Home » Design inference, Intelligent Design » Critics agree with Dembski, the No Free Lunch theorem applies to evolution

Critics agree with Dembski, the No Free Lunch theorem applies to evolution

We’ve all noticed the ID critics all speak outside of their realm of expertise. Biologists expound their expert opinions on mathematics, mathematicians make claims about computer science, and computer scientists think they know it all when it comes to evolution.

So, I thought, what happens if I only listen to their opinions in their actual realms of expertise?

Here’s a mathematician, MarkCC, author of the blog “Good Math, Bad Math.”

What’s his expertise? Math. What does he say about Dembski’s mathematics?

“he’s actually a decent mathematician”

What is not his expertise? Computer science. What does he say in the domain of computer science?

“But his only argument for making those modifications have nothing to do with evolution: he’s carefully picking search spaces[competitive agent (co-evolutionary) algorithms] that have the properties he want, even though they have fundamentally different properties from evolution.” [formatting mine]

Here MarkCC misunderstands the point of said paper, which is to define the how fitness of agents in co-evolutionary algorithms should be measured in general, regardless of the search space. (As an aside, he also doesn’t realize the triangle inequality can apply to evolutionary scenarios as well: B outbreeds and eliminates A, C outbreeds and eliminates B; but A could have outbred C given the chance.)

But, MarkCC is excused since both of these issues are outside of his realm of expertise.

Alright, let’s look at what the computer science experts have to say, namely Wolpert. Wolpert responds to Dembski’s earlier work on the NFL, which didn’t address co-evolution.

Let’s remind ourselves that Wolpert’s expertise lies in algorithms, not in biology. Does he detect any problem with Dembski’s understanding of the NFLT? Well, if Wolpert does, he says nothing. Instead, the supposed problem is:

“…throughout there is a marked elision of the formal details of the biological processes under consideration. Perhaps the most glaring example of this is that neo-Darwinian evolution of ecosystems does not involve a set of genomes all searching the same, fixed fitness function, the situation considered by the NFL theorems. Rather it is a co-evolutionary process.” [formatting mine]

So, within Wolpert’s domain of expertise he detects no problem with Dembski’s work, just like MarkCC, or at least is silent. Wolpert’s only complaint is outside his field, whether Dembski correctly formalizes evolutionary processes within his argument, not that Wolpert has much sympathy for Darwinists either.*  He does indicate that he believes the NFL does not apply to co-evolution**:

“Roughly speaking, as each genome changes from one generation to the next, it modifies the surfaces that the other genomes are searching. And recent results indicate that NFL results do not hold in co-evolution.

Now for the punch line: but what happens when Wolpert does examine the evolutionary details and whether the NFL applies to them?

“In general in biological coevolution scenarios (e.g., evolutionary game theory), there is no notion of a champion being produced by the search and subsequently pitted against an antagonist in a “bake-off”. Accordingly, there is no particular signifcance to results for C’s that depend on f.

This means that so long as we make the approximation, reasonable in real biological systems, that x’s are never revisited, all of the requirements of Ex. 1 are met. This means that NFL applies.” [formatting mine]

It is commonly noted that when smart people achieve expertise in a certain area, they suddenly think they are experts in many others, even when lacking the necessary knowledge. When listening to smart people, it is always wise to take this into consideration, and listen most closely to their opinions about what they’re carefully studied.

The ID debates are no exception.

—————

* “First, biologists in particular and scientists in general are horribly confused defenders of their field. When responding to attacks from non-scientists, rather than attempt the rigor that the geometry of induction and similar bodies of statistics provide, they fall back on Popperian incantations, trying to browbeat their opponents into acceding to the homily that if one follows certain magic rituals—the vaunted “scientific method”—then one is rewarded with The Truth. No mathematically precise derivation of these rituals from first principles is provided. The “scientific method” is treated as a first-category topic, opening it up to all kinds of attack. In particular, in defending neo-Darwinism, no admission is allowed that different scientific disciplines simply cannot reach the same level of certainty in their conclusions due to intrinsic differences in the accessibility of the domains they study.”

** From the comments regarding how exactly the NFL applies to co-evolution:

What Wolpert is saying here is that co-evolution can produce fitter competitors, but it still cannot produce complex functionality:

“For example, say the problem is to design a value y that
maximizes a provided function g(y), e.g., design a biological
organ that can function well as an optical sensor. Then, even
if we are in the general coevolutionary scenario of interacting
populations, we can still cast the problem as a special case
of Example 1….
Due to the fact that they’re a special case of Example 1, the
NFL theorems hold in such scenarios. The extra details of the
dynamics introduced by the general biological coevolutionary
process do not affect the validity of those theorems, which is
independent of such details.”

However, it can possibly produce a better survivor:

“On the other hand, say the problem is to design an organism that is likely to avoid extinction (i.e., have a non-zero
population frequency) in the years after a major change to the
ecosystem. More precisely, say that our problem is to design
that organism, and then, after we’re done its ecosystem is
subjected to that change, a change we know nothing about a
priori. For this problem the coevolution scenario is a variant of
self-play; the “years after the major change to the ecosystem”
constitute the “subsequent game against an antagonist”. Now
it may be quite appropriate to choose a C that depends directly
on f. In this situation NFL may not hold.”

Note that this is consistent with ID’s claim that evolution cannot produce complex functionality.

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

53 Responses to Critics agree with Dembski, the No Free Lunch theorem applies to evolution

  1. What’s his expertise? Math.

    What is not his expertise? Computer science.

    From the ‘About MarkCC’ section of his blog:

    Mark Chu-Carroll is a PhD computer scientist and professional software engineer. His professional interests center on collaborative software development, programming languages and tools, and how to improve the daily lives of software developers.

    What is his expertise? Computer science.

  2. If by “Computer Science” you mean software engineering, then yes, you are correct. However, if you look at his publications:
    http://scholar.google.com/scho.....s_sdt=0,47

    none appear to deal at all with the mathematical underpinnings of algorithms, which is more properly the relevant field for understanding the No Free Lunch Theorem. So, I believe it is still fair for me to say he is speaking outside of his realm of expertise when he critiques Dembski’s use of the NFLT.

  3. It is commonly noted that when smart people achieve expertise in a certain area, they suddenly think they are experts in many others, even when lacking the necessary knowledge. When listening to smart people, it is always wise to take this into consideration, and listen most closely to their opinions about what they’re carefully studied.

    So true. And beautifully put.

  4. 4

    Unfortunately, it’s not just smart people, it seems to afflict anyone who revels in the accolades of man. Look at movie stars who are now experts on the environment, or sports figures who have sought-after opinions on politics etc.
    The principle seems to be – the more famous you are, the harder to admit you might be wrong about something.

  5. I don’t care what expertise someone has, other than to perhaps give them the benefit of the doubt before they first open their mouth. After that, their credibility hinges on what they actually say, rather than some certificate they have on the wall. This is particularly true with controversial issues which have the potential to carry a lot of philosophical baggage.

    The funny thing is watching people (including some of the ones cited in the post above) who realize that chance and necessity have no ability to do anything meaningful in their field of expertise, but who are awed by “evolution” (always poorly defined) and imagine that it has some special property that allows it to violate everything else we know about how the world works. Darwinists have been so exceedingly successful in getting people to buy into the mantra that “with a self-replicating organism nothing is impossible,” that unfortunately many people just assume it must be true and that the onus should be on the skeptics to prove otherwise. Darwinism has never, not for a century and a half, even come close to carrying its burden to demonstrate that the design so evident in life (which Darwinists acknowledge appears to be there there and from which they must constantly avert their eyes) can come about by Darwin’s proposed process of chance changes + selection. The only reason it is even believable to some people is that it relys on a near complete lack of understanding of what is actually required for living systems, compounded by unfortunate fact that we are gazing back through the murky mists of time.

    Apologies for the long-winded comment, but I am not at all impressed with an “expert” paying obeisance to evolution.

  6. Of somewhat related interest at ENV:

    Vanity, Thy Name is Venema – David Klinghoffer
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....49771.html

  7. I’ve an example, too. Mike Behe – a biochemist who talks a lot outside his field, about evolutionary biology. He should leave it to those with expertise in it. Like Richard Lenski.

    And another – Phillip Johnson, a lawyer who also talks outside his field, strangely enough also about evolutionary biology.

    The list is endless…..

  8. Eric,

    A little clarification, if you please. You say “critics” and “what the computer science experts have to say” and yet you cite only one such authority. Were there other experts that you forgot to mention? Thank you.

  9. Eric Anderson, I whole-heartedly concur with your acute perspective, right on. Neo-Darwinists, are some of the most intellectually dishonest scientists I have ever heard.

    Regarding qualifications in any specified field of expertise, I maintain, that it is NOT* the ‘degrees’ that validate what they say, BUT, what they say, that qualifies their ‘degrees’!

  10. This post surprises me greatly. I’ve read the blog off and on since Dembski created it. Many of the discussants have been software engineers. Gil Dodgen, in particular, has insisted that software engineers are particularly well equipped to understand why mainstream evolutionary theory is wrong. Furthermore, the blog has sought over and over to persuade laypeople that they can draw correct conclusions about evolutionary theory for themselves, i.e., without relying on “experts” to tell them what is right or wrong.

    Biologists are almost all evolutionists. Most of the proponents of ID are not educated in life sciences. Your effort to get people to accept ID depends heavily on persuading them that people who are not experts in biology can identify errors in evolutionary theory. But when you do that, you must acknowledge that one does not need expertise in ID theory to identify errors in it.

  11. I don’t care what expertise someone has, other than to perhaps give them the benefit of the doubt before they first open their mouth. After that, their credibility hinges on what they actually say, rather than some certificate they have on the wall.

    It almost sounds like you are saying that you only find an expert credible if they are saying things you agree with … ?

  12. none appear to deal at all with the mathematical underpinnings of algorithms

    So MCC isn’t a mathematician then?

    My PhD was in computer science as well but I didn’t do much on mathematical underpinnings. Comp Sci is quite broad as a field, some of my research was in practical applications for AI and evolutionary algorithms with an emphasis on hardware.

    I believe it is still fair for me to say he is speaking outside of his realm of expertise when he critiques Dembski’s use of the NFLT.

    Don’t forget, we are talking about evolutionary biology and computer science. Dembski is a mathematician and a philosopher, not a biologist or a computer scientist.

    It is commonly noted that when smart people achieve expertise in a certain area, they suddenly think they are experts in many others, even when lacking the necessary knowledge.

    Indeed!

  13. 13

    Wolpert is probably one of the best examples to cite in regards to the NFLT, since he and MacReady developed the formalized theorem (though there were hints of it in a number of previous authors’ writings). Truth be told, I’ve not found any other Comp Sci experts in algorithmics weigh in on Dembski’s work. If you know of any I’d be grateful to see their work.

    I know my style is somewhat belligerent, but that is largely born of frustration. I did not come into ID with preconceived acceptance, in fact I was originally antagonistic. My thought was “If ID is so great, where are all the results? Why isn’t it being applied? If Dembski et al are right, ID should be revolutionary in all realms of human endeavor!”

    So, I spent some time reading the critics, and this bore my frustration. I could not find one author who treated Dembski’s work fairly! If someone could fairly refute Dembski’s work I’d be all over it, but I haven’t found anyone! Instead it’s all passive aggressive ad homineum and brow beating, with ample burning of strawmen, very tiring to read.

    That’s why I now adopt a fairly antagonistic writing style in regards to ID, daring anti-IDists to give me a good counter to Dembski!

    Of course, I’m not the greatest nor clearest writer, but I do know what I think, and am pretty sure I “get” ID, and can see when someone has refuted it. It’s quite easy to make me look dumb, etc. but I really want someone who honestly sees a genuine problem with ID’s foundations and can present it!

  14. 14

    Of course, when critiquing a theoretical result in Comp Sci and its application, it helps if one has expert or at least significant understanding in said field. As far as I can tell MCC does not have this, and I believe I have more expertise (MSc in AI & evoalgs). Wolpert, of course, is the expert here (since he wrote the theory), and he actually explicitly agrees with Dembski in his co-evolution paper, even though the agreement is sort of hidden (intentionally?).

  15. The NFL theorems would only apply to evolution if we also considered solutions to the problems of survival that are unconnected with each other. Evolutionary algorithms are far better than blind search algorithms at finding connected solutions, and connected solutions is exactly what they find.

    Nobody is claiming they find unconnected solutions – indeed that’s why the solutions we observe form nested hierarchies, because those are the solutions findable by evolutionary algorithms.

    That is, of course, why Irreducible Complexity is the the one half-way decent argument against Darwinian evolution – an IC solution is supposed to be an unconnected solution, and therefore not findable by Darwinian evolution.

    The trouble is that just because something doesn’t function if you take away any part doesn’t mean that it got there by adding the parts that it currently has, so showing that any given solution is unconnected, or that all solutions are connected, is almost impossible.

    What you can do, however, is to show that the distribution of solutions forms nested hierarchies, i.e. connected solutions – indeed it was to explain this observed distribution that Darwin formulated his theory.

  16. As someone pointed out elsewhere, there is a part missing from the Wolpert quote:

    Indeed, throughout there is a marked elision of the formal details of the biological processes under consideration. Perhaps the most glaring example of this is that neo-Darwinian evolution of ecosystems does not involve a set of genomes all searching the same, fixed fitness function, the situation considered by the NFL theorems. Rather it is a co-evolutionary process. Roughly speaking, as each genome changes from one generation to the next, it modifies the surfaces that the other genomes are searching. And recent results indicate that NFL results do not hold in co-evolution.

  17. Also:

    Here’s a mathematician, MarkCC, author of the blog “Good Math, Bad Math.”

    What’s his expertise? Math. What does he say about Dembski’s mathematics?

    “he’s actually a decent mathematician, but he’s devoted his skills to creating convincing mathematical arguments based on invalid premises.”

    Plus there’s Wolpert’s preceding passage:

    The values of the factors arising in the NFL theorems are never properly specified in [Dembski's] analysis. More generally, no consideration is given to whether some of the free lunches in the geometry of induction might be more relevant than the NFL theorems (e.g., those free lunches concerning “head-to-head minimax” distinctions that concern pairs of algorithms considered together rather than single algorithms considered in isolation).

    The headline of the OP seems to me to be completely unjustified.

  18. I would agree that some of the critics are off-puttingly aggressive. But I don’t think the flaws in Dembski’s arguments require a great deal of mathematical expertise to spot, and IMO there are several. It’s not that his equations are wrong, AFAICT, but that they aren’t the equations that answer the relevant questions.

    I posted one here the other day, in a direct response to a post by Dembski himself.

  19. H’mm:

    This is good enough to deserve a name as a fallacy.

    Perhaps, the fallacy of creeping omniscience?

    As in [with adjustments, pardon]:

    It is commonly noted that when smart or educated or famous, or wealthy or powerful people or the like achieve expertise or noted success in a certain area, they suddenly think they are experts in many others, even when lacking the necessary knowledge. When listening to smart or educated or famous, or wealthy or powerful people, it is always wise to take this into consideration, and listen most closely to their opinions about what they’re carefully studied. (But, even on those topics where they have genuine expertise, we should note that no expert is better than his facts, assumptions and reasoning.)

    Any thoughts?

    GEM of TKI

  20. Nope, he is plainly saying that no expert is better than his facts, reasoning and underlying assumptions.

  21. Dr Liddle:

    I am afraid your objections were anticipated and answered in thread and in onward linked materials, from an exchange with a statistician some years ago.

    GEM of TKI

  22. Dr Liddle

    the problem is to get to islands of function, as has been pointed out to you over and over again. Starting with the origin of life, the clearest case for those caught up in the tree of life analogy. And yes it is an argument by analogy in the end.

    More specifically until you have a metabolising entity with symbolic code based self replication based on C-chemistry aqueous media cells, you have not got to the first island of function for observed biological life, and you have no platform for claimed evolution by chance variation and natural selection.

    To then move to zygotes deploying into complex body plans with reproduction, including the origin of the sexes, you then have some serious irreducible complexity hurdles to pass, and this time it is not 100′s of k bits, it is 10.s or 100s of mega bits of novel functionally specific info to account for.

    The only observationally warranted source for such FSCI is intelligence.

    And, Dr Bot, you need to address the beaver case — and to the fact that it is say not any and every human who may design a computer — on your attempt to constrict inference to design to inference to humans. The proper inference plainly is to intelligence.

    GEM of TKI

  23. F/N: I would like to hear someone explain to the designers of air to air missiles, how the fact that targets move means that there is not a search challenge to be met.

  24. Kf:

    the problem is to get to islands of function, as has been pointed out to you over and over again.

    yes, I know you keep pointing it out! And what I keep on responding is that the issue is whether the “islands of function” are, in fact, islands.

    If they aren’t there isn’t a problem.

    So the argument isn’t whether you can get to these putative islands of functions with a Darwinian search (obviously you can’t), but whether they are, actually islands.

    And I think it is by no means clear that what you regard as IC hurdles are, in fact, IC hurdles.

    But we’d be better off arguing about that than arguing about whether Darwinian search could get over them if they existed.

    These are two quite separate arguments.

  25. That’s not the analogy being invoked.

  26. Or, how a moving target in general simplifies the search problem.

  27. the problem is to get to islands of function, as has been pointed out to you over and over again.

    Easy, first life was designed.

    But we are not discussing that, we are discussing evolution. The topic of discussion is evolution, not the origin of self replicators. How many times do we have to point out that they are different questions – you can have an intelligently designed first life that then evolves – we are discussing the evolution of living things, not the design of first life.

    You have picked up the goalposts and run off with them into a neighboring field. Please address the issues on their merits.

  28. We aren’t really talking about a target though are we – a better metaphor is a dynamically varying fitness landscape.

  29. …in which the landscape itself is a function of the search process.

  30. DrBot, The origin of life directly impacts all subsequent evolution. For example if life was designed it is a safe bet it evolved by design, was designed to evolve.

    And the only reason to infer all subsequent evolution is due to accumulations of genetic accidents is if life arose spontaneously, ie via stochastic processes.

  31. Dr. Bot:

    The topic of discussion is evolution, not the origin of self replicators. How many times do we have to point out that they are different questions – you can have an intelligently designed first life that then evolves – we are discussing the evolution of living things, not the design of first life.

    Unless you are prepared to stipulate “first life” isn’t living, or that self-replicators are neither alive nor evolve, you don’t get to dismiss the problem of how the first self-replicators evolved from whatever they evolved from. If there is no initial island of function to be got to, then demonstrate the peninsula or isthmus, demonstrate how random chance formed a self-replicator and how it was naturally selected to self-replicate. No doubt Dr. Liddle can envision another of her “just so models” as a data appendix to your next paper on the subject.

    Aerodynamic engineers don’t get to dismiss problems of takeoff and landing with blithe handwaving about mid-air flight. Physicists don’t get to dismiss problems of how the standard model accounts for the origin of observed particles and forces with blithe handwaving about quantum vaccum. And Darwinists don’t get to argue that everything evolves, that everything makes sense in the light of evolution, and then refuse to shine that light where evolution began.

    *Every* intellectually honest scientist must grapple with all the issues implicit in their theories, especially when they assert there are no sufficient alternative theories.

    You have picked up the goalposts and run off with them into a neighboring field.

    Hardly. You are pretending there is no goal line (let alone goal posts) at your end of the field.

  32. I should add, I think dissecting the backgrounds of the people quoted, and their quotes, is fair game. Let the chips fall where they may. Let’s see where the evidence, all the evidence, leads.

  33. I should add, I think dissecting the backgrounds of the people quoted, and their quotes, is fair game. Let the chips fall where they may. Let’s see where the evidence, all the evidence, leads.

    [above comment got 'replied' to wrong comment]

  34. Charles: describing OOL models as a “just so modes” doesn’t make them so!

    They are models being actively tested against actual data as we speak.

    And of course, they aren’t mine.

    DrBot’s point, of course, is that to raise the OOL as an argument against Darwinian evolution (the subject of the OP) doesn’t make sense. Darwinian evolution isn’t an OOL theory.

  35. Well, not in my view, kairosfocus, as I tried to articulate in my responses to your posts.

  36. The origin of life is directly tied to any talk of its subsequent evolution. If Darwinism/ neo-darwinism is silent on the oigin of life then it cannot say anything about its subsequent evolution.

    If life was designed then it is safe to infer it evolved by design. It is only if life is the result of spontaneous/ stochastic processes would we infer darwinism/ neo-darwinism was the explanation for its subsequent evolution.

  37. Most of the “landscape” is flooded with a sea of non-function. Unless you beg the question of being within the resulting islands of function. Which is what has been going on all along over and over.

  38. It can say a great deal, and does, about its subsequent evolution.

    If you want to infer design from the lack of a plausible OOL theory, then that’s fine, but you can’t use lack of a plausible OOL story to refute Darwinian evolution.

    This is why some people, possibly including Darwin, consider it possible that God created the simplest life forms, then let evolution take it from there.

  39. Well, that’s what we are querying – that there are “resulting islands”.

    It’s the contention of evolution that there is, rather, a tree. There are certainly gulfs between the branches of the tree (to mix the metaphor) and those are conspicuously not crossed.

  40. In addition, there is a begged question of FUNCTION.

    The point on islands of function — and islands can move [barrier islands do . . . ] is that first you have to achieve highly complex function within the organism, from zygote on, i.e a viable body plan, which is what islands of function highlights. Going beyond,it is notorious that mutations early in embryological development — the ones that affect body plan, notoriously, strongly tend to be fatal because they are throwing a monkey wrench into a complex, multipart, integrated functioning entity.

    So, first, land on your moving island, then climb to the hilltops in the face of shifting geography as you please.

    But please, as has been repeatedly pointed out, do not beg the question of getting to the shorelines of functionality, starting with the very first one.

  41. You are right- it does say quite a bit but none of it has any scientific merit.

    BTW I infer designfor the OoL not only because there isn’t any feasible alternative but due to our knowledge of cause and effect relationships.

    Darwinian evolution (including neo-darwinism) cannot be tested. It relies on two things- our ignorance and eons of time. It relies on our ignorance such that imagination fills the gap evidence usually occupies. And eons of time because, well, that is the whole point- given enough time the impossible becomes probable (nonsense).

    As for letting “evolution” take over, what does that even mean? Was it a targeted search evolution? Most likely as no one would infer some designer went through all the trouble of getting everything just right for living organisms and just left it to go on a blind search for things that don’t exist.

    So without saying something about the OoL you cannot say all genetic changes are due to blind, undirected chemical processes. Meaning Darwinism and neo-darwinism are just glossy, unscientific narratives.

  42. Dr Liddle:

    Nope, as was already shown in previous threads, once you have multipart code based complex integrated functionality, where most of the ways for the parts to be joined together hap-hazardly will be non functional, the challenge is not whether one can have a tree shaped island. the problem is that most code-capable arrangements will be gibberish, and most arrangements of the parts that are possible will be non functional.

    In addition, we know that not only the first body plan is a challenge here, but body plan level random changes [aka mutations] — the ones that occur early in embryological development from the zygote or the like, are overwhelmingly likely to be fatal.

    IN SHORT THE REAL BURDEN OF PROOF IS BEING IMPROPERLY REVERSED.

    It is YOU who need to show empirically that a unicellular form, through incremental changes, can become the equivalent of a worm or a sea urchin or a crab etc.

    Absent that, we have every good reason to conclude that this is yet another just so story in the teeth of the actual observations on the nature of complex integrated systems, to fit into a preconceived Lewontinian a priori scheme.

    And so, kindly explain what your observational data base is for the notion that through incremental changes to a unicellular life form, rewarded through trial and error, we can evolve body multicellular plans.

    While you are at it, show how such a unicellular life form can arise in a warm little pond, or a volcanic vent or whatever place you please.

    With Venter’s work, we already have proof of concept that design can work to create such entities, and we already know that designers can manipulate genomes.

    The day when just so stories could be circulated and swallowed as though they are what MUST have happened, is over.

    GEM of TKI

  43. I forgot to add, the search resources of our solar system or the whole observed cosmos, are insufficient to scan through enough of just 500 or 1,000 bits worth of explicit or implicit info storage capacity that unrepresentative, functionally specific arrangements can be plausibly discovered by chance or by chance and necessity without intelligent direction.

    We directly, observationally know that FSCI is a product of intelligence, routinely so. Your evidence that such is credibly produced by blind chance and necessity is?

    You may speculate or assume or tell just-so stories to heart’s content, absent empirical observational basis, this is materialist myth-making, not science.

    Myth-making while wearing lab coats is not science.

  44. Right, myth-making while wearing lab coats is still myth-making.

  45. My point is simple:

    If the only “island” is getting to a Darwinian-capable organism in the first place, than that isn’t a problem for evolutionary search, it’s a problem for OOL.

    And if your complaint is about OOL, not with evolutionary search, then NFL is irrelevant!

  46. 46

    Yes, that point is a bit confusing, which is why I originally left it out, but I’ve included it now for a fuller explanation.

    What Wolpert is saying here is that co-evolution can produce fitter competitors, but it still cannot produce complex functionality:

    “For example, say the problem is to design a value y that
    maximizes a provided function g(y), e.g., design a biological
    organ that can function well as an optical sensor. Then, even
    if we are in the general coevolutionary scenario of interacting
    populations, we can still cast the problem as a special case
    of Example 1….
    Due to the fact that they’re a special case of Example 1, the
    NFL theorems hold in such scenarios. The extra details of the
    dynamics introduced by the general biological coevolutionary
    process do not affect the validity of those theorems, which is
    independent of such details.”

    However, it can possibly produce a better survivor:

    “On the other hand, say the problem is to design an organism that is likely to avoid extinction (i.e., have a non-zero
    population frequency) in the years after a major change to the
    ecosystem. More precisely, say that our problem is to design
    that organism, and then, after we’re done its ecosystem is
    subjected to that change, a change we know nothing about a
    priori. For this problem the coevolution scenario is a variant of
    self-play; the “years after the major change to the ecosystem”
    constitute the “subsequent game against an antagonist”. Now
    it may be quite appropriate to choose a C that depends directly
    on f. In this situation NFL may not hold.”

    Note that this is consistent with ID’s claim that evolution cannot produce complex functionality.

  47. 47

    Also, I noticed the link to Wolpert’s co-evolution paper was dead, so I updated it. If you were looking for his paper it’s there now.

  48. 48

    Yes, MCC takes issue with Dembski’s premise that the NFL applies to evolution, which I already pointed out. However, MCC is not qualified to speak on this area.

    And yes, Wolpert claims that co-evolution may add something new to the picture that invalidates Dembski’s argument, but when we look at Wolpert’s actual peer reviewed paper we see the claim is empty.

  49. “Evolutionary” search? Talk about question begging.

  50. On the contrary, the challenge of blind search is central.

  51. 51

    Works for me. They are few and far between who are both famous and humble. Having strong opinions is not really so bad, it’s being stuck to them in the face of opposing evidence that is the problem. That’s what made the situation with Anthony Flew so remarkable.

  52. Elizabeth Liddle:

    They are models being actively tested against actual data as we speak.

    Puhleeze. You called “frost” self-replicating and also said you had written simulations of evolution, except you presumed particular mutations instead of modelling for mutations at random locations on the genome, and assumed they would replicate and become fixed instead of selected against.

    You keep banging on about self-replicating models as if you had any credibility.

    DrBot’s point, of course, is that to raise the OOL as an argument against Darwinian evolution (the subject of the OP) doesn’t make sense. Darwinian evolution isn’t an OOL theory.

    Dr. Bot’s error, and yours, is to presume OOL as a given prerequisite for Darwinian Evolution, and yet it is recognized that random chance does not provide probabalistic opportunity for evolution to occur.

    Here is Eugene V Koonin proposing a ‘many-worlds’ end-run around exactly that problem:
    The cosmological model of eternal inflation and the transition from chance to biological evolution in the history of life

    A crucial aspect of the framework developed here is brought about by a disturbing (almost nightmarish) but inevitable question: in the infinitely redundant world of MWO, why is biological evolution, and in particular, Darwinian selection relevant at all? Is it not possible for any, even the highest degree of complexity to emerge by chance? The answer is “yes” but the question misses the point. Under the MWO model, emergence of an infinite number of complex biotas by chance is inevitable but these would be vastly less common than those that evolved by the scenario that includes the switch from chance/anthropic selection to biological evolution. The onset of biological evolution canalizes the historical process by reducing the number of available trajectories to the relatively few robust ones that are compatible with the Darwinian mode of evolution of complex systems (Fig. 3). This leads to a much greater rate of change than achievable by chance such that, as soon as there is an opportunity for biological evolution to take off, anthropic selection is relegated to a secondary role in the history of life. (p. 7)

    The real question is not whether or not anthropic selection is important (to me, there is no doubt whatever) but where is the transition between it and biological evolution, the threshold of complexity where Darwinian selection becomes possible (see Fig. 1 in this paper). In this regard, one certainly may “hope” that the threshold is (considerably?) below the level of complexity associated with a coupled system of translation and replication (again, see Fig. 1) but so far there is no strong evidence or even a compelling model of biological evolution occurring at this stage. (p. 18)

    In other words, even in this toy model that assumes a deliberately inflated rate of RNA production, the probability that a coupled translation-replication emerges by chance in a single O-region is P .lt. 10**-1018. Obviously, this version of the breakthrough stage can be considered only in the context of a universe with an infinite (or, in the very least, extremely vast) number of O-regions. (p. 19)

    You can blithely waive your “models” and dismiss OOL as someone else’s problem, but that just illustrates the fact that Darwinian evolution is stuck on a hypothetical island of function with no probablistic means of escape.

  53. Hi Jack:

    Thanks for your thought.

    I have promoted to the level of a post.

    GEM of TKI

Leave a Reply