Home » Education, Intelligent Design, Science » “The intellectual equivalent of spray painting graffiti”

“The intellectual equivalent of spray painting graffiti”

The folks at RichardDawkins.net have their panties in a bunch over some of my class assignments (go here):

Thanks to Baron Scarpia for alerting us to this website, which outlines the rigorous academic standards [Quote-miners, please note: this is sarcasm] which William Dembski’s students have to achieve in his courses on Intelligent Design and Christian Apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:

http://www.designinference.com/teaching/teaching.htm

If you follow the links, you will see that it is full of gems: we won’t spoil them for you by flagging them all up, but – just to whet your appetite – you will notice that, at both undergrad and masters level, there are courses for which 20% of the final marks come from having made 10 posts defending ID on ‘hostile’ websites! This could explain a lot.

You may be less amused at some of the questions in the final exam of the Christian Faith and Science module: http://www.designinference.com/teaching/2008_fall_sci-faith_mdiv/final_exam_10dec08.pdf. In particular, this one:

Trace the connections between Darwinian evolution, eugenics, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. Why are materialists so ready to embrace these as a package deal? What view of humanity and reality is required to resist them?

And this one:

You are the Templeton Foundation’s new program director and are charged with overseeing its programs and directing its funds. Sketch out a 20-year plan for defeating scientific materialism and the evolutionary worldview it has fostered if you had $50,000,000 per year in current value to do so. What sorts of programs would you institute? How would you spend the money?

It seems that sending my students to post on “hostile” websites, however, sticks especially in their craw. Slashdot has since picked up on it (go here — the keyword tags are precious).

Want to know how Darwinists really think? Go to the websites listed here and find out. Thus, when I require students to go to these websites and defend ID, it is sound pedagogy. Darwinists reflexively call this trolling (a projection of their own propensity to troll). One individual even emailed me that this is “requiring your students to participate in the intellectual equivalent of spray painting graffiti.” Nonsense. These sites provide a forum and, ostensibly, encourage discussion. My students go to these sites not to pretend to be something they are not but to defend their views — with civility.

In any case, I’ll make you a deal: let Darwinist, atheist, skeptic, freethinking, and infidel websites state prominently on their homepage the following warning — “Intelligent Design Supporters Strictly Prohibited” — and I’ll make sure my students don’t post on your sites.

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

93 Responses to “The intellectual equivalent of spray painting graffiti”

  1. I did a quick pass through the course descriptions and its pretty scary stuff.
    Can this be called an education ?

  2. It seems to me that the act of ruminating on the problem of why God does not appear to heal amputees can be a highly stimulating intellectual excercise, especially if done on a regular basis. Such an activity can really be a great way to relieve intellectual tension and replenish one’s mental focus.

  3. Its worth noting that on the banner head at Richard Dawkins.net it says “A Clear Thinking Oasis”. Hogwash! I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading through discussion threads there, and even participated in a few. The minute I challenge a materialistic assumption using logic and reason alone (no bible or theology, just logic and reason), the responses I get are usually (though to be fair not every time) over the top ad hominems. In other words, they can’t refute the argument, or defend theirs, so they start calling you names. I mean, why use logic and reason when a good ad hom will do the trick, right?

    And this is called “clear thinking”! They can hand wave and hiss about Dr. Dembski’s courses all they want. It is they who have the double standard and they who have yet to sucessfully defend their materialistic worldview without abandoning all logic and reason.

    If you doubt that, then read Dawkins’s “The God Delusion”. It is replete with examples of this, and clearly sets the example for his minions to follow on his “clear thinking oasis!”

  4. Dr. Dembski “Sketch out a 20-year plan for defeating scientific materialism and the evolutionary worldview it has fostered if you had $50,000,000 per year in current value to do so.”

    How would you answer this question Dr. Dembski? I realize that there is obviously no ‘right’ answer here, but since you’ve set this as a test question you must have given it some thought.

  5. Dr. Dembski, you are the example to us all of patience, slowness to anger, professionalism, and working unashamedly for one’s convictions.

    We should all, when the bozos start getting us down and we feel like either lashing out in anger or retreating, appreciate the tremendous job that Dr. D. is doing in the face of more crap than most of us will probably ever have to deal with and try to emulate him.

    Keep it up, Dr. Dembski – what you are doing really matters and the way you do it inspires.

  6. It seems that sending my students to post on “hostile” websites, however, sticks especially in their craw. Slashdot has since picked up on it (go here — the keyword tags are precious).

    PZ also has a thread up on this, and it looks like he’s almost developed a bunker mentality after hearing about Dr Dembski’s assignment. I think he’s afraid of getting shown up on his own blog by an undergraduate, just like the storyline of that classic Chick tract, Big Daddy. Expect PZ to wield the banhammer much more liberally from now on.

  7. All this Christian apologising and theologiolisering is fine and dandy, but it STILL doesn’t explain whether God could create a stone so big that even he can’t lift it!

  8. “All this Christian apologising and theologiolisering is fine and dandy, but it STILL doesn’t explain whether God could create a stone so big that even he can’t lift it!”

    Well, of course he can. That stone is the atheist mind.

  9. You don’t find it at all hypocritical that while you were making it a course requirement for your students to post on “hostile” websites, you were running your own with an iron fist, disallowing or deleting all criticism?

    There are plenty of other forums where I mix it up with Darwinists. Think of this blog as my playground. If you have to take a whiz, do it elsewhere.

  10. I see PZ Myers has responded to this post.

  11. Hey Dr. Dembski,
    Do you think I can get some credit for a grade from you to? I’ve posted at least a few hundred times on hostile sites. Shoot I even had a site set up to mock me that I had run across,,,that should count for extra credit…LOL

    Evolution: Redefined- Geoff Moore and the Distance
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVwFYpFemE4

  12. PZ Meyers is precious.

  13. Dembski: “Thus, when I require students to go to these websites and defend ID, it is sound pedagogy.”

    I don’t know if asking students to post on a web site as part of a course requirement is a precedent, but I’m guessing it’s unusual. But as to sound pedagogy – wouldn’t a more effective pedagogical strategy have been to have the students write five pro-ID posts and five anti-ID posts? I believe that’s a common debating strategy and I think would help students understand their (your) opponents point-of-view more effectively.

  14. Trace the connections between Darwinian evolution, eugenics, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. Why are materialists so ready to embrace these as a package deal? What view of humanity and reality is required to resist them?

    That is called the fallacy of complex question. I would think that, as an educator, you’d try to teach your students to avoid fallacies, not provide examples of them yourself.

  15. JamesBond

    All this Christian apologising and theologiolisering is fine and dandy, but it STILL doesn’t explain whether God could create a stone so big that even he can’t lift it!

    You might like to read this article, entitled Anything you can do, God can do better by Campbell Brown and Yujin Nagasawa. I’ll quote the abstract:

    The Paradox of the Stone is a familiar argument that purports to show the incoherence of the notion of an omnipotent God. This paper argues that the paradox loses all force once one accepts two plausible principles regarding the nature of divine omnipotence. The solution to the paradox proposed here is importantly different from the traditional one proposed by such philosophers as Mavrodes, Mayo and Plantinga. The paper also considers, and rejects, a common strategy for bolstering the paradox, one that appeals to an apparent ability that is lacked by God yet possessed by ordinary folk. It is argued that the strategy rests on an equivocation.

  16. My view is that what they thinbk about Dembski’s classes- or how they feel and react to his encouragement of students particippating in the public debate about the controverssey, is really a small and insignificant level to the ID movement.

    I am far more interested in what Steve Meyer said on Coast to Coast regarding how ID could be used in conjunction with design strategies to investigate nature at an even deeper and more hueristically fruitfull level. Hopefully in the future this will be fruitfull and we will derive simpler and more important truths about nature because of ID.

    I think it is interesting to take a deeper look at how we can define specificity, how it can be more objectivily defined and detected- and how this all applies to the NFL theorems. All of this seems to point to a new direction that really is cutting edge in science. All of this and the one other interesting thing that Steve said about the question he still feels is unanswered which is “how does mind effect matter?” This leads into how did the designing intelligence really design specified complex novelty in nature. Perhaps we are leading down a spiritual ally there- like In Oleary’s book about the spiritual brain. I am looking forward to how this all progresses.

  17. To Anthony09 (#14),
    The fallacy of the complex question,

    You might have added that its also like asking when you stopped beating your wife.

  18. I would like to weigh in on what James bond said about the ” can god create a stone so big God cant lift it” objection.

    Actually this is a circular argument fallacy called “begging the question”- which means the question really is “could there be a rock so heavy God could not move it?” to which the obvious theological answer is NO. So what the logician does is beg the question but phase it in regards to God’s own power.

    SO the answer is he could not make such a stone because such a stone could never exist- and omniscience and omnipotence only apply to possible reality- not impossible reality.

    This is basically a form of the liars paradox – and this shows the problem with proofs in formal logic- an imperfect mental tool of mortal men- but not a problem with God.

  19. Can God make a stone etc…

    Jeez, do people really have time to waste on this stuff ?

  20. As an atheist, I feel that the paradox of the stone is probably the single stupidest common argument against God’s existence. It is better to convert it into the question “Which kind of omnipotence is God’s: that which can defy logic or that which can’t?” Since most people settle on the second, it’s silly to argue about the first — especially by assuming the second (God can’t defy logic because God can’t defy logic). Discussion can occur after one of the two has been settled on.

    Anyway, I have to thank Dr. Dembski for making me ponder my previously unquestioning support of eugenics, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.

  21. 21

    JTaylor,

    “I don’t know if asking students to post on a web site as part of a course requirement is a precedent, but I’m guessing it’s unusual. But as to sound pedagogy – wouldn’t a more effective pedagogical strategy have been to have the students write five pro-ID posts and five anti-ID posts? I believe that’s a common debating strategy and I think would help students understand their (your) opponents point-of-view more effectively.”

    That’s a good suggestion – except that it would require Dr. Dembski’s students to pretend to be someone they are not in order to post a supporting viewpoint. I don’t think he’s after that kind of “debate.” Besides, they can all read the other posts to understand the opposing side. The trick is in learning to strongly debate their own point of view under the pressure of a hostile environment. I think it’s an excellent experiment. I wish I had thought of it.

  22. Tajimas @ 9: You bring up a good point. I remember when this blog was run by William Dembski. He allowed NO dissenting comments. There is some deep irony here.

  23. I happen to use a rock to seek for “The Truth”.

    What is Truth?

    To varying degrees everyone looks for truth. A few people have traveled to distant lands seeking gurus in their quest to find “Truth”. People are happy when they discover a new truth into the mysteries of life. People who have deep insights into the truth of how things actually work are considered wise. In the bible Jesus says “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” So, since truth is considered such a good thing, let us look for truth in a common object; a simple rock.

    A rock is composed of three basic ingredients; energy, force and truth. From Einstein’s famous equation (e=mc2) we know that all matter (solids, liquids and gases) of the universe is ultimately made up of energy and therefore the entire rock can “hypothetically” be reduced to energy.

    E=mc²: Einstein explains his famous formula – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CC7Sg41Bp-U

    This energy is “woven” by various complex, unchanging, transcendent, universal forces into the atoms of the rock. The amount of energy woven by these complex interactions of various, unchanging, universal forces into the rock is tremendous. This tremendous energy that is in the rock is clearly demonstrated by the detonation of nuclear bombs. This woven energy is found in each and every individual “particle/wave” of every atom, in the trillions upon trillions of atoms in the rock. While energy can be said to be what gives “substance” to the rock, energy in and of itself is a “non-solid” entity. In fact, the unchanging, transcendent, universal constants/forces, that tell the energy exactly where to be and what to do in the rock, can be firmly stated to be the ONLY solid, uncompromising “thing” in the rock. Yet there is another ingredient which went into making the rock besides constants/forces and energy. An ingredient that is often neglected to be looked at as a “real” component of the rock. It is the transcendent and spiritual component of truth. If truth did not exist the rock would not exist. This is as obvious as the fact that the rock would not exist if energy and/or unchanging force did not exist. It is the truth in and of the logical laws of the unchanging forces of the universal constants that govern the energy in the rock that enable the rock to be a rock in the first place.

    Is truth independent and dominant of the energy and force? Yes of course, there are many philosophical truths that are not dependent on energy or force for them to still be true. Yet energy and unchanging force are precisely subject to what the “truth” tells them they can and cannot do. To put it another way, the rock cannot exist without truth yet the truth can exist without the rock. Energy and force must obey the truth that is above them or else the rock can’t possibly exist. Since truth clearly dictates what energy and/or unchanging force can or cannot do, it follows that truth dominates energy and unchanging force. Energy and unchanging force do not dominate truth. It is also obvious that if all energy and/or force stopped existing in this universe, the truth that ruled the energy and force in the rock would still be logically true. Thus, truth can be said to be eternal, or timeless in nature. It is also obvious that truth is omnipresent. That is to say, the truth that is in the rock on this world is the same truth that is in a rock on the other side of the universe on another world. Thus, truth is present everywhere at all times in this universe (Indeed, Science would be extremely difficult, to put it mildly, if this uniformity of truth were not so). It has also been scientifically proven, by quantum non-locality, that whenever something becomes physically true” (wave collapse of entangled electron, photon) in any part of the universe, this “truth” is instantaneously communicated anywhere/everywhere in the universe to its corresponding “particle”. Thus, truth is “aware” of everything that goes on in the universe instantaneously. This universal instantaneous awareness of a transcendent truth also gives truth the vital characteristic of being omniscient (All knowing). This instantaneous communication of truth to all points in the universe also happens to defy the speed of light; a “truth” that energy and even the unchanging force of gravity happen to be subject to (I believe all fundamental forces are shown to be subject to this “truth’ of the speed of light). This scientific proof of quantum non-locality also proves that truth is not a “passive” component of this universe. Truth is actually scientifically demonstrated, by quantum non-locality and quantum teleportation, to be the “active” dominant component of this universe. Thus, truth is not a passive set of rules written on a sheet of paper somewhere. Truth is the “living governor” of this universe that has dominion over all other components of this universe and is not bound by any of the laws that “truth” has subjected all the other components of the universe to. Truth is in fact a tangible entity that enables and dictates our reality in this universe to exist in a overarching non-chaotic form so as to enable life to exist (Anthropic Principle). Truth, which is shown not to be subject to time in any way by quantum non-locality, has demonstrated foresight and purpose in the Anthropic Principle for this temporal universe and, as such, can be said to be “alive” from the fact that a “decision” had to be made from the timeless/spaceless dimension, that truth inhabits, in order for this temporal reality to become real in the first place. i.e. truth is a major characteristic of the necessary Being, “uncaused cause”, the Alpha, that created all reality/realities. The fact that quantum teleportation shows an exact “specified dominion” of a photon energy by “a truth” (actually truth is shown to be “a specified truth of infinite information” in teleportation) satisfies a major requirement for the entity needed to explain the “missing Dark Matter” in that the needed explanation would have to dominate energy in just such a similar fashion, as is demonstrated by teleportation, to satisfy what is needed to explain the missing dark matter. Moreover, that a photon would actually be destroyed upon the teleportation of its truth (infinite specified information) to another photon, is a direct controlled violation of the first law of thermodynamics. This is direct empirical validation for the law of conservation of information since a truth exercised dominion of a photon of energy which cannot be created or destroyed by any known material means, and provides another primary evidence that “the truth” is the foundational entity of this universe (i.e. truth cannot be created or destroyed). The fact that simple quantum entanglement shows a “coherent long-range universal control” of energy, by “a truth”, satisfies a major requirement for the entity which must explain why the universe is expanding at such a finely-tuned degree in such a manner as it is. Thus “transcendent eternal truth” provides a coherent picture of reality that could possibly unify all of physics upon further elucidation.

    Well, lets see what we have so far; Truth is eternal (it has always existed and will always exist); Truth is omnipresent (it is present everywhere in the universe at all times); Truth is omnipotent (it has dominion over everything else in the universe, yet is not subject to any physical laws); Truth has a vital characteristic of omniscience (trtuh is aware of everything that is happening in the universe); Truth is active (it is aware of everything that is happening and instantaneously makes appropriate adjustments); and Truth is alive (Truth has created a temporal universe from a reality that is not subject to any physical laws of time or space for the express purpose of creating life; Anthropic Principle) Surprisingly, being eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient. active and alive are the foundational characteristics that are used by theologians to describe God. Thus, logically speaking, spiritual/transcendent truth emanates directly from God. So in answer to our question “What is Truth?” we can answer that truth comes from God as far as the scientific method is concerned.

    To bring this into the focus of the Christian perspective, Jesus says that He is “The Truth”. In regards to what is currently revealed in our scientific knowledge, this is a VERY, VERY fantastic claim! If Jesus is speaking a truth, which I believe He is from the personal miracles I’ve seen in my own life, then by the rules of logic this makes Jesus exactly equivalent to God Almighty as far as our reality is concerned. Well,,, Is Jesus the author of this universe and all life in it??? Though this is somewhat difficult to bear out scientifically, personally I believe He is since all the foundational truths in what could be termed the “transcendent” philosophy of human character and behavior (i.e. Love your neighbor as yourself, Don’t bear false witness etc..etc..), have found their ultimate authority and expression in Jesus Christ life. i.e. by His “sinless life” and by His resurrection from the dead he has set the standard for “righteousness” and has indeed testified to “philosophical truth’s” primacy and authority over this material realm. Plus, I find extreme poetic justice in the fact Jesus has overcome death and entropy by leading a totally sinless, and thus in essence a totally decay-free, life. I also find it extremely logical and poetic that we too can escape death and decay by accepting this “living eternal truth” of Jesus atoning sacrifice into our hearts.

    Of course, there is also this powerful passage at the beginning of John, which has now been scientifically confirmed by many lines of evidence, that bears solid witness to the fact that Jesus is Lord.

    John 1:1-4
    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”

    John 1:12
    Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

    Myself, I find the evidence that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth to be overwhelmingly compelling as well as a source of great Joy.

    Matthew 28:18
    And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

    ————————————————————————————————————————————-

    Refutation of the “hidden variables” argument that is used by materialists in trying to explain quantum phenomena

    Quantum Measurements: Common Sense Is Not Enough, Physicists Show
    In comparison to classical physics, quantum physics predicts that the properties of a quantum mechanical system depend on the measurement context, i.e. whether or not other system measurements are carried out. A team of physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, led by Christian Roos and Rainer Blatt, have for the first time proven in a comprehensive experiment that it is not possible to explain quantum phenomena in non-contextual terms…..Quantum mechanics describes the physical state of light and matter and formulates concepts that totally contradict the classical conception we have of nature. Thus, physicists have tried to explain non-causal phenomena in quantum mechanics by classical models of hidden variables, thereby excluding randomness, which is omnipresent in quantum theory.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142824.htm

    further note:

    the experiment I cited finally conclusively proves “reality” is not independent of the observer, and shows that our “material” reality does not “materialize” from the “higher dimensionality wave” until observation, or combination of observations, is exercised. Correct?

    Quantum Mechanics – The Limited Role Of The Observer – Michael Strauss
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elg83xUZZBs

    What i find interesting is that all of this may be found to tie in to 4-d space-time cosmology in a very neat way that seems to be very satisfying and fairly easy to understand…

    COBE – WMAP Satellites – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huaS_iSITQs

    Earth As The Center Of The Universe – image
    http://universe-review.ca/R02-16-universe.htm

    I find it very interesting, from what we now know to be true from 4-Dimensional space-time cosmology, That each individual person/observer can be considered the “center of the universe” no matter where they are in the universe since, depending on where in the universe you are observing, the entire universe does in fact seem to “center” on you.

    Thus:
    Quantum mechanics tells us that wave collapse is “centered” on each observer, whereas 4-D space-time cosmology tells us the universe is “centered” on each observer,,,a rather interesting congruence in science, between the large and small, I would think! A congruence that they apparently have had an incredibly hard time joining mathematically (Penrose)

    further note:

    This following video and article give deep insight into what the image formation on the Shroud signifies for reality:

    A Particle Physicist Looks At The Turin Shroud Image – 4:25 minute mark of video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgvEDfkuhGg

    A Quantum Hologram of Christ’s Resurrection?
    http://www.khouse.org/articles/2008/847

  24. Anthony09,

    Tajimas @ 9: You bring up a good point. I remember when this blog was run by William Dembski. He allowed NO dissenting comments. There is some deep irony here.

    And the irony is what?

  25. I remember when this blog was run by William Dembski. He allowed NO dissenting comments.

    It’s still like that. I teach science courses at our university. Earlier this morning I had a couple of polite questions about Mr. Dembski’s course. Now, it is gone.

  26. brembs,

    Resubmit the questions, and do it where you do not mock, and I’ll allow them through.

  27. Lenoxus 20:

    As an atheist, I feel that the paradox of the stone is probably the single stupidest common argument against God’s existence. It is better to convert it into the question “Which kind of omnipotence is God’s: that which can defy logic or that which can’t?” Since most people settle on the second, it’s silly to argue about the first — especially by assuming the second (God can’t defy logic because God can’t defy logic). Discussion can occur after one of the two has been settled on.

    What a concise, commonsensical statement.

    Often an open minded nonbeliever—that rarest of breeds these days—can display more wisdom than a closed minded believer.

    Those who believe that God isn’t even limited by logic have a terrible time reconciling God with the evil in the world.

    The Bible presents God as a living, conscious, volitional person. The Greeks gave us the notion of eternal forms which today translates into mathematical realism/platonism or the broader tripartite realm of logic, esthetics & ethics of Charles Sanders Peirce. So which is it? The theological caricature of the biblical God as utterly and totally omnipotent who can have his cake and eat it too if he so wants (probably in violation of Proverbs 8) or the realm of eternal verities logical and otherwise? Heretic that I am I’d opt for both, and recent I came across Alvin Plantinga’s little book, Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44, Marquette University Press), and was pleasantly surprised to find a philosopher of the same opinion.

    If God transcends logic in the sense that he created it, why didn’t he make a world of gain without pain? Why not a compatibilist world where all the choices of free agents are guaranteed to turn out good? Oh, but you say, actions have consequences. But if the Deity determined in advance all possible actions and their consequences, why not make it a little less painful?

    No, all that makes sense to me is that God and logic are coeternal and that God does not transcend the latter. Let me suggest that there are two things that God does not transcend:

    1) God does not transcend reality, and

    2) God does not transcend his word.

  28. Clive, the irony is simple: that someone who encourages dissenters to post on other blogs does not allow dissenters to post on his own blog.

  29. Graham (#19) asked: “Jeez, do people really have time to waste on this stuff ?

    They have lots of time between all the paradigm-shifting research programs they’re running and writing up all the results which prove intelligent design.

  30. 30

    Rude,

    “1) God does not transcend reality, and

    2) God does not transcend his word.”

    God does not transcend reality because He is the ultimate necessary reality without whom there would be no reality. It’s not a religious statement, but a logical reality statement. Non-believers (often) make irrational statements about the nature of God because they can’t see through the filters of their own faith in empty non-explanatory materialism to the reality of faith based on the evidence of an ultimate reality.

    “Is the conclusion that the universe was designed — and that the design extends deeply into life — science, philosophy, religion, or what? In a sense it hardly matters. By far the most important question is not what category we place it in, but whether a conclusion is true. A true philosophical or religious conclusion is no less true than a true scientific one. Although universities might divide their faculty and courses into academic categories, reality is not obliged to respect such boundaries.” Michael Behe

    “I must stress that my discovery of the Divine has proceeded on a purely natural level, without any reference to supernatural phenomena. It has been an exercise in what is traditionally called natural theology. It has had no connection with any of the revealed religions. Nor did I claim to have had any personal experience of God or any experience that may be called supernatural or miraculous. In short, my discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason not of faith.” Antony Flew

  31. Anthony09,

    Clive, the irony is simple: that someone who encourages dissenters to post on other blogs does not allow dissenters to post on his own blog.

    The real irony is that you wouldn’t be able to say that if what you say is true.

  32. CannuckianYankee,

    Good quotes. I’m all for a return to a natural theology that is sensitive to science (meaning reality — as in the science of Galileo and Newton et al — not the materialism that masquerades in the name of “science”).

    But whatever the case it is true that there are unresolved theological controversies, i.e., we don’t know everything—even everything important—as yet. Of such is the question addressed in Plantinga’s little book (Does God Have a Nature?) I mentioned above. No matter which side you might want to come down on I think it is worth knowing what the controversy is.

    You’re right that “Non-believers (often) make irrational statements about the nature of God …” My point, however, was to commend Lenoxus 20 for an exception to this rule.

    Sectarian believers—not meant as a slur by the way—tend to miss things that those of other persuasions (including the rare but honest atheist) will catch.

    PS: In 27 above the sequence “Proverbs” plus 8 plus ) came out as “Proverbs” plus a funny face.

  33. Clive, please respond to the context of what I was saying. I said, I remember when this blog was run by Dembski. You were responsible for a policy shift when you took over, which you know full well, since you posted about dissenting comments now being allowed at UD. Please don’t rewrite history.

  34. Anthony09,

    Clive, please respond to the context of what I was saying. I said, I remember when this blog was run by Dembski. You were responsible for a policy shift when you took over, which you know full well, since you posted about dissenting comments now being allowed at UD. Please don’t rewrite history.

    Not true. I was responsible for nothing. Dr. Dembski and Barry agreed to the new moderation policy of letting folks dissent.

  35. Pardon a footnote on a point of balancing fact:

    Ever since I “unlurked” in April 06, I have observed many dissenting voices at UD.

    What happened is that there was a sharper policy of moderation for what seemed willful obtuseness (e.g. insistent repetition of talking points in the teeth of cogent corrective rebuttals), and banning for offensive conduct. (E.g. TE would have probably been banned outright for the “report you to the US HSD” stunt he pulled this morning, without further warning.]

    Sometimes, it went overboard, and not only on one side.

    GEM of TKI

  36. Graham,

    —-”The fallacy of the complex question,

    You might have added that its also like asking when you stopped beating your wife.”

    Which is a perfectly legitimate question when a man has been beating his wife.

  37. Clive, by admitting that there was a change in moderation policy you prove my point.

    Kairosfocus: You have on rose-colored glasses. The occasional soft dissenter may have been allowed through as a token, but by and large “run with an iron fist” describes things pretty well. Dissenters were moderated and banned.

  38. “That is called the fallacy of complex question. I would think that, as an educator, you’d try to teach your students to avoid fallacies, not provide examples of them yourself.”

    This is nonsense. It is easy to answer such a question if you understand all the issues and was the type of question I would ask when I was teaching graduate students. They have to discern if there is any connection, how much of one is related and maybe only some or none of the other are relevant and what types of issues could moderate your answer.

    For example, maybe the connection is strong between Darwinism and eugenics (fairly easily shown) but not much or anything between it and Euthanasia. Or maybe the connection is one of sequence and one leads in a chain to each succeeding one etc. This is a good question and how it is answered depends upon what one views as causal, highly influential, slightly influential, or having no relationship at all.

  39. Anthony 09,

    What’s the big point?

    A blog where there is no moderation whatsoever becomes utterly boring. UD may have varied a little over the years in its moderation, but just compare the enemy blogs.

    I should think it a fine challenge for a proID young Turk to try and get a logical word in edgewise at one of those sites. It’d be good for the other side too.

    What you get there is ONLY personal attack, obfuscation, and appeals to authority. I’ll guarantee that if anyone comes on here with a logical anti-ID argument the folks will perk up. Many here are ready for battle—not the name calling and fog creating kind of their opponents—but the kind that one who has the winds of logic at his back relishes.

  40. 40

    Rude,

    Thanks for the reply. I’ve struggled with the issue of a “supernatural” God’s reality, because I’m not certain if God is really supernatural, or if He is natural, but on a different plain of reality that our reality can’t really touch. The only way of touching God’s reality is through the means He provides. Faith does not imply that God is unreachable through the common means of logical inquiry. It simply means that God is the transcendant one; not ourselves. He is the necessary one, and we are contingent on His reality. We can know this through logical inquiry. However, what God is capable of and whatnot are really secondary issues that are best answered through other means – theology, etc.

    This is the point I think Flew makes. It’s unfortunate that quite often we don’t listen to the arguments that some insightful secularists make as to their difficulties with the concept of God. I think it’s because we’ve “spiritualized” God to the extent that He seems unreal. When logically He must be real. Could it be our perceptions of His reality that are off base?

    I’ll put Plantinga’s book on my reading list as most of the quotes I’ve read from him have been right on with the way I think.

    The only contention that I have with Flew is that he limits God to what can be known through natural theology. Natural theology has its place, but is incomplete, and there is a rationality behind Christian theology that I think would surprise him.

    BTW, I also appreciate your recognizing Lenoxus’ difficulty with the rock argument. I have difficulty with this argument as well, as it doesn’t appear very coherent. It’s not a religious problem, but a problem with logic. Secularists often think that all our objections to their arguments are religious in nature. They are not. So I too appreciate that Lenoxus sees a problem with the argument as well. It appears to neglect belief in God as so religiously motivated that it fails to commply with sound logic. It’s laughable that such an unsound argument such as the heavy rock should be utilized to make that point. I prefer a more challenging contention.

  41. “The occasional soft dissenter may have been allowed through as a token, but by and large “run with an iron fist” describes things pretty well. Dissenters were moderated and banned.”

    Maybe one should look at the title of the home page of this site. It is

    Uncommon Descent – Serving the Intelligent Design Community.

    My experience in the four years that I have been here is that there has rarely been an anti ID person who has commented here who has served the ID community in any manner. Instead we are treated to mindless drivel that barely qualifies as an argument on any sort. Occasionally we get some good insight and a couple of anti ID posters have been very helpful. But in general they waste the time of those wanting to learn more about cosmology, origin of life, evolution and ID.

    They do not serve the ID community and if not, why should they be suffered? As far as moderation during the time Bill Dembski looked over the sight carefully, we had one excellent anti ID person who never got banned or moderated and who was a gentleman and a scholar. That was great_ape and he had few peers for knowledge and civility.

  42. Cannuckian Yankee,

    Thanks for the good words.

    I suspect the “rock argument” is meant to counter the absolute transcendance crowd. If God is not limited by logic then he could create an object too heavy for him to lift, but then this refutes the absolute omnipotence argument.

    Perhaps this kind of thinking was anticipated by the author of Proverbs 8.

  43. Jerry @ 38: The question is incredibly fallacious. It is also incredibly leading. I can answer it in sketch form in a way that would please Dembski very easily.

    “Trace the connections between Darwinian evolution, eugenics, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.”

    Darwinian evolution is the root cause of the modern eugenics movement, the support for abortion and infanticide, and euthanasia.

    “Why are materialists so ready to embrace these as a package deal?”

    Because Darwinian evolution teaches that humans descended from animals and thus mere animals themselves. The implication is that human life has no intrinsic value. Unwanted humans can be disposed of, and genetics tampered with at will.

    “What view of humanity and reality is required to resist them?”

    Ummm, the Christian view?

    Of course this is all BS, because the supporters of Darwinian evolution do not support eugenics or infanticide, and their incidental and individual support of abortion rights and/or euthanasia rights doesn’t relate to their admission that the facts show that Darwinian evolution is true.

    A less fallacious and less leading version of the question would be:

    “Is there a connection between Darwinian evolution, eugenics, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. Are materialists ready to embrace these as a package deal, or can one disagree with these views and support Darwinian evolution? What view or views of humanity and reality is required to resist them?”

    Rude:

    The difference between the moderation policy at, say, Pharyngula, and UD, is that at the former all comments are permitted and one has to work to get banned. Essentially people are banned if they post the same thing over and over again, spam, etc. It is perhaps true that the regular commenters are rude to what they perceive as foolish people, but there is no set policy to not allow people to comment based on the content of their statements, but rather only on their behavior.

    UD used to have a very strict moderation policy, and any anti-ID comments, valid or not and civil or not, would get deleted and often get the poster banned. In other words, the content of your post was what would cause you to get banned, not your behavior. And mods were very quick on the trigger– don’t post in support of ID? Banned.

    Jerry, you prove my point. You just stated that it was content that would get you banned. Essentially you are claiming that because someone posts an argument that you disagree with in content, they should be moderated. Unfortunately, the past mods of UD (Dembski and DaveScot spring to mind in particular) agreed with you and enforced their agreement with vehemence. What was that phrase they loved to use? Oh yes, “Poster X is no longer with us.”

    So again, this is quite ironic.

    Jerry

  44. “Jerry, you prove my point. You just stated that it was content that would get you banned. Essentially you are claiming that because someone posts an argument that you disagree with in content, they should be moderated. Unfortunately, the past mods of UD (Dembski and DaveScot spring to mind in particular) agreed with you and enforced their agreement with vehemence. What was that phrase they loved to use? Oh yes, “Poster X is no longer with us.”

    So again, this is quite ironic.”

    Do you have a reading comprehension problem? I said if you were civil and knowledgeable, there would be no problem. When people made mindless repetitive irrelevant arguments and used ad hominems they got banned. I never saw anyone get banned or moderated for content that was relevant.

  45. 45

    Rude,

    “What you get there is ONLY personal attack, obfuscation, and appeals to authority. I’ll guarantee that if anyone comes on here with a logical anti-ID argument the folks will perk up. Many here are ready for battle—not the name calling and fog creating kind of their opponents—but the kind that one who has the winds of logic at his back relishes.”

    With your name, you’d almost fit in there unnoticed. :)

    I sense that all the common arguments against ID get regurgitated so often on the “enemy” sites that they begin to think they are good arguments. So nobody really practices soundness – just soundbites. If I hear the FSM non-argument one more time, I’m going to hurl my spaghetti. :)

    I used to be intimidated by them but lately I’ve been waiting patiently to “perk up.”

  46. “Jerry @ 38: The question is incredibly fallacious. It is also incredibly leading”

    This is again nonsense. You can answer a statement by disagreeing with all of it or part of it. It is a test of the student’s knowledge and ability to reason correctly. One learns from disagreement and I would often push students with hyperbole in one direction to see if they could push back and challenge and find counter examples.

  47. Jerry @ 44:

    First, sorry about the “Jerry” at the bottom of my post. It was not a signature; it was left over from a cut and paste.

    Do you have a reading comprehension problem? I said if you were civil and knowledgeable, there would be no problem. When people made mindless repetitive irrelevant arguments and used ad hominems they got banned.

    You never mentioned ad hominem at all. You said:

    My experience in the four years that I have been here is that there has rarely been an anti ID person who has commented here who has served the ID community in any manner. Instead we are treated to mindless drivel that barely qualifies as an argument on any sort. Occasionally we get some good insight and a couple of anti ID posters have been very helpful. But in general they waste the time of those wanting to learn more about cosmology, origin of life, evolution and ID.

    “Mindless drivel that barely qualifies as an argument”? That comment addresses content, not behavior. You said that what the post is “mindless drivel”– i.e. content that, in your words, does not “serve the ID community.”

    Far from me having a reading comprehension problem, it seems that you might have a problem expressing yourself clearly, because my summary of your comments were an apt report of what you actually said. Maybe you intended to say something else, but you didn’t.

    I never saw anyone get banned or moderated for content that was relevant.

    I did and so did you. Your confirmation bias is flaring up again. I think they sell a cream for that. ;)

  48. So, what the generally accepted solution to the “stone” paradox, amongst Christians and atheists alike is, is that God _cannot_ perform tasks that are impossible? I.e. God cannot draw a square circle?

    Does this apply only to logically (or, perhaps, linguistically) impossible things, or things that defy physical laws, like conservation of energy and mass?

  49. To Anthony09,
    I agree about the new moderation policy. I used to be regularly banned for anti-ID comments. Bills frequent explanation was that its his blog & he can do what he wants, but this turned the whole thing into a booring echo chamber.
    If Bill wants to use words like science then he should encourage dissent.

  50. Jamesbond,

    What we are saying (or least what im saying) is that there is a conceptual impossiblity here being put together in a logically valid form.

    For example you could also ask the more obviously useless question- could God be and imperfect at the same time if we wanted to be?

    This is just taking opposties and constructing them in a logically valid FORM*. Kurt Godel showed that formal logic cannot express the truth of all axioms- that is Kurt concluded that mind was more than a machine. We know things that we cannot prove and we cannot prove anything with 100% certainty.

    The stoen queston is a man made paradox. It asks if God could be imperfect if we wanted to be- but it fails to consider that perfect beings might not ever want to be imperfect nor do imperfect things. That is, why would an all powerful God want to mmake a rock he cannot lift? Also if he could not do it that would only show he could not do imperfect things- onceagain this does not rationally make him imperfect.

    God is logical and rational- and can do all possible things- logic however can create paradoxes that have no answer. Therefore logic itself is revealed as true paradox here.

    This is the probllem of form- which shows that the axioms and significance of logical questions transcend the machinery of logic itself. This is what Kurt basically belived. This is not a problem for reason, nor one of rationality -as i have given a rational reason why the stone paradox is one beggin itself.

  51. Jamesbond, on the issue of impossibility- this only applies to impossibilities that are themselves impossible by definition. Physical miracles are not conceptual impossibilities. We can imagine them happening. We cannot however conceptually synthesize a yes and a no together. As in yes God can create a rock that NO he cannot move but yes God can move all rocks.

    This is a paradox by the nature of its form. In the case of physical laws we can imagine matter doing virtually anything- in fact E=MC2 shows all energy and matter are interchangeable.

    Quantum mechanics also allows for a chance of miracles- regardless of how small that chance is. But logically constructed paradoxes are not dealing with possibility realities but merely purposeful contradictions of terms.

    The question is a problem of the machinery of logic. Logic allows for any yes or no questions to be aksed so it allows for absudities or meaningless statements.

    You could also allow for the anser to the stone paradox to be “Yes”- and when the question abviously becomes how can God be omnipotent and not be able to lift the stone the anser can be – “God can do anyhting even paradoxical things”

    Then they try to say that God is illogical – but paradoxes are logical constructs or results. This shows you how meaningless the question is.

    So either GOd can be logical or he cannot do paradoxical things because they are impossbile. If the question is in regards to physics then God can do paradoxcial things- such as do seemingly physcially impossible things llike create matter- or change the motion of the sun. If we are tlakign about terminological paradoxes then God cannot do what cannot be done. Our understanding of omnipotence can only apply to what we can imagine possbile.

  52. 52

    Here is a skeptical forum where at least some folks would not mind a “creationist troll” at all, though others disagree.

    Link is to discussion of same:

    Ignoring trolls may now be a moral duty.

  53. Why does Dawkins seem to assume that there is anything wrong with Dembski’s syllabus and his assignments?

    Does Dawkins believe that the mind has a proper function such that a faulty syllabus can distort or disturb that proper function of the minds of those students who are in such a class?

    Oh my, it seems as though Dawkins believes in formal and final causes after all.

    If you scratch a materialist while he’s in a fit of righteous anger issuing normative judgments, you’re bound to find an Aristotelean.

  54. 54

    fbeckwith –

    If this is Dr. Frank Beckwith, then as I’ve come to expect from you, excellent observation (I also just read your article “The Explanatory Power of the Substance View of Persons” [Christian Bioethics, 2004a] and thoroughly enjoyed it).

    If this isn’t Dr. Frank Beckwith, then your comment still rings true, but does regrettably lose coolness points.

  55. Theology students are intellectual partisans to begin with. The people who are dissing Dr Dembski’s course requirements should find out how common this kind of requirement is, first. This is the craft guild tradition, learn by doing!

    Of course it is possible to question what lesson they are learning, not in ID but in hypocrisy, by comparing the policies of UD with the policies of those sites they were sent to comment on.

    I would love to hear the comments of a student who actually took one of these courses.

  56. “I agree about the new moderation policy. I used to be regularly banned for anti-ID comments”

    Why don’t you point to the instances where you were banned so we can see some examples of your anti-ID comments.

  57. It is me, Joel. I am sitting in my home in Woodway, Texas across the table from my lovely wife, Frankie.

    Now, can I have my coolness points back? :-)

  58. Resubmit the questions, and do it where you do not mock, and I’ll allow them through.

    I don’t really remember exactly all my questions and it’s probably way behind the actuality of this thread.
    I think the gist was: is my impression correct that Mr. Dembski is training his students in debating skills rather than factual knowledge and if so, why?

    —————————–

    I’m trying to remember my more detailed questions:
    I think it all was along the lines of me not fully understanding if the degree is a scientific or philosophical/theological degree. I’d have expected exams on mechanisms, such as how molecules are rearranged to design mutations that look accidental to a scientist but designed to a non-scientist. Basically along the lines of how whatever-it-was designed, mechanistically. Did he/she/it use tools and technology or was it ‘magic’? If the latter, what is magic? ‘Sufficiently advanced technology’ or ‘real’ magic? In the latter case, is this really completely unpredictable and if so, what is the difference to chance? Does ‘magic’ follow statistics? How would you design experiments to answer all of these questions?
    The reason I’m asking these questions is that in our scientific education, we never train students in debate (maybe we should?), so I wondered why there was this emphasis on debate, rather than factual knowledge. This was a fundamental difference between our science courses and Mr. Dembski’s course. Our exam questions are never like “argue this or that” they are always like “explain how an action potential forms” or “calculate the number of generations it takes for allele a to reach X% frequency in a population given properties YZ over allele b and c”. Our exams and course requirements are factual and not argumentative. What’s the reason for that difference? If the reason is that the course is theological rather than scientific, whatever happened to the argument that ID is not religious?

    I was just trying to take the design argument seriously (even though I find it mocking, but more to that below) and those were the questions I had: if there really was a designer, how did it to it? In some cases, we can pinpoint the events causing evolutionary change: duplications, inversions, translocations, single-nucleotide polymorphisms, etc. How did the designer accomplish these events?

    I can only speculate why these questions seem like mocking to you. Maybe it was my choice of examples, such as a Star Trek-like replicator tool or the question how clay can turn into DNA, carbs and protein. Maybe it was my question of whether ID is thin on factual knowledge and therefore must resort to argumentative exams. Whatever it was, I was being totally serious. I can’t blame you for not believing me that I was serious, because I have an equally hard time believing the ID movement can be serious (I live in Europe and this sort of thing doesn’t really exist over here). Thus, probably in the same way you felt mocked when I was posing my serious questions, scientists feel mocked when they hear the arguments of creationists. Maybe it’s not that surprising that mockery and ridicule is often the answer? Anyway, Poe, Shmoe, I was being serious, even though it may not have looked like it to you.

  59. A09:

    Re, No 37: “Rose tinted glasses”?

    Kindly explain to me this exchange for instance, as just one case in point among many; where a substantial matter was seriously addressed across a considerable period of time with full and free participation on both sides of the issue. (Note, JK in that thread was a key figure in the Kansas State controversy, on which I have noted here about the underlying issue. )

    I repeat: I — as a regular observer and participant — found that most of the time the real issue with “dissenters” here at UD was not dissent per se, but that they were far too often typically rude, disrespectful, closed-mindedly spewing out standard talking points with no responsiveness to cogent responses [cf the current situation with typical disregard for the cogency of the Weak Argument correctives accessible from every page here at UD; e.g. Mr brown and his HuffPo article accusing Dr Dembski of "lying, as addressed not only in WAC 7 which he ignored in composing the article, but as is step by step addressed starting with comment no 4 and culminating in 104 - 5 and 146, here], or otherwise willfully obtuse or even outright abusive. [Observe from the same tread the ongoing case of outing and threatened reporting of the undersigned to the US Homeland Security Dept that the offender has now claimed was just a bit of "satire" in a parallel thread.]

    And, you will observe [a] that I have pointed out that here were points where the moderation was arbitrary [which is what the "policy change" is about], and [b] it was not on just one side of the issue, e.g. look up Mr Rzeppa’s story.

    In short, this is yet another distractive red herring dragged across the track of the truth and led out to a strawman soaked in ad hominems and ignited to cloud, confuse, choke, poison and polarise the atmosphere, frustrating serious discussion of serious issues.

    On the issue in the main for this thread, it should be obvious that it is useful and indeed probably innovative pedagogy to make proponents of an unpopular idea engage live debate in its natural environment. [BTW, the grade subtractors is a useful way of forcing students to do certain basic things as a base for effectively doing the course; I bet they are not "popular" though!]

    Similarly, forcing students to compose a 20-year strategic plan for a movement tests their ability to strategise, which should be a major concern of tertiary education from the B.X level onwards. [The US$ 50 mn/yr fantasy budget effectively takes "budget" off the table, and shows that WD knows that budgeting too often substitutes for strategy.]

    Making seminary students — that is where serial expulsion has forced Dr Dembski to work from — put together a 6- week Sunday School set of lessons in outline shows ability to compose a syllabus, and to address the issues of communicating with people where they are. (And leaving intake audience level issues implicit probably cross-tests the capability as curriculum designers.)

    Etc etc.

    In short — speaking as an experienced educator at secondary and tertiary levels — Dr Dembski is doing educationally justifiable things, in light of the particular context he faces, now that the expulsion campaigns have pushed him into a seminary. (The underlying insinuative appeal to the slander of theocracy against ID is thus exposed as a blatant piece of hypocrisy on the part of those who have gleefully cheered on or participated in such expulsion campaigns.)

    GEM of TKI

  60. 60

    Trace the connections between Darwinian evolution, eugenics, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.

    This can help for that assignment.

  61. Vladimir

    Point.

    I forgot, there was much huffing and puffing on this one.

    Some other helps on tracing such connexions (and yes, they are all too sadly real — and too often denied, rather than faced, addressed and learned from . . . ):1, 2, 3, 4 — these from a “professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus” specialising in the relevant period; 5, 6, 7.

    The last of these is from a popular science fiction novel of 1897, which shockingly anticipated the history iof the century just past — a novel by a student of Huxley, H G Wells. Namely, the opening chapter of War of the Worlds:

    _______________

    >> No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water . . . No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us . . . . looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas.

    And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that, generation after generation, creeps upon them.

    And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races . . . >>
    ______________

    You may wonder why a novel — however popular — is a key link in the chain. the answer is that it documents that by the close of C19, the key ideas were gelled into a so plausible cluster that H G Wells could OPEN a novel withthem as a stated premise. And, he had sufficient clarity of vision and conscience to point a warning finger.

    Wells did not use Darwin’s cool projection in Ch 6 of Descent of Man [in not only the first but successive Edns too] supermen of Europe wiping out inferior races such as Negroes at the same time as they wiped out higher apes until “The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.”

    Instead, he turned the tables, with evolutionarily and technologically superior Martians, facing a struggle for existence, crossing 35 million miles of space to seize lebensraum at he expense of those same — but now inferior — Europeans.

    Plainly, the hint was not heeded.

    And, so we read in Ch XI of Hitler’s infamous My Struggle:

    _________________

    >> Any crossing of two beings not at exactly the same level produces a medium between the level of the two parents . . . Consequently, it will later succumb in the struggle against the higher level. Such mating is contrary to the will of Nature for a higher breeding of all life . . . The stronger must dominate and not blend with the weaker, thus sacrificing his own greatness. Only the born weakling can view this as cruel, but he after all is only a weak and limited man; for if this law did not prevail, any conceivable higher development of organic living beings would be unthinkable . . . . you will never find a fox who in his inner attitude might, for example, show humanitarian tendencies toward geese, as similarly there is no cat with a friendly inclination toward mice . . . .

    In the struggle for daily bread all those who are weak and sickly or less determined succumb, while the struggle of the males for the female grants the right or opportunity to propagate only to the healthiest. [That is, Darwinian sexual selection.] And struggle is always a means for improving a species’ health and power of resistance and, therefore, a cause of its higher development. [Explicitly drawn out of the evolutionary scheme.]

    If the process were different, all further and higher development would cease and the opposite would occur. For, since the inferior always predominates numerically over the best [NB: this is a theme in Darwin's discussion of the Irish, the Scots and the English in Descent], if both had the same possibility of preserving life and propagating, the inferior would multiply so much more rapidly that in the end the best would inevitably be driven into the background, unless a correction of this state of affairs were undertaken. Nature does just this by subjecting the weaker part to such severe living conditions that by them alone the number is limited, and by not permitting the remainder to increase promiscuously, but making a new and ruthless choice according to strength and health . . . >>
    _________________

    That was 1925 in the Landsberg prison.

    In 20 years, the same lessons would be written in blood and fire across Europe.

    In today’s version, “unwanted” preborn children are in the sights, as well as the ill or comatose. (The very term, “persistent VEGETATIVE state should chill us to the heart.)

    GEM of TKI

  62. KF-san,

    Kindly explain to me this exchange for instance, as just one case in point among many. (Note, Jack Krebs in that thread was a key figure in the Kansas State controversy.)

    265
    DaveScot
    09/05/2008
    6:02 pm

    Screw this.

    Jack Krebs and Ted Davis are no longer with us. Arguing with TE’s is like beating your head against a brick wall.

    If anyone wants to carry on their conversations with them then do it on their websites.

  63. brembs,

    Anyway, Poe, Shmoe, I was being serious, even though it may not have looked like it to you.

    Who is Poe and Shmoe?

  64. Nakashima,

    Both Ted Davis and Jack Krebs are TE’s who would continually avoid answering questions about evolution when on this site. Ted Davis did not appear very often but Jack Krebs would often comment a lot on a topic. After being banned, Ted Davis was quickly let back on the site at some of our suggestions and has contributed off and on since. Ted is a great source of information on the history of the debate but personally avoids answering most direct questions. He supports ID in the sense that he believes we should be heard and that we have good points even though he does not personally endorse it. Ted is a frequent commenter at the ASA discussion group and part of the organization there.

    Timaeus who is a major supporter of ID was also banned by DaveScot because Dave thought his arguments were too skewed towards religion. Ted Davis and Timaeus combined for a long discussion of ID at ASA about 9-11 months ago. Timaeus occasionally comments here still and never was resentful that he was banned for awhile.

    Jack Krebs who has a background in evolutionary biology could not support Darwin when pressed and just said that the evidence was overwhelming and the experts agreed on it. Not very comforting for a supporter of Darwinian processes when one who has studied it as part of his degree and is responsible for writing science standards that include it, cannot defend it. I often maintained that Jack’s lack of support for Darwinian processes was a big plus for ID. Where is that supposed backing of naturalistic evolution that we do not listen to? Maybe it is like the supernatural being, in another universe or dimension.

    Jack personally was very civil and a nice guy but when push comes to shove could not back up anything he supported or did. His main argument against ID was that most who support it were YEC’s and said it was a way to get YEC ideas into the science standards. And since YEC science is bogus, ID is bogus. Not a very rational argument but one that seems to be used frequently. As I said he could not give a positive argument in support for Darwinian evolution.

    So under the previous moderation process those who continually whined about ID but could not give any defense for their position were eventually given the boot. If one did not whine against ID then they could stay even if they couldn’t support their own position. Now we have a host of serial whiners against ID who also cannot support their positions but they are allowed to stay. Me, personally I sometimes prefer the old days when the criteria was “put up or shut up.” But we need the whiners here to show that the anti ID people have nothing to show so they are productive in a certain sense and actually do serve the ID community.

  65. All this posturing about the moderation policies at UD is one of the lamest and more hypocritical episodes that appeared here since I have been commenting. I can just see it now. The anti ID poster goes home at night and says “Martha, you cannot believe how bigoted and unfair they are on this website.” “I just want to explain to them how their thinking is so wrong and as soon as I make a valid point, I get banned or put on moderation. It is so unfair. They are such contemptible people.”

    Does any one believe that any of those who are complaining about the moderation policy either now or in the past really care a rat’s rear end about it. It is so pathetic. I can understand children or toddlers who do not get their way acting this way but supposedly grown adults participate here. I realize that this is an assumption that is highly questionable.

    So those who oppose the moderation policy here, past and present, Get a Life! And bother someone else with your pseudo protestations.

  66. To jerry,
    Its not about getting you own way, its a simple principle of honesty. You cant claim (on an ID blog) that ID is science, then just ban comments you dont agree with. Its the hypocrisy that grates.

  67. 67

    Yes Graham,

    It’s akin to saying that all that matters in the material evidence, then ignoring to the point of pathological denial.

  68. “Its not about getting you own way, its a simple principle of honesty. You cant claim (on an ID blog) that ID is science, then just ban comments you dont agree with. Its the hypocrisy that grates.”

    This is the type of joke comment that appears here all the time from an anti ID person. No where will this person back up this comment. The only hypocrisy is in this type of comment.

  69. “Dembski just proved my point for me.”

    No he didn’t. He does not want to waste his time on the nonsense that appears. He answered the inanity that immediately showed up and decided not to answer any more. Who could blame him. It is his thread and he can do whatever he wants to do. You are commenting here and I am sure you could comment as much as you want and no one will shut you down here. So have at it.

    So pick a non Dembski thread to discuss your insincere indignation and you and the other trolls can discuss it all you want.

  70. jerry:

    It is his thread and he can do whatever he wants to do.

    It’s certainly true that Dembski is under no obligation to hold a discussion with his challengers. It’s also a fact that he has good reason to avoid such a discussion, namely that his points are false as a simple matter of fact.

    It is true that Dawkins’ WEASEL illustrates a very simple Darwinian principle, but Dembski agrees with rather than disputes that principle. What he disputes is a claim that is made by neither Dawkins nor evolutionary theory, namely that evolutionary processes do not create information, i.e. the active info of a search never exceeds the endogenous info of its parent search.

    That claim is trivially true if the parent search space is defined in a restricted way, in which case it’s true for both non-intelligent and intelligent processes. Intelligent entities cannot pick a small target out of an informational void any better than other entities. The LCI follows from the trivial mathematical fact:
    If P(A) = P(B) then P(A) >= P(B&C)
    and that fact is true regardless of whether you’re intelligent or not.

    (BTW, if the definition of the parent search space is unrestricted, then the LCI is false for both non-intelligent and intelligent processes. Pick your poison.)

    So it is a simple fact that the LCI neither disputes evolutionary theory nor supports ID. This is math we’re talking about here. The ID community would be better off disputing matters of opinion.

  71. R0b,

    You have set yourself up as an expert on this so I have a suggestion. Namely, that you take your insight to the journals that have published his articles and publish a letter or article telling the world what you know and that you claim Dembski is lying. Lying would be the appropriate term if “his points are false as a simple matter of fact.”

    So step up and back your accusations. Otherwise there is a religious expression that applies.

  72. Hey R0b,

    I’ve been away from UD for a little while, only stopping by occasionally to lurk or post something quickly, so I haven’t had the opportunity to see your development on the LCI.

    From your last point to jerry, it seems that you now feel that the LCI would apply equally well to humans and other intelligent agents as it would to self-contained, mechanical processes. Is this in fact your new argument?

    Atom

  73. jerry:

    Namely, that you take your insight to the journals that have published his articles and publish a letter or article telling the world what you know and that you claim Dembski is lying. Lying would be the appropriate term if “his points are false as a simple matter of fact.”

    Other than the WEASEL misinterpretation, I see nothing in his journal-published article that isn’t true. It’s his statements on this blog that are false. And the term “lying” is appropriate only if he knows them to be false, which I am in no position to judge.

  74. Atom, welcome back. I’ve been in and out myself.

    From your last point to jerry, it seems that you now feel that the LCI would apply equally well to humans and other intelligent agents as it would to self-contained, mechanical processes. Is this in fact your new argument?

    If the LCI is defined with the condition that you specified, then yes, I’m arguing that it is true for intelligent agents. It’s a very simple mathematical fact, and I see no evidence that intelligent agents can violate mathematics. I’ve pointed out many times on this blog that intelligent agents cannot find a target in an informational void any better than anything else, so it’s actually not a new argument.

  75. R0b,

    Sorry if the word “new” came across as disparaging, I meant new to me. I do recall you mentioning concerns about that issue but hadn’t seen you present it as an actual argument until now.

    I think you bring up a good point that needs to be addressed (namely, if the LCI holds, which it does, how can intelligent agents possibly circumvent it?) and I’ll do my best to address your question after I give it some more thought. Maybe we’ll come up with some more interesting results.

    Thanks for the warm welcome back.

    Atom

  76. jerry:

    So step up and back your accusations. Otherwise there is a religious expression that applies.

    Can you tell me which of my accusations I have not backed up on this blog?

  77. “Can you tell me which of my accusations I have not backed up on this blog?”

    Take your arguments against Dembski to the journal in question. They will decide if you can back them up on not. I do not know that much about Dembski’s work to make a comment but I have never found much insight from what you write so I will let the editors at the appropriate journals have at it. You are wrong on your WEASEL comments so what else are you wrong on. You show no understanding of the information content in biology and its relevance so am I to take your other technical comments as accurate.

    So if you are right go where you can make an impact instead of sniping here. Go and publish or at least gather a following for your ideas.

  78. R0b,

    Thinking over your objection it seems that we run into problems if we imagine that intelligent agents choose to construct a system in order to solve a problem, rather than just solving the problem directly. The meat of the LCI is that it takes more (or the same) amount of functional information to construct a system to solve a problem than it takes to solve the problem directly.

    The set up for the LCI takes as a starting point a collection of systems/strategies/probability density distributions/etc which are systems we could potentially use to solve a problem. The functional information we must input in order to narrow that set down from a set with average probability of success equal to blind search to a set that performs at least as good as q is equal to or greater than the amount of functional information we gain by using that strategy/fitness function/algorithm/etc.

    So, choosing one system from a group of systems requires functional information, and we get no more functional information out of that strategy than the functional information we input by our choice.

    However, humans don’t usually solve problems in this manner; we don’t say “how can I construct a machine to write my term papers for me?” since we know that writing our term papers directly requires less functional information than creating a machine that can then write term papers for us. The original problem is the easier one.

    So it seems we need to posit a source of functional information, that can create it directly. From experience, we know that humans regularly generate large amounts of functional information, even if we cannot yet explain how they do so. But the empirical fact remains that functional information is consistently associated with intelligent agency.

    So if humans are sources of functional information, rather than mere re-shufflers, this would seem to answer the question in a way that doesn’t require any additional adjustments to ID. ID has always posited that the answer to the information problem is intelligent agency and this would be one more case in which the problem arises and is answered by the same hypothesis. I find it no coincidence that the argument usually returns to the information problem and that intelligent agency is once again the most causally adequate explanation, based on what we know about the “cause and effect structure of the universe,” to borrow a phrase from Stephen Meyer. Intelligence is the only cause we know of capable of generating large amounts of functional information.

    How exactly this occurs is an exciting open question at this point and is an example of research questions an ID perspective raises. The answer can’t be: “The choosing of a strategy to solve my original information problem generates functional information” since the LCI shows conclusively that this act does not generate information in and of itself; rather it must be that by generating functional information, I can then choose a strategy (if need be) or solve the problem directly (as is the usual, and easier, case.)

    Atom

  79. A couple clarifications on my previous post:

    I accidentally wrote that we get no more functional information out of a system than we put in, but this isn’t 100% accurate; to be precise, the active information output is not greater than the functional information input. (The active information itself is what leads to success in the search, and therefore functional information on the lower level search, but the way that I wrote it wasn’t technically precise.)

    Sorry for the imprecision of my phrasing, I trust you got the actual intent.

    Atom

  80. R0b,

    I’ve pointed out many times on this blog that intelligent agents cannot find a target in an informational void any better than anything else,

    Intelligent agents don’t design informational voids for their designing purposes, only evolution has this incontrovertible problem.

  81. jerry:

    Take your arguments against Dembski to the journal in question. They will decide if you can back them up on not.

    I have already told you that I’m disputing statements that Dembski made on this blog, not in his published article. Why would the journal care about statements that Dembski has made on this blog?

    You are wrong on your WEASEL comments so what else are you wrong on.

    Please quote one of these inaccurate comments.

    So if you are right go where you can make an impact instead of sniping here.

    This conversation started with you telling Anthony09:
    So pick a non Dembski thread to discuss your insincere indignation and you and the other trolls can discuss it all you want.

    Now you’re saying that I shouldn’t use this blog as a forum to dispute what Dembski has said on this blog. Sorry, but I’m going to continue to do so.

  82. Atom, thanks for your response. You make excellent points that should be discussed, which I can hopefully do later today.

  83. Take your time R0b. I know you’ll give a thoughtful response; hopefully we can clarify where exactly we disagree, even if we can’t agree in the end.

    Atom

  84. Atom,

    I’m not sure if I’m reading your argument correctly, so I do a little bit of restating to see if I’m understanding you.

    The LCI is a mathematically inviolable fact, but it only describes the relationship between a child search and a parent search. Intelligent agents find functional targets directly rather than searching for a search, so the LCI isn’t applicable. Am I on track so far?

    But how do agents find functional targets? I submit that under both definitions of “active information” given toward the end of section II in the recently published paper, agents use active information to do so. Under the first definition, we know empirically that agents can’t find targets in an informational void. Under the second definition, an agent’s ability to find a target with higher probability than blind search constitutes active information, by definition.

    So intelligent agents, like everything else, use active information to find targets with better-than-blind efficiency. It would seem, then, that Marks and Dembski’s concepts can’t be used to distinguish intelligent causes from unintelligent causes.

    You, however, are talking about a certain kind of target, namely functional information. If we note that only intelligent agents are observed to produce functional information, then we can infer by induction that functional information of unknown origin was produced by an intelligent agent. That seems a very different argument than the one made by the EIL, which doesn’t involve or quantify functional information.

    Am I way off track here?

  85. Hey R0b,

    The first part of your restatement sounds close to correct, though I might ask for the context of “find functional targets”, since I can think of two different cases that may obtain. In the first case, producing English text or functional, complex machinery, humans can seem to find the targets that convey meaning or accomplish their task without much trouble. For example, if I wanted to create a new piece of software to calculate the first million digits of pi, I can do so without trouble, though the number of programs that calculate that result are extremely small compared to space all programs. Somehow I know on how to zoom onto that small island of functionality, and find a small target that accomplishes my purpose. Intentionality, purpose, design. The same is true with finding vastly improbable functional strings of letters that convey the exact meaning I want.

    However, in the second case, I can imagine trying to find the combination to a lock that I have no information about. That seems like a case where I wouldn’t do any better than blind search.

    However, there is an interesting middle ground as well. Let’s say we’re trying to find a particular word in a book. If we know nothing about the book, I will have to resort to brute search, looking word by word. But, as I search I will notice that the words are ordered in such a way that the book is a list in alphabetical order. Then suddenly I can find the word much quicker, since my intelligence perceives this fact and applies this knowledge to my search.

    So I agree that in some cases we do need structural information, even as intelligent agents, to find certain targets. But I also see how we can create functional information when finding the targets directly, as we do in outputting improbable lines of text.

    To relate functional information to active information, we see that functional information in our higher level search can result in active information for our lower level search. (The functional information of the set Q, which is the set of “good” functions, depends on how small it is compared to O2, the higher level space.) So to achieve active information associated with an improvement of q, we need a measurable amount of functional information, measured to be at least as much as the active information. It is here that we ask “Where did this higher level functional information come from?” My argument is that it comes from the same place we usually see large amounts of functional information come from: intelligent agents. We are either the source of the functional information, or something else is. Experience tells us that we can produce large amounts of functional information, and we’ve yet to see another cause capable of producing it so readily. So intelligence is currently the most adequate explanation.

    The problem I would like to see resolved is to measure exactly how much functional information humans are capable of generating (it seems like a lot…just look how long my post is!) and to investigate what exactly causes us to be capable of doing such things (if we can discover this). I wish I had answers to those questions, but more research needs to be done.

    In the meantime, I think it is a good question you raise, even if it isn’t a knock-down argument against the LCI or ID. We find that a search for a search once again returns to the “Information Problem” we see popping up again and again. Where did all the functional information come from? ID says from intelligence, materialists say from the cosmos and the environment. However, since evolutionary searches require fitness functions specific to the forms they produce, and therefore require functional information to explain the narrowing of the fitness function set, they don’t appear to be the ultimate answer. I have a strong sense that the ultimate answer will involve intelligence, since that is the only causally adequate class I can think of.

    Atom

  86. PS, to guard myself from nitpickers:

    When I said the number of programs that output the first million digits of pi’s decimals is small compared to the space of all programs, I obviously am implying an upper limit on the size of the programs. (In other words, all programs of a fixed size that output pi.) The space of all programs is infinite, as is the number of programs that output pi, since I can always add useless operations to any program.

    I know you got my meaning, but I can imagine someone in webspace saying “what an ID-iot…the space of all programs infinite!”

    Yes, yes it is.

    Atom

  87. Atom, thanks for your response.

    It’s true that, given an alphabetically ordered book, an intelligent human is likely to notice the order and find the target much faster than blind search. Let’s suppose that the probability of the human succeeding within a certain number of queries is 90%, while the probability of a blind process succeeding is .000001%. This gives a ratio of 90 million, or about 26 bits of active info.

    Note that 26 bits of active info is both necessary and sufficient in order for a non-blind search to have a 90% chance of success. So the success, and therefore the resulting functional information, is wholly explained by the active information. All that remains is to explain the active information.

    In order show that at least some of the active information was actually created by the human, we would at least have to show that the endogenous info of the higher-level search is less than 26 bits. How many configurations in the higher-level space consist of an alphabetically ordered book combined with an agent that can detect the order? (Or some other configuration that yields at least 90% chance of success.) If it’s less than one 90 millionth, then Marks and Dembski’s accounting method says that no information has been created.

    And given that the LCI is a mathematical fact, the endogenous info of the higher level search is guaranteed to be at least 26 bits. So no matter what, even if an intelligent agent is involved, we’re stuck with the mathematical fact that no information is created.

    Sorry for the long-winded reply. The upshot is that I see no way for intelligence to get around the math.

  88. R0b,

    I think I see where we’re missing each other. You’re using functional information only to refer to the results of success on the lower level search, as in the Active Information creates functional information on the lower level. This is true in a sense.

    But what you’re not taking into account is that functional information occurs on the higher level search as well, explaining the active information.

    Namely, in the LCI proof we end up with as the final line:

    I+ <= -log(|Q|/|O2|)

    What I noticed is that this relation defines the relationship between functional information in the higher level (O2) search space and active information on the lower level search. What is on the right hand side is functional information as defined by Hazen et. al. in their PNAS paper "Functional information and the emergence of biocomplexity“, where q is the threshold defining acceptable function, |Q| is the number of states achieving that threshold, and |O2| is the total number of possible states. So the LCI says that for any amount of active information, it takes at least as much functional information (built into the system) to achieve it.

    The question then becomes “Where does this functional information come from?” This is the same as the question “Where does functional information, in general, come from?” From experience, we know the most likely answer: intelligent agents. You know what it is about yourself (namely your intelligence) that allows you to output functional information in the form of mathematical proofs and UD posts.

    Now does the LCI hold in reverse, so that every amount of functional information requires a given amount of active information (leading to a circle)? I don’t think it does, but it could be that I’m not thinking about it hard enough. If you can show that it does, please let me know.

    If not, then there is no problem positing a functional information generator…especially since a) we need one to account for the functional information we see and b) we have one very good candidate we see generating it all the time: intelligence.

    Atom

  89. Addendum:

    To use your example from the last post, the human began with no information about the search space in question (namely, the book). Therefore, using one definition of active information (knowledge of a search space used to achieve results better than blind search) the agent began with none.

    At t0, active info = 0 bits.

    This is further confirmed, since the agent is initially using blind, brute search.

    At t_f, a time period later, the agent is now using a binary search, and thus can find the word. This search method matches the search space well, given the ordering, and thus active information is now present in both senses of the word: 1) the method used reflects and incorporates problem specific information, and 2) the performance dramatically improves.

    Thus, at t_f, active information increases to let’s say 26 bits.

    Where did the active information come from between t0 and t_f?

    Well, the agent used her intelligence to notice, perceive, understand and learn something about the search space. Furthermore, she used that information to choose a good search method based on the search space itself.

    Functional information generated by the agent, based on intelligent activity, was used to design and implement a good search algorithm.

    Active Information requires functional information at the O2 level, and functional information at the O2 level was generated by intelligence. This thought experiment illustrates my point well.

    Atom

  90. Atom, the connection you draw between -log(|Q|/|O2|) and functional information is insightful, and it ties Marks and Dembski’s concepts to Hazen, Durston, etc.

    As for the functional info / active info loop, it seems to me that you’re equating functional info with higher-level endogenous info (-log(|Q|/|O2|)). Since active info, by definition, is always required in order to feasibly produce a sizable amount of endogenous info, I would say that there is such a loop.

    But again, it seems that the argument for intelligence that you’re making is not the one that Marks and Dembski are making. You’re answering the question “Where does functional info come from?” by induction based on empirical observations. Marks and Dembski are answering the question “Where does active info come from?” via a purely mathematical argument. Your argument seems independent of the active info concepts.

  91. WRT your addendum, I would argue, that the active info at t0 is not 0 bits. I have two different arguments, which I’ll spread over two comments.

    First, the only quantitative definition that I know of for active info is -log(p/q), where p is the probability of success for blind search, and q is the probability of success for the non-blind search. So it seems that if the human is more likely to succeed than blind search, the amount of active information must be non-zero. If a different definition of active info yields a different number, then it seems that the framework is inconsistent, and Marks and Dembski have no coherent foundation on which to base their arguments.

    You might argue that the active info exists at some point in time but not necessarily at t0. That would raise the bigger issue of what it means for active info to exist. Active info is a property of a search, but what is a search? In their latest two papers, Dembski and Marks characterize a search simply as a pair consisting of a probability distribution (the definition of which includes the definition of the sample space) and a target. As long as the probability distribution and the target exist, active info exists as a property of the pair.

    In the case of the human and the book, the probability distribution is defined by that human’s abilities and the content of the book, both of which pre-exist the execution of the search. The target also presumably pre-exists the execution of the search, or it wouldn’t make much sense to call it a target. Since the active info is a property of the human’s abilities, the content of the book, and the target, I submit that the active info pre-exists the execution of the search.

  92. Second, I submit that if we use the definition of active info that you stated (knowledge of a search space used to achieve results better than blind search), we still have non-zero active information at t0.

    If the human truly had no idea what order the words are in the book, then he would have no reason to infer that the book is alphabetical unless he queried every word. No matter how many queries he made, all of them turning out to be consistent with a hypothesis of alphabetical order, there would always be more non-alphabetical configurations for the remaining words than alphabetical configurations. (Until he got down to the last word.)

    But we humans are pattern-finding creatures. When we observe part of a space and notice a pattern, we assume that it continues throughout, unless we have a reason to believe otherwise. That is, we do not follow the philosophy on which Marks and Dembski’s work hinges, namely the Principle of Indifference. (Marks and Dembski don’t follow it consistently either, nor do they justify their choice of when to follow it and when not to. And yet their argument depends on this choice.)

    Humans do not start with a uniform prior distribution. If we did, we could never draw inferences or inductions. Our typical prior seems more in line with what Kirchherr, Li, and Vitanyi call the universal distribution (see http://homepages.cwi.nl/~paulv/papers/mathint97.ps). We assign disproportionately high probabilities to configurations that preserve an observed pattern.

    This stems from our knowledge that the world around us is filled with dependencies resulting in order, especially when it comes to human artifacts like books. Certain patterns, like alphabetical ordering, are particularly familiar to us.

    So, following Marks and Dembski’s characterization of a search as a distribution/target pair, our distribution starts off very skewed, based on what we know about the world around us. The knowledge that we live in a universe that isn’t pure random noise, where extrapolations of observed patterns are often correct, constitutes problem-specific knowledge.

  93. R0b,

    Sorry I haven’t had a chance to respond yet.

    For my addendum, you are correct. The agent could not be sure that the text was really in dictionary order, even if it appeared to be that way. It could be the case that the pages they looked at were ordered, but there were other pages that were not. This is a defeater of my example, so I’ll concede it isn’t a very strong one. (It does raise an additional question, however, about what the likelihood of having a book that isn’t dictionary ordered but that the random pages you looked at were all in dictionary order…I’m sure there is some interesting question dealing with subset and functional matching, but I don’t know if it would do anything to save my example.)

    However, you did make one statement in your refutation that I wish to address. You wrote:

    In the case of the human and the book, the probability distribution is defined by that human’s abilities and the content of the book, both of which pre-exist the execution of the search.

    This is true, but you are assuming (without warrant) that the state of the human with regards to its true knowledge and ability to surpass blind search at t0 cannot change after t0. It is like having a computer system. You would argue that the computer is loaded with the ability (hardware + software) to execute a certain search at t0. This is only true if the computer has the correct software. What I am arguing, in a sense, is akin to a computer that can create its own software on the fly when it desires, after t0. If it does not desire to do so, the abilities remain limited, which would mean the active information at t0 was indeed 0 bits. Before it has decided to generate functional information or not, it does not have that functional information, so it cannot be said to have the software/hardware configuration it needs to solve the problem with greater than p probability of success. It can only be said to have the potential to gain that ability, which is a different thing. It may be the case that it never decides to do so, in which case the active info at t0 would be zero for that search.

    Active Information changes in response (or rather as a consequence of) functional information. So if we have a unit generating functional information, this means our active information will change over time. You can plot this as average queries remaining until success as the search progresses; the addition of functional information during your search will alter this number from the expected value, leading your search to terminate faster than expected from any given point along your search.

    It is a tricky concept, because now we’re getting into intentionality and intelligence, much less well defined areas than mere search algorithms. However, a resolution to the Information Problem will probably push us there in the future.

    The D&M paper doesn’t address the ultimate resolution to the information problem, but it is implicit that intelligent agency is one solution to the problem, since the active information in the examples given traces back to functional information encoded by intelligent agents. Perhaps with more time we can flesh out a fuller, more mathematically formal model of this process, but I think this is still a few years off. For now, D&M have had an uphill battle getting others to even acknowledge that there is a problem that needs addressing, since many still feel that natural selection can somehow generate information surpassing the encoded (and quantifiable) information embedded in the fitness function. It cannot. The LCI prohibits this on strict grounds that unless the fitness function itself is logically necessary, then we need information to constrain it to a proper subset.

    Again, humans and other intelligences usually do not generate searches for a search to solve problems. We usually just generate what functional information we need to solve a problem. (I don’t build machines to construct sentences for me, I usually just construct my own sentences.) How we do so is something of a mystery at this point, but I’m open to seeing a proof that there can be no information generating devices in history. If you feel the LCI proves that no device in the history of the cosmos (including intelligent agents) could have functioned as a generator of functional information, it would be an interesting result indeed.

    Atom

    PS I don’t know why my posts to you are so long! Forgive me, I’ll limit the subjects I discuss in my next posts.

Leave a Reply