as yourself :)

  53. 53

    RDK,

    ——”Thank you for the suggestion; I’ll have to pick up Philosophy of the Mind, but I’m afraid I’ve already read most of C.S. Lewis’s works, and I’m not much of a Lewis fan to say the least. Most of my mind studies background comes from Dennett and Hofstadter.”

    What have you read from Lewis? Just curious.

  54. “Free will may suppose consciousness, but I’m not arguing for free will, so I don’t know why you keep asking me to.”

    I would never ask anyone to argue for free will. It is unnecessary. Free will is data. However, what you purport to do is explain the non-existence of something that self-evidently exists. As such you’d need to explain free will as an illusion somehow generated by material arrangements. Now I’m just trying to make it easier on you. You don’t even have to explain the illusion of free will, but only something more simple and foundational, namely how it is that arrangements of matter give rise to someone to have the illusion.

    So far, what we seem to have is:

    (1) Feedback loops in a physical computation system.

    (2) ?

    (3) Voila!

  55. That being said, would you kindly share with us these revelation-bearing simple mathematics about probabilities and combinatorics? If it convinced you, I’m sure it would do a number on the rest of us.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....selection/

  56. Hi Clive,

    What have you read from Lewis? Just curious.

    I read Mere Christianity and Miracles all the way through, and dabbled in some of The Problem of Pain. Not counting the Chronicles of Narnia books I read as a child.

    Yes. The only living thing that doesn’t have free will is a “freethinker” such as yourself :)

    I guess my high school biology teacher wasn’t kidding when he said I was a robot!

    Hi Matteo,

    I would never ask anyone to argue for free will. It is unnecessary. Free will is data. However, what you purport to do is explain the non-existence of something that self-evidently exists. As such you’d need to explain free will as an illusion somehow generated by material arrangements. Now I’m just trying to make it easier on you. You don’t even have to explain the illusion of free will, but only something more simple and foundational, namely how it is that arrangements of matter give rise to someone to have the illusion.

    What exactly is self-evident about it? Is it self-evident in the same way that the sun revolving around the earth was self-evident to the church hundreds of years ago?

    In reality, free will is simply a way of speaking that we have adopted because it is useful for us to do so. It doesn’t follow that we actually have some sort of “free” will (which as of yet still requires a coherent defintion). Rather, it seems that we are pre-disposed to certain types of habits and behaviours that emerge from the interaction of the environment in which we live. Organism + Experience = predisposition to act. A prime example is personality types. No doubt you can guess how certain friends of yours are going to act before the actual event, knowingly saying to others: “Oh, that’s just Phil,” or “Well, that’s Bob for you!”

    Obviously my explanation isn’t good enough for you. Seeing as how trying to prove that something doesn’t exist (whether or not it is “self-evident” to certain parties) is nigh impossible, instead maybe you should make a compelling case for why you believe the concept of “free will” is a scientifically valid one. You still have yet to properly define the term we’re using, and I’d really like to see a detailed argument for the seemingly physical existence of something that isn’t physical. Or are you saying that it really isn’t physical? Because in that case it can’t be tested.

    In any case, your position is unclear.

  57. “Or are you saying that it really isn’t physical? Because in that case it can’t be tested.”

    Yeah. It’s non-physical and it can’t be tested. So what? It’s that thing we use to choose to do scientific testing with in the first place. It’s that thing that is a basic part of our makeup that allows us to freely theorize scientifically. It does not need to justify itself via scientific argument because it is the basis of scientific argument.

    Your supposition that everything important needs to have a physical explanation is something that you have chosen freely. The fact that you have gotten yourself into a philosophical/methodological thicket over the issue is not relevant to whether or not free will is data.

    I mean come on, are you engaging in this conversation because you want to, or because you are robotically compelled to? Do you have some burning need to demote your own freedom in such a way?

    I have no idea whether you are in this category, but it’s the strangest thing: on the one hand, atheists want to defeat the idea of God so they can be free to do whatever they want without worrying about divine judgment, but then they turn around and assert that they don’t believe in free will anyway.

    Again, surpassing strange.

  58. To clarify with a rewording of the penultimate paragraph of my last post:

    “I have no idea whether you are in this category, but it’s the strangest thing: on the one hand, atheists want to defeat the idea of God or spirit (I mean where else could our free will come from) so they can be free to do whatever they want without worrying about divine judgment, but then they turn around and assert that they don’t believe in free will anyway. They want to be free, while asserting that there is no such thing as free.

  59. Just to preempt a fairly obvious retort that I’m trying to stop science with a “God’s the explanation” statement. It’s much simpler than that: if a sound philosophical argument can be made that explaining mind or the “illusion” of free will via the functioning of special arrangements of matter wholly determined by physical causation just cannot get you from A to B, well then them’s the breaks. That’s just the way it is. Science is thereby freed not to waste its time on the impossible, just as its freed from searching for perpetual motion, or just how the sun goes around the earth, or what is the right way to turn lead into gold via common household chemicals. It’s not a loss for science, it’s a gain.

  60. For what it’s worth, I wasn’t going to reply with the “science stopper” argument because there’s no point in arguing about a deity, Judeo-Christian Yahweh or othewise, until you overcome the hurdle of free will. And just like clockwork, there you go again, completely ignoring the bulk of my post. What a wonderful real-life analogy for my “humans are creatures of habit” rant! Let’s try again.

    Obviously my explanation isn’t good enough for you. Seeing as how trying to prove that something doesn’t exist (whether or not it is “self-evident” to certain parties) is nigh impossible, instead maybe you should make a compelling case for why you believe the concept of “free will” is a scientifically valid one. You still have yet to properly define the term we’re using, and I’d really like to see a detailed argument for the seemingly physical existence of something that isn’t physical. Or are you saying that it really isn’t physical? Because in that case it can’t be tested.

    In any case, your position is unclear.

    I’d really like to know your position before I go about “attacking” it. All I’m really asking for is a coherent definition of “free will”, because I have the suspicion that in reality we essentially have similar views (minus the Yahweh thing), and semantics are getting in the way.

  61. Gil: “At that point my atheistic faith was totally destroyed by the evidence and simple mathematics about probabilities and combinatorics that I learned when I was a sub-teenager.”

    Thanks for sharing your story. What happened next though. I believe you are now a Christian?

    Correct.

    Did you look into other world religions?

    Yes.

    Why be a Christian when perhaps being a Deist is more congruent with ID?

    Because the Judeo-Christian depiction of the human condition comports precisely with what I observe, in others, in history, and, most importantly, in myself: made in God’s image but in a fallen state, from which we are incapable of rescuing ourselves in our own strength. Thus, each individual human heart must be transformed.

    All attempts at creating utopia throughout history have produced the exact opposite, because they deny the need for a regenerate human heart. This cannot be imposed or mandated from without, whether through laws, sanctions, or coercion.

    The cross of Christ — the hideously barbaric and unjust murder of the best man who ever lived — is a basic and revelatory test of the human heart. Some people care, and some people don’t.

    I care.

    Furthermore, Judeo-Christian civilization has ultimately produced more freedom, more prosperity, more justice (especially for women), and more innovative science than any other.

    I tend to judge worldviews and religions by their fruits, because that, in my experience, is the best indicator of their truthfulness.

    There was a fellow who once suggested this metric, and I think He knew what He was talking about.

  62. I do hope we’re talking about the same religion Mr. Dodgen. Judeo-Christian principles were certainly not female-friendly:

    “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

    So men are to women what Christ is to men? Interesting.

    “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35)

    Ouch.

    “A shameless woman shall be counted as a dog; but she that is shamefaced will fear the Lord.” (Eccles.26:25)

    “For from garments cometh a moth, and from women wickedness. Better is the churlishness of a man than a courteous woman, a woman, I say, which bringeth shame and reproach.” (Eccles. 42:13-14)

    “Give me any plague, but the plague of the heart: and any wickedness, but the wickedness of a woman.” (Eccles. 25:13)

    Obviously I could go on and on. It should be pretty evident to all parties that religions dreamt up in male-dominated cultures inevitably preach male domination.

  63. I’m talking about modern Judeo-Christian culture, and what has ultimately been produced over the centuries as a result of this worldview. Are you unfamiliar with the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery in the Gospels?

    Why, in our modern, male-dominated, oppressive Judeo-Christian culture, are there more women in college than men?

    I suppose you would prefer certain other modern cultures, where girls and young women are still murdered with impunity by male family members for the sin of being raped, or for dating non-believers.

  64. I’m talking about modern Judeo-Christian culture, and what has ultimately been produced over the centuries as a result of this worldview.

    But isn’t the Bible for all time? If it isn’t, why all the modern applications?

    And if it is, then why is the Bible so damning towards women? Even your example of Mary Magdeline is a bad one. Her thanks to Jesus was coming back to wash his feet with her hair! What could be more degrading?

    And I’m not shielding Islam from criticism (if you are indeed referring to Islam in the above post). The treatment of women in Islamic countries is barbaric and awful. But to say that Judeo-Christian principles have been the paragon of ethical female treatment is deluded at best. It is a certain interpretation of scripture that has allowed for proper treatment of women as equals. In the very same way, someone could interpret scripture to be damning toward women, as I just did above.

    Perhaps it would be best if we all returned to the good-old 1950′s lifestyle, where housewives were expected to do nothing but cook, clean, and keep the kids full and quiet:

    http://img205.imageshack.us/im.....de1955.jpg

    And yes, that’s a real article. Housekeeping Monthly, May 13, 1955.

  65. “I’d really like to know your position before I go about “attacking” it. All I’m really asking for is a coherent definition of “free will”, because I have the suspicion that in reality we essentially have similar views (minus the Yahweh thing), and semantics are getting in the way.”

    Perhaps so, but what I really don’t understand is why I should need to provide a coherent definition of free will, any more than I should be able to provide an exact description of, say, the color yellow to a blind person. Free will is free will. Yellow is yellow. Can you defend the position that “free will” is a thing that requires analysis?

    It’s as bloody obvious to me that I have it as that the color yellow looks like yellow. It’s that thing I use when I decide something is worth analysing, that thing I use to judge and make distinctions with, that thing that commands the various faculties of my intellect to assist me in figuring things out. In short, it’s the thing doin’ the analysin’, not the thing to be analysed.

    This is all classical metaphysical stuff.

    Again, you seem to have gotten yourself into some sort of scientistic thicket. You have willfully boxed yourself with reason into such a position that you don’t even believe in the thing that commands your reason. You have somehow gotten yourself into a situation of self-refutation. This is a sure sign that you need to retrace your steps.

    Science is supposed to explain the basic things of experience, not explain them away. There are some things it can handle, and some it can’t. But for science to claim that that which it is not competent to explain, simply doesn’t exist, is an indication that it’s gotten a little too big for its britches. Now, why do you want to be such close friends with such a “pompous blowhard” as “science” beyond the competence of real science? True science is groovy, true philosophy is groovy, true theology is groovy. Don’t you want to make some other friends, you know, for some intellectual variety? Can you prove scientifically that science is the complete route to all true knowledge? I mean, heck, Godel proved that no finite mathematical system is the route to all true mathematical knowledge. Why not branch out a little?

    RDK, with all fancy scientistic wrappings put aside, are you a man, or are you a robot? Or just a man who has willfully convinced himself that he is a robot?

  66. RDK,

    And yes, that’s a real article. Housekeeping Monthly, May 13, 1955.

    That’s an interesting and frankly rather shocking article. But what does it haev to do with Judeo-Christianity? And can you imagine a ‘good wife’s guide” written by a prominent materilaistic athiest such as Pol Pot? Do you really think that women fared better under his rule?

  67. RDK,

    Please disregard the questions about Pol Pot, which in retrospect, are inappropriate. My apologies.

  68. Gil Dodgen wrote:

    The cross of Christ — the hideously barbaric and unjust murder of the best man who ever lived — is a basic and revelatory test of the human heart. Some people care, and some people don’t.

    I care.

    Gil,

    You might want to ask yourself a couple of questions:

    1. When Jesus prayed “Take this cup from me, if it be thy will,” who was it who insisted that no, he had to be murdered in hideous and barbaric fashion, like it or not?

    2. Who was it who refused to show mercy and forgive the sins of mankind until his own son suffered a hideous and bloody death first?

  69. RDK @ #30 -
    As individual organisms we react to the environment. As the environment changes, so does the individual’s concept of the “right thing”.

    The environment is dictating your input – perception is the key and it can be manipulated. It is a combination of pressures, some internal and some external, that collectively dictate our pathway through life.

    I respectfully disagree. Think about this: Do you appreciate having the freedom to choose what you will do and say, what you will eat and wear, what kind of work you will do, and where and how you will live? Or would you want someone to dictate your every word and action every moment of your life? No normal person wants his life taken out of his control so completely.

    God gave us the ability to think, weigh matters, make decisions, and know right from wrong. (Hebrews 5:14) Thus, free will was to be based on intelligent choice. We were not made like mindless robots having no will of their own. Nor were we created to act out of instinct as were the animals.

    Instead, our marvelous brain was designed to work in harmony with our freedom of choice.

    However, did God purpose for free will to be without limits? Imagine a busy city without any traffic laws, where everybody could drive in any direction at any speed. Would you want to drive under those conditions? No, that would be traffic anarchy and would surely result in many accidents.

    So too with God’s gift of free will. Unlimited freedom would mean anarchy in society. There have to be laws to guide human activities. God’s Word says: “Behave like free men, and never use your freedom as an excuse for wickedness.” (1 Peter 2:16, JB) God wants free will to be regulated for the common good. He purposed for us to have, not total freedom, but relative freedom, subject to the rule of law.

    At the same time, God’s laws allow for great freedom of choice within their boundaries. This results in variety and makes the human family fascinating. Think of the different types of food, clothing, music, art, and homes throughout the world. We surely prefer to have our choice in such matters rather than have some other person decide for us.

    That’s why free will is bunk. Our personality – our will, or essence – is not free. If anything, it’s steady and solid. Humans are creatures of habit; it’s patterns in behavior that make us who we are, not some sort of quasi-religious entity called a “soul” hanging off in some other dimension.

    And patterns of behavior can be broken: just ask someone who’s been through a 12-step program like AA. It is similar to being subject to God’s physical laws. For instance, if we ignore the law of gravity and jump off a high place, we will be injured or killed. If we ignore the internal laws of our body and stop eating food, drinking water, or breathing air, we will die.

  70. GilDodgen (55),

    “That being said, would you kindly share with us these revelation-bearing simple mathematics about probabilities and combinatorics? If it convinced you, I’m sure it would do a number on the rest of us.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com…..selection/”

    Gil, are you sure you gave the right link? That just seems to lead to a rather dull and wordy thread. Can’t you just put your sub-teenager math and probabilities up for us to see here?

    Grateful for a quick reply, we’ve been waiting with bated breath for some time now.

  71. 71

    Gaz,

    ——”Grateful for a quick reply, we’ve been waiting with bated breath for some time now.”

    Drop the disdainful rhetoric or I will put you in moderation.

  72. That link Gil posted seemed pretty convincing to me. In it, he considers the probability of arriving at the “Hello World” program by random mutation and natural selection, and concludes that it is astronomically small. However, the chance of complex life evolving is far, far less likely. Does anything more need to be said?

  73. 73

    “Does anything more need to be said?” Sure. Like how the analogy fails in multiple ways. One could evolve the “Hello World” code by a program analogous to Weasel, but ID proponents have misunderstood that program for as long as it’s been around. Here’s another variant of the ID win/win:

    1) If “Hello world” can’t evolve / life can’t be evolved / therefore ID.

    2) If “Hello world” can evolve / computers aren’t like life / therefore ID.

    Again, ID wins, every time.

  74. on the topic of something causing the loss of faith, for me witnessing alzeimers got it started. (losing faith is a long process, especially if you were born into a faith that you later leave, so I could list about 100 other influential factors, none of them dealing with evolution)

    Evolution was always accepted in my christian family and I remember other christians telling me that evolution means there is no God, (they were usually bible literealists)but that did nothing to persuade me.

  75. Hey Herb,

    RDK,

    Please disregard the questions about Pol Pot, which in retrospect, are inappropriate. My apologies.

    No offense taken! :)

    Hi Barb,

    I respectfully disagree. Think about this: Do you appreciate having the freedom to choose what you will do and say, what you will eat and wear, what kind of work you will do, and where and how you will live? Or would you want someone to dictate your every word and action every moment of your life? No normal person wants his life taken out of his control so completely.

    Of course not. But if we look closer at the words you used to compile that paragraph, you are assuming two things – the existence of a free will, and the existence of a “you”. Can you explain in sufficient detail either of these phenomena? Perhaps then we’ll get somewhere.

    What do you mean by “you”, or “I”? Is it your personality? Your identity? Your essence?

    God gave us the ability to think, weigh matters, make decisions, and know right from wrong. (Hebrews 5:14) Thus, free will was to be based on intelligent choice. We were not made like mindless robots having no will of their own. Nor were we created to act out of instinct as were the animals.

    But we do act out of instinct! We aren’t influenced as much by it as, say, dogs, but we do have some. Motherly intuition? Strong feelings of familial ties? Brotherly love? Classic case of nature vs. nurture.

    And I do agree that humans, just like any other half-sentient animal, has the ability to weigh decisions rationally. The point I’m trying to make is that the idea that our will is somehow “free” from experience, patterns, and presuppositional bias is superstitious at best. I’ll ask one more time, since no on has been able to give me a straight answer – what does it mean for your will to be “free”?

    P.S: and your point about Yahweh giving us morality is moot. People who grow up in different cultures have different moral codes than you. Or what about people with no conscience at all? How do you explain them?

    However, did God purpose for free will to be without limits? Imagine a busy city without any traffic laws, where everybody could drive in any direction at any speed. Would you want to drive under those conditions? No, that would be traffic anarchy and would surely result in many accidents.

    This has nothing to do with free will. That’s government.

    So too with God’s gift of free will. Unlimited freedom would mean anarchy in society. There have to be laws to guide human activities. God’s Word says: “Behave like free men, and never use your freedom as an excuse for wickedness.” (1 Peter 2:16, JB) God wants free will to be regulated for the common good. He purposed for us to have, not total freedom, but relative freedom, subject to the rule of law.

    So Yahweh wanted us to be free, but not too free?

    At the same time, God’s laws allow for great freedom of choice within their boundaries. This results in variety and makes the human family fascinating. Think of the different types of food, clothing, music, art, and homes throughout the world. We surely prefer to have our choice in such matters rather than have some other person decide for us.

    Again, all of this can exist nicely within the realm of rational decision-making. I would like to know why people continue to live under the illusion that for some reason our will is “free”.

    Yes. People have wants. And we may have several conflicting wants, desires, or “wills” (what have you) at the same time. Obviously, we can pick and choose which will we want to satisfy. But then again, acting on that decision is a desire in and of itself. We chose to satisfy that desire because that was our will. What is so “free” about this process?

    And patterns of behavior can be broken: just ask someone who’s been through a 12-step program like AA. It is similar to being subject to God’s physical laws. For instance, if we ignore the law of gravity and jump off a high place, we will be injured or killed. If we ignore the internal laws of our body and stop eating food, drinking water, or breathing air, we will die.

    I’m not sure what the second part (concerning physical laws) has to do with it. But I agree with you in saying that patterns can be broken. But the decisions we make currently – in the present – are influenced by decisions and experiences we’ve made and had in the past. If our habits and patterns could not be broken, then you would be right in saying that we are robots.

  76. One could evolve the “Hello World” code by a program analogous to Weasel…

    Sure one could. Just load the program in advance with the following text string:

    #include <stdio.h>
    int main(void)
    {
    printf(”Hello World!\n”);
    return(0);
    }

    And then have the program randomly generate text characters, look up the preloaded text string, and when you get a match in a particular location, preserve that text character in that location in the preloaded text string and preclude it from any other random influence.

    The only problem with the Weasel program is that it is just an inefficient way of reproducing what was included at the outset by the programmer.

    This is not obvious?

  77. Hi Gil,

    History is abound with perfectly intelligent people making very well thought out logical arguments and predictions on paper… only to be proven miserably wrong by evidence.

    The main problem isn’t even the specific “Hello World” analogy. You’re attempting to compare a math equation to a biological entity. Even worse, you’re assuming a priori that some sort of design is present.

    When you’re talking about trivial logic puzzles or math equations, then sure – a priori reasoning is fine. But it’s of little use to science.

    A scientific theory cannot evade empirical evidence, and it must wield predictive power. I don’t see ID as passing either one of those criteria.

  78. Hi Gil,

    And then have the program randomly generate text characters, look up the preloaded text string, and when you get a match in a particular location, preserve that text character in that location in the preloaded text string and preclude it from any other random influence.

    Just a minor question on the part I’ve bolded above—does the “weasel” program actually preserve correct letters, or can they still mutate?

  79. History is abound (sic) with perfectly intelligent people making very well thought out logical arguments and predictions on paper… only to be proven miserably wrong by evidence.

    You’ve just encapsulated the phenomenon of miserably wrong predictions concerning the creative power of Darwinian mechanisms in a nutshell. (Encapsulation in a nutshell is a doubly effective.) Thank you. Read Behe’s Edge.

    Just a minor question on the part I’ve bolded above—does the “weasel” program actually preserve correct letters, or can they still mutate?

    The letters are preserved once a match is made at a particular location in the preloaded text string, and are not permitted to be changed from that point forward.

    Of course, you can see what a joke this is. Why not just print out the preloaded text string when the program launches and save all the effort of recreating, in a highly inefficient manner, what is already there?

    This kind of thing makes me want to jump off a cliff in desperation over the lack of basic logic consistently displayed among devout Darwinists.

  80. 80

    The letters are preserved once a match is made at a particular location in the preloaded text string, and are not permitted to be changed from that point forward.

    Nope. You still don’t get Weasel.

  81. Mr Dodgen,

    That understanding of how Weasel worked has been thoroughly discredited here on UD, in ana rgument spanning at lest three threads earlier this year, and many virtual trees killed to print the argumetns for perhaps maybe quasi-latching as a fallback position that I meant all the time.

    Not that this is particularly compelling. As John Koza, Computer Science professor at Standford, has shown in Genetic Programming, vols 1-4, it is quite easy to create programms by evolutionary processes that do many more complicated things than Weasel or Hello, World.

  82. Gil,

    The letters are preserved once a match is made at a particular location in the preloaded text string, and are not permitted to be changed from that point forward.

    Thanks for the clarification. I agree with you, by the way, about the absurdity of the “weasel” program. I have no idea what Dawkin’s goal was when he wrote it, quite frankly, but it’s surprising to see Darwinists still pushing it as an example of “evolution”. Why don’t they just move on already?

  83. Mr Herb,

    i think you have the cause and effect relationship backwards on Weasel. If it weren’t for being bashed so regularly, it would have fallen into its deserved obscurity.

  84. Hi Gil,

    You’ve just encapsulated the phenomenon of miserably wrong predictions concerning the creative power of Darwinian mechanisms in a nutshell. (Encapsulation in a nutshell is a doubly effective.) Thank you. Read Behe’s Edge.

    I don’t think I would be wrong to ask for a few examples of the miserably wrong predictions that Darwinian mechanisms make, would I? Or maybe I am. Can’t tell.

    In any case, Behe’s Edge of Evolution is ABUNDANT (is that better?) which a plethora of erroneous analogies and comparative mathematical equations, much like the one you just gave.

    There are reasons biologists don’t compare organisms and organic systems to computers, machines, and lines of code Mr. Dodgen – simply because organisms and organic systems are not a line of code any more than a bowl of cereal is a line of code. Using mathematical equations to describe something that is in no way analogous to the structure or build of said equation is obfuscatory and misleading, and purposefully so. But I doubt you would admit it.

    If we absolutely had to run with the silly ID camp’s analogy game, I’ll give you a much more fruitful analogy – although in the end, it is (alas) still an analogy, and analogies only carry so much illustrative power:

    A billion-pair genome is more like a giant hard drive to which every organism that has ever run the program has write privileges.

    It’s full of thousands copies of small files, multiple revisions of common programs, some programs in beta, some everyday workhorses, and some plenty of archival junk, broken code that hasn’t run in eons.

    Although new copies and revisions are constantly created all the time, nobody ever stops to clean out all the junk or defrag the thing.

    Furthermore, the operating system is kind of weird, in that all the little code fragments are allowed to constantly run in parallel.

    Consequently, since there are multiple copies of most genes, if one does break, via mutation or whatever, it doesn’t doom entire organism, the other copies just sail on.

    Don’t forget, most genes are small. The average protein is expressed by a gene with maybe 60 amino acids. It’s only the odd piece of code that ever gets close to “big” (meyelin synthesis, for example, is a couple of thousand base pairs).

    While it’s inconceivable to imagine a billion-line syntax-dependent program to mutate itself into working, it is manifestly not inconceivable to image a 128 byte chunk of assembly language doing so.

  85. Nope. You still don’t get Weasel.

    A very convincing rebuttal. Let’s see the source code.

  86. Mr RDK,

    Since we have already seen GAs with gigabit gennomes, aGP system evolving a billion lines of code is not so far in the future. Code bloat is very common in GP, and many systems routinely trim out unreachable code for the sake of efficiency in solving a problem. A billion lines of code (function calls) is within the realm of posibility. As with the genome of eukaryotes, much of the result might not be used!

  87. 87

    Gil, the basics of Weasel are explained in The Blind Watchmaker, where clearly letters can mutate after they are “correct.” Such mutations tend not to be preserved for future generations, but that’s the difference between mutation and selection. The letters mutate freely; the closest phrase among the multiple offspring is preserved.

    This was confirmed by observing a 1987 film of the program running (though some insisted that the program must be different) and by appeals to quasi-latching and other such nonsense.

  88. 88

    Correction: the last sentence should read: “This was confirmed by observing a 1987 film of the program running (though some insisted that the program must be different or appealed to quasi-latching and other such nonsense).”

  89. Hi Nakashima,

    Mr RDK,

    Since we have already seen GAs with gigabit gennomes, a GP system evolving a billion lines of code is not so far in the future. Code bloat is very common in GP, and many systems routinely trim out unreachable code for the sake of efficiency in solving a problem. A billion lines of code (function calls) is within the realm of posibility. As with the genome of eukaryotes, much of the result might not be used!

    I was not aware of this. I’m obviously not a computer programmer, so my knowledge of that area is limited. But as a biology student I do know that any non-living analogy to a biological system is mildly illustrative at best and obfuscatory at worst, based on the mere fact that said analogy is not a living, reproducing organism.

    But as you’ve just shown, perhaps my experience in code analogies is lacking.

  90. Apologies for the interruption of this discussion, if someone had a question to the community here (regarding the content in general), where would be the best place to ask it? Is it ok to ask it here? I’m trying to gain a comprehension of some specific and subtle points that I cannot find a response for, and would appreciate some assistance.

  91. RDK

    Regarding your queries on free will, I think you might be interested in having a look at the following Web site:

    http://www.informationphilosop.....om/cogito/

    The site represents a bold philosophical attempt to reconcile the valid insights underlying both determinism and indeterminism. The authors of the model show that it accords well with the findings of quantum theory, and guarantees humans libertarian freedom, but at the same time avoids the pitfall of making chance the cause of our actions. An excerpt:

    Our Cogito model of human freedom combines microscopic quantum randomness and unpredictability with macroscopic determinism and predictability, in a temporal sequence. Why have philosophers been unable for millenia to see that the common sense view of human freedom is correct? Partly because their logic or language preoccupation makes them say that either determinism or indeterminism is true, and the other must be false. Our physical world includes both, although the determinism we have is only an adequate description for large objects. So any intelligible explanation for free will must include both indeterminism and adequate determinism.

    The Cogito model is as good as anything I’ve seen on the Web. Enjoy!

  92. Hi vjtorley,

    Thank you for the website, and I will definitely take a look at it. But I will say that my questions were less out of curiosity per se and more geared towards trying to understand the Intelligent Design position on free will. Is there a widely accepted view in the community, or are the views pertaining to free will as diverse as the views on the identity of the designer?

  93. Edit: I will also say that my own personal views on the topic of free will are derived mostly from a Dennet / Hofstadter view, and allows for a deterministic mindset that still retains the general idea of “free will”; I.E., rational decision-making.

  94. Hi everyone,

    Just came across this Web page by John Koza (cited by Mr. Nakashima):

    http://www.genetic-programming.com/

    There’s loads of stuff there. Anyone care to comment?

  95. Clive Hayden (71),

    Point taken – my apologies.

    Gil, would still appreciate seeing the math.

  96. tragic mishap @28: “The reason I’m a Christian instead of a Deist is because I believe human beings have free will.”

    Bad choice then, since the Christian God is supposed to be omniscient.

    Consider: Did God know your name a hundred years before you were born? Of course He did if He’s omniscient.

    Did God know about message # 28 100 years before you were born? Of course He did if He’s omniscient.

    Did God know how what thoughts would cross through your mind as you wrote that message a hundred years before you were born? Of course, He did if He’s omniscient.

    Did God know every single detail of your thoughts, no matter how trivial and no matter how many times they changed before you typed each letter in message #28 a hundred years before you were born? Of course He did if He’s omniscient.

    If God truly knows EVERYTHING then He truly knows every last thought, every fleeting emotion, every doubt, every hesitation and every final thought you will ever think one hundred years before you were even born.

    If God or anything else in this universe is truly omniscient, then you can’t have free will because every thought you will ever have and every decision you will ever make was known to that Omniscient Being one hundred years before you were born and you cannot possibly change your thoughts by even one iota without making God wrong.

    Calvin realized this centuries ago and unwisely incorporated it into his new religion instead of realizing that he’d found a pretty good proof of the non-existence of God.

  97. RDK (#92):

    You asked:

    Is there a widely accepted view in the [ID] community, or are the views pertaining to free will as diverse as the views on the identity of the designer?

    There is certainly no standard position of which I am aware, but my impression is that ID proponents tend to adopt what might be called the “common sense” libertarian view of human freedom – i.e. the view we all tend to have until deterministic philosophers (and scientists) try to “educate” us out of it.

    Dennett is a great philosopher, although my own views on freedom are profoundly at odds with his. For my part, I find Elizabeth Anscombe’s argument in “Causality and Determination” (1971) persuasive: most of my actions are bodily movements. If my bodily movements are determined by circumstances over which I have no control, then so are my actions. And if my actions are determined by circumstances beyond my control, then they are not free.

    One might object that whatever it is that determines my actions also makes me perform them willingly. However, that does not suffice to make them free. If my wants too are controlled by outside factors, then that makes me even less free than if something made my move my limbs against my wishes.

    But if you have a contrary opinion on human freedom, then please don’t let that stop you from embracing ID!

  98. David Kellog and Mr. Nakashima,

    Regarding Weasel, from Mere Creation, p 437, by Dr. Dembski:

    For Dawkins, once the computer gets a particular character right, it never allows mutation to work on that character again. That is certainly not how real mutation works.

    This confirms Gil’s interpretation. It also explains why it’s so unfathomable that an “expert” on evolution such as Dawkins would create such an unrealistic simulation of evolution.

  99. 99

    herb, I’m sorry, but that only confirms that Dr. Dembski misunderstands Weasel.

  100. “I’m sorry, but that only confirms that Dr. Dembski misunderstands Weasel.”

    I am not sure after about 1000 comments anyone understands Weasel. Monash had two programs. The first seemed best suited to what was in the Blind Watchmaker and the second best suited to what Dawkins did later. Neither is a realistic simulation of evolution so to argue over the advantages of either is of no consequence..

  101. Jerry,

    Neither is a realistic simulation of evolution so to argue over the advantages of either is of no consequence..

    Thanks for this perspective. However the algorithm works, it’s clearly just a propaganda tool anyways. Probably best to focus on current issues. That is, if the evo’s can let this thing rest and move beyond BASIC programming LOL.

  102. 102

    If no version of Weasel is useful, why did Dr. Dembski’s focus precisely on the issue that he didn’t understand (that is, how it mutates)? And if none of these computer simulations say anything, what’s Gil’s point with “Hello World” again?

  103. I’ve been reading up a little on Genetic computing. Dawkins weasel is pretty hopeless as an example of what it is. The idea is you start off with a problem, rules for solving the problem, a method for generating possible solutions, and (most importantly) a test which awards scores to possible solutions.

    For the weasel example the “problem” is to produce the text “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL”, the rules are that each possible solution must be the right length, and contain letters of the alphabet. The test (and this is why it’s such a bad example) contains the answer and scores each generated solution based on how close it is to the answer. The process of GP then generates several possible solutions, uses the test to score them, then deletes the worst possible solutions and uses the best solutions as the basis for generating the next generation of possible solutions. This means once a letter matches the corresponding letter in the solution it can still change, but if it changes the test will score the new possible solution worse making it a likely candidate for deletion.

    In trying to think of a better example of what I understand GP to be, the best I could come up with was the countdown numbers game. The problem is to produce a given number e.g. 502. The rules are to use only certain other numbers e.g. 50,25,7,9,4,10 and certain functions e.g. add,subtract,divide,multiply, and each number can only be used once. The test is how close is the generated solution to the answer: 502. Let’s suppose a generated solution includes the following: 10X50. That combination is going to give a possible solution a good score in the test which means the possible solution is likely to be kept and used to generate the next generation of possible solutions. Which means 10X50 would be very likely to be passed on.

  104. David Kellogg said:

    “If no version of Weasel is useful”.

    Do you think that Weasel is useful? If so then how?

    An aside. Given the results published in the Blind Watchmaker, which Monash program best fits the computer program that generated them?

    I am afraid to ask such a question on the remote chance that it will get the whole inane debate started over again.

  105. RDK,

    Thanks for responding.

    But we do act out of instinct! We aren’t influenced as much by it as, say, dogs, but we do have some. Motherly intuition? Strong feelings of familial ties? Brotherly love? Classic case of nature vs. nurture.

    We might, at times, act out of instinct (the fight-or-flight response, for example) but we do not completely and solely act out of instinct.

    The writer Corliss Lamont asks: “How can we attribute ethical responsibility to men, and punish them for wrongdoing, if we accept . . . that their choices and actions are predetermined?” Of course, we cannot. Instinct-driven animals are not held morally responsible for what they do, nor are computers deemed accountable for the functions they are programmed to perform. Freedom of choice, then, places upon us a heavy responsibility and makes us accountable for our actions.

    And I do agree that humans, just like any other half-sentient animal, has the ability to weigh decisions rationally. The point I’m trying to make is that the idea that our will is somehow “free” from experience, patterns, and presuppositional bias is superstitious at best. I’ll ask one more time, since no on has been able to give me a straight answer – what does it mean for your will to be “free”?

    It means that I have the capability to know right from wrong. The decisions I make are wholly my responsibility and may or may not be influenced by my culture, my family, or my heritage. It’s really freedom of choice.

    P.S: and your point about Yahweh giving us morality is moot. People who grow up in different cultures have different moral codes than you. Or what about people with no conscience at all? How do you explain them?

    People break the speed limit law daily; does this mean that there are no speed limit laws? People may rationalize or justify bad behavior but that does not mean that moral laws do not exist.

    So Yahweh wanted us to be free, but not too free?

    He gave us a brain and He expects us to use it. Nobody has total freedom.

    Yes. People have wants. And we may have several conflicting wants, desires, or “wills” (what have you) at the same time. Obviously, we can pick and choose which will we want to satisfy. But then again, acting on that decision is a desire in and of itself. We chose to satisfy that desire because that was our will. What is so “free” about this process?

    Because we are not preprogrammed by our genes to satisfy that desire. We can choose to abstain from drugs if we wish to do so. We can choose to obey the speed limit (or not). We can choose to live a good moral life or not.

    But the decisions we make currently – in the present – are influenced by decisions and experiences we’ve made and had in the past. If our habits and patterns could not be broken, then you would be right in saying that we are robots.

    No, not all decisions are. Someone may choose to become a Christian after studying the Bible. In the past, he or she may have been agnostic. Their past experiences have nothing to do with their decision. The past doesn’t influence us as much as you might think it does.

    Djmullen @ 96 –
    If God truly knows EVERYTHING then He truly knows every last thought, every fleeting emotion, every doubt, every hesitation and every final thought you will ever think one hundred years before you were even born.

    If God or anything else in this universe is truly omniscient, then you can’t have free will because every thought you will ever have and every decision you will ever make was known to that Omniscient Being one hundred years before you were born and you cannot possibly change your thoughts by even one iota without making God wrong.

    Freedom of choice precludes predestinatin. To illustrate: Suppose that a government decides to set up a particular agency. It predetermines the agency’s functions, its powers, and its size. The agency finally goes into operation some time after it was set up, and its members issue a statement saying: “The government determined a number of years ago what our job would be. Now we begin the work assigned to us.” Would you conclude that the government must have predetermined some years earlier who the individual members of that agency would be? Surely not.

    Humans usually need a plan of action in order to accomplish what they want to do. Predestination is linked with the idea that God must have a detailed plan for the universe wherein everything is predetermined. “It has seemed to many philosophers,” writes Roy Weatherford, “that anything less than a complete specification of every event would be incompatible with God’s Majesty.” Does God really need to specify every event in advance?

    Being infinite in power and matchless in wisdom, God can meet any emergency or contingency that might result as his creatures exercise their free will. (Isaiah 40:25, 26; Romans 11:33) He can do this instantly and without forethought. Unlike fallible men with their limited abilities, Almighty God does not need a detailed, cut-and-dried plan that sets out beforehand the destiny of every individual on the earth. (Proverbs 19:21) In a number of Bible translations, Ephesians 3:11 speaks of God’s having an “eternal purpose” rather than a fixed plan.

  106. jerry:

    Given the results published in the Blind Watchmaker, which Monash program best fits the computer program that generated them?

    I am afraid to ask such a question on the remote chance that it will get the whole inane debate started over again.

    At the risk of reigniting said debate, I’ll answer. Monash has only one version of Weasel, AFAIK, and its algorithm matches the Partitioned Search algorithm on the evoinfo.org site. The Monash results are compatible with the results reported in The Blind Watchmaker, but the algorithm does not match the algorithm described in TBW.

  107. To correct myself:

    The results of the Monash algorithm are NOT compatible with the results reported in Dawkins’ book.

    Here are the first two generations reported by Dawkins (with a typo corrected):

    WDLDMNLT DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO P
    WDLTMNLT DTJBSWIRZREZLMQCO P

    and from Monash:

    zdctdj mdhbhkueohnrxjoxigojlw
    gcntjfnrh gzjyinwglswuxfmrrfh

    The difference should be obvious.

  108. Vjtorley, Dusinane,

    Those are interesting resources, a bit out of date for understanding the current state of research in the field but fine for getting a basic understanding. I’m very happy I could help provide a new set of background for you.

    The Countdown game looks like a kind of knapsack problem, but I might be wrong. An interesting test case for EC systems, nonetheless. Koza deals with a similar problem in evolving symbolic regression expressions in GP vol 1.

  109. Mr RDK,

    I think the important point is to choose our models carefully, and be explicit about what parts of the real world we think they model. Forcing a model outside of its area of applicability is a huge problem.

  110. Monash had two Weasel programs. The first one fixes a letter once it was chosen and the second one allowed the letter to vary. The question is which one better fits what was used for the examples in the Blind Watchmaker. We know the second one was used at a later date.

    Though only a few lines were illustrated (six for each example), the book does not show any letters changing once chosen (it is always possible to make a mistake since these letter sequences can be confusing.) So one can see if the second program was used why one would think the first one was the actual program. The book also shows an extremely rapid convergence on the target string. Is such a rapid convergence possible with the second program? It is certainly possible with the first one. Thus, it seems like from the data used in the book, the first program which fixes the letters was an obvious choice for what was used.

    Also notice that Dawkins was extremely sloppy in the book. The first example starts out with 27 letters and the second example starts out with 29 letters when the target is 28 letters. If you look at the second line of each example you can determine the missing letter in example 1 and the added letter in example 2.

    The book certainly suggests the first program from Monash or a similar program was used where the letters are fixed and the second program was used in latter instances.

  111. jerry,

    The book certainly suggests the first program from Monash or a similar program was used where the letters are fixed and the second program was used in latter instances.

    Interesting—thanks for this background info. I wonder why Dawkings would switch algorithms? Perhaps readers of the book tried to replicate his results and found it didn’t work as he had claimed.

  112. Mr Herb,

    The text of the book clearly describes the algorithm, which does not mention fixing letters. The scant evidence in the book is consistent with the algorithm described in the text. The operation of the program shown in the video is consistent with the text. There is no need to assume the program was changed to a different algorithm. There are many kinds of evolutionary algorithm, and the one described can have rapid convergence to a solution on such a simple problem as Weasel.

  113. herb,

    There were a couple threads here a few months ago on this and the total comments were close to a thousand or more. Most of it seemed to be over whether the first Monash program or something similar was used or whether the second program was used. The discussion was complete and utter inanity.

    Here are the links to the two Monash programs. Play with them and have fun.

    Fixes letters:

    http://vlab.infotech.monash.ed.....in-weasel/

    There is a link on the above page that takes you to another program that allows for letters to vary once selected and allows for other inputs such as mutation rate and population size. Here is that link

    http://vlab.infotech.monash.ed.....hm-weasel/

  114. “The text of the book clearly describes the algorithm, which does not mention fixing letters.”

    But none of the letters in the book change. What are the odds of this happening when they are allowed to change?

    “The scant evidence in the book is consistent with the algorithm described in the text. ”

    There is nothing in the book that says the letters can be deselected and in fact none are. A latter example on television showed some of the letters were deselected. The data in the book is more in sync with the fixed algorithm.

    “There is no need to assume the program was changed to a different algorithm. There are many kinds of evolutionary algorithm, and the one described can have rapid convergence to a solution on such a simple problem as Weasel.”

    I asked about this but no one provided parameters that even got close to 41 or 43 iterations. The fixed program does this often.

    If one was analyzing the data from the book, the obvious conclusion was that a fixed program was used.

    But whether is was one or the other is meaningless since the algorithm is meaningless. It makes nice cocktail party discussion but nothing more.

  115. Mr Jerry,

    There was a lot of that kind of analysis carried during the quasi-latching war, and more is available over at AtBC. You would actually have to write extra code to make the letters fix, the text is describing a simple algorithm, and would have need to go on and say explicitly that letters fix if that was the behavior desired. In general, these algorithms, called mu,lambda evolution strategies, do not fix individual parts of the genome.

    Really, you should go over to AtBC, you are famous there!

  116. Well jerry, looks like our fear of resurrecting this monster has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Monash had two Weasel programs. The first one fixes a letter once it was chosen and the second one allowed the letter to vary.

    Monash currently has one program, which implements the algorithm that Dembski calls a “partitioned search,” complete with latching. I don’t see any indication of any other program on their site, although they do acknowledge that their algorithm differs from Dawkins’.

    So one can see if the second program was used why one would think the first one was the actual program.

    In [107] I showed the first two generations reported in Dawkins’ book, compared with the first two generations from the Monash version. It’s immediately apparent that they aren’t the same algorithm.

    The book also shows an extremely rapid convergence on the target string. Is such a rapid convergence possible with the second program?

    You bet. It all depends on the population size and mutation rate.

    Also notice that Dawkins was extremely sloppy in the book. The first example starts out with 27 letters and the second example starts out with 29 letters when the target is 28 letters. If you look at the second line of each example you can determine the missing letter in example 1 and the added letter in example 2.

    Yeah, there were definitely some typos.

    The book certainly suggests the first program from Monash or a similar program was used where the letters are fixed and the second program was used in latter instances.

    Monash’s version has only one offspring per generation, and has a mutation rate of 100% for incorrect letters and 0% for correct letters. Dawkins’ version, which he describes in the book, has multiple offspring per generation, and there is no indication that the mutation rate is any different for correct vs. incorrect letters.

  117. P.S. Because the Monash algorithm has a population of one, it does not involve selection. Selection was the point that Dawkins was illustrating with Weasel.

  118. R0b,

    Two things.

    First, I have put up links for both Monash programs. I suggest you follow them. The second program is labeled as similar to Dawkins latter program. Whether Dawkins had more than one program is a trivial question (and a really unimportant one since the program has nothing to do with simulating evolution so to argue over it is pointless.)

    Second, the program starts with a random set of letters so they will not be the same as the Dawkins book. The Blind Watchmaker uses three sets of an initial 28 letters and it is unlikely that you will ever see that same set of letters in any future simulation. So I do not understand the point that the letters are different in the book from the random set that the Monash programs starts with.

    Because as you said the mutation rates are different for the fixed Monash program it is not the same as for the Dawkins program but I fail to see where it would make much of a difference for the fixed program. The non fixed letters are fungible so where they start each time seems to be irrelevant. It seems to me that the Monash program should actually converge quicker than one where only a limited number of letters can change. Because every non fixed letter has a chance of becoming fixed while if only a few changed each time then only these few could potentially become fixed in the next round.

    I believe the second Monash program tried to mimic the program that Dawkins eventually had. Whether the latter Dawkins’ program is the same as his initial program is impossible to tell from the examples in the book. But the odds point to some fixed model.

    “Dawkins’ version, which he describes in the book, has multiple offspring per generation, and there is no indication that the mutation rate is any different for correct vs. incorrect letters.”

    Also there is no indication that the mutation rate is the same for correct vs. incorrect letters. Except that the correct letters never vary in any of the examples and in some of the latter iterations over 20 letters are correct so there would seem to be a high probability of one or more changing out. I understand that only every 10 iterations are listed but it seems unlikely one out of this many would switch out. So if one was examining the examples from the book, it would make sense to assume these letters were fixed.

    As far as I am concerned, the discussion is over. As I said it is pointless to discuss this frivolous example. The most amusing thing about this is why people try to defend one position versus the other like it was life threatening or really meant something.

  119. “In general, these algorithms, called mu,lambda evolution strategies, do not fix individual parts of the genome.”

    Well maybe they should. If the letters represent traits then it is unlikely a trait will switch out to something not functional which is what changing the letters would indicate. There are error correcting mechanisms in the genome that prevent this so to lose a trait would be highly unlikely. So once a letter (trait) is at a desirable place, biological processes put a strong hold on it to remain the same.

    So someone thinking biology when looking at this example, might naturally think once correct it would be fixed or highly unlikely to switch out. Thus a fixed model or one that is essentially fixed is more accurate.

    If the letters are supposed to be amino acids, then I guess changes in each letter may be appropriate. Maybe the biologists should think it out. Either way, the actually simulation is amusing but nothing else.

  120. jerry:

    First, I have put up links for both Monash programs. I suggest you follow them.

    Ah, thank you for pointing me to the GA version of weasel. I was wrong in saying that Monash has only one program. I apologize.

    The second program is labeled as similar to Dawkins latter program.

    I’m confused as to which you’re calling “first” and which you’re calling “second”. Monash calls them “Richard Dawkins’ Weasel” and “Genetic Algorithm Weasel,” but they each differ from the algorithm in TBW in different ways. The GA Weasel employs crossover, which results in very different behavior from the algorithm in TBW.

    So I do not understand the point that the letters are different in the book from the random set that the Monash programs starts with.

    That’s not the point. The point is that the first two generations of the TBW algorithm yield almost identical strings, while the first two generations of the Monash algorithm yield almost completely different strings.

    It seems to me that the Monash program should actually converge quicker than one where only a limited number of letters can change.

    You have to take into account population size along with mutation rate.

    But the odds point to some fixed model.

    How do you figure?

    Also there is no indication that the mutation rate is the same for correct vs. incorrect letters.

    And there’s no indication that the mutation rate is the same for the letter A vs. the letter B. But if there were more than one mutation rate, you would think he would say so in his description. Instead, he says, “It now ‘breeds from’ this random phrase. It duplicates it repeatedly, but with a certain chance of random error — ‘mutation’ — in the copying.” Of course this doesn’t prove wrong those who assume that Dawkins employed multiple mutation rates, but that assumption doesn’t seem very parsimonious.

    Except that the correct letters never vary in any of the examples and in some of the latter iterations over 20 letters are correct so there would seem to be a high probability of one or more changing out.

    That’s true only in the case of a small population and/or high mutation rate.

    The most amusing thing about this is why people try to defend one position versus the other like it was life threatening or really meant something.

    Agreed. And yet here we are defending our positions. But I’m not under the illusion that this discussion, or any of the other discussions on this site, really mean something. This is just an entertaining diversion.

  121. The more Darwinists try to defend the Weasel program the less impressed I am with their reasoning skills. If you took Dawkins’ original source code from decades ago and compiled and ran it on a modern machine, it would more or less instantaneously print out the string. If you then looked at the source code you’d see that the string was part of the program before it even ran. Any sane person would conclude that the program was simply designed to output a string that was already there. The proper response to the program is a simple “so the hell what?”

    Methinks the program “Methinks it is like a weasel” is like a weasel!

  122. jerry @ 114

    But none of the letters in the book change. What are the odds of this happening when they are allowed to change?

    It is actually possible to figure that out. I created a weasel program that works as Dawkins described (with no latching), but it also counts the number of times that a generation loses a character that had already been found.

    Out of 50,000 runs of the program 211 runs had at least one generation where a character was lost. So the odds that Dawkins would stumble on one of the cases where a character was lost is about 1 in 236.

    Actually the odds are even worse then that since Dawkins only showed every tenth generation or so, so even if there was a character lost it might not show up in the sampled generations.

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