Home » Intelligent Design » Four fallacies evolutionists make when arguing about biological function (part 1)

Four fallacies evolutionists make when arguing about biological function (part 1)

First of all, I want to apologize for shamelessly copying the title and structure of a recent post by VJ Torley. VJ, I hope you will pardon me: imitators, after all, are an undeniable mark of true success! :)

That said, let’s go to the subject of this post. I have discussed a little bit about biological function in my previous posts, and I have received many comments about that topic, some of them from very good interlocutors (I would like to publicly thank here Piotr and wd400, in particular). From my general experience in this blog during the last few years, I would like to sum up some of the more questionable attitudes and arguments which I have witnessed most frequently from the “other side” about this concept. Indeed, my purpose here is to catch not so much the specific arguments, but rather the general perspectives which are behind them, and which I believe to be wrong (that’s why I call them “fallacies” in the title).

So, here we go. First the whole list, then we analyze each individual point.

1. The fallacy of denying the objectivity of function.

2.  The fallacy of overemphasizing the role of generic function.

3. The fallacy of downplaying the role of specific function.

4. The fallacy of completely ignoring the highest form of function: the procedures.

I will deal with the first three issue in this post, and with the fourth in a later post.

1. The fallacy of denying the objectivity of function.

This attitude takes the form of an obstinate resistance to the concept itself of function, as though it were something which does not exist. So it happens that, as soon as we IDists start talking about functional specification, there is always someone on the other side ready to question: “Yes, but how do you define function?”. Or to argue that function is just a subjective concept, and that it has no role in science.

Many times I have simply answered: “Hey, just look at some protein database, like Uniprot. You will easily find, for each protein listed there, the voice: “Molecular function”. And usually there is one or more functions listed there. Is that bad science? Are you going to write to the people who run Uniprot asking them what do they mean by that word?”

rusty-185531_640The truth is that practically everybody understands perfectly what function means, and the attitude of denying the concept is just that: simple denial, motivated by the (correct) conviction that the concept itself of function is definitely ID friendly. .

However, the more sophisticated among our interlocutors will not deny function in such a gross way, but they will probably try to argue that the concept is obscure, vague, ill defined, and therefore not reliable. Here we find objections such as: “What do you mean exactly with the word?” or “To what kind of function do you refer?” or “Function can change according to how we define the context”. There is some truth in these thoughts, but in no way such objections are a real problem if we treat the concept of function correctly.

For example, in my previous post “Funcional information defined” I have given the following definitions:

I will try to begin introducing two slightly different, but connected, concepts:

a) A function (for an object)

b) A functionality (in a material object)

I define a function for an object as follows:

a) If a conscious observer connects some observed object to some possible desired result which can be obtained using the object in a context, then we say that the conscious observer conceives of a function for that object.

b) If an object can objectively be used by a conscious observer to obtain some specific desired result in a certain context, according to the conceived function, then we say that the object has objective functionality, referred to the specific conceived function.

I will stick to those definitions.

So, function can be objectively defined, even if some reference to a conscious observer conceiving and recognizing it is always necessary.

It is perfectly true that different functions can be defined for the same object. There is no problem there. It is also true that functions can be stratified at different levels. Uniprot correctly lists “molecular functions”. So, for example, hexokinase has the molecular function of binding ATP and phosphorylating glucose or other hexoses, That is what I call the “local function”, the immediate biochemical effect of the molecule. But we can also say that the role of hexokinase is to start the glycolysis process and therefore contribute to the extraction of energy from food in the form of ATP, a role which would not be immediately obvious from the local function (which, instead, consumes ATP). This is a meta-function, because it describes the role of the enzyme in a wider context. We can say that the local function contributes to the meta-function.

In ID theory, local functions are specially interesting when we try to compute the functional complexity of a single protein. For that, we must refer to its immediate biochemical effect. But the meta-function is specially interesting too, when we try to analyze the complexity of a whole system of molecules, such as a protein cascades. In this kind of analysis, the concept of irreducible complexity is very important.

The important point is: denying function, or denying that it can be treated objectively in a scientific context, is a fallacy.

2.  The fallacy of overemphasizing the role of generic function.

This is generally what I call the concept of “any possible function”, which is so often invoked by darwinists as a reason to believe in the power of natural selection and of the neo-darwinian RV + NS algorithm.

The reasoning is more or less the following: as NS is not looking for anything particular, it will detect everything possible which is “useful”. IOWs, NS has no prejudices, and therefore it is very powerful, much more powerful of old good intelligent design, which is confined to intelligent options. That was one of Petrushka’s favourite arguments, but in different ways it has been proposed by many darwinist commentators here.

Now, I hate quoting myself again, but if you look at the above definscrapyardition of “function”, you will see that everything can be functional in some context. Function is not a rare thing, because, as already said:

If a conscious observer connects some observed object to some possible desired result which can be obtained using the object in a context, then we say that the conscious observer conceives of a function for that object.”

Now, as we can conceive of a lot of desires (that is certainly a very human prerogative), functions are very easy to get. In any context, we can use practically anything to obtain some result. That’s why I rarely throw away anything because, you know, “it could be useful, sooner or later”.

Does that reinforce the darwinist concept that “any possible function” is relevant?

Not at all. Quite the contrary. Just because possible functions are everywhere, it is easy to see that only some specific functions are really relevant in a specific context.

home-office-336377_640So, if I go to my attic, I can maybe find some use for any kind of junk that I may find there. But, if I happen to find a forgotten working computer there, I can certainly use it in a very specific way.

So, I would say that there is a great difference between finding some piece of wood which could perhaps be adapted to some use, and finding a working computer. The piece of wood is an example of “any possible function”, while the computer is an example of specific, complex function.

And, as anyone should understand, even if I find 1000 pieces of wood in my attic, that will not give me a working computer. IOWs, simple generic functions do not naturally add to a complex specific function.

So, why am I saying that darwinists tend to overemphasize the role of generic function?  The reason is simple: generic function is all they have, all they can deal with. Their only “engine of variation”, which is RV, can only, at best, generate simple generic function, nothing more. So, what do we do when we have only such and such?   We overemphasize the importance of such and such. Not because it is important, but because it is the only thing we have. An old fallacy, but always a common one.

3. The fallacy of downplaying the role of specific function.

The simple truth is that, especially in a system which is already complex, functional changes usually require complex interventions. Indeed, the addition of a truly new function to an existing complex system requires not only the complexity implicit in the function itself, but also the complexity necessary to integrate the new function in the existing system.

As already said, in the biological context there are two different ways to look at functions: what I call the “local function”, IOWs, the immediate biochemical activity of the molecule, and the “meta-functions”, IOWs, the general results of the activity of that molecule in the whole system.

Let’s take a molecule as an example: ATP synthase. A classic.

It is a very good example, because:

a) It is a very old molecule, already present in LUCA, before the archaea-bacteria divergence, almost 4 billion years ago.

b) It is a very complex molecule: it is made of two different parts, F0 and F1, each of them made of many subunits, and each subunit is a complex protein.

c) It is a very functional protein, indeed a wonderful molecular machine which transforms a proton gradient into stored biochemical energy in the form of ATP, working very much like a mill.old-windmill-96688_640

d) It is a very conserved protein. Let’s take only the subunits alpha and beta, which make most of the F1 part. a multiple alignment between: the human protein, the archaea protein (methanosarcina barkeri) and the bacterial protein (E. coli) showed 176 identities for the alpha subunit and 202 identities for the beta subunit. A total of 378 perfectly conserved aminoacid positions in just two of the many subunits of the molecule, along the whole tree of life.

e) Its local function is very clear: it synthesizes ATP from the energy derived from a proton gradient, transforming the flow of H+ ions into a mechanical rotation which in turn couples the phosphate molecule to ADP.

f) Its meta-function is equally clear: it generates the energy substrate which makes all cellular life possible: ATP.

Now, 378 identities after about 4 billion years during which all possible neutral mutations had time to happen mean just one thing: those 378 AAs must be there, and they must be what they are for the molecule to work.

This is a very good example of a very specific and complex function. In a complex context (cellular life), where the function is useful because there are a lot of individual processes whic h depend on ATP to exist. It is not the piece of wood in the attic. It is a supercomputer, an amazing molecular machine.

Well, are darwinists  curious, concerned or worried because of such specific complex functions which can be found in the old attic of OOL? Not at all. They are confident that they can be readily dealt with. There is an appropriate tool, usually called “the just so story”. For a good example, just read the Wikipedia section about ATP synthase, the part under “Evolution of ATP synthase”. Have fun.

The problem is: complex functional proteins simply cannot be explained. So, why should we think that they must be explained? After all, we can find so many generic functions in our attic: small variations in a gene which can give antibiotic resistance through one or two AA mutations, small changes in the affinity of an existing esterase which confer a nylonase activity through a couple of mutations, the selective spread in specific populations of the heterozigote state of drepanocytosis (one mutation) which gives some resistance to malaria. With all those good pieces of wood which can be used to fix some old chair, who cares about those stunning supercomputers which crowd our attic? They are just there, let’s not be fastidious about the details.

Well, that’s enough for the moment. We will discuss the “procedures” fallacy in next post.

 

 

 

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488 Responses to Four fallacies evolutionists make when arguing about biological function (part 1)

  1. I admit my bias completely. I believe God created the heavens and the earth. But I just don’t see any holes in this argument. gpuccio – IMHO what you have shown is that the anti-IDists not only engage in fallacious arguments, but they continue to come back to them again and again.

    Thanks for your clear explanations. I really am interested in seeing a response from your critics ( wd400 and Piotr in particular ). I don’t see how they can respond without resorting back to these fallacies. Based on my understanding, their continual reliance on fallacious arguments, and their continual return to them, is a good indication they are not arguing from a strong position. They have chosen the position that there is no evidence for ID, and they dare not “… let a divine foot in the door.”

  2. JDH:

    Thank you for your comments. I hope there can be some discussion about these issues, which are rather basic.

    I agree with you that ID is naturally the strongest position (it has the remarkable advantage that it corresponds to truth :) ). So, in a sense I feel bad for our interlocutors: I would never want to be in their shoes!

  3. So glad to see a new article from GPuccio!
    Eccellente mio caro Dottore! Mile grazie!
    Excellent way to end June on a high note.
    Now, let’s chew and digest this interesting material Dr. GP has written here.

  4. Dionisio:

    It’s beautiful to find the good friends here!

    Writing is unfortunately time consuming, and it is not always easy to find the time…

    However, it is really fun! :)

  5. JDH,

    In your comment # 1, the first paragraph seems to conclude with a paraphrasing of Proverbs 26:11

  6. I really appreciated the proximity of the photos of the junk yard with the laptop. You might ask hardware and software engineers how one can get from the junk to a functioning laptop by a series of small steps, each step performing a valuable function for the Darwinian sales environment.

    The first step might be a doorstop, the second a place to hold papers between the hinged halves, a light to illuminate a room at night comes next, and pretty soon you get the internet.

    Engineers would roll their eyes at the suggestion (not to mention the marketing and sales folks), adding the comment that the darwinian theorist has absolutely no idea just how much the theorist is underestimating the technology, intricacy, and design incorporated into functioning laptop (not to mention the challenge of finishing one that’s incomplete or broken).

    Nevertheless, the darwinian theorist strikes back with deep time, chance, competition and death. Absolutely any and every function can appear given billions of years, chance formation and recombination, competition, and death. The hardware and software could even heal itself in time under randomizing forces such as radiation, collision, and heat if tied into a system that provides competitive filtering or ratcheting—the merciless extinction of the weak. Anything could be explained through these forces.

    The Greek philosophers might have concocted a mythical argument in which Chronos, Tyche, Agon, and Hades argue that they alone should receive worship, and that Athena should be excluded from Olympus. To defeat Athena, they create a monster so powerful that it defeats and devours all others, but Athena hides from it. Finding no more food, the monster devours its offspring and starves to death. Athena then comes out of hiding and designs a balanced and stable ecosystem, a nearly impossible task. The other gods mock Athena, criticizing her work, but Athena’s design endures.

    -Q

  7. Gpuccio
     
    Your posts are usually interesting so I read this with some care. I have to say that at the end I am genuinely confused as to what the fallacies are. 
     
    I just about get “denying the objectivity of function” – although it is weird to insist function is objective and then define it
     

    If a conscious observer connects some observed object to some possible desired result which can be obtained using the object in a context, then we say that the conscious observer conceives of a function for that object

    Who is doing the desiring and isn’t their  desire subjective?

    Nevertheless I accept that in living things we can often identify one or more functions of some part that contribute to the well-being of the organism and which are objectively accepted as doing so in practice.

    I struggle to understand the fallacy of overemphasizing the role of generic function. It might help if you gave a specific example of someone committing that fallacy. I think we all recognise that a function can be described in very specific or broader terms. But what does it mean to overemphasize one or the other?

    How does the fallacy of downplaying the role of specific function differ from the fallacy of overemphasizing the role of generic function? I struggle to understand both but they sound like very much the same thing.
    It would really help to give actual examples of someone committing these fallacies.

  8. Querius:

    Thank you for the thoughts. Great stuff! :)

  9. Hi Mark,

    It’s great to discuss with you again!

    Thank you for giving me the chance to clarify better what I think.

    1) Regarding the definition of function, you ask:

    Who is doing the desiring and isn’t their desire subjective?

    You can find a more complete discussion about my concept of functional information in my previous post:

    “Functional information defined”

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....n-defined/

    My point is that function arises in consciousness, so it is an objective content of a subjective consciousness.

    A true function is a functionality in a designed object, an objective arrangement generated by an agent to satisfy a subjective purpose. The objectivity of the functionality in the object is in the simple fact that the object can really be used to satisfy that objective desire.

    The problem, in the design inference, is simply to distinguish between objects which were really designed to satisfy a desire, and objects which could satisfy a desire, but were never designed for that.

    To be more clear, a stone can satisfy the desire for a paperweight, but was not designed for that. A glass paperweight, manufactured for that purpose, is an example of true designed functionality.

    So, to infer design, we have to distinguish between functionality which was not designed (the stone) and functionality which was designed (the glass paperweight).

    As you certainly know, only one added parameter can allow that distinction, and make the design inference safe: that parameter is functional complexity, the complexity necessary to implement the defined function. Complex functional objects are always designed, and dFSCI has 100% specificity in recognizing true design. We have discussed that many times, and you should be familiar with the concepts, even if I know well that you don’t agree. However, thank you for offering a confirmation of the attitude I described:

    “However, the more sophisticated among our interlocutors will not deny function in such a gross way, but they will probably try to argue that the concept is obscure, vague, ill defined, and therefore not reliable.”

    2) Regarding “overemphasizing the role of generic function”, you say:

    It might help if you gave a specific example of someone committing that fallacy. I think we all recognise that a function can be described in very specific or broader terms. But what does it mean to overemphasize one or the other?

    I am afraid Iyou have misunderstood, but it is probably my fault, for choosing to use the words “generic” and “specific” instead of “simple” and “complex”. However, the context should be clear. By “generic function” I mean the vague concept of “any possible function which can randomly arise”, and that necessarily means “simple function”. The example of the piece of wood should be clear. As we can find some simple use for practically anything, so darwinist can easily hypothesize that random mutations can be of some functional utility, even in the complex context of conferring some reproductive advantage, a context defined by the theory of NS. We know that those “useful” mutations are rare, but yes, they do exist. I have also given some examples: antibiotic resistance (the simple type), sickle cell disease and malaria, and the famous nylonase, recently revived here.

    Now, the fallacy is not in affirming that these cases of “molecular microevolution” exist. They do exist. The fallacy is in giving them a role that they cannot have: the role of demonstrating that complex function can arise in a stepwise path, utilizing those simple cases as “bridges”.

    That is the fallacy of “”overemphasizing the role of generic function”. Don’t tell me that the importance of nylonase has not been “overemphasized” by darwinists. I still remember Zachriel trying to convince me that it was a result of a frameshift mutation, according to Ono’s fanciful theory, years after it had been already shown that it was not true. And Zachriel is one of the best. :)

    And do you remember the long denial, on your side, of my arguments about the complete absence of functional intermediates for the generation of basic protein domains, with you and all your friends denying in one way or another that there was any reason to expect that those intermediates should have left any trace of their existence?

    You will not agree, as you did not agree then, but i am just trying to show you what the fallacy is, in my humble opinion.

    3) Regarding “downplaying the role of specific function”, you ask if that is different from the previous fallacy.

    It is. Here, the problem is simply that you (darwinists) ignore a problem which is as big as the whole universe. You want an example? I have given an example. ATP synthase. I could have given thousands of other examples. Obviously, I have chosen one of the best, but the others would be good too.

    So, what do darwinists, so ready to celebrate the two mutations which probably gave rise to nylonase, think of the (at least) 378 precise mutations necessary to give rise to ATP synthase (indeed, to part of it)?

    They think nothing. They just ignore the problem. I have ashed recently that question to Piotr (another one of the best). I ask it to you (another one of the best). Do you agree that we must try to answer those 2000 big problems which are the protein superfamilies, instead of just accepting that a failed theory which cannot explain them should, sooner or later, make the miracle?

    Two different fallacies: giving a lot of importance to simple events which cannot mean what you would like them to mean, and giving no importance to complex events which do mean what you definitely don’t like them to mean.

    OK, the two fallacies are connected by a common denominator, the commitment to a wrong ideology, but still they are different and separate.

  10. Gpuccio:

    That is the fallacy of “”overemphasizing the role of generic function”. Don’t tell me that the importance of nylonase has not been “overemphasized” by darwinists. I still remember Zachriel trying to convince me that it was a result of a frameshift mutation, according to Ono’s fanciful theory, years after it had been already shown that it was not true. And Zachriel is one of the best.

    Just out of curiosity: shown by whom, where, and how? Care to share some references?

  11. Piotr:

    Welcome to the discussion to you too.

    You ask:

    Just out of curiosity: shown by whom, where, and how? Care to share some references?

    Sure.

    After my discussions with Zachriel, a few years ago, I decided to understand better the issue of nylonase, which continued to occasionally surface in the debate as an example of a new proteins originated by the “blind jump” of a frameshift mutation, according to Ono’s old theory (1984).

    I was really a surprise to find, in Wikipedia, a very simple statement which said:

    A 2007 paper that described a series of studies by a team led by Seiji Negoro of the University of Hyogo, Japan, suggested that in fact no frameshift mutation was involved in the evolution of the 6-aminohexanoic acid hydrolase.

    The paper is the following:

    “Nylon-oligomer Degrading Enzyme/Substrate Complex: Catalytic Mechanism of 6-Aminohexanoate-dimer Hydrolase”

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/s.....3607005347

    From the abstract:

    “Amino acid substitutions reducing the enzyme/Ald interaction at positions 181 or 170 drastically decreased the Ald-hydrolytic activity, but had very little effect on esterolytic activity, suggesting that esterolytic reaction proceeds regardless of conversion. Present models illustrate why new activity against the nylon oligomer has evolved in an esterase with ?-lactamase folds, while retaining the original esterolytic functions.”

    There are amny other more recent papers from the same tema, for example this one of 2010:

    “X-ray crystallographic analysis of the 6-aminohexanoate cyclic dimer hydrolase: catalytic mechanism and evolution of an enzyme responsible for nylon-6 byproduct degradation.”

    http://www.jbc.org/content/285/2/1239.full.pdf

    Some passages:

    NylA is classified as an amidase signature (AS) superfamily protein, characterized by the presence of a conserved stretch of ?130 amino acid residues (AS sequence) (8,–,21). AS superfamily enzymes are widely distributed among microorganisms, animals, and plants; they are involved in various biological functions, including transamidation of misacylated Glu-tRNAGln (8, 9), formation of the plant hormone indoleacetic acid (10, 11), and hydrolysis of malonamide (12, 13), fatty acid amides (14, 15), and peptide amides (16, 17). In addition, amidases from Rhodococcus rhodochrous and Sulfolobus solfataricus possess nitrilase activity, catalyzing the cleavage of the carbon-nitrogen triple bond in a nitrile (18, 19). Recently, NylA from Arthrobacter was also shown to exhibit 98% homology to ?-laurolactam hydrolase from Rhodococcus (dbj|BAG70960.1|), Cupriavidus (dbj|BAH09869.1|), and Sphingomonas (dbj|BAH09872.1|), which are potentially used for production of 12-aminolauryl acid (material for nyon-12 production) (20). Moreover, NylA is closely related to an aryl acylamidase from Nocardia farcinica, which cleaves the amide bond in a polyamide model compound (adipic acid bishexylamide) and the ester bond in bis(benzoyloxyethyl)terephthalate and increases the hydrophilicity of polyamide 6 (21). Thus, from fundamental, industrial, and environmental points of view, it would be interesting to know the structural factors that determine the unique substrate specificity of NylA recognizing a cyclic amide compound having 6-aminohexanoate as a monomeric unit.

    And:

    Present x-ray crystallographic analysis revealed that NylA is classified as a member of the AS superfamily and utilizes the distinct catalytic triad Ser-cis-Ser-Lys. Although NylA possesses broad specificity for carboxylesters, we estimate that the unique substrate specificity of NylA recognizing the nylon-6 byproduct should be achieved by incorporating amino acid residues responsible for Acd-binding while utilizing the common Ser-cis-Ser-Lys catalytic triad conserved in the AS superfamily. Thus, the new enzyme acting on the nylon-6 byproduct seems to diverge from ancestral proteins to create families composed of highly specialized enzymes.

    In malonamidase E2 (MAE2, an AS family enzyme), the catalytic activity is drastically decreased by R158E and R158Q mutations, and the kcat value of the R158K mutant is similar to that of wild type with a Km value increased by 100-fold (13). In Hyb-24DN, Asp181-COO? is responsible for electrostatic stabilization of Ald-NH3+, and D181K and D181H substitutions decreased the activity by >10,000-fold (37, 38). In contrast to the drastic effect by electrostatic stabilization, D370Y substitution in NylB?-type carboxylesterase (Hyb-24) increased the Ald hydrolytic activity by 8.2-fold, concomitant with formation of a hydrogen bond with substrate Ald. Thus, we roughly estimate that the energetic contribution of a hydrogen bond contributes a ?10-fold difference in binding affinity (39,–,41). However, the “improvements” in NylA activity caused by substitution at position 316 are extremely modest. We suggest that that the effects of amino acid substitution at the Acd-binding sites in NylA are summarized as follows: (i) Even if the hydrogen bond at Acd-N7 is eliminated, close contact with the substrate and inner surface of the protein molecule still stably holds the substrate inside the globular protein. (ii) Because of the inflexible compact structure of Acd trapped in the catalytic cleft, amino acid substitutions interacting at the uncleaved site (Acd-N7) affect the suitable positioning of the cleaved site (Acd-C1/Acd-N14) against the catalytic residues, resulting in the decrease in kcat. (iii) Substitution of Cys316 to a bulky/polar residue (Glu, Asp, Asn, and Lys), located at the entrance of the catalytic cleft, has a negative effect on the incorporation of the substrate into the catalytic cleft, resulting in a decrease in enzyme activity. In particular, replacement to acidic residues (Glu and Asp) significantly decreases the activity, probably because of an electrostatic effect. Finally, it should be noted that plasmid-encoded NylA from Arthrobacter and Pseudomonas and ?-laurolactam hydrolase from Rhodococcus, Cupriavidus, and Sphingomonas exhibit 98–99% overall homology, although these strains have been isolated independently and classified as different genera. These results may imply that the nylA-related genes have been recently distributed among microorganisms in the course of evolution, probably by plasmid-mediated gene transfer (4,–,7, 35, 36).

    A few years ago, after a friendly solicitation from Paul Giem, I made myself some analysis of the old Ono paper. I reconstructed the sequence which Ono believed to be the “ancestor protein” transformed into nylonase by a frameshift event, and blasted it, finding that that sequence had no homology to any known protein. IOWs, the “ancestral protein” hypothesized by Ono never existed.

    On the contrary, nylonase is derived from well known ancestral proteins with similar biochemical activity, by simple AA substitutions. It is a very good case of adaptation of substrate specificity driven by the plasmidic system, but certainly not the frameshift miracle event that still some darwinist propaganda claims, in spite of all that is known today.

  12. Gpuccio

    I will happily accept that parts of an organism have one or more functions in that they do things to contribute to the fitness of the organism and that this objective. So I won’t dwell on that.

    Could you not sum up the whole of your second and third fallacies as:

    “Darwinists conclude that because natural selection is able to account for simple functions it is therefore able to account for complex functions.”
    Perhaps adding that complex functions exist in life.

  13. Natural selection is able to account for simple functions? In what world?

  14. gpuccio- Great work on nylonase. When the subject came up earlier I found the papers you referenced- very enlightening. And your comment is absolutely marvelous.

  15. Mark:

    We could put it that way, but I am afraid that you still miss the essence of my discourse, which is not about arguments, but rather about attitudes, cognitive biases if you want.

    So, the problem is not that darwinists state that “natural selection is able to account for simple functions”, but rather that they make a lot of fuss and try to derive much more than is reasonable from the very limited examples of molecular microevolution which are known. In a sense, “Much ado about nothing”.

    And the problem is not that dartwinists state, or just believe, or just hope, that “NS is therefore able to account for complex functions”, but rather that they avoid as much as possible to consider those complex functions and to admit that they are huge mysteries that need an explanation.

    So, it is the disparity of intellectual emphasis: most of it on simple functions that could in principle be explained by their theory, and almost none on complex functions which are in themselves a possible falsification of their theory, which is a fallacy, an intellectual bias, sometimes an explicit lie.

  16. Joe:

    Thank you. That was an issue that needed some clarification.

    The interesting point is: some immediate interest from our very good and kind interlocutors for nylonase and for subtleties in the definitions of function or of fallacies, but still no comments about ATP synthase! :)

  17. Gpuccio #15

    I guess I find it very strange to call an attitude or a cognitive bias a fallacy. To me a fallacy is either a mistaken belief (it is a popular fallacy that vikings wore horns on their helmets) or a logical error (the gambler’s fallacy)i.e. something quite precise and objective.

    Could you summarise your points 2 and 3 as:

    “Evolutionists ought to may more attention to complicated functions and less to simple ones.”

  18. Well, Mark, it’s a fallacy to say that natural selection actually does something of note.

  19. Mark:

    OK, I don’t mean strictly “a logical error” (although stressing what is obviously not relevant and ignoring what is very relevant could be considered an important error, you decide if logical or empirical, or methodological, or what else).

    And I don’t strictly mean “a mistaken belief” (although it is certainly more likely that vikings wore horns on their helmets than that NS can explain ATP synthase).

    Maybe I should have used “bias” instead of fallacy, if we want to be fastidious.

    But, for the title and the OP, I will stick to “fallacy”. I like it more! :)

  20. gpuccio:

    My impression is that the case is far less clear than you make it.

    First, sorry, but most of the stuff you quote is simply irrelevant. Ohno (sic, not “Ono”) wrote about the origin of nylB (= EII), not nylA (= EI), a different member of the “nylonase” complex. There is another paper by Negoro at al. (2007) which does address the nylB question, but, frankly, it only argues that nylB arose from its less active homologue NylB’ via duplication and a couple of amino acid substitutions (building on earlier research). The origin of nylB’ itself is not discussed, as far as I can see, so the common ancestor of nylB/nylB’ remains unspecified. Ohno (1984) is not even listed in the bibliography of any of those articles, and his evidence for the frameshift hypothesis is not compared with the inferences from Negoro et al.’s crystallographic analysis. I fail to see how the papers in question debunk Ohno.

    I have to run now. More later.

  21. Piotr:

    I think that the case is completely clear.

    Let’s make it simple.

    NylB (UNIPROT entry P07061) is a Flavobacterium protein 392 AAs long. It has a beta lactamase domain. If blasted against E. coli it has a 84 identities and 137 positives with a beta lactamase of E. coli, with an evalue of 5e-23. There is no doubt that the protein is related to the beta lactamase superfamily.

    The 2007 paper says:

    It has already been established that the EII-analogous protein (EII?) is located on a different portion of the pOAD2 8. and 9. plasmid. The EII? has 88% amino acid sequence identity to the EII sequence, but has very low catalytic activity on 6-aminohexanoate-linear dimer (Ald) (ca 0.5% of the activity of EII). 9 In addition, two amino acid alterations, i.e. G181D (from Gly181 (EII?) to Asp (EII)) and H266N (from His266 (EII?) to Asn (EII)), confer the Ald-hydrolytic activity to the level of the parental EII enzyme 10 ( Figure 2). These results suggest that the EII has evolved by gene duplication followed by base substitution from its ancestral gene.

    And:

    Recently, we identified the three-dimensional structure of the Hyb-24 (an EII/EII? hybrid containing five amino acid replacements (T3A, P4R, T5S, S8Q, D15G) in the EII? protein; EII?-level of the Ald-hydrolytic activity) by X-ray crystallography at 1.8 Å resolution (PDB ID code: 1WYB).11 The fold adopted by the 392 amino acid residue polypeptide generated a two-domain structure (? and ?/?) that is similar to the folds of the penicillin-recognizing family of serine-reactive hydrolases (Figure 3(a)), especially to those of D-alanyl-D-alanine (DD) carboxypeptidase (DD-peptidase) from Streptomyces and carboxylesterase (EstB) from Burkholderia.

    This is science, detailed science.

    I paste here part of an email I sent to Paul Giem in 2009:

    Now, here we are interested only in EII, the 6-aminohexanoate-dimer hydrolase, because that is exactly the protein referred in the Ohno paper (don’t be confused by the many ambiguities of terminology, I have checked directly by blasting the published sequence in the Ohno paper, just to be sure). So, EII is our protein. And EII is derived from EII’, a protein in the same plasmid which has almost no nylonase activity, even if in UNIPROT it is named too “6-aminohexanoate-dimer hydrolase” , probably for it similarity to EII. And indeed they are almost the same protein: I have blasted EII’ against EII and these are the results:

    Score = 706 bits (1823), Expect = 0.0, Method: Compositional matrix adjust.

    Identities = 345/392 (88%), Positives = 362/392 (92%), Gaps = 0/392 (0%)

    which is the same as reported in the paper. Moreover, from the paper it is clear that vthe real functional difference which confers to EII the affinity for nylon which is almost absent in EII’ is a two aminoacid substitution, a classical microevolutionary event.

    The interesting problem now is: what is the EII’ protein, which is now given as the precursor for EII? It is not obviously really a nylonase (its affinity for nylon is really low). The b) paper remains quite evasive on that, but essentially it is clear that alla these molecules (including the true nylonase EII) are beta lactamases, an information which has been incredibly understated in the public discussion about nylonase. To be really sure, I have blasted EII’ against all known proteins, and the results are:

    Putative conserved domains: beta-lactames superfamily

    First ten hits: proteins labeled as “6-aminohexanoate-dimer hydrolase”, with results varying form 800 to 572 bits, and E values lower than 1e-161; these are apparently more or less all variants of the EII’ – EII protein, with high homology, essentially in the flavobacterium itself.

    The 43 following hits are all very significant, with bits gradually decreasing from 359 to 205, and E values increasing from 2e-97 to 6e-51. These proteins are variously labeled as beta lactamase, 6-aminohexanoate-dimer hydrolase, putative beta lactamase or unknown. They are found in a great variety of bacterial species, most of them probably having nothing at all to do with nylon. I paste here the first and the last of this series of 43, for reference:

    First:

    ref|ZP_01129437.1| beta-lactamase, putative [marine actinobacterium PHSC20C1]

    gb|EAR25788.1| beta-lactamase, putative [marine actinobacterium PHSC20C1]

    Length=377

    Score = 359 bits (922), Expect = 2e-97, Method: Compositional matrix adjust.

    Identities = 182/374 (48%), Positives = 241/374 (64%), Gaps = 10/374 (2%)

    Last:

    ref|NP_519886.1| 6-aminohexanoate-dimer hydrolase lipoprotein [Ralstonia solanacearum

    GMI1000]

    Length=397

    GENE ID: 1220603 RSc1765 | 6-aminohexanoate-dimer hydrolase lipoprotein

    [Ralstonia solanacearum GMI1000] (10 or fewer PubMed links)

    Score = 205 bits (521), Expect = 6e-51, Method: Compositional matrix adjust.

    Identities = 128/371 (34%), Positives = 188/371 (50%), Gaps = 18/371 (4%)

    As you can see, even this last hit has still 50% of positive correspondences.

    The following 200 hits still have E values lower than 1e-10. That’s it, for nylonase having no homologies to known proteins!

    To sum up: as far as I understand, the theory of the frameshift origin of nyolonase (EII) is history (and bad history, indeed). That’s why even Wikipedia had to aknowledge that. The current data show that:

    1) EII is a protein of the superfamily of beta-lactamases.

    2) It is probably derived from EII’ a very similar protein on the same plasmid, with very low affinity to nylon.

    3) The affinity to nylon is gained through a two aminoacids substitution

    4) EII’ shows highly significant homology to a lot of known proteins of the beta-lactamase superfamily, spread over a great number of different bacterial species.

    5) Therefore, I think we can safely assume that EII’ is part of a general defense mechanism of the bacterium (the beta-lactamases system). Becoming EII, it acquires an unexpected affinity for nylon, through classical microevolutionary mechanisms, and is therefore selected in those species which happen to live in a nylon rich environment.

    6) Finally, I am really intrigued by the fact that all those events take place in a plasmid. That supports the idea that they are part of a very intelligent, and shared, adaptation system. Even form this point of view, they are evidence of design rather than of passive consequences of unguided processes.

    Finally, here is the sequence of the supposed “ancestral protein” in the Ohno paper:

    From the OHNO paper:

    MGYIDLSAPVAMIVS
    GGLYYLFTRRGYYFGDT
    RERTFHRPAPRQVSRSRG
    RGADTRQLAGGPAQPLGL
    RPPGRAAAHGGGLPARPG
    DARGARRAARRARDAAPR
    SRAAARGDLHRRIPRAAR
    LRGPRRVLPGGFRTRRPS
    PADERLEVAVRHGRRRAD
    RRGAHRSRAARHRVCTRA
    RGLRLRRALRAAGARHAD
    LDRLQRGLRRSGLGGADP
    RSLRRLAHAARRGPRRHL
    RVPHHPPRRRRHRRVPVL
    LGEHRRARLDRRAGHRSA
    LRRSALHVPVGEARRRSG
    CDHHGRPDRLRLRERGRL
    LHRAGSRTRGPHDARRRR
    RSRRTGRIAGLGGKRAGR
    RLPRSHDRRGFHLRIPRG
    QLHAPVVVHGQRARQRGR
    HRHPRPEPLARSAHRLGD
    RQALVVARSRHPALARAA
    ERDPARRQPCPRRGVGG

    And here is the result of my blasting of it:

    “No putative conserved domains have been detected

    Protein Sequence (427 letters)

    Query ID lcl|74348
    Description None
    Molecule type amino acid
    Query Length 427

    Database Name nr
    Description All non-redundant GenBank CDS translations+PDB+SwissProt+PIR+PRF excluding environmental samples from WGS projects
    Program BLASTP 2.2.19+ Citation

    No significant similarity found.”

    And my final comment to Paul:

    “So, I think that now we can be pretty sure that the “arginin rich protein” has ever existed only in the mind of Mr. Ohno.”

    By the way, I apologize for writing Ohno’s name wrongly. At my age, memory is not so good any more :)

  22. Joe and all:

    Please, allow me some brief meta description of what is happening.

    Mark and Piotr have come to the debate, and are certainly contributing to it as the very good interlocutors they are and always have been.

    But, Mark is still intrigued by word definitions, this time of “fallacy”.

    Piotr, instead, is deeply caught in the mystics of nylonase, passionately defending the old idea of Ohno, from a very speculative paper of 1984, which in itself gave no real evidence of its hypothesis at the time, and in favour of which nothing has been added in the scientific literature up to now, and everything against it.

    Still, no comments at all about ATP synthase.

    Fallacy? Bias? Pure loyalty to one’s ideas? Simple obstinacy?

    You decide. :)

  23. Gpuccio

    I am not commenting about either nylonase or ATP synthase because I don’t have the technical expertise. I was simply trying to get clear what you were saying – which I have now thanks.

  24. Piotr, instead, is deeply caught in the mystics of nylonase, passionately defending the old idea of Ohno, from a very speculative paper of 1984, which in itself gave no real evidence of its hypothesis at the time, and in favour of which nothing has been added in the scientific literature up to now, and everything against it.

    I’m not “passionately defending” Ohno, just wondering if his hypothesis has indeed been falsified. What the “detailed science” shows is than NylB and NylB’ are products of recent evolution via gene duplication. How exactly the nylB’ gene originated is less important than the “trivial” substitutions that gave NylB a specific novel ability (to break the beta-amide bond, not known to occur naturally). It isn’t simply an extension of an earlier function, since the NylB proteins don’t hydrolyse “standard” (alpha-)amide bonds. ~25% similarity to E. coli beta-amylases (14% using DELTA-BLAST) looks significant, but is suggestive of a distant homology rather than a minor microevolutionary modification. I haven’t verified your reconstruction of the “Ohno protein” yet, so I have little to add by way of commentary right now.

    By the way, you read the Wikipedia entry on nylonases a little selectively, omitting this fragment:

    However, many other genes have been discovered which did evolve by gene duplication followed by a frameshift mutation affecting at least part of the gene. A 2006 simulation found 470 examples that could potentially develop in humans alone.

    (with reference to Okamura et a. 2006, but of course more literature could be adduced). Apart from the fact that NylB is a cause célèbre, nothing much depends on Ohno being right in that particular case.

  25. Oop, beta-lactamases, not “amylases”.

  26. Nylon Eating Bacteria: NOT NEW INFORMATION – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkNmfA09cGg

    The three-dimensional structure of nylon hydrolase and the mechanism of nylon-6 hydrolysis – Seiji Negoro – Dec. 2011
    SUMMARY: We performed x-ray crystallographic analyses of the 6-aminohexanoate oligomer hydrolase (NylC) from Agromyces sp. at 2.0 Å-resolution. This enzyme is a member of the N-terminal nucleophile (N-tn) hydrolase superfamily that is responsible for the degradation of the nylon-6 industry byproduct.
    We observed four identical heterodimers (27kDa+9kDa), which resulted from the autoprocessing of the precursor protein (36kDa) and which constitute the doughnut-shaped quaternary structure. The catalytic residue of NylC was identified as the N-terminal Thr267 of the 9kDa-subunit. Furthermore, each heterodimer is folded into a single domain, generating a stacked (greek symbols) core structure. Amino acid mutations at subunit interfaces of the tetramer were observed to drastically alter the thermostability of the protein. In particular, four mutations (D122G/H130/D36A/E263Q) of wild-type NylC from Arthrobacter sp. (plasmid pOAD2-encoding enzyme), with a heat denaturation temperature of T m=52°C, enhanced the protein thermostability by 36°C (T m=88° C), whereas a single mutation (G111S or L137A) decreased the stability by approximately 10°C. We examined the enzymatic hydrolysis of nylon-6 by the thermostable NylC mutant. Argon-cluster secondary ion mass spectrometry analyses of the reaction products revealed that the major peak of nylon-6 (m/z 10,000-25,000) shifted to a smaller range, producing a new peak corresponding to m/z 1500-3000 after the enzyme treatment at 60°C. In addition, smaller fragments in the soluble fraction were successively hydrolyzed to dimers and monomers. Based on these data, we propose that NylC should be designated as nylon hydrolase (or nylonase). Three potential uses of NylC for industrial and environmental applications are also discussed.
    http://www.jbc.org/content/ear.....2.full.pdf

    Nylon Degradation – Analysis of Genetic Entropy
    Excerpt: At the phenotypic level, the appearance of nylon degrading bacteria would seem to involve “evolution” of new enzymes and transport systems. However, further molecular analysis of the bacterial transformation reveals mutations resulting in degeneration of pre-existing systems. The most studied of the nylon degrading bacteria is Arthrobacter sp. K172 (formerly Flavobacterium sp.70). This bacterium employs three enzymes for nylon degradation, EI (NylA), EII (NylB), and EIII (NylC), which are found on the plasmid, pOAD2.71, 72 EI and EIII (also NylC in Agromyces sp.) have been initially characterized.73, 72 They apparently hydrolyze the cyclic forms of some nylons, which provides a linear substrate for EII. However, no detailed analysis of the mutational changes of EI or EIII has yet been performed.
    The mutational changes of EII (6-aminohexanoatedimer hydrolase) have been characterized in detail. This analysis suggests that point mutations in a carboxyesterase gene lead to amino acid substitutions in the enzyme’s catalytic cleft. This altered the enzyme’s substrate specificity sufficiently that it could also hydrolyze linear nylon oligomers.74, 75 Yet, the EII enzyme still possesses the esterase function of the parent esterase. Thus, the mutational alteration results in a reduction of the parent enzyme’s specificity (Figure 4). This enables it to hydrolyze a wider range of oligomers that include nylon oligomers.76
    Nonetheless, reduced specificity of a pre-existing enzyme is biochemically degenerative to the enzyme,77, 78 even if it provides a presumed phenotypic benefit. The “beneficial” phenotype of nylon degradation requires the a priori existence of the enzyme and its specificity. Its degeneration is not a mechanism that accounts for the origin of either the enzyme or its specificity.,,,
    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....n-bacteria

    Relationship between nylon oligomer hydrolytic and esterolytic activities”
    Excerpt: “Based upon the following findings, we propose that the nylon oligomer hydrolase has newly evolved through amino acid substitutions in the catalytic cleft of a pre-existing esterase with the b-lactamase-fold”.
    Taku Ohkia, Yoshiaki Wakitania, Masahiro Takeoa, Kengo Yasuhiraa, Naoki Shibatab,
    Yoshiki Higuchib, Seiji Negoroa FEBS Letters 580 (2006) 5054–5058
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-362219

    Even Wikipedia as of January 2014, which is notorious for its bias against Intelligent Design, admits that nylonase ‘most probably developed as a single-step mutation’, thus the adaptation is well within what Dr. Behe has set for the ‘Edge of Evolution’:

    Nylon-eating bacteria – Jan. 2014
    Excerpt: There is scientific consensus that the capacity to synthesize nylonase most probably developed as a single-step mutation that survived because it improved the fitness of the bacteria possessing the mutation.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N.....n_teaching

  27. Piotr, The problem still remains- how was it determined that gene duplication followed by a function-altering change, is a blind watchmaker mechanism?

    ID is OK with evolution by design.

  28. Hi, gpuccio,

    Nice post. I’m so glad you were able to put the work we discussed, and you did, to good use. I was afraid that after the other articles were published it would be a moot point. But it certainly was useful after all. I’m just waiting until some of your interlocutors admit that with a standard candidate originating enzyme only 2 amino acids away, and no evidence of Ohno’s frameshifted protein, that they are most probably wrong in supporting his thesis with regard to this enzyme. Perhaps one of them will break the mold here.

    I agree with your other points. It seems the height of insanity to insist that enzymes have no function, in either the local function or the meta-function sense. Mark Frank (#12) apparently agrees with us on this.

    And I agree that those arguing for the adequacy of unguided processes make too much of the data that agree with their theory and not enough of the data that is difficult (extremely) to fit in with their theory. In this, they sound almost like their caricature of creationists (which, remember, includes ID advocates ;) )

  29. I love it when Piotr says,

    By the way, you read the Wikipedia entry on nylonases a little selectively, omitting this fragment:

    However, many other genes have been discovered which did evolve by gene duplication followed by a frameshift mutation affecting at least part of the gene. A 2006 simulation found 470 examples that could potentially develop in humans alone.

    (with reference to Okamura et a. 2006, but of course more literature could be adduced). Apart from the fact that NylB is a cause célèbre, nothing much depends on Ohno being right in that particular case.

    First, “at least part” is certainly vague. Does 5% frameshifting count? Note the lack of specificity.

    Second, and more important, the discussion never was about whether frameshifting was a mechanism for producing new proteins. The discussion was whether one should make a big deal about nylonase, which performed a function not known in nature before nylon chemistry was invented. A NEW FUNCTION HAS BEEN EVOLVED!!!! But it apparently only took 2 mutations to evolve it, which is well within The Edge of Evolution (TM). Much ado about nothing special. Now even Piotr apparently recognizes that.

  30. But it apparently only took 2 mutations to evolve it

    Two crucial mutations (among a number of others), assuming — simplistically — that nylB’ is the “parent” of nylB rather then its “sister”. They actually differ at 46 residues, though most of the differences, even the non-synonymous ones, don’t seem to make any appreciable functional difference. Even one of the two crucial substitutions would boost the nylon-degrading activity of nylB’ 20-fold on its own. So yeah, a small modification can make a lot of difference. It can give the protein a new function: the ability to attack a new type of bond not known in nature before the advent of the nylon industry.

  31. Hi Paul,

    Nice to hear from you.

    I am happy of that work we did together, and I must credit you officially for the very brilliant idea of extracting the “ancestral” sequence from Ohno’s paper and blasting it.

    I will answer Piotr separately about the other Wikipedia paper.

    I hope you will take part in our discussions as often as you can: you are one of my favourite commenters! :)

  32. Mark and Piotr:

    I am aware that my post #22 was a little provocative. That was intentional, but in no way it was intended personally for you two.

    You have come to the debate and commented with your best understanding and goodwill, and this is only to your great merit. I just wanted to emphasize the general tone that all discourses from “the other side” are in some way bound to have, in light of what I say in my OP.

    But where are all the others? Nobody interested in the origin of ATP synthase, out there?

    Mark, you are perfectly entitled not to comment on issues about which you don’t think you have sufficient expertise. I know you are mainly interested in aspects of logical thinking. However, as you say you have succeeded in “getting clear what I was saying”, maybe you could also say what you think about it. :)

    Piotr, your biological expertise seems to be almost as good as your linguistic one, so maybe you could try some comments about ATP synthase origin?

    I would like to mention that we are discussing 378 identities for the two subunits of the hexameric part of the F1 part of the molecule.

    Now, as each identity corresponds to 4.32 bits of functional information, we have in that case at least 1633 bits of functional information for that part of the molecule, without considering all the other positions which are partially conserved. IOWs, we are beyond Dembski’s UPB for a factor of about 1133 bits, which could be a safe improbability threshold even for a reasonable multiverse :)

    I will answer you about nylonase and frameshifts in another post.

  33. Piotr, your biological expertise seems to be almost as good as your linguistic one, so maybe you could try some comments about ATP synthase origin?

    Perhaps when I start my summer vacation. This week I’m reviewing too many theses and sitting on too many examination boards. Not enough time for secret pleasures. (Not that my dilettantish “expertise” can shed any real light on such a difficult topic. There are real experts out there who might me more helpful. And if they haven’t worked it out yet, what can you or I do?)

  34. Piotr- just because a small modification can provide a new function,that doesn’t mean the blind watchmaker didit.

  35. Piotr:

    I agree with you that the case of nylonase is interesting, and should be intensively studied. The work done by Negoro and his team is wonderful, and in no way I think that a couple of mutations which confer a new high specificity for a new substrate are “trivial”. Moreover, as I have tried to explain, I believe that such examples could clarify some highly sophisticated adaptational algorithm linked to the plasmid system in bacteria, and that would be really important.

    My only point is: frameshift mutations have nothing to do with that.

    I have nothing against Ohno: at his time, that conjecture could be interesting, even if it was only an hypothesis, not truly supported by evidence. The problem is not with Ohno, but with what the darwinist culture has done wioth a vague suggestion, even while true and hard studies were completely falsifying it. Period.

    Let’s go to the other paper quoted on Wikipedia. I don’t “read” Wikipedia (or any other source) “selectively”. I intentionally “omitted” to mention that reference. Fpr a couple of good reasons:

    1) I don’t feel any obligation to quote what is silly.

    2) I really hoped that someone else would mention it, as you did.

    Why? Let’s see.

    Wikipedia, in a precious moment of adherence to obvious truth, decides to mention a fact which is well established, but certainly not well known: that the works of Negoro and his team have falsified Ohno’s conjecture.

    Well, that is not pleasant at all. How to reduce the negative impact of that news,apparently so ID friendly?

    It’s easy. let’s add a quote of another paper which can re-establish the general faith in the power of frameshift mutations.

    Well, the paper they quote does not present any single example of a known functional protein arising from a frameshift event. So, Ohno’s conjecture is not only a “cause célèbre”. It is a “cause unique”. And it is false.

    But what is the paper about? It is about the detection of some frameshift events in the genome which could be, in principle, translated.

    The paper is “Based on Ohno’s idea [18] as the framework”, and it looks for alinments, even very partial ones, between existing sequences and virtual frameshifted sequences of all genes. And finds some (470), with different levels of homology and an average length of 56 amino acids.

    There is no evidence at all that those aligned sequences correspond to any existing functional translated protein.

    This is the final conclusion in the paper:

    “We interpret our data as evidence that protein-coding
    sequences can be tolerant of frameshift translation events,
    including transcripts arising on the antisense strand”

    And:

    “It is plausible that in vertebrates, and especially in mammals, new coding sequences are created from existing coding sequences”.

    Not much. Not much at all. And anyway, those partial alignments are very different from the scenario suggested by Ohno, where a single framshift was supposed to give origin to a new long functional protein in a single event. Some of them are “internal hits” (a protein matching itself, like in Fig. 2).

    Ohno’s conjecture, at least, was explicit. Therefore, it could be falsified, and has been falsified.

    But “plausible” things are much more elusive.

    Has any further evidence been found that those “plausible” things are true?

    That frameshifts happen is well known. It is no surprises. That a frameshift can generate a new functional protein has not been observed.

  36. Gpuccio

    But where are all the others? Nobody interested in the origin of ATP synthase, out there?

    Possibly they have not read your post?

    Mark, you are perfectly entitled not to comment on issues about which you don’t think you have sufficient expertise. I know you are mainly interested in aspects of logical thinking. However, as you say you have succeeded in “getting clear what I was saying”, maybe you could also say what you think about it.

    It seems to me that the discussion of the origin of complex molecules such as ATP synthase is bound to be limited whatever your theory of how it happened.  As I understand it, it all happened a very long time ago and it is not at all clear what it preceded it.  If you accept

    a) Common Descent  (and I know you do)

    b) Gradual change – in the sense that it is impractical for the descendent of one organism to have a  feature such as ATP synthase which is fundamentally different from its parent.  We never observe this in practice and such a change would not be viable e.g ATP synthase needs a whole energy system to operate in and an organism that can take advantage of that system.

    Then this is just as much a problem for ID as it is for NS.  What was the route to ATP synthase and why are there no intermediaries?  The NS answer is presumably that while we do not know the route, we believe it took place in small steps which were selected for (and these types of small steps we can usefully study even if they are not the ones used to develop ATP synthase) and the intermediaries died out because they were less fit then their successors.  The ID answer is presumably that it happened in small steps directed by the designer with ATP synthase as an end-goal and that the designer also decided to remove any intermediaries.  Both are unsatisfactory because the necessary detail is not available. We don’t know where it started from and we don’t see a chain of viable intermediaries.  But the NS answer can at least be evaluated by seeing if such small steps take place in practice.

    Any experimental science of evolution has to spend most its energies on what it can observe and that means simple not complex.

  37. Piotr at #33:

    I don’t what you can do. As for me, I have my framework of thought. It’s called ID theory.

    It’s an exciting new paradigm for scientific thought. Would you like to join? :)

    My best wishes for you examination work!

  38. Mark:

    Thank you for your thoughts. What you say is reasonable.

    But I would argue that complex molecules like ATP synthase have not always originated at such an ancient time. Many of them are much more recent. The problem of the generation of huge complex functional information can and must be addressed.

    As for me, I do accept common descent and I believe that gradual change can and does happen. But my personal idea is that some specific events, like OOL and the Cambrian Explosion, are rather probable examples of “sudden” design, which happens in relatively short times.

    While the neo-darwinian process requires very long stretches of time to be invoked (not to be plausible, because IMO it is never plausible), design can potentially happen in different time modalities.

    We have to look at facts to understand better. I don’t believe that OOL is such a transcendent issue. We will find evidence, and we will understand.

  39. ID does not require ATP synthase to have arisen in small steps within the confines of biological organisms.

    And why would anyone accept Common Descent given that the premise is untestable and therefor an article of faith?

  40. #39 Joe

    And why would anyone accept Common Descent given that the premise is untestable and therefor an article of faith?

    I am sure Gpuccio can answer this better than me (see #38)

  41. Hi Mark- are you saying that gpuccio has figured out what makes an organism what it is? I am sure his fellow countryman, geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti, would love to hear all about it.

    The point being without knowing what makes an organism what it is Common Descent is untestable.

  42. #41 Joe

    Why not ask Gpuccio directly?

  43. Mark- gpuccio can read my comments and respond to them if he so chooses.

    But OK- gpuccio, why do you accept Common Descent (as in living organisms are descendants of some unknown starting populations of prokaryotes)?

  44. Gpuccio

    The more I think about it – I believe that given two assumptions  the origin of complex proteins such as ATP Synthase is not fruitful when deciding between ID and NS or other non-teological explanations.
     
    I have outlined the two assumptions above but I will repeat them here for greater clarity.
     
    1) Common Descent – this you accept
    2) Viable organism do not differ greatly from their immediate parent(s ). I am not sure if you accept this so I will add a  justification.

    (a ) We never observe viable organisms that do differ greatly from their parents.

    (b ) It is hard to see how an organism that did differ greatly from its parents could be viable as the environment has to change with it – it needs mates, food, shelter etc

    If you accept (1 ) and (2 ) then what would an explanation of the origin of a complex protein look like?  It would be a sequence of small changes from some ancestor to the protein – each step of which was viable. The only difference between an ID explanation and a NS explanation would be that you propose it would happen more quickly under ID – presumably in the sense that there would be less time where no changes happened. However, without a method of measuring the speed of change that we would expect under each hypothesis this is meaningless. In any case it is almost impossible for either theory to provide evidence for such a sequence.

    When we turn to small simple changes there is some hope – at least for proving or disproving NS.  We can observe such changes actually happening and we can determine or even control the selective advantage. I am not quite sure how you prove or disprove ID except by disproving alternatives but I guess you could do that disproving for small changes.

    So far being a fallacy ignoring complex proteins I suggest it is a practical necessity for both camps (and indeed any other theory of evolution that shares assumptions (1 ) and (2 ).

  45. Mark’s assumptions 1 + 2 do not address ATP synthase as ATP synthase is ubiquitous and there isn’t any evidence that a living organism can live without it. That means the starting point for evolution already includes it.

    ATP synthase is not a complex protein. It is a complex multi-protein machine that performs a specific function. And it is only evolutionism that has to provide a step-by-step explanation for it as theirs is the position that says there was one.

    OTOH ATP synthase is a perfect example for Intelligent Design as it meets Dr Behe’s criteria and flows very easily through the EF to the design inference. So far from being ignored by ID ATP synthase is a poster child for it.

    Evolutionism has to ignore it because no one will ever come up with a method for accumulations of accidents producing one.

  46. Mark Frank:

    I am not quite sure how you prove or disprove ID except by disproving alternatives…

    That is good enough for science.

  47. Mark Frank:

    I am not quite sure how you prove or disprove ID except by disproving alternatives…

    That is good enough for science.

  48. Jo #45

    So you think that life sprang into being from nothing already equipped with the whole ATP system?

  49. Mark Frank:

    So you think that life sprang into being from nothing already equipped with the whole ATP system?

    No and that doesn’t follow from my comment. The starting point for biological evolution is living organisms- regardless of the paradigm.

  50. Hi gpuccio,

    Thanks for a fascinating post, and by the way, I’m perfectly happy about you borrowing the title of one of mine. I briefly blogged about ATP synthase back in 2010, here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....nt-design/

    For what it’s worth, I personally have no trouble with the idea of ATP synthase having been created along with the first living thing, as it seems to be a very old enzyme, which is found in all domains of organisms.

  51. Hi guys,

    catching up after a busy day!

    I see I owe a few answers here. Let’s go in order.

  52. Joe:

    I have explained a few times here why I accept common descent and what I mean by that. But I will do that gladly again for you, who are a good friend. I don’t know if you will agree or not, but I will try to be clear about what I think.

    First of all, I must say that I completely agree with Sermonti about the point that we don’t understand “what makes an organism what it is”. Indeed, that will be the main point of the second part of this discussion, the one about “the procedures”.

    That said, my main reason for accepting CD is that I think it is at present the best explanation for many observations which it would be difficult to explain differently.

    I must also say that I am not really interested in fossils and morphological aspects. As those who read my posts certainly know, my interest is in molecular complexity. That’s why Sermonti’s point, certainly true, has not much bearing to the reasons why I accept CD.

    The main reason, indeed, is exactly the same reason why I fully embrace ID: the proteins.

    As I see it, the best scenario we can build for the general proteome as we can observe it today is the following:

    a) About 2000 protein superfamilies make the existing functional proteome. Each superfamily is unrelated to all the others at sequence level, structure level, and function level. For simplicity, let’s stick to this very high level of classification in the following discussion.

    b) About half of those superfamilies originate very early, let’s say between OOL and LUCA. The rest originates at different times during the rest of our planet’s life.

    c) The best way we can describe the proteome as we observe it is by the so called “big bang theory of protein evolution”. That means that a new protein (a new superfamily) appears at some time in some being, and then it is found in many other species which appear after, including often mammals and humans. But the point is, as time goes on, the protein usually remains the same at the structure and function level, but gradually changes at the sequence level. That means that, in general, the more two species are distant, the more the same protein is different at sequence level.
    You need not believe that by faith. I have verified that concept many times by blasting a lot of different proteins. There are certainly exceptions, but the general pattern is very clear. I give you an example here:

    Human myoglobin (154 AAs) has the following alignments with different vertebrate species:

    a) Lethenteron camtschaticum (Lamprey, a jawless fish):

    Identities: 36 Positives: 70 e value: 5e-15

    b) Callorhinchus milii (a shark, cartilagineous fish):

    Identities: 62 Positives: 91 e value: 1e-35

    c) Sarda chiliensis (a bony fish):

    Identities: 71 Positives: 90 e value: 3e-37

    d) Iguana iguana (a reptile):

    Identities: 113 Positives: 132 e value: 3e-80

    e) Gallus gallus (a bird):

    Identities: 118 Positives: 132 e value: 1e-81

    f) Mouse (mammal):

    Identities: 129 Positives: 141 e value: 1e-89

    g) Chimp (primate):

    Identities: 153 Positives: 153 e value: 2e-108

    Now, I am not trying to validate any tree of life, I have just followed the trivial classification of vertebrates. And there are exceptions. For example, amphibia score less than fish, with only 46 identities and 79 positives for cytoglobin (myoglobin was apparently lost in amphibians). However, can you see how strong the pattern is? And it is the same for most known proteins.

    Now, the important point is: myoglobin is more or less the same protein in all these species. It has similar structure, it binds heme, it carries oxygen. There are certainly some differences, but the molecule is essentially similar.

    So, the best explanation for the observed “gradient” of differences at sequence level, with conservation of structure and function, is: neutral mutations.

    That is the big bang theory of proteins: a new protein appears already functional, and retains its structure and function throughout evolution, but it changes through time at sequence level because it can tolerate some mutations which do not affect its structure and function. IOWs, it “traverses” its functional island, without going out of it (because negative selection would prevent that).

    This is, IMO, the best argument for common descent: for that to happen, there must be a physical “continuity” between species. The protein changes and is passed from species to species with its changes.

    Now, I am not saying that CD is necessarily the only possible explanation for that, but it is, as far as I understand, the best explanation available. Exactly like ID is the best explanation for the functional conservation of protein sequence, CD is the best explanation for the neutral divergence of the same proteins.

    I am not saying that CD is necessarily universal, or that I know how it happened, if gradually or in sudden steps. I simply don’t know. Facts will tell. I am only sure that it happened by design. Fact have already told that, in abundance.

  53. Mark at #44:

    Yes and no.

    I certainly agree that studying small changes is easier, and it must be done. But explaining big changes, even by correctly observing what we see for small changes, is equally important and an absolute priority.

    There are some other points which I would like to make.

    It is not only a question of time. NS, to work, requires the fixation of each small functional step. Design does not require that. It can happen, more or less gradually, in a very small population, and a new species could expand (be fixed) only when it is well engineered. That can explain the lack of intermediaries, while in NS intermediaries should in part leave tracks, because by definition each step should more or less be fixed and expanded.

    Another important difference is that designed engineering can happen in non coding, non functional sequences, and be “released” only when the new protein is ready to be translated and used. while again NS cannot act in that way. By the way, such engineering in non functional sequences corresponds very well to many recent observations, as you certainly know. The neo darwinian model can explain those observations only by pure random “luck”.

    My point is: the design model and the neo darwinian model make very different predictions about what can or should be observed. They are both scientific theories, because they are both falsifiable. So, let’s look at facts. To all facts, and with an open mind.

  54. Mark at #48:

    The question was not for me, but I would answer: yes.

    I think that OOL must have been rather “sudden”. Why do I think that? Because everything we know points to that.

    All existing theories about OOL are really bad myths. The simple fact is, we know no example of autonomous life simpler than prokaryotes. I have said many times, here, that I believe that LUCA was also FUCA.

    So, IMO, the desing of OOL must have been “special”: not essentially different, but extremely “concentrated” and “massive”.

    That’s what I think. I can well change my mind, is and when facts will point to something different.

  55. vjtorley:

    Thank you for pardoning me! I was a little worried… :)

    Yes, that post of yours was very good.

    You say:

    “For what it’s worth, I personally have no trouble with the idea of ATP synthase having been created along with the first living thing, as it seems to be a very old enzyme, which is found in all domains of organisms.”

    As you can see in my post #54 to Mark, I do agree with you on that point.

  56. Thank you gpuccio

    This is, IMO, the best argument for common descent: for that to happen, there must be a physical “continuity” between species.

    To me that same physical “continuity” is a common design. No need to reinvent proteins when modified versions of the original design work just fine.

  57. Piotr (#30),

    But it apparently only took 2 mutations to evolve it

    Two crucial mutations (among a number of others), assuming — simplistically — that nylB’ is the “parent” of nylB rather then its “sister”. They actually differ at 46 residues, though most of the differences, even the non-synonymous ones, don’t seem to make any appreciable functional difference. Even one of the two crucial substitutions would boost the nylon-degrading activity of nylB’ 20-fold on its own. So yeah, a small modification can make a lot of difference. It can give the protein a new function: the ability to attack a new type of bond not known in nature before the advent of the nylon industry

    Thank you for the concession. I agree that what looks like random mutation and natural selection (and could well be, apparently pace Joe, although Joe is right that it could have been designed), was responsible for the two new mutations in NylB’ that apparently produced NylB. But the change in function, or, if you like, the new function, is really “a small modification.” Some Darwinists have been making a mountain out of a molehill.

    BTW, What gpuccio did is the best kind of science. If you work on the Higgs boson, there is, IIUC, only one machine in all of the world that can produce the data, and in order to interpret the data, one must be well versed in subatomic theory, the geometry of wires and exact timing of signals, and statistical theory, to name just a few areas of expertise. The results, although theoretically reproducible, in practice can only be reproduced in one place, and will not be repeated unless some government funds them. Most of us have to rely on the word of the investigators, which is the near polar opposite of science.

    Gpuccio’s experiment on Ohno’s proposition, on the other hand, can be reproduced by any intelligent 17 year old with a standard computer using the internet. It is science for the masses. Three cheers for gpuccio!

  58. Mark Frank,

    Given the ubiquity of ATP synthase, and the centrality of ATP for energy metabolism, I think gpuccio and VJTorley are right; assuming a LUCA, the code for ATP synthase must have been part of its genome. And I agree that it makes sense from this perspective to assume that LUCA very closely approximates FUCA, which means that ATP synthase must have had its code inserted into the very first cell; which means that the code must have arisen de novo. I don’t see, nor have I seen someone who claimed to see, a Darwinian path to ATP synthase, let alone one that does not involve living organisms. Now, I could be wrong. There might be a Darwinian pathway that simply hasn’t been discovered. But it doesn’t seem that way, and I see no reason to exercise faith against the presently available evidence that a Darwinian pathway will eventually be found. When I was taught science, skepticism was supposed to be the appropriate stance, not faith.

    Now, of course, if one finds universal common descent problematic, and I do, then your comments (#44 and #36) do not make ID as problematic as you may think is the case. But even if one accepts common descent, as long as ID is allowed, I don’t think #44 quite makes the case that there is no difference in difficulty between ID and Darwinian evolution for ATP synthase.

    Let’s look at the reasoning again:

    2) Viable organism do not differ greatly from their immediate parent(s ). I am not sure if you accept this so I will add a justification.

    (a ) We never observe viable organisms that do differ greatly from their parents.

    (b ) It is hard to see how an organism that did differ greatly from its parents could be viable as the environment has to change with it – it needs mates, food, shelter etc

    Part (a) is just plain wrong. I have it on reliable authority that yeast has suddenly (within 1 generation) developed the ability to produce not only natural human proteins like insulin and tissue plasminogen activator, but brand new (or at least modified) enzymes such as Glargine insulin and Retevase. In fact, Mycoplasma capricolum has been transformed into Mycoplasma mycoides in 1 generation. It is true that we have not seen this happen at present in nature not assisted by known intelligent agents (as opposed to conjecture in the distant past). But for intelligent design, at least some of the time the changes can be sudden.

    Part (b) is almost as unconvincing. Suppose that an intelligence were to discover that adding 500 genes with appropriate promoters and repressors could transform a Spriggina egg into a trilobite. Unfortunately, the trilobite is male, and without female genes, it will die. However, the intelligence can save the knowledge, and continue experiments until it discovers that if it changes 30 of the proteins and adds 20 new ones, and removes 10, with appropriate adjustments in the promoters and repressors, it can make a female. It can now repeat the experiment with the male, and as long as their fertile life spans overlap, the species can take off on its own. Male and female is a huge problem for Darwinism; for intelligent design, not so much.

    You go on to say,

    If you accept (1 ) and (2 ) then what would an explanation of the origin of a complex protein look like? It would be a sequence of small changes from some ancestor to the protein – each step of which was viable. The only difference between an ID explanation and a NS explanation would be that you propose it would happen more quickly under ID – presumably in the sense that there would be less time where no changes happened. However, without a method of measuring the speed of change that we would expect under each hypothesis this is meaningless. In any case it is almost impossible for either theory to provide evidence for such a sequence.

    Two problems: 1. Dawkin’s Weasel program can be used by an intelligent designer to vastly speed up the process, as an intelligent designer can select for genotype and not just phenotype. 2. Your conditions may very well not apply to an intelligent designer, as noted above.

    So your conclusion

    So far being a fallacy ignoring complex proteins I suggest it is a practical necessity for both camps (and indeed any other theory of evolution that shares assumptions (1 ) and (2 ).

    is inaccurate; It is not a practical necessity for intelligent design to ignore complex steps. It is a practical necessity for Darwinian evolution to ignore complex steps. But that may be to the disadvantage of Darwinian evolution compared to intelligent design. And admitting that, while honest, would be quite awkward for one arguing against ID. As gpuccio has said, I’m glad I don’t have to argue against ID.

  59. Paul:

    Thank you for your wonderful contributions.

    When I said that you are one of my favourite commenters, I really meant it. And everybody can see why! :)

  60. Paul Giem #58

    Given the ubiquity of ATP synthase, and the centrality of ATP for energy metabolism, I think gpuccio and VJTorley are right; assuming a LUCA, the code for ATP synthase must have been part of its genome.

    This seems reasonable. It certainly goes back a long way.

    And I agree that it makes sense from this perspective to assume that LUCA very closely approximates FUCA, which means that ATP synthase must have had its code inserted into the very first cell; which means that the code must have arisen de novo.

    Why does it make sense to assume this?  It is of course impossible to disprove but it is tantamount to saying a miracle occurred. 

    I don’t see, nor have I seen someone who claimed to see, a Darwinian path to ATP synthase, let alone one that does not involve living organisms. Now, I could be wrong. There might be a Darwinian pathway that simply hasn’t been discovered. But it doesn’t seem that way, and I see no reason to exercise faith against the presently available evidence that a Darwinian pathway will eventually be found. When I was taught science, skepticism was supposed to be the appropriate stance, not faith.

    Skepticism is certainly an appropriate stance towards any specific hypothesis – Darwinian or otherwise. May I be a bit sceptical about the hypothesis that the very first living thing had the whole ATP mechanism inserted by an undefined process? 

    Part (a) is just plain wrong. I have it on reliable authority that yeast has suddenly (within 1 generation) developed the ability to produce not only natural human proteins like insulin and tissue plasminogen activator, but brand new (or at least modified) enzymes such as Glargine insulin and Retevase. In fact,Mycoplasma capricolum has been transformed into Mycoplasma mycoides in 1 generation. It is true that we have not seen this happen at present in nature not assisted by known intelligent agents (as opposed to conjecture in the distant past). But for intelligent design, at least some of the time the changes can be sudden.

    I should have added the clause – “in nature”. Clearly we can do all sorts of things with genetic engineering.

    Part (b) is almost as unconvincing. Suppose that an intelligence were to discover that adding 500 genes with appropriate promoters and repressors could transform a Spriggina egg into a trilobite. Unfortunately, the trilobite is male, and without female genes, it will die. However, the intelligence can save the knowledge, and continue experiments until it discovers that if it changes 30 of the proteins and adds 20 new ones, and removes 10, with appropriate adjustments in the promoters and repressors, it can make a female. It can now repeat the experiment with the male, and as long as their fertile life spans overlap, the species can take off on its own. Male and female is a huge problem for Darwinism; for intelligent design, not so much.

    There is a bit more to the environment that having a member of the opposite sex. But I will go with the argument (a ). If you assume a designer with sufficient powers it can make the environment be whatever it wants. That’s the advantage of ID. It can handle anything.

    Two problems: 1. Dawkin’s Weasel program can be used by an intelligent designer to vastly speed up the process, as an intelligent designer can select for genotype and not just phenotype.

    In the line above I said: However, without a method of measuring the speed of change that we would expect under each hypothesis this is meaningless.  Sure an ID can do anything including moving the process along much faster. But unless we know how fast NS can go this means nothing.

    2. Your conditions may very well not apply to an intelligent designer, as noted above.

    We dealt with that above.

    It is not a practical necessity for intelligent design to ignore complex steps. It is a practical necessity for Darwinian evolution to ignore complex steps. But that may be to the disadvantage of Darwinian evolution compared to intelligent design. And admitting that, while honest, would be quite awkward for one arguing against ID. As gpuccio has said, I’m glad I don’t have to argue against ID.

    I said this was true if you accepted my two conditions. You don’t accept the conditions.  Basically you believe miracles happen from time to time and large chunks of genome are inserted into life by some undefined process. You are right. It is impossible to argue against this. This doesn’t mean that there is much from an ID point of view to be gained from studying the development of complex proteins.  If you get into any difficulty you just assume a miracle happened at that point. This is not a fruitful approach to science. It is a practical necessity for anyone who is not assuming miracles to ignore the development of large proteins.  There just isn’t sufficient data.

  61. It would be a miracle if natural selection produced ATP synthase.

  62. Mark:

    Let’s try to see things objectively.

    As you know, I am not in favour of a “miracle” perspective for ID. ID is not an easy way of answering any possible question invoking some omnipotent designer.

    The only “miracle” which ID theory can legitimately explain if the appearance of complex functional information: we do know that conscious intelligent designers can generate that kind of arrangement of matter, while everything else cannot.
    This is a perspective derived from our experience of design, and not a religious form of faith.

    Now, we have these huge quantities of complex functional information in biological beings. ATP synthase is only a small example. We in ID believe that the first scientific duty of any unbiased scientist is to consider a design paradigm for the explanation of this huge problem, which cannot be reasonably explained with the current non design paradigms. Design is the only known source of complex functional information, and it is therefore the natural candidate to explain biologic function.

    Now, there is no need to assume an omnipotent designer to explain impossible miracles. But we do have to explain what certainly happened. Here, again, we have top be realistic.

    As I have said, many cases of appearance of new biological information. like the gradual appearance of new protein domains, can be explained by some “smooth” form of design. Even in that case, however, the design hypothesis has definite formal advantages versus the neo darwinian hypothesis, as I have tried to explain: not only the real power to overcome probabilistic barriers, as design always does, but also the realistic possibility of happening in limited populations, of not requiring functional intermediaries which in the neo-darwinian scenario have to be fixed before the following steps can realistically take place, and so on. These are in no way “miracles”: they are properties of the design process, the properties which make design, even in its human form, much more powerful than the RV + NS hypothesis.

    But there is more. As I have said, there are special events in natural history which are “exceptions” to the general, gradual trend that we can hypothesize for the rest of it. There are probably many, but I would definitely sort out OOL and the Cambrian explosion (maybe also the Ediacara) as very strong examples. OOL is definitely the strongest problem.

    Now, it’s not that I, or we IDists in general, are inventing or emphasizing the problems inherent in OOL to defend our theory. The problems inherent in OOL are already big enough, and there is really no need to emphasize them.

    May I remind some of them?

    a) The relatively “small” temporal window between OOL and LUCA

    b) The simple observation that all life that we know is based on the contemporary cooperation of (at least) DNA, RNA and proteins, in a basic chicken-egg relationship one with the others.

    c) That all life as we know it is based on metabolism, to extract energy from the environment and create an absolutely unlikely entropic scenario.

    d) That all life as we know it is based on far from equilibrium processes, much more than any other system in reality.

    e) That all life as we know it is based on active membranes, and the active separation and differentiation of an inner environment and an outer environment.

    f) That the simplest forms of autonomous life that we know are prokaryotes, and that even the simplest prokaryotes fully implements all the above properties.

    h) That LUCA was, to all effects, practically a full prokaryote.

    And so on.

    Now, those are not inventions of ID. When I say that I believe that LUCA, or something not too different, must have been the first form of life on our planet, it’s because I cannot realistically conceive of any gradual “generation” of a prokaryotic life from simpler “forms” of life of which we have no track, no example, no cognition.

    So, if I have to hypothesize some form of “massive” design at the beginning, to explain the engineering of the first forms of life, it’s not because ID theory requires it, or because I like miracles. It’s because it seems to have happened that way, and I have no reason to change facts to adapt them to my theories.

    Design can explain even such a “sudden” transition. It can. It’s not that it is an “omnipotent” explanation for anything. The simple fact is that the true difficulty, even for OOL, is not how it happened, but how such a huge quantity of intelligent information could be generated.

    I have no idea of the details of the implementation (like anybody else). I don’t know if it happened in one day, in a million years or in 300 million years. I don’t know if it happened in a single small pond or everywhere in the planet. If it was unicentric or multicentric. I know nothing of that, even if I really hope that we will know, one day, and that facts will become available to answer those questions.

    The only thing I know is that, in some way, a lot of all the functional information that we still observe in the living kingdom came into existence in a few hundred million years, on a planet where no life existed before, and in the final form of prokaryotes. A form which still remains probably the most successful form of life we know.

    This is a miracle, but it’s not my fault.

    For a design paradigm, it is almost a miracle, but can still be understood and explained.

    For a non design paradigm, it is a complete impossibility, a paradox, a defeat of reason and of knowledge.

  63. Gpuccio

    I have tried to avoid our old dispute. As you know I think “functional information” is just a way of saying “improbable according to known natural processes” and dressing it up in fancy maths. The proof is simple. If you can show the outcome is probable according to a natural process then suddenly it is no longer a significant amount of information. So I am not impressed by the ability of ID theory to legitimately explain the appearance of complex functional information. All it is saying to me is that if we can’t find a convincing natural explanation then we should assume a designer did it.

    But let’s get to the main point. You write:

    When I say that I believe that LUCA, or something not too different, must have been the first form of life on our planet, it’s because I cannot realistically conceive of any gradual “generation” of a prokaryotic life from simpler “forms” of life of which we have no track, no example, no cognition.

    But can you really conceive of a process that creates LUCA with all the complications you mention without any gradual build-up? As you say no one knows anything much about how life started. You dismiss gradualist ideas because you cannot conceive how they could work. Well I dismiss big bang ideas because I cannot conceive how they could work. What could it have looked like to an observer on that magic day? Did all the necessary elements rush from in from where ever they happened to be and combine themselves into the correct molecules (while remaining stable) and then place themselves in the correct positions and then magically start working? I have the advantage that gradual change has been observed in current life while nothing remotely like what you suggest has been observed.

  64. Mark Frank:

    As you know I think “functional information” is just a way of saying “improbable according to known natural processes” and dressing it up in fancy maths.

    And that is just crazy talk as functional information exists regardless of its origin and the math has been done in peer-reviewed papers.

    If you can show the outcome is probable according to a natural process then suddenly it is no longer a significant amount of information.

    That is incorrect. The amount of functional information does not depend on its origin. It only has to do with its specificity- as in how many different sequences can account for the same functionality- again all in peer-review.

    You dismiss gradualist ideas because you cannot conceive how they could work.

    We dismiss them because they are untestable.

    I have the advantage that gradual change has been observed in current life while nothing remotely like what you suggest has been observed.

    LoL! Yes gradual change has been observed and the observed gradual change does not lead us to the inference that it can actually construct multi-protein machinery. There isn’t any microevolutionary even that would lead us to infer the same processes can lead to macroevolution.

  65. Sir Francis Crick talked about biological information in his “Central Dogma”. For example:

    Information means here the precise determination of sequence, either of bases in the nucleic acid or on amino acid residues in the protein.

    Each protein consists of a specific sequence of amino acid residues which is encoded by a specific sequence of processed mRNA. Each mRNA is encoded by a specific sequence of DNA. The point being is biological information refers to the macromolecules that are involved in some process, be that transcription, editing, splicing, translation and functioning proteins. No one measures the biological information in a random sequence of DNA nor any DNA sequence not directly observed in some process. The best one can do with any given random DNA sequence is figure out its information carrying capacity. You couldn’t tell if it was biological information without a reference library.

    And Leslie Orgel first talked about specified complexity wrt biology:

    In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity.

    As far as I can tell IDists use the terms in the same way. Dembski and Meyer make it clear that it is sequence specificity that is central to their claims.

    That is the whole point- if sequence specificity matters the tighter the specification the less likely blind physical processes could find it.

  66. 66

    I have the advantage that gradual change has been observed in current life…

    This is simply untrue. Mark asks “Did all the necessary elements rush from in from where ever they happened to be and combine themselves into the correct molecules”. He asks this question, even though it is absolutely certain (within any rational, evidence-based evaluation of the material facts) that the only physical condition suitable to organize original life on earth was through informational constraint. So has Mark (or anyone else) ever seen a gradual process whereby information-based constraint and control rises from a non-information environment? Of course he hasn’t. The only examples that Mark can provide, whereby de novo informational constraint appears, are the direct products of intelligent agency. So it would seem, if Mark wishes to understand the empirical support for an unguided rise of information-based control, perhaps he should be asking what material conditions are required for that phenomenon to occur – but these are topics he has specifically pointed out as being ones his wishes to avoid discussing.

  67. Mark:

    OK, let’s leave aside the question of functional information here. We have debated it enough.

    First of all, I have never dismissed gradualism. I said:

    “I cannot realistically conceive of any gradual “generation” of a prokaryotic life from simpler “forms” of life of which we have no track, no example, no cognition”

    Emphasis added.

    The generation of the first life by intelligent engineering can have been as gradual as you like, in the window of time we have. As I said:

    “I have no idea of the details of the implementation (like anybody else). I don’t know if it happened in one day, in a million years or in 300 million years. I don’t know if it happened in a single small pond or everywhere in the planet. If it was unicentric or multicentric.”

    So, it did not happen in one billion years (there was not the time), but maybe in 300 million.

    The point is, I don’t think it happened through simpler forms of biological life.

    You ask:

    ” What could it have looked like to an observer on that magic day? Did all the necessary elements rush from in from where ever they happened to be and combine themselves into the correct molecules (while remaining stable) and then place themselves in the correct positions and then magically start working?”

    Maybe it was something like that, but not necessarily “suddenly”. To an observer, it could have looked as a special modification of a natural environment, where very special things slowly happened under some apparent outer control. New molecules, new conditions.

    More or less, what OOL theorists think happened unguided. :)

    I admit, the final step must have been rather sudden and impressing. Impressing because we have never witnessed anything like that. We always see life coming from life. Even if we have everything that is needed in a test tube, the genome, the membrane, the proteins, we have no idea of how to combine that into a living prokaryote. It’s what Sal Cordova calls the “humpty dumpty” argument.

    That must have been really something.

    Of course, I am just speculating. But you asked me to speculate, and I always try to follow your promptings.

  68. 68

    “This is simply untrue.”

    This should say, it is irrelevant. What is required at the OoL is the rise of informational constraint and control from a non-information environment. Such a thing has never been witnessed, so he has no “advantage” as he wishes to suggest.

  69. This seems relevant: Peering into Darwin’s Black Box: The cell division processes required for bacterial life?

    The irreducible complexity and functional specification of living organisms “turtles all the way down”. It would be a miracle for materialistic processes to produce that. Oh wait, is that what is meant by “the miracle of life”?

  70. Gpuccio

    I am sorry. I didn’t realise that you accepted a gradual approach. Then let’s have a hypothesis about the steps in this gradual process which we can discuss. After all that is what you ask of non-design hypotheses. Whether those steps are in living creatures or non-living is not critical. After all every OOL theory starts off with a non-living state and most non-ID theories hypothesise some non-living processes before life begins (and the boundary between life and non-life is fuzzy).

    Of course I am asking too much of you to put forward such a hypothesis. But this is what I mean when I say ID and non-ID are both unlikely to make any progress with OOL or the creation of ancient complex molecules. There just isn’t the data for either.

  71. Mark Frank- We don’t ask anything of evolutionism that it doesn’t claim to have or claims to be able to explain. Again yours is the mechanistic stepwise position, ie it is a bottom->up paradigm. OTOH it is a given that we have to determine design exists before we can determine how that design was implemented. That means design is a top-> down paradigm, meaning design detection comes first and then we answer all the questions we can in order of their relevance. And guess what? That is how it works with archaeology, forensic science and SETI.

  72. #71 Joe

    Well Joe I have just come up with my top-down paradigm. It is not mechanistic. I just detect chance then answer all the questions I can in order of relevance. How do I determine chance? I look at all the mechanistic design theories and find that none of them can explain life (actually there don’t appear to be any). Therefore the only possibility is necessity or chance. And we both agree necessity can’t do the job.

  73. # 72 Mark

    Unfortunately that isn’t a top-down paradigm, there aren’t any mechanistic design theories and your methodology is contra-science and bogus.

  74. GPuccio,

    Your comments and posts are very nice reads. Thanks a lot.

  75. 75

    Joe, evolution isn’t a bottom-up theory (whatever that means). The initial theory, natural selection, was developed after extensive observation of existing animals under the context of the existing fossil record, comparative anatomy and geology. That sounds like top-down to me. After the theory was formalized predictions were made and experiments were designed based on the theory. Based on the results of this research, the theory was adjusted. The process was then repeated. That is how science works.

    But ID proposes a theory that life originated and developed through the intervention of an intelligence. And then you claim that proposing a mechanism is not necessary because you are at the “detection” stage. But until you can propose a mechanism for the designs that you claim to be “detecting”, a you have is magic.

  76. 76

    In #72 Mark Frank has analyzed the data and concluded that the necessities brought about by inexorable law could not have produced the interdependent organization required for the origin of life. He is therefore left with sheer unmitigated chance as the only viable option. His analysis is correct, but his conclusion is a product of bias.

    One might wonder why agency involvement is not subject to this evaluation, but Mark has pre-determined that the phenomena of “agency” cannot exist in the cosmos until it first appears on earth. He must have taken this step, otherwise his analysis is logically unsupportable.

    As for expanding his knowledge as to what is physically required for the origin of life, he is not amenable to that process because the available information universally supports agency involvement, which has already been ruled out. Ironically, his preference is to rest his conclusion on the idea that there is not enough available information on the subject.

  77. Alchemist: I’ve been getting some encouraging results in lead amalgams and alloys in my search for how to turn lead into gold.

    Sceptic: How do you know that it’s even possible to turn lead into gold?

    Alchemist: Gold exists, so it *must have* evolved from a baser metal at some point.

    Sceptic: But you’ve never been successful in replicating any transmutations.

    Alchemist: What? You think God just magically created gold? As I said, I’ve already been able to demonstrate incremental changes using alloys and amalgams. It’s just a matter of time till I discover the right recipe.

    Sceptic: But where did the lead come from?

    Alchemist: From rock, of course. And the rock came from bigger rocks, and so on. There’s a geologist who says that somewhere there must exist a Mother of All Rocks.

    Sceptic: So after you turn lead into gold, what will you do with the money?

    Alchemist: I’m planning to move on into discovering the recipe for Life.

    -Q

  78. Acartia_bogart- natural selection is allegedly a gradual step-by-step incremental process. That is what is meant by bottom-up. ATP synthase is alleged to have evolved in a gradual step-by-step/ bottom-up process, all with accumulations of culled accidents.

    BTW design is a mechanism and it is as valid a mechanism as natural selection. However ID does not propose a gradual step-by-step mechanism, evolutionism does. So it needs to deliver on the goods it claims it has.

  79. And Mark #72 even Dawkins realizes that science can only allow so much luck and your “paradigm” is purely sheer dumb luck and therefor not science.

  80. Mark Frank (#60),

    It looks like we agree that LUCA, assuming it existed, in all probability had to have ATP synthase (if it didn’t exist, then all life forms had to obtain ATP synthase separately, and for now we won’t go there).

    It also appears that we agree that “Clearly we can do all sorts of things with genetic engineering”, and that “That’s the advantage of ID. It can handle anything.”

    (Well, almost anything. ID still can’t create square circles, or married bachelors, or white darkness. Logical impossibilities are beyond the abilities of ID. :) But, as you noted, ID has vast explanatory powers.)

    In this context you note,

    I should have added the clause – “in nature”.

    Let’s do that and see what we get. The thesis you were defending was,

    The more I think about it – I believe that given two assumptions the origin of complex proteins such as ATP Synthase is not fruitful when deciding between ID and NS or other non-teological explanations.

    Your supporting arguments were, with the new addition,

    I have outlined the two assumptions above but I will repeat them here for greater clarity.

    1) Common Descent – this you accept
    2) Viable organism do not differ greatly from their immediate parent(s ). I am not sure if you accept this so I will add a justification.

    (a ) We never observe viable organisms that do differ greatly from their parents [in nature].

    (I’m leaving out part (b) because it doesn’t really add anything to part (a), as you apparently acknowledge.)

    There is one sense in which we can agree on common descent, I arguendo and gpuccio as the best current explanation (he may correct me if I am wrong). That is, that there is a parent-child relationship of all living organisms that go back to one common parent, the LUCA, and through that to the FUCA. This says nothing about how the obvious modern variation developed, whether through random variations, self-guided variations (James Shapiro), or variations guided or even produced by an outside intelligence. It also says nothing about how fast the variations occurred.

    I am assuming that you, being a logician, are not asking us to assume a more restricted definition of common descent, one that requires that the changes must be gradual and reasonably probable without intelligent guidance, as that would be asking us to assume your conclusion, and not a reasonable proof.

    But part 2(a) now reads, (a ) We never observe viable organisms that do differ greatly from their parents in nature. Does nature include human beings? If so, part 2(a) is wrong, as I noted, and not a good base of argument. However, if humans are not a part of nature, then it seems to give a knockdown proof that nature is not all that exists, and thus a disproof of naturalism. :)

    The reason for stating 2(a) seems to be to argue that change in the past must also have been gradual. But that requires the implicit assumption that no agents with intelligence and skill sets comparable to or above the current human intelligence and skill set existed. That is, from a logical point of view, it assumes the conclusion you are arguing for.

    And it flies in the face of empirical evidence. We know that intelligences exist, and that they are capable of creating geologically sudden changes in organisms. If we find evidence for geologically sudden changes in living organisms, and they are beyond the reasonable action of nature without intelligent designers, then it seems reasonable to tentatively conclude that intelligent designers created those changes. It certainly seems unreasonable to declare that intelligent designers must not have been responsible for the changes without some further reason to conclude that they did not exist or did not have the requisite capability.

    This brings up another set of statements you made:

    It is a practical necessity for anyone who is not assuming miracles to ignore the development of large proteins. There just isn’t sufficient data.

    There are two problems here. The first sentence should read “It is a practical necessity for anyone who is assuming that miracles never happen to ignore the development of large proteins.” A neutral stance would be that miracles might or might not happen, and we should look to the evidence to determine whether one happened in a particular setting. One who is not assuming miracle but tentatively concluding miracle or some more “natural” intelligent intervention must have occurred, could start from a neutral position and not start “assuming miracles”. That person would be particularly interested in large proteins, as their sudden appearance would argue for a rapid process, which ID can be, and by your admission, Darwinian evolution has not been demonstrated to be.

    And the reason why one who is assuming that miracles (and intelligent interventions before modern humans) never happen is practically required to ignore the appearance of large proteins is not because there is not sufficient evidence. It is because the available evidence points away from unguided processes and to some kind of guided process. This evidence must be studiously ignored if one is to maintain one’s denial of intelligent intervention. Evolutionary biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved. Otherwise, they might become ID adherents. :)

    One reason for this has to do with the rate of change due to evolution, the rate of change due to ID, and the rate of change in the fossil record. We have already agreed that intelligent design is easily capable of geologically instantaneous change. As you set up the problem well,

    In the line above I said: However, without a method of measuring the speed of change that we would expect under each hypothesis this is meaningless. Sure an ID can do anything including moving the process along much faster. But unless we know how fast NS can go this means nothing.

    What is the rate of change of evolution? It obviously is uneven, but there should be limits to the rate of change due to evolution. After all, if one plates out bacteria on a Petri dish, and walks in the next morning to find a cockroach in the dish, the idea that the cockroach evolved from the bacteria overnight is not the first hypothesis one would entertain. ;) So which side seems to be putting more energy into determining the edge of evolution? At least proportionately, I think it is fair to say that the ID side is.

    The logic is very straightforward. Here is the maximum rate for change with ID. Here is the maximum rate for change with unguided evolution. Here is the minimum rate of change required by the fossil record. Which process accounts best for the observed rate of change? We can put numbers with that if you like.

    You write,

    Skepticism is certainly an appropriate stance towards any specific hypothesis – Darwinian or otherwise. May I be a bit sceptical about the hypothesis that the very first living thing had the whole ATP mechanism inserted by an undefined process?

    It depends on what you mean by undefined. If an unknown process is undefined by definition or as an immediate corollary, you may be skeptical, but eventually you will have to concede that the statement is true. Do you know the process? Does anyone else know the process? Then the process is unknown, and therefore undefined. So yes, you can be skeptical, but in the end, until more is known about the process, it is still unknown.

    You quote me and comment:

    And I agree that it makes sense from this perspective to assume that LUCA very closely approximates FUCA, which means that ATP synthase must have had its code inserted into the very first cell; which means that the code must have arisen de novo.

    Why does it make sense to assume this? It is of course impossible to disprove but it is tantamount to saying a miracle occurred.

    Why are we allergic to miracles, or even to advanced technology? Is that enough, just by itself, to deny an otherwise obvious conclusion? And if so, why?

    You say,

    Basically you believe miracles happen from time to time and large chunks of genome are inserted into life by some undefined process. You are right. It is impossible to argue against this.

    That is not quite right. I suspect (although I could be wrong) that the main designer started from scratch rather than taking already living cells as the starting point. But it is essentially correct. I am glad that you find my position unarguable. :)

  81. 81

    This is an interesting position for Mark:

    It is a practical necessity for anyone who is not assuming miracles to ignore the development of large proteins. There just isn’t sufficient data.

    It seems to me that Mark’s position should come with the caveat that he is wholly unwilling to engage in the evidence already available. I use the word “unwilling” because I do not believe that a three-word dismissive “You are wrong” is a sufficient response to a coherent model of the material conditions which are fundamental to the “large proteins” that Mark has “insufficient data” for. I think that all people can agree that “You are wrong” isn’t an argument. Assuming that both Mark and I continue our participation on this forum, his options are to ramp up his already-obvious dismissives (in either words or silence), or, engage the evidence in earnest. My options are to either pursue a longtime ID critic who I already know has no mitigating position to take on the evidence, or I can leave it alone. Given that tomorrow kicks off a five day getaway, I suppose I’ll take the latter in the short term.

  82. Hi guys,

    Great stuff!

    Before adding a few minor comments on some of the last aspects, I really want to thank you all for the wonderful discussion here, for its very interesting contents and for its very civil tone. That’s really good. :)

    A special thank you is due to Mark, for giving us his excellent contributions, even if in some solitude (a condition I can fully appreciate, as he well knows). Thank you, Mark.

    That said, back to the discussion.

  83. Joe #73

    Unfortunately that isn’t a top-down paradigm, there aren’t any mechanistic design theories and your methodology is contra-science and bogus

    Yes this methodology is contra-science and bogus. I took the methodology you use for design and replaced design with chance throughout. Draw your own conclusions.

  84. UB #76
    You do realise that my #72 was a satire don’t you? I took Joe’s argument for design and substituted “chance” instead of “design”.  It is a poor argument for chance and it’s a poor argument for design.

  85. Querius #77

    Alchemist: Gold exists, so it *must have* evolved from a baser metal at some point.

    Of course the alchemist was pretty much right. Gold did not exist in the early universe. It did indeed “evolve” from other simpler elements (although not a baser metal).

  86. #82 Gpuccio

    A special thank you is due to Mark, for giving us his excellent contributions, even if in some solitude (a condition I can fully appreciate, as he well knows). Thank you, Mark

    It has been a pleasant and effective distraction from the pain of shingles. I recommend debate – better than paracetamol.

  87. Speaking about fallacies, I have come across the following ‘argument’ in various forms: “I would have done it better therefore it is not done intelligently”.

    I usually say that we do not know enough to make such a strong claim. The story of the junk DNA is a good illustration. The more we actually know about how life works the less certain this ‘argument’ becomes. Another example of the same claim is when people say that the code and the noise reduction is too simple to come from intelligence. I think that it has to be taken into account that the information recording and processing system was a result of multi-criteria optimization and robustness and economy perhaps were among the criteria as well as resistance to noise.

  88. Dr Selensky, excellent to hear from you again. Good point too. G

  89. Mark Frank:

    Yes this methodology is contra-science and bogus. I took the methodology you use for design and replaced design with chance throughout.

    That is just your ignorance talking, Mark. The methodology ID uses is the same methodology as archaeology, forensic science and SETI, and it doesn’t look like yours.

    So the conclusion I draw is you are an ignoramus on an agenda.

  90. Mark Frank:

    I took Joe’s argument for design…

    No, you did not take my argument for design. Obviously you don’y have any idea what that argument is even though it has been spelled out for you many times.

    …and substituted “chance” instead of “design”.

    And such substitutions don’t always work, for many reasons.

    The methodology for determining design follows Newton’s rules for scientific investigation and are employed in all design-centric venues. So the problem must be you, Mark.

  91. 91

    You do realise that my #72 was a satire don’t you?

    Couching your position in satire wasn’t the issue, Mark. You didn’t alter your position to use it.

    “(actually there don’t appear to be any) … And we both agree necessity can’t do the job.”

    #81 also remains.

  92. Paul Giem, very well argued. KF

  93. Mark:

    I would like to make a comment here.

    When I mentioned ATP synthase as a perfect example of high functional complexity, there was a good reason for that. The reason is that it is really a very complex molecule.

    Now, the fact that it is also an old molecule is important too, but that was not the main point. I chose a very old molecule with purpose, because that allows to have easily a minimal threshold of functional complexity: the number of identities over a very long period of time. The assumption is that, if one AA position has not changed in almost 4 billion years, we can safely attribute the full package of 4.32 bits of functional information to it.

    That’s how I quickly obtained my minimum value of 1133 for the two subuints of ATP synthase, a value which is more than enough for my purposes. There is not even the need to apply the Durston method here, given how obvious is the functional complexity of the molecule.

    So, the old age helps in rapidly evaluating the functional complexity, but it is not an essential requisite for a molecule to be functionally complex.

    So, if your problem is that we must, for now, renounce to understand too much of molecules which appeared near to OOL, I would say that we can concentrate on more recent molecules. The scenario is just as valid.

    It is interesting that, if we look at protein superfamilies which emerge “recently” (for example, in vertebrates or in mammals), we find mainly regulatory molecules. Interleukins and some transcription factors are good examples. In general, consistently with what I have said in another post, immune responses, the developments of the nervous system and embrional development in general seem to be the best source of great and specific innovation in the most recent branches of the “tree of life”. It is equally interesting that the greatest “masterpieces” of basic biochemical achievements, of which ATP synthase is one glorious example, date back to OOL, or even to the transition from prokaryotes to eukaryotes. IOWs they are much older.

    However, if we look at molecules like interleukins, we have very good scenarios of rather sudden appearance and of high functional conservation in mammals. Very good to falsify non design methods, and recent enough to aim at sufficient detail as research goes on.

    I offer this other interesting example. It is a vertebrate specific protein, whose structural classification is not even known, but which is certainly an importantly functional molecule. It’s a paper of 2013:

    “Dynamic expression of the vertebrate-specific protein Nucks during rodent embryonic development.”

    The abstract:

    The nuclear casein kinase and cyclin-dependent kinase substrate 1 (NUCKS) is a highly phosphorylated nuclear protein that is overexpressed in many types of cancer. The flexibility of NUCKS and its extensive posttranslational modifications indicate that it is multifunctional, and its expression in most cell types suggests a housekeeping function. However, spatiotemporal expression of the Nucks protein during rodent development has not been reported. Thus, we investigated the expression of both the Nucks mRNA and protein during rat and mouse development by immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, Western immunoblotting, and reverse-transcription PCR analysis. We also used BLAST analysis against expressed sequence tag databases to determine whether a NUCKS homologue is expressed in invertebrate organisms. We found that Nucks expression increased during the initial stages of embryonic development, and then gradually decreased until birth in all tissues except the nervous tissue and muscle fibers. Interestingly, the expression of Nucks was very strong in migrating neural crest cells at E13.5 and ectoderm-derived tissues. In most tissues analyzed, the levels of Nucks correlated with the levels of Bax and activated caspase-3, which are indicative of apoptosis. Moreover, Nucks was upregulated very early during neuronal apoptosis in vitro. Expression analysis revealed that no transcript with close homology to the Nucks gene was present in invertebrates. The expression of Nucks in both proliferating and quiescent cells and its correlation with Bax levels and apoptosis strongly suggest that Nucks plays complex roles in cell homeostasis. Furthermore, the lack of homology in invertebrate organisms indicates a specific role for Nucks in vertebrate embryogenesis.

    My point is: we must not renounce to falsify either neodarwinism or ID by empirical facts. It can be done, and it will be done.

    My best wishes for a quick healing from your shingles. :)

  94. Eugene:

    Thank you for your very kind words. I share with KF the pleasure of hearing from you again! :)

  95. UB:

    An affectionate greeting to you too! :)

    Thank you for your contributions, too. Arguing with Mark is not always easy (he’s a tough guy), but it is certainly worthwhile.

  96. Paul:

    Very well argued, indeed. I love the way you discuss!

  97. Querius:

    Your dramatizations are a real treasure! We look forward to them. :)

  98. 98

    EugeneS @87:

    Quite right that those complaints/fallacies are all too often put forward. They primarily demonstrate that the speaker doesn’t know what they are talking about. The examples you cite are but flavors of the broader “bad design” line of argumentation.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-422345

  99. Paul Diem #80

    This is rather a long post but I think the most important part is this:

    But that requires the implicit assumption that no agents with intelligence and skill sets comparable to or above the current human intelligence and skill set existed. That is, from a logical point of view, it assumes the conclusion you are arguing for.

    And it flies in the face of empirical evidence. We know that intelligences exist, and that they are capable of creating geologically sudden changes in organisms. If we find evidence for geologically sudden changes in living organisms, and they are beyond the reasonable action of nature without intelligent designers, then it seems reasonable to tentatively conclude that intelligent designers created those changes. It certainly seems unreasonable to declare that intelligent designers must not have been responsible for the changes without some further reason to conclude that they did not exist or did not have the requisite capability.

    1) You are greatly underestimating the leap you have made from “intelligent humans can insert genes” to “therefore some other intelligent agent can insert complex proteins.” We know that human beings can create sudden changes in organisms – at a much smaller scale than we are discussing. We do not know what attributes are needed to create a sudden change of the magnitude the ATP energy system or indeed if it is possible to do it at all. It is unjustified assumption that in order to make a bigger change all that is needed is something with more “intelligence”. A bird’s wings enable it to fly – that doesn’t mean a creature with big enough wings could fly in the stratosphere.

    2) There are good reasons to suppose there was nothing with even the ability to insert a very small change into the genome at the time that ATP synthase appeared. All we know about the environment all those billions of years ago suggests that there was nothing more complicated than prokaryotes on earth.

    3) You are fudging things by talking about “geologically sudden”. From a geologists’ point of view a change over one generation of prokaryote is indistinguishable from a change spread over many thousands of generations. From where we are we can’t see if the advent of ATP synthase happened in one generation or a hundred thousand generations. So there isn’t really evidence for a one-off insertion of genetic material.

  100. 100

    Whoops – forgot the blockquote tags. Here it is corrected:

    Paul Diem #80

    This is rather a long post but I think the most important part is this:

    But that requires the implicit assumption that no agents with intelligence and skill sets comparable to or above the current human intelligence and skill set existed. That is, from a logical point of view, it assumes the conclusion you are arguing for.

    And it flies in the face of empirical evidence. We know that intelligences exist, and that they are capable of creating geologically sudden changes in organisms. If we find evidence for geologically sudden changes in living organisms, and they are beyond the reasonable action of nature without intelligent designers, then it seems reasonable to tentatively conclude that intelligent designers created those changes. It certainly seems unreasonable to declare that intelligent designers must not have been responsible for the changes without some further reason to conclude that they did not exist or did not have the requisite capability.

    1) You are greatly underestimating the leap you have made from “intelligent humans can insert genes” to “therefore some other intelligent agent can insert complex proteins.” We know that human beings can create sudden changes in organisms – at a much smaller scale than we are discussing. We do not know what attributes are needed to create a sudden change of the magnitude the ATP energy system or indeed if it is possible to do it at all. It is unjustified assumption that in order to make a bigger change all that is needed is something with more “intelligence”. A bird’s wings enable it to fly – that doesn’t mean a creature with big enough wings could fly in the stratosphere.

    2) There are good reasons to suppose there was nothing with even the ability to insert a very small change into the genome at the time that ATP synthase appeared. All we know about the environment all those billions of years ago suggests that there was nothing more complicated than prokaryotes on earth.

    3) You are fudging things by talking about “geologically sudden”. From a geologists’ point of view a change over one generation of prokaryote is indistinguishable from a change spread over many thousands of generations. From where we are we can’t see if the advent of ATP synthase happened in one generation or a hundred thousand generations. So there isn’t really evidence for a one-off insertion of genetic material.

  101. Mark Frank:

    2) There are good reasons to suppose there was nothing with even the ability to insert a very small change into the genome at the time that ATP synthase appeared.

    Personal bias is not a reason and that is all you have.

    All we know about the environment all those billions of years ago suggests that there was nothing more complicated than prokaryotes on earth.

    And they just poofed into existence then?

  102. Mark:

    Your last comment to Paul Giem have convinced me to mention one aspect which I wanted to avoid, given the many times we have already faced it. But OK, let’s do it!

    And let’s do it simply and in Bayesian style.

    I suppose that the real problem is in our respective priors. You priors are about commitment to materialism. You say:

    “All we know about the environment all those billions of years ago suggests that there was nothing more complicated than prokaryotes on earth.”

    Well, I respect that as your personal worldview, but I would like to say that stating that it corresponds to “all we know” is some overstatement.

    As for me, I am quite sure that I know that, both then and now, conscious beings existed and exist which are much more than just prokaryotes or humans or other material-bodied entities. I am not the only one to believe that, and for me it is not only an act of fact or imagination: I am convinced that this worldview is true, exactly as you are convinced of the opposite worldview.

    You seem to believe that science and reason are on your part, but I believe the same for my worldview. Science and reason tell me of the existence of non material designers, and of non material beings. We obviously use science and reason differently.

    You deny that your priors are a cognitive pre-commitment. I am sure that both your priors and mine are cognitive choices. Because believing in free will, even in cognition, is my pre-commitment.

    So, even in my most Bayesian moments (which are not so frequent) I am not interested in priors. I am interested in choices. Because the search for truth, even in its most rational aspects, is not a problem of logic. It is a problem of desire, intuition and adherence to one’s intuition. A problem of morality and love, first of all.

    Am I being too Polanyite? Maybe. But I am happy of that. :)

  103. gpuccio@97,

    Thank you. It’s fun! :-)

    -Q

  104. gpuccio @ 102

    What convinces you that immaterial conscious intelligences existed prior to the OOL? Is is an a priori commitment or a conclusion from evidence?

  105. Mark Frank@85 speculated,

    Of course the alchemist was pretty much right. Gold did not exist in the early universe. It did indeed “evolve” from other simpler elements (although not a baser metal).

    Really? You sound so certain, but what evidence do you have for your conclusion?

    According to NASA last year, the mystery of the origin of gold might have been observed in the violent collision of two neutron stars. If you read the article, you’ll see how shaky the supernova theory truly is, despite being taught in classes for decades:

    https://www.sciencenews.org/article/gold-seen-neutron-star-collision-debris

    Do you see how easy it is to be propagandized by authoritative speculation? Everyone’s susceptible, myself included.

    Speaking of evolution, would it be wrong to say that bacteria, and possibly viruses are actually the most evolved organisms on the planet? Think about it.

    -Q

  106. 106

    But what does Mark really mean?

    “All we know about the environment all those billions of years ago suggests that there was nothing more complicated than prokaryotes on earth.”

    Is he saying that (i) there was no designer available in the universe to do any designing, or (ii) just that on earth, in nature, there was nothing more complicated than prokaryotes?

    The latter may be a reasonable inference based on our current understanding of the Earth’s history. However, it is also largely irrelevant to the larger design debate.

    In contrast, the former is a fallacy of the most egregious sort. It begs the very question at issue and shows a complete lack of basic logic in thinking through the question of design in the history of life.

    Which is it Mark?

  107. 107

    Querius, the real issue, of course, is that living systems exhibit high amounts of CSI. Gold doesn’t.

    A bit of fun with the alchemy example, which makes a point. But the point can get stretched too thin if we start talking as though the production of gold were somehow similar to the production of a living cell.

  108. 108

    Gpuccio #102

    Because the search for truth, even in its most rational aspects, is not a problem of logic. It is a problem of desire, intuition and adherence to one’s intuition. A problem of morality and love, first of all.

    This is where we differ most fundamentally. For me the search for truth is a matter of logic and evidence and nothing else.  I would like to believe in a deity, it is possible that I might be a happier, more moral and more healthy person if I did believe in a certain kind of deity, but I can’t just choose to believe something against the evidence.

  109. 109

    Querius #105

    The supernovae theory is not the point. It is accepted cosmology that at the beginning of the universe there weren’t even elements much less gold. Then hydrogen formed and gradually other elements were created.  So gold must have been created by some process, even it wasn’t the supernovae theory. Or are you saying all of current cosmology is propaganda?

    I absolutely accept that some bacteria and certainly some viruses have as much right to be labelled highly evolved as we do.  Basically “highly evolved” doesn’t mean much. So what?

  110. 110

    Eric #106

    I meant that there was no natural designer on earth to do the designing.  If it was a natural designer but not on earth that just moves the debate to somewhere else. So are you admitting that ID implies a supernatural entity? 
    If so, that removes it from the realm of science. Science is about discovering and applying the laws of nature (they may be applied to specific situations as in the earth sciences but they are laws). A supernatural entity which conforms to know laws is beyond the realm of scientific study.

  111. Paul Giem:

    BTW, What gpuccio did is the best kind of science. If you work on the Higgs boson, there is, IIUC, only one machine in all of the world that can produce the data, and in order to interpret the data, one must be well versed in subatomic theory, the geometry of wires and exact timing of signals, and statistical theory, to name just a few areas of expertise. The results, although theoretically reproducible, in practice can only be reproduced in one place, and will not be repeated unless some government funds them. Most of us have to rely on the word of the investigators, which is the near polar opposite of science.

    Do you mean that “the best kind of science” is the easy kind any bright kid with an access to online tools can do? That excludes most of science. By the way, are you sure you understand the details of BLAST? Have you examined and understood the algorithm, the heuristics, and the code, or do you just take the experts’ word that all that stuff is reliable?

    Gpuccio’s experiment on Ohno’s proposition, on the other hand, can be reproduced by any intelligent 17 year old with a standard computer using the internet. It is science for the masses. Three cheers for gpuccio!

    All right, what Gpuccio did was copy the AA sequence from Ohno’s article in FASTA format and BLAST it. “Science for the masses”, however, is a tricky thing when done by amateurs. I, for example, am an amateur, so I never trust myself when I do science for the masses. Nor do I trust other amateurs with qualifications similar to mine. BLAST is a great tool, as easy to use as Google. Paste a sequence into the box, press the “Go” button, wait for the hits to be displayed, and hey, as it were, presto! — you seem to be doing cutting-edge science.

    How reproducible is that? I checked the sequence first. Gpuccio did a pretty good job, making only two copying mistakes: he substituted Y for T (that is, TYR for THR) in the 28th amino acid position, and G for E (GLY for GLU) in the 373rd position. Then he ran BLASTP and got no significant hits. I ran it with the two corrections (and the default settings of BLASTP) with the same negative result.

    To be sure, the more sensitive version of the algorithm, DELTA-BLAST, does yield a number of “highly significant” hits with 15-20% of similarity to the query sequence (hardly worse than Gpuccio’s “clear homologies” between NylB’ and E. coli proteins), but I’m inclined to regard them as false positives due to the presence of repetitive patterns in Ohno’s reconstructed sequence (I haven’t bothered to check, but the hits would likely disappear or become less significant if a low-complexity filter were applied).

    So yes, I believe I have more or less reproduced Gpuccio’s test and got a result that should be regarded as negative. The frameshift hypothesis is therefore unlikely under the assumption Ohno made (namely, that the original sequence encoded for a protein). The test doesn’t rule out a frameshift completely, but given the fact that there is a rather clear homology signal between the NylB proteins and β-lactamases, the former have probably evolved from the latter. I say it all with the caveat that I’m by no means sure how to use BLAST professionally to get the most from it on one hand and to steer clear of false positives on the other. It isn’t science for the masses, really. Science is inevitably “elitist” in the sense that it requires special skills and qualifications.

    My (amateurish) guess is that the common ancestor of NylB’ and NylB was some kind of “cryptic” protein, rarely expressed, possibly rare in the population, and belonging to a neutral network of β-lactamase-like enzymes. It accidentally had (very weak) nylon-bond degrading properties in addition to whatever its original functions were. In the presence of nylon dimers in the factory waste, it gave its owners a weak but effective selective advantage. That increased its frequency of occurrence, and may have promoted doubling the dosage by duplication. The protein was now under a new selective pressure, and one of the two copies of the gene happened to hit upon two lucky mutations (among quite a number of neutral ones that have affected both copies), increasing its ability to hydrolyse the β-amide bond of nylon dimer twentyfold and tenfold again. Given the length of the protein, the odds of achieving it “by blind luck” were low but far from impossibly low.

    Now, even if Ohno was wrong about the frameshift, we still have something remarkable: a new phenotype exploiting a new kind of substrate, and the self-organisation of a simple but effective pathway involving also NylA and NylC beside the improved variant of NylB — three cooperating enzymes unrelated to each other, “conspiring” to degrade nylon efficiently. Even if you call it “microevolution”, remember that a local population of Arthrobacter evolved it all in 40 years or less.

  112. Piotr, FYI Paul Giem is one of our regular commenters and is a well known medical doctor who has been deeply interested in origins issues for a very long time. He is associated with Loma Linda, as may be observed from his lengthy video review series on Darwin’s Doubt. KF

    PS: There is a fairly lengthy list of highly capable ID-supportive commenters at UD. The underlying tendency of evolutionary materialism advocates to assume that those who question or differ with their worldview dressed up in a lab coat — that’s fair comment on facts I can adduce in detail — are ignorant, stupid, insane and/or wicked is grossly self-serving and ill founded.

  113. kairosfocus:

    Thank you for the information, but how is it relevant to what I said? I discussed Paul’s opinion expressed in his comment, not his personal traits.

  114. Mark Frank:

    For me the search for truth is a matter of logic and evidence and nothing else.

    And yet both materialism and evolutionism are illogical and evidence-free.

    So are you admitting that ID implies a supernatural entity?

    The designer could be supernatural. The design isn’t. ID is about the design.

    If so, that removes it from the realm of SCIENCE.

    That is incorrect as science only cares about reality and if the reality is a supernatural agent did it then science is OK with that.

    Science is about discovering and applying the laws of nature (they may be applied to specific situations as in the earth sciences but they are laws).

    Tat is also incorrect. Science is about discovering the reality behind whatever is being investigated.

    A supernatural entity which conforms to know laws is beyond the realm of scientific study.

    That may be but so what? ID is about the DESIGN and the DESIGN is NOT beyond the realm of scientific study.

  115. Piotr- how can we test the claim that blind watchmaker evolution produced nylonase? ID is OK with evolution by design…

  116. @ CLAVDIUS

    ‘gpuccio @ 102

    What convinces you that immaterial conscious intelligences existed prior to the OOL? Is is an a priori commitment or a conclusion from evidence?’

    Pardon my putting in my two penn’orth, here, CLAVDIUS, but I suspect part of of gpuccio’s answer might be to the effect that whatever fool thought he was enunciating a wise and witty epigram by stating that the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data’, had it precisely wrong.

    Indeed, it is potentially far better than ‘data’, since it can be virtually the fabric of our most basic knowledge of the world. I’m told a place called, ‘America’ exists, though I’ve never been there … and if I had, it could have been an enormous charade put on just for my benefit, and it’s really called, ‘Imaunicorn’.

  117. 117

    Kairofocus:

    ID is about the DESIGN and the DESIGN is NOT beyond the realm of scientific study.

    If it is only about the DESIGN then it is definitely beyond the realm of science. Until you identify the designer, or at least propose the nature of the designer, you can not prove that there has been any design. All you have is a list of complex features that your gut tells you couldn’t have arisen through natural processes.

    Your logic is like claiming that a supernatural intelligence is the cause of all disease and we can prove it by identifying diseases. I am certainly glad that scientists didn’t take that approach to medical research.

  118. Thankfully Acartia_bogart isn’t any authority on science.

  119. A-b: Design is a routine subject for scientific inquiry in any number of contexts, ranging from forensic science to archaeology to SETI. As a matter of fact, in a lot of things done in physics design is a big part, something I noticed in 4th form when we made a big study of springs. It seems that it only becomes suspect when a priori evolutionary materialism is under threat or question. When it comes to the unobserved past, we have a well established principle, vera causa, and the issue is here to show cause for origin of functionally specific complex organisation and information, which are patently observable and quantifiable. (Cf recent post here.) We also observe it being created and can assess the way we get to islands of function in config spaces. These all ppoint to design as a relvant explanatory cause. Maybe hard to swallow but that is where the evidence points. KF

  120. P, pardon but your tone was showing. KF

  121. OOPS, the linked post on FSCO/I is here. The matter addressed is foundational and the chirping crickets etc are quite revealing . . .

  122. Piotr @111:

    Thank you for confirming my results. You have worked well indeed. So, Paul, you and me make a good bunch of “semi-amateurs” with some creativity. :)

    While I can agree with your love for professional education, I am maybe a little less elitist than you are, and I would not underestimate the possible role of amateurs when professional are under an overwhelming ideological and cognitive bias about the most important scientific debate of our times. :)

    Seriously, you did a great job, and I agree with many of the things you say. I specially agree that the case of nylonases is very interesting. Your interpretation seems very good, but I would describe what we see there as an adaptational algorithm. In a very similar way, our immune system can increase the affinity of our antibodies in a few months, after the primary response.

  123. CLAVDIVS:

    In my experience and in my epistemology, consciousness comes before matter. The first thing I experience, both logically and chronologically, is consciousness, and not matter.

    It is consciousness which gives meaning to reality, order to perceptions, unity to our world visions and to our worlds. The only destiny we are really interested in is the destiny of our personal identity, not of our body.

    Matter is not a clear concept, even in science. Our maps of reality are much more a matter of information, purpose and meaning, than a matter of matter. Thoughts, desires and joy and pain are as real as quarks and forces.

    Our maps of reality, of consciousness and of matter are extremely limited. I am certain that consciousness existed before matter. You may believe differently, but why do you think that what you believe is better?

    I hope that answers your question.

  124. 124

    Gpuccio #123

    The first thing I experience, both logically and chronologically, is consciousness, and not matter.

    You are in deep philosophical territory here. You don’t experience consciousness. To be conscious is to experience things, but you are not experiencing the consciousness. That is like saying that the first thing you see is sight.

    If you are not convinced think for a moment about the impossibility of experience unconsciousness.

  125. Mark:

    I have to disagree.

    Think of the simple phrase:

    “I am conscious”

    which is a good way of describing the fundamental experience of ourselves.

    There are three parts:

    a) The I. This is the subject. Without a subject, an unique identity which perceives, there can be no consciousness, no experience.

    b) The verb “am”. The I knows intuitively that it exists.

    c) The adjective “conscious”, which expresses the simple, but extraordinary, fact that the I knows intuitively, not only that it exists, but also that it exists as a perceiving subject.

    You say:

    “To be conscious is to experience things”

    That is completely wrong. To be conscious is to have perceptions and representation, call them as you like.

    We don’t experience “things”. We experience modifications in our consciousness (our representations) which are often induced by things. It is not the same thing, not at all.

    We can experience states which have practically nothing to do with “things”. Can you imagine to feel a great joy, without it being related to any specific representation? Maybe in the beginning that joy can be induced by some representation, but it can become “non formal”, pure joy.

    In the same way, we can experience an intense sense of existence, of identity, which in that moment is not related to any specific representation.

    The intuition of existing and of being a subject is not generated by things, or by representations of things. It’s what we deeply are. We experience “things” only as modifications of our inner states.

    We cannot experience “unconsciousness” for the simple reason that it is not a state of consciousness. As discussed with RB (if I am not wrong) what we call “unconsciousness” is usually only a different state of consciousness.

    We cannot “experience unconsciousness” just as we cannot “experience non existence”. Existence and consciousness are what we are. We exist as subjects.

  126. Mark at #108:

    This is where we differ most fundamentally. For me the search for truth is a matter of logic and evidence and nothing else. I would like to believe in a deity, it is possible that I might be a happier, more moral and more healthy person if I did believe in a certain kind of deity, but I can’t just choose to believe something against the evidence.

    I disagree. Evidence and logic have an important role in the search for truth, but in no way they are sufficient.

    If that were the case, truth would be the possession of intelligent intellectuals, and would be negated to less gifted reasoners. There is no need of being a logic or a philosopher to understand that that is not the case in the world.

    If that were the case, only logical errors would prevent us from understanding as much as it is possible of all realities, including our personal reality.

    If that were the case, good and evil, joy and pain, desire, passion, indifference, egoism, and many other things would only be wrong theorems.

    But reality is not that way. Luckily. That would be a very boring, meaningless world.

    The search for truth starts with our intuitions and desires, it starts with the sincere desire for truth, with the sincere love of truth. Without that love, no logic will help you to find the right way.

    Evidence is not there for us to passively catch it. Our mind and our heart decide what evidence is.

    Logic, even if correctly used (which is rare), is powerless unless applied to the right context. And it is our mind and heart that decides what the right context is.

    If what you say were true, cognitive bias would not exist. And whoever uses his logic correctly knows all too well that cognitive bias is an integral part of human cognition, in all cases. Because we cognize with our heart and desires before even knowing what logic is.

    But we are not so different, after all. Like you, I can’t just choose to believe something against the evidence. Love for truth is my main passion. So, we are similar.

    I could never “choose to believe” in the neo darwinian model, for example. Even if my personal happiness depended on that.

    The difference between us is not in our love of truth, which is probably the deepest link between us. It is in how we choose what evidence is, in how we choose where truth is to be pursued. And I don’t believe, not even for a moment, that it is a difference in our ability to use logic. We have made different choices about what reality is, about what can lead us to truth.

    In no way I criticize your choices. I always respect the deep choices of others. But as we are here to share the consequences of our personal choices, I do that with you. In a spirit, I hope, of friendship and respect.

    But with a full love for fight! :)

  127. 127

    Mark @108:

    I would like to believe in a deity. . . but I can’t just choose to believe something against the evidence.

    Oh, there is plenty of evidence, Mark. It is just that your a priori philosophical preferences prevent you from seeing it or considering it.

  128. Piotr (#111),

    Do you mean that “the best kind of science” is the easy kind any bright kid with an access to online tools can do? That excludes most of science. By the way, are you sure you understand the details of BLAST? Have you examined and understood the algorithm, the heuristics, and the code, or do you just take the experts’ word that all that stuff is reliable?

    As Mark Frank would say, you are in deep philosophical territory here. But yes, the best kind of science is that which is reproducible. And there is a reason for that. Science is supposed to be self-correcting. That is one of its chief claims to fame (the other one being that it is predictive and therefore useful). Whenever science becomes for practical purposes non-reproducible, it ceases to be correctible, and there are all kinds of error that can creep in, from statistical error, to bias, to flat-out fraud, whether because of pride or ideological enthusiasm. (For those who deny the latter, I have only one word: Lysenko.) When error creeps in, science loses (some of) its predictive power as well, and no longer deserves its premier place in modern society.

    Your comments about the inner workings of BLAST are perfectly fair. Much of what we do in science is taken on faith. When I order methanol from Mallinckrodt, I believe that if they say it is 99.7% purity that there is only 0.3% water, ethanol, or other ingredients. I could test this, but usually do not. They have been reliable in the past, and I believe them. (I’d have a harder time believing them if the stuff smelled like acetone.) Similarly, I don’t look at the code for BLAST. It has worked as expected for others, and I take it that the program has been adequately debugged.

    But it is also true that one could increase the faith in the program if the code was available for inspection. I can read enough computer code that I could understand their algorithms, and if I had a question about their results, having the code open would allow me to directly confirm or deny its validity (and the truth has nothing to hide).

    So yes, I believe I have more or less reproduced Gpuccio’s test and got a result that should be regarded as negative. The frameshift hypothesis is therefore unlikely under the assumption Ohno made (namely, that the original sequence encoded for a protein). The test doesn’t rule out a frameshift completely, but given the fact that there is a rather clear homology signal between the NylB proteins and ?-lactamases, the former have probably evolved from the latter.

    Then we agree. We even agree on the caveat:

    I say it all with the caveat that I’m by no means sure how to use BLAST professionally to get the most from it on one hand and to steer clear of false positives on the other.

    Nobody here is claiming infallibility. Fallibility should (and usually does) decrease with training. And even the experts are not infallible. I am currently the world’s leading authority on green lynx spider bites (rolls eyes), but that doesn’t mean I know everything about them, or that I could not be wrong about the opinions I do hold. :)

    However, you continue to exhibit gpuccio’s fallacy #2:

    Now, even if Ohno was wrong about the frameshift, we still have something remarkable: a new phenotype exploiting a new kind of substrate, and the self-organisation of a simple but effective pathway involving also NylA and NylC beside the improved variant of NylB — three cooperating enzymes unrelated to each other, “conspiring” to degrade nylon efficiently. Even if you call it “microevolution”, remember that a local population of Arthrobacter evolved it all in 40 years or less.

    Some here might wish to deny that any information can come from randomness. I would at least partly disagree; one can stumble across solutions to problems. However, size matters. If you win the local bingo game or raffle, it’s no big deal. If you win the lottery, I will be surprised but might still write it off to chance. If you win the lottery 7 (or even 3) times in a row, I will entertain a design inference. Nylonase is not winning the lottery 7 times in a row. It is more like matching 2 of the 5 balls. It gets you a prize, but not a very big one.

    The one claim that might be made is that all transitions are simple 2-mutation transitions. At present that claim is a matter of faith, and given Axe and Gauger’s work, for some enzymes the distance is more like 7 mutations, and for others probably even more. That is a very interesting field of research.

  129. Kairosfocus (#112, #120))
    Don’t worry too much about the tone. Res ipsa loquitur. As Piotr pointed out, my comments have to stand on their own. My education or intelligence, or lack thereof, has little to do with whether the content of my comments can be certified correct. They have to stand on their own. That’s just the nature of truth. I accept that challenge. There is no room for pride (including my pride :) ) in this discussion.

    What I find interesting is that in spite of Piotr’s adversarial tone, he agrees with me regarding the facts. :) This has two implications. First, Piotr is honest with regard to the facts. While you may be tempted to say that’s only to be expected (and Luke 17:7-10 may back you up), think about it; haven’t you seen much worse? :)
    Second, as gpuccio has noted, this means that (in all probability) the facts are really correct; we are not just making them up. Piotr can see them too. :) Let’s solidify our agreement and see if we can reach agreement elsewhere.

  130. 130

    Mark @110:

    Lots of logical problems here. Let’s just take them in order . . .

    I meant that there was no natural designer on earth to do the designing.

    Why are you focused on a designer being “on” the Earth?

    And by “natural” do you mean having physical matter, or do you mean being part of the history of natural life on Earth? If the former, then you have no particular reason to reject it. If the latter, then it is a circular triviality that no-one questions anyway.

    If it was a natural designer but not on earth that just moves the debate to somewhere else.

    What makes you think the debate is about the physical location where a designer was located when the designing was done? That has never been an important aspect of the debate. The question (as far as biology is concerned), is whether some biological systems were designed. Where the designer was sitting when he designed them is not even part of the discussion. So you can’t retreat behind a claim of “moving the debate somewhere else” when the location of the designer was never tied to a particular location to begin with.

    So are you admitting that ID implies a supernatural entity?

    Of course not. Furthermore, I don’t have any idea what you mean when you use the word “supernatural.” I don’t find the word to be very useful in these kinds of discussions.

    If so, that removes it from the realm of science. Science is about discovering and applying the laws of nature (they may be applied to specific situations as in the earth sciences but they are laws). A supernatural entity which conforms to know laws is beyond the realm of scientific study.

    This is nonsense on more than one front.

    Look, I’m quite familiar with the time-worn rhetorical move here, and it is not intellectually impressive:

    (i) label something as “supernatural,” (ii) claim it therefore isn’t “science,” (because, you know, only purely natural entities and processes can be real “science”), and (iii) then dismiss the idea without addressing the substance (because, you know, if it ain’t real “science” then it doesn’t need to be taken seriously). Very weak move.

    First, the question of whether something was designed can be investigated and studied in great depth independent of who or what designed it. It doesn’t make one whit of difference for purposes of identifying design in nature whether the designer was “natural” or “supernatural”, whatever those words may be deemed to mean.

    Second, ID has never claimed to be able to identify the designer. Attempts to force the discussion into some particular designer are therefore wide of the mark and can never, even in principle, attack the ID position.

    —–

    Finally, less directly stated but implied whenever someone says the design question isn’t “science” is that it is somehow not knowable, or not trustworthy, or not amenable to investigation, or not worthy of serious consideration. This is logically problematic and smacks of an unhealthy scientism.

    Even if ID proposed a “supernatural” designer (which it doesn’t), and even if we adopted your extremely problematic definition of “science” (which a number of philosophers of science don’t), the unstated, implied put-down, still does not follow. Even if something is not science, that does not make it unknowable, or unable to be investigated, or untrue, or unworthy of serious consideration.

  131. Gpuccio,

    There is one other possibility. Perhaps Mark Frank really is a robot with no inner core, and is simply reacting in a complex way to his environment. Perhaps he cannot understand our argument because he hasn’t experienced consciousness and free will (John 8:34-36).

    As for me, I have the experience of noticing the inputs caused by the phenomena around me, but also being conscious of an “I” who watches this interplay and sometimes interferes. I also am aware that I am conscious, and aware that I am aware that I am conscious, and aware that this rapidly leads to an infinite regress which is not particularly helpful, and so usually do not pay too much attention to my awareness of my awareness. :)

    I think your argument is sound, and that Mark Frank’s objection about not being aware of unconsciousness is the attempt to equate two opposites, which makes no logical sense. And Mark is a logician!

    Science tends to denigrate the subjective (although quantum mechanics is forcing a re-evaluation). But for all whose consciousness matches ours in the relevant ways, your argument is an unanswerable one. The one thing Descartes could be sure of is “cogito, ergo sum.”

  132. Mark Frank,

    Your comments deserve more time than I can take here, but I will get back to you.

  133. Paul Giem:

    But yes, the best kind of science is that which is reproducible.

    Absolutely, provided that you mean reproducible experiments conducted lege artis according to a detailed protocol, properly controlled, and ruling out subjective bias and confounding factors. The best tools of science, if misused, are only toys.

  134. gpuccio,

    This OP you have written, and the follow-up discussion it has provoked, appear to touch a sensitive nerve of a most fundamental area of science.
    Perhaps certain concepts seem to require more clarification. However, we should be willing to approach this difficult discussion with open minds, humility and passionate desire to understand the subject.

    Is the following Scandinavian report somehow related to your current post?

    Spatial and temporal mechanisms of cell fate determination in the developing central nervous system (CNS)

    The generation of neural cell diversity in the developing central nervous system relies on mechanisms that provide spatial and temporal information to neural progenitor cells. The deployment of morphogen gradients is an important strategy to impart spatial information to the field of responding cells. In this process, cells translate different concentrations of signal into the expression of distinct sets of cell fate-determining transcription factors, which determine cell fate as progenitors leave the cell cycle and differentiate into neurons. However, the mechanisms by which time regulates cell fate determination are poorly understood.

    http://publications.ki.se/xmlu.....tribute=en

    How are those mechanisms established?
    How are they activated?
    What determines the proportion of cell types to be produced, their final locations, their timing?
    This report is about the CNS, but similar questions could be asked about all the tissues, organs, systems.
    We see the words ‘choreography’ and ‘orchestration’ used in biology reports these days. Does this relate to your current post, including the promised part 2? BTW, can’t wait for the second part of this OP. Take your time, don’t rush it. I’m withholding more questions until you post part 2.

    PS. Please, don’t take my questions personally, don’t take them as an interrogation, or as any type of exorcism or Spanish inquisition ;-)

  135. gpuccio,

    Other interesting examples are posted in this thread (starting at comment #9): http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-evolution

    The increasing pace of research is shedding more light on the elaborate choreographic mechanisms observed in the biological systems these days, specially during development.

    I’m waiting for part 2 to post more questions. Thank you.

    The party is just starting. The fun part is still ahead ;-)

  136. I’m really tired of the obtuse attitude of materialists in regards to design, you don’t need to know a single thing about a designer to study his or her designs……..

  137. GPuccio, great post. Thank you for stimulating a wonderful discussion. I really do appreciate your many contributions on the scientific front. On one of your peripheral points, I would like to make a comment, which I hope will not distract from the main theme of the post.

    The search for truth depends, in large measure, on the willingness of the searcher (or researcher) to accept the truth in whatever form it may present itself. In many cases, the truth is not that hard to find, but it is, at least for some, hard to face–harder yet to follow. Accordingly, human desires are often at variance with the truth about reality, which means that reconciliation can take place only if the conflict is resolved. The issue is really about which path the individual decides to take.

    Will he [a] bend his desires in the direction of truth, which is a healthy exercise in intellectual humility, [b] or will he bend the truth in the direction of his desires, which is an unhealthy exercise in narcissistic pride. Everyone must make this decision even before he enters the intellectual arena. The scientist, for example, must decide, in advance, if he will follow evidence wherever it leads in order to learn about nature, or if he will try to lead the evidence in the direction of his personal agenda. Similarly, the philosopher must decide, in advance, if he will support reason’s rules, which is the only way to learn about the world as it really is, or militate against reasons rules in an attempt to remake the world in his self-absorbed image.

    When, for example, a scientist claims that new evidence from quantum mechanics raises questions about the Law of Non-contradiction or that recent findings in cosmology challenge the notion of causality, he is trying to bend the truth (and the evidence) in the direction of his own atheistic prejudices with no respect for what the data really indicates. (From E. Michael Jones, we learn that social scientists also bend truth to desire in order to remake the world in their own perverted image. That is why Karl Marx, who never worked a day in his life, founded a communistic philosophy based on the dispossession of others; and why Margaret Mead, who relished adultery, discovered it in cultures where it didn’t really exist; and why Kinsey, who was a sexual pervert, skewed the data to make it appear that a significant section of the population shared his proclivities.

    Put another way, a desire for truth is inseparable from intellectual humility. Thus, the scientist who disregards evidence or the philosopher who sneers at the principle of sufficient reason is really in the business of putting his intelligence at the service of error. So it is with those hyper-skeptics who claim that we cannot really know anything about reality. It is the cheapest and most gutless objection one can raise. No matter how cogent the argument against his position may be, he continues to say, “I’m not convinced.” That same tactic can be reworked time and time again to challenge the evidence for cosmological fine-tuning, biological design, or even near-death experiences–and it is always done in the name of intellectual sophistication. Never mind the fact that it requires no intellectual exertion whatsoever.

  138. Piotr:

    OK, again I agree with you about the importance of lege artis etc etc, but just a few notes:

    a) Subjective bias is, by definition, subjective, and therefore depends on the individual’s attitudes, rather than on his technical expertise.

    b) There are problems of methodology and epistemology which go beyond the technical details of experimentation, and which are fully open to the discussion of anyone who has a correct methodological and epistemological attitude and experience. Ideas, too, are an important element in scientific research, which is not always strictly related to the technical education.

    c) Here we are writing in a blog, and not publishing in “Nature”.

    d) The opinion of professionals is always welcome, if explicit and motivated and convincing.

    e) Even in me strict field of work, I never accept the opinion of a professional, even if with much greater expertise than I have for some specific problem, merely out of authority. The professional has to convince me of his opinion, explaining with convincing detail the reasons for his opinion, and I must accept them. I don’t know what your experience is, but my experience is that very important and expert professional are often wrong, like any other kind of people.

    f) About Ohno’s conjecture, well, what can I say. Our blasting of Ohno’s supposed ancestral protein is not certainly an example of top experience and sophisticated skill in protein alignment: it is what it is, a very simple blast of a protein against the available proteome, with basic, default parameters.

    But who had done it, before us? As far as I know, nobody. Paul had the idea, I did it and you confirmed it.

    So, let’s just say that it took two medical doctors and a linguist to perform (and confirm), with limited expertise, a very simple check about a conjecture with important intellectual implications which, as you said yourself, has been a cause célèbre for about 30 years. :)

  139. Stephen:

    Thank you for your thoughts. I agree with you about the importance of humility, and that is certainly not so common stuff in the world! :)

    Basically, I think that our choices about our fundamental worldviews are, like all our other free choices, something of a mystery.

    It is a common observation that humans have a strong tendency to “bend the truth” according to their desires. So, maybe the important point is to “choose” the right desires. Our problems can often be described as conflicts between different parts of ourselves. It is our privilege and responsibility to decide with what parts of ourselves we cooperate.

    In the end, we are always back to the great classics!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDLWbBrvA40

    I am convinced that joy and love are as much a part of our fundamental being as truth is. Therefore, if I did not believe that those three aspects are essentially one thing, I would really have problems in deciding which to pursue first.

    But, fortunately, I believe it with all my heart.

  140. Dionisio:

    Thank you for the links. I will probably use them in writing the second part of this post, about procedures.

    (Does it work like in american TV series, that given the good success of the pilot, I am allowed to go on? :) )

  141. Eric:

    Very good points at #130.

    Like you, I am not a fan of the word “natural”, in all its shades.

    I prefer the word “reality”: what is real, what really exists.

    So, if there is a natural and a supernatural part of reality, what would distinguish them, and why shouldn’t science be interested in a part of reality which exists and interacts with the other part?

    On the other hand, if no supernatural is part of reality, why should we be interested in such a concept?

    However we put it, science has a right to be interested in everything which exists. I cannot think of any reason to limit the realm of science to only part of what is real.

    Maybe science has its specific tools (even if it is not easy to define which they must be). Maybe science, and philosophy, and religion, approach reality with different strategies.

    But it is the same reality they approach. So, there can be no conflict between them.

    The sad thing is that the concept of “natural” and “naturalism” in the end means only one thing: so called “naturalists” are willing to accept only those explanations which can be included without trauma in their present views of reality, and in those boundaries that they have already established for science. IOWs, they can accept only what they essentially already know and understand.

    And that is the least scientific attitude I can conceive of.

  142. 142

    Gpuccio #125

    I don’t think it is possible to do justice to these issues in a series of comments on a blog.  The philosophy of mind is full of subtle distinctions, misunderstandings over the use of words, and puzzles. I highly recommend reading  the Philosophical Investigations if you haven’t done so already. It is a strange book but not difficult to read if you take a few pages at at time. I would maintain that if you haven’t read it, then you don’t even know what the important questions are in the philosophy of mind.

    Specifically I was disagreeing with your statement that you experience consciousness.   “experience”  is fairly imprecise word. In one sense you could say we have all had the experience of being a foetus and that would be our first experience.  But if you take experience as being something like feel, perceive, or sense then you can’t do it unless you are conscious. I would say that feeling, perceiving and sensing are what it is to be conscious. You don’t experience the consciousness as a separate thing.  As I said it is like saying the first thing you see is “sight”.  You can’t see without see without seeing something, even if it is a wall of black or an illusion or an after-image.  When I said “to be conscious is to experience things” I didn’t necessarily mean the things were concrete objects outside the body like tables and carpets.  They might well be illusions, pain, happiness. None of this reifies consciousness into some separate mystical thing apart from people, chairs and carpets. It is simply a word for being in a state where you can do this type of thing.

  143. Mark:

    With all respect, I am happy with trying to know what the important questions are in life. Philosophy of the mind, as an academic discipline, is not my field. But the mind definitely is one of my main interests.

    My simple point is that trying to understand the mind by the mind only is not a promising task. Again, with all respect for Wittgenstein and other great professionals in the field.

    I believe in a different approach. One in which personal experience is much more important.

    Maybe “experience consciousness” is not the perfect expression. I would say that we “intuit” consciousness, but again, I am not a special fan of words. Words are important only in the measure that they express our conscious representations and allow us to share them with others who have similar experiences.

    Sight is only a form of conscious representation. Any form of conscious representation implies the existence of a subjective I, which unifies the different modifications of its natural state of being conscious, of being a subject.

    You say:

    “I would say that feeling, perceiving and sensing are what it is to be conscious.”

    Yes and no. They are expressions of being conscious. They are states. All the different states are referred to one identity. That is what we are. And that identity is a subject, an objectively existing subject.

    Again, a list of forms does no make a subject. Each state is more or less formal, it happens in time and space and is modified in time and space. The identity which experiences all that is beyond all that, and cannot be explained as the sum of those forms.

  144. 144

    #126 Gpuccio

    I am not sure what you are claiming. Are you saying

    * There are no objective truths?

    * There is no objectively correct logic?

    * That some evidence is not objectively better than other evidence?

    All of which I strongly reject.

    Or are you just saying that sometimes our emotions and preconceptions cause us to interpret evidence in different ways? Which is obviously true? Perhaps I should have written:

    The search for truth ought to be a matter of logic and evidence and nothing else.

  145. Mark:

    You say:

    “I don’t think it is possible to do justice to these issues in a series of comments on a blog.”

    I am not sure I agree. I am not really sure of what “doing justice” to an issue can mean.

    OK, this is a blog. I have to remind it often to my interlocutors. A blog is not a scientific magazine, nor a philosophy text, nor a university class. It is a place where people discuss things which are important for them.

    For me, that is not reductive at all. I like discussing on this blog. We have discussed important things here, and some times we have discussed well. I am happy of that.

    Do I feel more gratifies when I read an academic book, or a scientific paper? Not necessarily. All depends on what I find in it.

    Maybe I am an irredeemable anarchist, but I really don’t like authority in thought (well, probably not even in normal life). I think we can discuss anything here. Each one of us takes responsibility for what he says, and that’s the beauty of it. What we say counts, and nothing else. Not who we are, not our education, not our role in life. I like it. I like it very much.

    Maybe Wittgenstein would have blogged with pleasure too! :)

  146. 146

    Gpuccio

    My simple point is that trying to understand the mind by the mind only is not a promising task. Again, with all respect for Wittgenstein and other great professionals in the field.

    I believe in a different approach. One in which personal experience is much more important.

    I am a bit surprised that your passion for the truth does not lead you to read what some of the greatest thinkers have written about the philosophy of mind. I don’t see there is such a sharp distinction between what they are doing and what you are doing. They are thinking about their personal experiences and writing about them just as you are. What other tool can we use to understand the mind than our minds? If you are just going to say “X is the case because I intuit it” then there is no scope for discussion. As soon as you offer any kind of justification or reasoning them you are doing philosophy of mind and can benefit from others who have done it before.

  147. Mark:

    Clarifications:

    a) I believe that there is one reality, and different ways to describe it (different maps of the one reality).
    The word “truth” is rather heavy. It has a logical meaning, with regards to propositions. In that sense, a statement is true or false according to its compatibility with our initial assumptions in a process of logical deduction. I need not remind you that most of our scientific knowledge is not deductive, but inferential, and that assumptions can be very different in different contexts. Moreover, even the fundamental laws of logic are just an assumption of our human minds (an assumption which I absolutely choose to share for all pertinent uses).
    But truth also means “correspondence to reality”. In that sense, no map is really “true”, because maps are maps. Reality is another thing.
    But there are good maps and bad maps. So, for me, a map is “true” when is corresponds well to the purposes for which it is used.

    b) This is easier. Assuming the laws of logic, there are certainly propositions and statement which are logically correct, and others which are not. Again, that is not always easy to establish, but it can be establishes (with the limits of human error) for deductive reasonings.

    c) Evidence is not “better” or “worse”. But we choose what is evidence for us, and what is not, and we choose how to interpret evidence for us. All those things are choices, and not only logical matters. Moreover, inferential knowledge is less dependent on logic than deductive reasoning (although it can certainly make a good or bad use of it).

    d) I am saying that our emotions and preconceptions always cause us to interpret evidence in different ways, but that we can make choices about that “interference”. Free choices about our emotions and preconceptions, and the role we give them.
    But there are other things: our experiences, inner feelings, intuitions, deep desires. Those are not simply “emotions and preconceptions”: they are integral parts of our cognitive adventure, they help us shape it, they guide us, they are often very positive and fundamental steps in the process.
    And, again, we can make choices about those experiences, free choices about our feelings, intuitions, desires,and the role we give them.

    So, I would sum it up this way:

    The search for truth ought to be a matter of freely choosing to make the best of all our resources to find truth, and freely choosing to limit as much as possible the bad interferences.

  148. Mark:

    You misunderstand me.

    I am not saying that my passion for truth does not lead me to read what some of the greatest thinkers have written about truth.

    The point is simply that I decide, for myself, who those great thinkers are, and what human field of thought better contributes to the search for truth.

    IOWs, I decide what to read about truth (or about anything else). My choices of what to read are one of the most important part of my poor personality.

    My objection was not to you suggestion that I read Wittgenstein. I am always happy of reading tips from friends, and maybe I will read him (although at present he is not in my priorities).

    My objection was to your other statement:

    “I would maintain that if you haven’t read it, then you don’t even know what the important questions are in the philosophy of mind.”

    Again, it is for me to decide (for myself) what the important questions are in general, what the philosophy of mind is in particular, who the interesting philosophers of mind are, what the important questions are in the philosophy of mind, and how much I have an idea of what they are.

    Beyond personal aspects, that is certainly an important question in my epistemology and philosophy of life.

    Anyway, thank you for the tip. If I finally find out that Wittgenstein is really fun, I will acknowledge it gladly! :)

  149. Mark:

    You ask:

    “What other tool can we use to understand the mind than our minds?”

    “Mind” is often used (also by me” as referring to intellectual understanding. While that is important, I believe that observation of the mind should be the foundation of intellectual theories about it.

    There are different modalities for observing the mind. Some of them are intellectual, others are not. Inner contemplation, for example, is more an observation on inner phenomena than an intellectual interpretation of its processes.

    Like in external inferential science, we need to observe facts before building explanations. Facts about consciousness can be collected by inner personal experiences as much as by exterior means.

    Does that mean that they cannot be shared? Is Polanyi so right?

    Not necessarily. Similar experiences can be shared through words, if the experiences have really been done, and if words are used well.

  150. 150

    Stephenb

    Will he [a] bend his desires in the direction of truth, which is a healthy exercise in intellectual humility, [b] or will he bend the truth in the direction of his desires, which is an unhealthy exercise in narcissistic pride. Everyone must make this decision even before he enters the intellectual arena.

    Why would anyone enter an intellectual arena with the intention of bending the truth in the direction of his or her desires?  They might, if dishonest, lie about the truth to others to satisfy their desires but who wants to deliberately believe something that is false?

    When, for example, a scientist claims that new evidence from quantum mechanics raises questions about the Law of Non-contradiction or that recent findings in cosmology challenge the notion of causality, he is trying to bend the truth (and the evidence) in the direction of his own atheistic prejudices with no respect for what the data really indicates.

    So if someone has a view which challenges your own conceptions of what must be true then they are bending the truth to fit their prejudices.   And you are accusing them of narcissistic pride!  Might they just not have a different view based on their own reasoning and experience? It might even be wrong – but that doesn’t mean it is not a sincere opinion derived from a humble exploration of the evidence.

  151. Mark:

    I certainly don’t accuse anyone of anything, least of all those who have different views of being insincere.

    But frankly, I am surprised of this statement of yours:

    “Why would anyone enter an intellectual arena with the intention of bending the truth in the direction of his or her desires?”

    So, can someone who has a different view be sincere? Yes

    Can someone who has my same view be sincere? Yes

    Can someone who has a different view be lying to himself and to others? Yes

    Can someone who has my same view be lying to himself and to others? Yes

    Maybe I am cynical, but I think that I am just realistic. IMO, you have a strange idea of human nature.

  152. 152

    Gpuccio #151

    The key word is “intention”. I might mislead myself (I don’t think I can actually lie to myself) – but not intentionally. That would be daft whatever my motives.

  153. 153

    Eric @130:

    Lots of logical problems here.

    Sure. The question is whose are they?

    Why are you focused on a designer being “on” the Earth?

    Because we are talking about life on earth.

    And by “natural” do you mean having physical matter, or do you mean being part of the history of natural life on Earth?

    Neither. I mean subject to the laws of nature.

    What makes you think the debate is about the physical location where a designer was located when the designing was done? That has never been an important aspect of the debate. The question (as far as biology is concerned), is whether some biological systems were designed. Where the designer was sitting when he designed them is not even part of the discussion. So you can’t retreat behind a claim of “moving the debate somewhere else” when the location of the designer was never tied to a particular location to begin with.

    It is not a big deal – that’s why I wrote “just moves the debate to somewhere else”.

    Of course not. Furthermore, I don’t have any idea what you mean when you use the word “supernatural.” I don’t find the word to be very useful in these kinds of discussions.

    OK. use my definition. Was the designer constrained by the laws of nature?.

    (i) label something as “supernatural,” (ii) claim it therefore isn’t “science,” (because, you know, only purely natural entities and processes can be real “science”), and (iii) then dismiss the idea without addressing the substance (because, you know, if it ain’t real “science” then it doesn’t need to be taken seriously). Very weak move.

    I will ignore the personal comments. Of course, we can define Science in different ways but I would suggest that it is to do with discovering the laws of nature which being laws can be confirmed by reproducing results. Sometimes it is also concerned with specific contingent events but exploring those events is done by referring to such laws. As soon as you introduce explanations that do not conform to the laws of nature then it is no longer possible to investigate them that way.

    First, the question of whether something was designed can be investigated and studied in great depth independent of who or what designed it. It doesn’t make one whit of difference for purposes of identifying design in nature whether the designer was “natural” or “supernatural”, whatever those words may be deemed to mean.

    I disagree. ID has never studied anything in great depth. All it has done is attack alternative positions. SETI, archeology, forsenics etc all make implicit assumptions about the nature of the designer and any detailed study (when it takes place) looks into the designer.

    Second, ID has never claimed to be able to identify the designer. Attempts to force the discussion into some particular designer are therefore wide of the mark and can never, even in principle, attack the ID position.

    And my point is that this is what makes ID poor reasoning.   

    Finally, less directly stated but implied whenever someone says the design question isn’t “science” is that it is somehow not knowable, or not trustworthy, or not amenable to investigation, or not worthy of serious consideration. This is logically problematic and smacks of an unhealthy scientism.

    Even if ID proposed a “supernatural” designer (which it doesn’t), and even if we adopted your extremely problematic definition of “science” (which a number of philosophers of science don’t), the unstated, implied put-down, still does not follow. Even if something is not science, that does not make it unknowable, or unable to be investigated, or untrue, or unworthy of serious consideration.

    My experience is that ID proponents make a point of claiming that ID is science. But let’s not worry about whether it is science or not. If it is not constrained by natural laws and is not observed then it certainly limits the scope for investigation and  proof.

  154. Mark

    Why would anyone enter an intellectual arena with the intention of bending the truth in the direction of his or her desires? They might, if dishonest, lie about the truth to others to satisfy their desires but who wants to deliberately believe something that is false?

    A person can easily be attracted to a falsehood if the truth about a certain matter is in conflict with his ideas, desires, and behaviors. In such a situation, that person can be seduced or can even seduce himself into believing a lie.

    The truth, after all, can place demands on an individual, sometimes calling for behavioral change. Change is difficult and sometimes even painful. It requires a real love of truth and a great deal of discipline to bend one’s desires to the truth. It is much more convenient to remain as we are and try to bend the truth to our desires.

    So if someone has a view which challenges your own conceptions of what must be true then they are bending the truth to fit their prejudices.

    No. Not at all. We are not discussing “my conceptions,” nor did I refer to them in any way. Why on earth would you think that? We are discussing reality as it is or the truth–as it exists outside of both our conceptions. Our job is to make sure that our conceptions are aligned with the truth, not to simply characterize our conceptions as the truth.

    And you are accusing them of narcissistic pride! Might they just not have a different view based on their own reasoning and experience? It might even be wrong – but that doesn’t mean it is not a sincere opinion derived from a humble exploration of the evidence.

    Evidence does not inform reason’s rules; reason’s rules inform evidence. It is not possible to legitimately arrive at a conviction that the laws of causality or non-contradiction (two of reason’s rules) have been superseded by humbly exploring the evidence, since no amount of evidence could possibly lead to such conclusions. Thus, when someone denies reason’s rules, it is because, consciously or subconsciously, he wants to bend truth in the direction of his desires.

  155. Mark:

    I am not sure what you mean by “intention”, and knowing your views about free will, maybe it is better that I don’t understand what you mean.

    What I mean, from a libertarian free will perspective, is that humans experience conflicts all the time: some parts of us want something, other parts of us want another thing. Our reason is usually a slave to the winner. It’s called “rationalization”. And only our free will can influence who the winner will be.

  156. Gpuccio:

    OK, again I agree with you about the importance of lege artis etc etc, but just a few notes:

    a) Subjective bias is, by definition, subjective, and therefore depends on the individual’s attitudes, rather than on his technical expertise.

    To quote Feynman, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” A good experimenter has the duty to take every care that his/her own wishful expectations do not colour the results. That’s what protocols are for.

    Of course science is not only about doing experiments — no dispute here (so I skip some of the points).

    e) Even in me strict field of work, I never accept the opinion of a professional, even if with much greater expertise than I have for some specific problem, merely out of authority. The professional has to convince me of his opinion, explaining with convincing detail the reasons for his opinion, and I must accept them. I don’t know what your experience is, but my experience is that very important and expert professional are often wrong, like any other kind of people.

    Of course. Ab auctoritate is a fallacy (also, by the way, when the auctoritas is a holy book). My personal maxim is, “Learn from the experts, think for yourself.” Neither having a degree nor having devoted all your life to research makes you infallible. But it gives you a large body of specialised knowledge, an intuitive understanding of your discipline, and a “feel” for its methodology. An amateur whose chief skill is the ability to use Google is hardly a match for a professional. Both can be wrong, but it’s the amateur who is often “not even wrong”. Let’s face it: the most important battles are usually fought between experts.

    f) About Ohno’s conjecture, well, what can I say. Our blasting of Ohno’s supposed ancestral protein is not certainly an example of top experience and sophisticated skill in protein alignment: it is what it is, a very simple blast of a protein against the available proteome, with basic, default parameters.

    But who had done it, before us? As far as I know, nobody. Paul had the idea, I did it and you confirmed it.

    So, let’s just say that it took two medical doctors and a linguist to perform (and confirm), with limited expertise, a very simple check about a conjecture with important intellectual implications which, as you said yourself, has been a cause célèbre for about 30 years.

    That’s true, but I’m not quite done with the case. I still don’t understand fully by what method Ohno reconstructed the “unshifted” sequence. Speculative as the conjecture may have been, he must have had a reason for proposing something as specific as the insertion of T at a particular position. It can’t have been pure fantasy. A scholar of his calibre may make a mistake but doesn’t make things up. In his article, he refers to an earlier paper (Okada et al. 1983), which I haven’t read yet. I’m going to check it, and I’ll be back with more thoughts.

  157. 157

    Stephenb #154
     

    No. Not at all. We are not discussing “my conceptions,” nor did I refer to them in any way. Why on earth would you think that? We are discussing reality as it is or the truth–as it exists outside of both our conceptions. Our job is to make sure that our conceptions are aligned with the truth, not to simply characterize our conceptions as the truth.

    All the examples you gave of people bending the truth to their desires were propositions that I know you believe in and many others do not.  So in that sense they were your conceptions. 

    Evidence does not inform reason’s rules; reason’s rules inform evidence. It is not possible to legitimately arrive at a conviction that the laws of causality or non-contradiction (two of reason’s rules) have been superseded by humbly exploring the evidence, since no amount of evidence could possibly lead to such conclusions. Thus, when someone denies reason’s rules, it is because, consciously or subconsciously, he wants to bend truth in the direction of his desires.

    I disagree with you about what reason’s rules are. In particular I believe that the law of causality is not axiomatic and that there is evidence to support this.  You presumably deduce from that I have not been humbly exploring the evidence and am bending the truth in the direction of my desires. I might equally well believe it is you who have not been exploring the evidence and subconsciously bending the truth to fit your desires*. Where do we go from there?

    * As it happens I do not make any assumptions about your psychology. I just remain unconvinced by your arguments.

  158. 158

    #155 Gpuccio

    What I mean, from a libertarian free will perspective, is that humans experience conflicts all the time: some parts of us want something, other parts of us want another thing. Our reason is usually a slave to the winner. It’s called “rationalization”. And only our free will can influence who the winner will be.

    I also recognise rationalization. But that is subconsciously deluding yourself. The only way I can see to intentionally delude yourself would be to take some kind of drug or hypnosis or similar knowing that when you woke up you would believe something false and have no memory of taking the drug. I suppose there might be conditions under which you wanted to do that – but they are rather extraordinary.

  159. Mark

    I disagree with you about what reason’s rules are. In particular I believe that the law of causality is not axiomatic and that there is evidence to support this.

    It isn’t possible for evidence to support such a proposition. Beyond that, why not give me your list of reason’s rules? Tell me which ones are negotiable, which ones are not, and why.

    You presumably deduce from that I have not been humbly exploring the evidence and am bending the truth in the direction of my desires.

    I didn’t say that previously because you didn’t previously deny causality in some context or another. However, if you are going to now say that you humbly explored evidence and, on the basis of that evidence, concluded that some events are uncaused, then I will say it now. You are bending truth to desire since there are no rational arguments to support your view.

    I might equally well believe it is you who have not been exploring the evidence and subconsciously bending the truth to fit your desires*. Where do we go from there?

    You could try to explain why you think that. My argument is very easy to understand. The rules of right reason always take logical precedence over the facts in evidence since they are the only means by which those facts and that evidence can be interpreted in a rational way. Thus, the rules by which evidence are judged and evaluated can never be judged and evaluated by that same evidence. Go ahead and explain why I am wrong.

  160. StephenB:

    Would you care to formulate the “law of causality” and explain in what way it is useful in science?

  161. 161

    MF

    I disagree with you about what reason’s rules are.

    Do you agree that whatever rules of reason you agree with inform the evidence?

    Vivid

  162. Piotr:

    Ab auctoritate is a fallacy

    Misleading. When I look up a term in a good quality technical dictionary, I can trust it with high confidence. Standard calendars are highly reliable.

    In fact, 99+% of what we know or think or argue traces to or materially relies on authorities starting with parents, teachers, dictionaries etc.

    What is reasonable is that BLIND reliance on authority is unwise, but no-one disputes that. Similarly, when we reason the quality andv representativeness of our facts and other premises and the quality of logical judgements across the spectrum of our thought is subject to: to err is human.

    Should we therefore blanket dismiss authority and logical reasoning by finite, fallible, often biased and ill willed creatures such as we are as “fallacious”?

    Patently, not.

    That would be another species of the appeal to general delusion, which is manifestly self refuting. Or, more likely, a declaration that boils down to I don’t like YOUR authorities and wish to apply a selectively hyperskeptical dismissal without fair examination.

    I would suggest, too, that merely because a book is of religious, or worldview-influenced or ideological character does not in and of itself suffice to discredit it. (I suggest you look here on, which will also explore what SB is getting at on first principles of right reason.)

    For that matter I am not prepared to blanket dismiss appeals to the heart. For our emotions are often a felt response to perceptions, assessments and profound judgements. The underlying accuracy of perception and cogency of reasoning can be astonishingly good. That is the root, and we should probe, but that will lead us to a new respect for the good and true heart . . . as opposed to the superficial, lust-and addiction- burdened, willfully blind heart.

    I think some rethinking is advisable.

  163. SB (attn MF):

    Take, as discussed so long ago, a bright red ball A on a table. Immediately, we have a world partition:

    W = { A | NOT-A }

    Immediately present in that act of recognising a world partition are the law of Identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle. Those are the core first principles of right reason and we cannot even communicate with text or words without recognising them. To refuse these, is in the profoundest way, is to be stubbornly irrational.

    Beyond, on seeing A, we may freely ask why A is, and find from that the expectation or at least hope of a good, sufficient reason. That is enough to recognise possible [unicorns] vs impossible [square circle] beings. It is enough to see of possible beings, contingent and necessary ones. Where contingent beings will have at least one on/off enabling factor (a key type of cause), which means they will not exist in all possible worlds, e.g. the flaming of a match. Something like the truth 2 + 3 = 5 is not dependent on such factors, never began, cannot cease, holds in any possible world.

    For MF, I would love to see his first principles that do not entail or implicitly rely on or use these three plus one principles.

    I know that so soon as he types text, he exerts world partitions that will instantly swing these into play. And that holds for Physicists trying to compose Q-mech too, so soon as they scratch their first expression on the proverbial chalk-board. Nope, as the WACs under the Refs tab long since laid out, Q-mech is no escape hatch. If you doubt me simply ponder Einstein’s desk as he left it, and the chalkboard.

    So, we can take it to the bank MF is just being argumentative.

    KF

  164. Piotr, kindly cf 163 supra, on 1st princs of right reason. The law of causality is a corollary of the weak form PSR given in the context of the implications of a world partition i.e, the LOI-LNC-LEM cluster, so soon as the analysis is extended. The previously linked gives details at 101 level. Ponder the four on-off enabling factors for a flame and all will be clear. KF

  165. PG, thanks.

  166. Mark #158:

    I suppose that we believe that choices happen at different levels. You see them (if you see them at all) in what our waking reason describes to ourselves. I see them in our deep adhesion to different desires and possibilities.

    You seem to believe that our reasoning drives our choices. I believe that our choices drive our reasoning.

    Our reasoning is a tool, one of many, which can help, if correctly used, to propose a better scenario for our choices. But it is our choices that set the final scenario, in all cases. And believe me, once we have set the scene, we will find a way to believe that it is rational.

  167. Piotr:

    Of course. Ab auctoritate is a fallacy (also, by the way, when the auctoritas is a holy book). My personal maxim is, “Learn from the experts, think for yourself.” Neither having a degree nor having devoted all your life to research makes you infallible. But it gives you a large body of specialised knowledge, an intuitive understanding of your discipline, and a “feel” for its methodology. An amateur whose chief skill is the ability to use Google is hardly a match for a professional. Both can be wrong, but it’s the amateur who is often “not even wrong”. Let’s face it: the most important battles are usually fought between experts.

    Well, yes and no. First of all, maybe being a medical doctor could be considered as something more than a merely “amateur” condition. Especially if one has dedicated years to some study of molecular biology, and of methodology, and of statistical analysis. Or, in general, of philosophy of science and scientific debates about general paradigms of modern science. Maybe that could be considered with more respect than a mere “ability to use Google”. As for me, I consider your understanding of many aspects of biology as better than what I find in some “experts”, even if I fully understand that your field is a different one.

    Second, as I have said many times, here we have a problem of a very fundamental confrontation between paradigms. You may believe it or not, but I am absolutely convinced that the condition of scientific thought in modern biology is an example of collective bias as we have probably never seen in science before. Maybe I am a fool, and I am wrong. I will take that risk.

    When, on this blog, I have openly criticized the methodology of the famous Szostak paper, I have done that without any hesitation, even if the author is a nobel prize and I am not even a biologist. I am still fully convinced that I am right and that he is wrong about the points I have debated. I have kept my position about that even after a long and detailed discussion with some (I suppose) good biologist, who very competently tried to answer my points, without, IMO, succeeding.

    So, again, I have no prejudice against experts. I respect them, and I will profit of their expertise whenever I can. But, in the end, I decide for myself what is right and what is wrong, what is reasonable and what is not.

    And I say it explicitly here. This is a blog, after all. I take full responsibility for what I say, but I will accept only explicit counter-arguments which can convince me, and never arguments from authority.

    That’s true, but I’m not quite done with the case. I still don’t understand fully by what method Ohno reconstructed the “unshifted” sequence. Speculative as the conjecture may have been, he must have had a reason for proposing something as specific as the insertion of T at a particular position. It can’t have been pure fantasy. A scholar of his calibre may make a mistake but doesn’t make things up. In his article, he refers to an earlier paper (Okada et al. 1983), which I haven’t read yet. I’m going to check it, and I’ll be back with more thoughts.

    I will gladly wait for them. You are better than an expert, for me. You are an intelligent and honest person.

  168. The principle of sufficient reason says that everything that occurs must have a reason for its occurrence. It’s practically a rewording of “the principle of causality”, and is every bit as questionable. “Cause and effect” and “sufficient reason” are colloqial, formally obscure notions. They have their legitimate use in science (mostly as communicative shorthand), but why should they be regarded as fundamental?

  169. 169

    Piotr

    but why should they be regarded as fundamental?

    Are you asking for a reason why?

    Vivid

  170. KF #162:

    A very insightful post, imho, KF. So many young, atheist ‘numpties’ believe ab auctoritate is a ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card, when the authority of the individual in question is not actually in question, but regarded as more or less sovereign in the field concerned, and probably informed his text books at university.

    In terms of microscopic scale, Newton’s mechanistic paradigm has been superseded by quantum physics, but it cannot be replaced for the scale to which it is applicable.

    The atheists show their contempt for unassailable authority most glaringly when they seek to ridicule intelligent design; indeed, Creationism, when all of the great, epoch-making scientists of the last century, beginning with Einstein, Planck, Godel and Bohr, adhered unequivocally to those beliefs, despite those of Jewish or part Jewish descent having been understandably scandalised by the Holocaust, to the detriment of an unequivocal belief in a Creator.

    As regards, Einstein’s belief in that ‘superior Spirit’ he alluded to, the Ancient of Days, his unabashed awe at its design of everything surely cannot but predicate its creation of the same.

    They are as useful to science as a commercial traveller or gym teacher. Great jobs in their field, but not in that of science.

  171. 171

    RE 169

    Should read “Are you asking for a sufficient reason why.”

    Vivid

  172. Piotr

    The principle of sufficient reason says that everything that occurs must have a reason for its occurrence. It’s practically a rewording of “the principle of causality”, and is every bit as questionable.

    So, in your judgment, a horse could pop up in your living room without a cause? A brick wall could appear in front of your moving automobile without a cause?

    “Cause and effect” and “sufficient reason” are colloqial, formally obscure notions. They have their legitimate use in science (mostly as communicative shorthand), but why should they be regarded as fundamental?

    Science is a search for causes. If events could occur uncaused, there would be no way of knowing which ones were caused and which ones were not. Under those circumstances, science would become impossible.

  173. kairosfocus:

    Immediately present in that act of recognising a world partition are the law of Identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle. Those are the core first principles of right reason and we cannot even communicate with text or words without recognising them. To refuse these, is in the profoundest way, is to be stubbornly irrational.

    Yes. Well stated. We can also say that the laws of identity (and non-contradiction etc.) are inextricably tied to the law of causality. An uncaused event would also violate the law of identity.

  174. KF, EA, gpuccio, SB, Axel, Andre, PG,
    Most of the discussion in this thread seems very interesting, but it’s above my pay grade.
    If I decide to love someone, who by all worldly standards is unlovable, is my decision a material or immaterial entity?
    Is it originated in some biological part of my CNS? Where? How?
    Thank you.

  175. RE #174
    I meant ‘agape love’, unconditional commitment to do good to and care for the other person.

  176. Dionosio

    If I decide to love someone, who by all worldly standards is unlovable, is my decision a material or immaterial entity? Is it originated in some biological part of my CNS? Where? How? (Agape love, unconditional comitment to do good and care for the other person).

    Wow, what a beautiful question! I can’t be certain that the others here who defend reason would agree with my answer. Anyway, here goes.

    I think that such a wonderful decision would be an act of the immaterial faculty of will informed by a concept that originated in the immaterial faculty of mind, processed through the material organ of the brain. In other words, I would say that the immaterial intellect provides the target (agape love) and the immaterial will shoots the arrow (I’ll do it).

  177. SB,

    Thank you for your very interesting comment.

  178. SB: An impossible being would be such that it cannot be instantiated without contradiction in core attributes — as classically with a “square circle.” For a distinct being to exist, it MUST meet the triple cluster. A being that is impossible cannot be caused to exist nor can it be necessary. Those who deride causality and sufficiency of reason (especially in the weak form used, which is a preface to analysis of conditions of being) need to think again in light of world-partition and possibility/ impossibility. The abuse of quantum mechanics to dismiss the principles reflects the sad state of our times rather than any well warranted analysis. (Cf. here.) Those who doubt the reality of cause-effect relationships and constraints should experiment with a box of matches to understand a simple case study in light of the fire tetrahedron. And of course it is astonishing just how many objectors to design theory insistently cling to the confusions that lead to suspicion or dismissal of first principles of right reason. I wonder if they understand what it means to imply or assert that something A of any particular identity or nature can or does exist without good and sufficient reason. But then, latterly, some wish this to be so for the whole cosmos. KF

  179. D: One makes such a commitment on recognising the value or worth of a potential object, despite whatever brokenness. Then one determines to treat in that light. Those all pivot on reason, being morally governed [as opposed to determined by prior conditions] and operating on conforming to ought not whatever is one faces. Often, not easy. KF

  180. kairosfocus

    Those who doubt the reality of cause-effect relationships and constraints should experiment with a box of matches to understand a simple case study in light of the fire tetrahedron. And of course it is astonishing just how many objectors to design theory insistently cling to the confusions that lead to suspicion or dismissal of first principles of right reason. I wonder if they understand what it means to imply or assert that something A of any particular identity or nature can or does exist without good and sufficient reason. But then, latterly, some wish this to be so for the whole cosmos.

    Yes, indeed. There is something about lighting that match and analyzing all the factors in play that “burns away” all those anti-intellectual attacks on the law of causality. You might say that their argument “goes up in smoke.”

  181. KF,
    Thank you for your very interesting commentary.

  182. 182

    gpuccio @139:

    It is a common observation that humans have a strong tendency to “bend the truth” according to their desires. So, maybe the important point is to “choose” the right desires. Our problems can often be described as conflicts between different parts of ourselves. It is our privilege and responsibility to decide with what parts of ourselves we cooperate.

    This is an important point.

    In the intellectual realm, particularly when dealing with foundational worldview issues, it seems that individuals can find adequate “evidence” to support whatever position they want to take. Thus, at the end of the day it often comes down to personal choice and a willingness to consider certain kinds of evidence. It is often the case that someone will not even consider certain types of evidence unless and until they have a significant life-altering event that shatters, or at least begins to crack, their worldview. Then they become astounded at the amount of evidence there is for their newly-developing viewpoint, when in reality, the evidence had been there all along.

    When applied to philosophical/religious beliefs, I think there is plenty of evidence to support a belief in deity, a belief in a creator, an acceptance of certain moral foundations, and so on. However, I also think that the evidence is not so strong as to completely overwhelm anyone, essentially compelling them to believe. Indeed, it is this space of tension between knowing and not knowing, between belief and unbelief, between worldviews, where faith operates and becomes meaningful.

    It is only in a circumstance in which there is sufficient reason or evidence to support opposing conclusions that one’s choice is rendered meaningful, that one’s faith becomes operable. And when that faith is exercised or rejected, when that choice is made, it either opens one’s mind up to new evidence or leads to a rejection of the evidence.

  183. 183

    gpuccio @141:

    Well said.

    The constant drumbeat on the red herring of some alleged important distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” says more about the person demanding a distinction than it does about reality. As far as we have seen, it is generally a debating tactic designed to avoid addressing the fundamental issues and, unfortunately in most cases, to marginalize any line of inquiry that doesn’t conform to the stilted and myopic definition the debater wants to impose on the kinds of things on which this awe-inspiring “science” we are supposed to genuflect toward will deign to place its stamp of approval.

    Naturalistic scientism at its worst.

    In contrast, true science should be willing to consider all that is real.

    —–

    Also, Stephen B:

    Good thoughts @137.

  184. Eric at #182:

    Excellent thoughts, very well said.

    We could say that the reality of God is everywhere, but it is suggested, not imposed. He leaves us the freedom to choose differently, if so we want.

    I believe that should teach us an important point, which can have some practical application even here. When debating with others, it’s perfectly fine to share with them our views, and sometimes to suggest, even with some passion, why they have been so good for us. But there is a point where we should stop, and not try to force some “truth” (however important or self-evident we may believe it is) on them. They are free, and we must respect their freedom.

    Even if they think that they believe in determinism or compatibilism. :)

  185. Eric at #183:

    I am so happy that you agree. That is a point which is very important, IMO.

    There are two very good examples of that wrong attitude in science in the recent past of human thought. Both refer to the important transition at the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century.

    At that time, two important views were vastly shared in the scientific community. One was the idea that physics was “almost finished”. The other one was the conviction that mathemathics would soon be completely axiomatized.

    Of course, we know now that quantum mechanics, relativity and Godel’s theorem were behind the door.

    It is interesting that a few decades later, even the founders of quantum mechanics, including Bohr, had sometimes in their discussions the idea that “physics was already finished”. Again. People, even very intelligent people, maybe especially very intelligent people, seem to never learn! :)

  186. So, in your judgment, a horse could pop up in your living room without a cause? A brick wall could appear in front of your moving automobile without a cause?

    A straw man has just popped up in in this discussion for no logical reason. I said the notion of causation, though not as fundamental as you made it, still had a legitimate place in science (and reasoning in general); it doesn’t follow, however, that everything has a detectable cause (or has to have one in order for science to work).

  187. 187

    Stephenb #159

    MF: I might equally well believe it is you who have not been exploring the evidence and subconsciously bending the truth to fit your desires*. Where do we go from there?

    SB: You could try to explain why you think that. My argument is very easy to understand. The rules of right reason always take logical precedence over the facts in evidence since they are the only means by which those facts and that evidence can be interpreted in a rational way. Thus, the rules by which evidence are judged and evaluated can never be judged and evaluated by that same evidence. Go ahead and explain why I am wrong.

    I will give my reasons below but my main point is that it is wrong to assume that anyone who is wrong about something is bending the truth to their desires.  People may be wrong while being perfectly humble and sincere because they do not have all the facts or they have made mistakes in their logic.

    I will not challenge your statement that the rules of right reason always take logical precedence over the facts in evidence. I am not convinced but it is much easier to argue that the “law of causality” is not a rule of right reason.  I am not sure how you decide what is a rule of right reason but the statement “everything that is created has a cause”  seems to me to be quite different in nature from say the law of contradiction. It is not possible to imagine something both existing and not existing. In fact it is hard to know what someone means if they say something exists and does not exist. It is perfectly possible to imagine something coming into existence without a cause. You have done so yourself.

    Of course things do not in fact spring into existence without a cause at the macro scale. But many things that seem absurd at the macro scale do happen at the quantum level.  The last 100 years of physics have taught us that things which we thought were utterly impossible at our scale can actually happen at different scales.

      Looking at some of the specific arguments in your comments:

    So, in your judgment, a horse could pop up in your living room without a cause? A brick wall could appear in front of your moving automobile without a cause?

    It couldn’t in practice happen at our scale. But so what? We would never in practice see a bird fly to the moon but that is not a rule of reason. That things do not spring into existence without cause is a contingent not a logical fact  and they do spring into existence without cause at the quantum level.

    Science is a search for causes. If events could occur uncaused, there would be no way of knowing which ones were caused and which ones were not. Under those circumstances, science would become impossible.

    Science is not just a search for causes but it is one of its activities. If events can occur uncaused then sometimes we discover causes and other times fail to do so.  When we have not discovered a cause we don’t know if there is one or not. That is OK. Science is full of searches for things that might or might not exist – SETI for example. It doesn’t make science impossible.

    Yes, indeed. There is something about lighting that match and analyzing all the factors in play that “burns away” all those anti-intellectual attacks on the law of causality. You might say that their argument “goes up in smoke.”

    This is an example of something that has a cause at the macro scale. So what? It does not prove everything has a cause and in particular the quantum scale is completely different in many respects.

    What are your reasons for declaring the law of causality to be a rule of right reason?

  188. MF (attn SB): If you are interested in claimed a-causal events at micro, quantum scale, I suggest you again look at the longstanding discussion here and onwards here in the UD WACs. I draw to your attention the point that the Physicists who formulate these laws and theories are critically dependent on the classic LOI, LNC and LEM in doing so, even as you are to even compose a skeptical assertion. That is a clue that — with all due respects — there is an incoherence problem in your thinking (unsurprising, given today’s patterns of thought and opinions). Where too, for specific instance unless a photon is of adequate energy in itself, it cannot cause a photoemission — a Nobel Prize winning foundational point for Quantum Mechanics. Equally, unless we have an unstable nucleus we will have no alpha emission . . . and yes that bit of nuclear physics is quite simple. Likewise, superposition of states P and Q to get outcome R . . . such as hybrid orbitals of the C-atom and in the Benzene Ring etc, is not properly to be equated to a contradiction. This cluster illustrates as well the requirement of enabling “on/off” causal factors [technically, necessary causal factors], which is the same point that the lighting of a match makes . . . oxidiser, fuel, heat and a chain reaction are all enabling factors, each necessary and jointly sufficient for a flame, which is a macro manifestation of a chemical rxn, thus a quantum process . . . which becomes visible through another quantum process, emission of photons, giving rise to continuous and characteristic line spectra . . . as in flame tests and spectroscopic identification. Also, if you would take a moment to look at 163 on above, you would see why causality is a corollary of a principle of right reason [i.e. a weak form PSR] once we see that of candidate beings we can have the impossible and the possible, thence of possible, the contingent and the necessary. KF

  189. P: In recent days we have seen various advocates of scientific materialism publicly suggesting and even trumpeting that our cosmos popped up out of “nothing.” (Kindly cf here from May last year, particularly noting the quantum foam info-graphic and the video of a live exchange.) That’s a lot more than a horse. SB is not giving a strawman caricature. KF

  190. Science is full of searches for things that might or might not exist – SETI for example.

    Perhaps SETI is not a good example of science. The funds squandered on SETI could have been used to investigate things that do exist. Those funds could be used to provide grants for additional biology-related research, in order to understand some complex mechanisms that operate in biological systems, which are still poorly understood. Supporting more biological (or biomedicine, bioengineering, biotechnology) research could lead to substantial improvement in medical treatments and preventive healthcare programs that would translate into tangible benefits to many people.

  191. 191

    Dionisio #190

    Perhaps SETI is not a good example of science.

    Possibly – but there are plenty of other examples of science looking for things that might not exist. 50 years ago that would have included looking for planets outside the solar system. Now it includes cold fusion.

  192. People may be wrong while being perfectly humble and sincere because they do not have all the facts or they have made mistakes in their logic.

    …or they don’t want to consider all the possible evidences/explanations, or they don’t want to ‘explore’ beyond their trenches, or they don’t want to question established concepts/dogmas/paradigms/presuppositions, or…

    However, right or wrong could be relative or absolute terms. As relative terms, person A could deem person B’s opinion right or wrong according to A’s point of view.
    As absolute terms, right or wrong depend on absolute patterns. But who determines those absolute standards? How does that work?

  193. PS: You may find my remark on authority in reasoning, thinking and knowing at 162 helpful, also Axel’s at 170.

    PPS: Notice how I use a weak form PSR in 163, drawn to your attention in 164. For convenience:

    Take, as discussed so long ago, a bright red ball A on a table. Immediately, we have a world partition:

    W = { A | NOT-A }

    Immediately present in that act of recognising a world partition are the law of Identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle. Those are the core first principles of right reason and we cannot even communicate with text or words without recognising them. To refuse these, is in the profoundest way, is to be stubbornly irrational.

    Beyond, on seeing A, we may freely ask why A is, and find from that the expectation or at least hope of a good, sufficient reason. That is enough to recognise possible [unicorns] vs impossible [square circle] beings. It is enough to see of possible beings, contingent and necessary ones. Where contingent beings will have at least one on/off enabling factor (a key type of cause), which means they will not exist in all possible worlds, e.g. the flaming of a match. Something like the truth 2 + 3 = 5 is not dependent on such factors, never began, cannot cease, holds in any possible world.

    For MF, I would love to see his first principles that do not entail or implicitly rely on or use these three plus one principles.

    I know that so soon as he types text, he exerts world partitions that will instantly swing these into play. And that holds for Physicists trying to compose Q-mech too, so soon as they scratch their first expression on the proverbial chalk-board. Nope, as the WACs under the Refs tab long since laid out, Q-mech is no escape hatch. If you doubt me simply ponder Einstein’s desk as he left it, and the chalkboard.

    You are free to reason P => Q, I object to Q so I dismiss P, but the problem is NOT-Q is ALSO a commitment with entailments. And, at this level, you will need to examine what is implicit in assuming or asserting or implying that something A is, but without good and sufficient reason in one or more external factors or in and of itself in light of possibility vs impossibility of being and contingency vs necessity of possible beings, for which all that is needed is the weak form PSR that invites actual reflection rather than dismissal. Where, obviously, contingent possible beings have one or more on/off enabling factors, much like a flame. The case highlighted at 188 shows how much hot water that can get into how fast, cf. the May 2013 remarks here on trying to pull a cosmos out of a non-existent hat.

  194. Perhaps SETI is not a good example of science.

    Possibly – but there are plenty of other examples of science looking for things that might not exist. 50 years ago that would have included looking for planets outside the solar system. Now it includes cold fusion.

    Still, serious biology-related research, imo, is more important, in terms of potential tangible benefits, than SETI. Does anyone disagree?

  195. Piotr, the thread is busy; the PS just above is for you. KF

  196. Dionisio:

    You are perfectly right.

    Serious biology-related research is IMO, at present, the most important scientific undertaking of all, together with a deeper investigation of conscious phenomena.

    We have never been so near to a fundamental revolution in scientific thinking. Understanding better our physical inanimate universe is certainly important, but understanding better life and consciousness is the most important thing of all.

    Of course, if we contact ETs, that could give us some interesting biological hints, too! :)

  197. Dionisio:

    Just a comment that I thought of.

    If, as our interlocutors often claim, ID were a science stopper, an untestable and unfalsifiable philosophy, mere religious dogma, and so on, how can we explain how interested IDists obviously are in biological research, even if done mainly by darwinist-friendly scientists?

    This blog is clear evidence oh how “affectionately” most of us (me included) are looking at the scientific news, especially from biology. And our expectations are rarely disappointed.

    Are we really a bunch of self-deluded fools, or is new biological evidence so ID friendly?

    You decide. :)

  198. GP: Also, observe who is standing up stoutly for rationality and right reason. KF

  199. Perhaps SETI is not a good example of science. The funds squandered on SETI could have been used to investigate things that do exist. Those funds could be used to provide grants for additional biology-related research, in order to understand some complex mechanisms that operate in biological systems, which are still poorly understood. Supporting more biological (or biomedicine, bioengineering, biotechnology) research could lead to substantial improvement in medical treatments and preventive healthcare programs that would translate into tangible benefits to many people.

    Don’t we all want to accelerate biology-related research, because new discoveries should help us to understand the elaborate choreographic mechanisms found in the biological systems? Is anyone against that?

    I’m sure gpuccio, PG, their medical colleagues and all their current and future patients would like to see that happen. Also, that would provide more material for part 2 of gpuccio’s OP :)

  200. Of course, if we contact ETs, that could give us some interesting biological hints, too! :)

    This made me laugh out very loud! Mile grazie!

    Yes, agree, we could use any help from any friend, specially ET, who apparently visited our planet back in 1983, but we scared him so badly, that he called home and his relatives came to pick him up and took him away :(
    Would he want to come back after such a disappointing experience? I mean, we blew it, didn’t we? Back then it was their initiative to visit us, but we did not show any decent hospitality.
    And now we are trying to contact them again?
    Are we going to apologize?

  201. That things do not spring into existence without cause is a contingent not a logical fact and they do spring into existence without cause at the quantum level.

    Though quantum phenomena are the most obvious examples of uncaused physical events, they are not excluded even from Newtonian mechanics. Classical physics also allows things to happen without a cause (not even a probabilistic one). Examples on demand.

  202. Piotr:

    Kindly notice this on weak-form PSR in a nutshell, and link to causality:

    . . . on seeing A, we may freely ask why A is, and find from that the expectation or at least hope of a good, sufficient reason. That is enough to recognise possible [unicorns] vs impossible [square circle] beings. It is enough to see of possible beings, contingent and necessary ones. Where contingent beings will have at least one on/off enabling factor (a key type of cause), which means they will not exist in all possible worlds, e.g. the flaming of a match. Something like the truth 2 + 3 = 5 is not dependent on such factors, never began, cannot cease, holds in any possible world.

    (Please note context, e.g. at 193. Also, that as a light-emitting chemical phenomenon, a flame is doubly a quantum process, the combustion and the photon emission, e.g. think of the famed 593 nm [IIRC] Sodium D-couplet linked to yellowish flame colour.)

    So, on exercising the freedom to ask why and expect or hope for a good and sufficient reason, we explore being and see causality as a corollary of the elucidated nature of being for the contingent. Necessary being emerges as a case of being without dependence on on/off factors. For instance 2 + 3 = 5 never began, and cannot cease, in any possible world. Also, we see that impossibility of being, e.g. with a square circle pivots on contradictory core attributes leading to infeasibility.

    And those who profess to find the idea of an uncaused eternal creator absurd or the like, simply consider what a maximally great, necessary being would be like, in light of the logic of necessary being. Where also, we credibly live in a contingent (and fine tuned) observed cosmos maybe 13.7 BY old. The ONLY observed cosmos. If you doubt that, simply show us the pics and tell us when the Nobel was awarded for the opposite.

    In a world with contingent entities up to the material cosmos as a whole that we inhabit, there is a reasonable requirement to necessary being as causal root.

    That may be uncomfortable in a world where something from nothing evaporates into incoherence and mislabelling, and multiverses are unobserved and also point to further fine tuning, with necessity of being in the root still on the table, but that is where reason points.

    And necessary, maximally great being sits at that table of discussion as of right not sufferance.

    KF

  203. gpuccio

    Of course, if we contact ETs, that could give us some interesting biological hints, too! :)

    This made me laugh out very loud! Mile grazie!

    This comment you wrote also made me laugh out very loud, because it was unexpected and very funny:

    In the end, we are always back to the great classics!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDLWbBrvA40

  204. gpuccio #196

    Serious biology-related research is IMO, at present, the most important scientific undertaking of all, together with a deeper investigation of conscious phenomena.

    We have never been so near to a fundamental revolution in scientific thinking. Understanding better our physical inanimate universe is certainly important, but understanding better life and consciousness is the most important thing of all.

    :)

  205. If, as our interlocutors often claim, ID were a science stopper, an untestable and unfalsifiable philosophy, mere religious dogma, and so on, how can we explain how interested IDists obviously are in biological research, even if done mainly by darwinist-friendly scientists?

    This blog is clear evidence oh how “affectionately” most of us (me included) are looking at the scientific news, especially from biology. And our expectations are rarely disappointed.

    Are we really a bunch of self-deluded fools, or is new biological evidence so ID friendly?

    You decide. :)

    Well, it seems like new biological evidence is so ID friendly, that apparently some anti-ID folks are more willing to squander funds on SETI than to invest in more biology-related or neuroscience research. Are they so afraid of more light being shed on biological mechanisms and neuroscience concepts? Why?

  206. If, as our interlocutors often claim, ID were a science stopper, an untestable and unfalsifiable philosophy, mere religious dogma, and so on, how can we explain how interested IDists obviously are in biological research, even if done mainly by darwinist-friendly scientists?

    This blog is clear evidence oh how “affectionately” most of us (me included) are looking at the scientific news, especially from biology. And our expectations are rarely disappointed.

    Are we really a bunch of self-deluded fools, or is new biological evidence so ID friendly?

    You decide. :)

    120+ examples from biology-related research posted in this thread by an ignorant who doesn’t understand ‘n-D evo’

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....evolution/

  207. GP, I’m puzzled by your comment:

    ‘It is interesting that a few decades later, even the founders of quantum mechanics, including Bohr, had sometimes in their discussions the idea that “physics was already finished”. Again. People, even very intelligent people, maybe especially very intelligent people, seem to never learn! :)

    Do you not see that, while atheists find no problem in incorporating paradoxes (or ‘mysteries’, as they are known in religions), ‘as is’, into their research, their ever-increasing occurrence in physics, prompts them to somewhat flippantly dismiss QM as crazy; and rightly so, since in very principle, they are being led by the nose by these paradoxes (where, like St Peter to his death, they had rather not go)- by concepts they cannot even formally acknowledge exist! What could seem more crazy to them?

    Bohr saw it very clearly, imho. ‘Science’ will revert to its original meaning of ‘knowledge’, subsuming ‘empirical science’ within it, although as a poor relation; theology, the Queen of the Sciences being restored to its original status.

  208. Axel:

    I was referring to this document:

    http://www.aip.org/history/ohilist/4815_2.html

    There was one of the regular conferences in Copenhagen — I think it was just before the discovery of the neutron; it may have been the conference of ‘32 or ‘31, I don’t know. The interesting point was that there was a general feeling among some people there, not everybody, that physics was almost finished. This looks ridiculous looking back, but if you look at it from the point of view of the time, practically all the mysteries had now resolved themselves, nearly all. Everything that had bothered one about the atom and molecules and solids, and so on, had suddenly fallen into place just as a result of developing quantum mechanics.

    And:

    Then you would also understand the mass of the proton and you would also understand how electrons got to be in nuclei because that evidently was a relativistic problem. Now I’m not saying that this was the common view; I don’t think I shared it really; I don’t think Niels Bohr for example would ever have had any such illusions. I don’t recall this statement being expressed in his presence, but there were sort of over lunch or sometime quite serious discussions about what we would do when physics was finished. By finished was meant the basic structure; of course, there are all the applications. The majority of people said that that would be the time to turn to biology. Only one person really took that seriously and did turn to biology, and that was Max Delbruck, who certainly was present at these discussions.

    And:

    But more generally, of course the discovery of the neutron which followed shortly after this time immediately made it obvious that physics was richer than we had seen prior to that. Then of course shortly after that came both the work about the interactions of neutrons with nuclei and resonance levels and so on and also the artificial disintegration which immediately started showing up nuclear levels. A new field opened up where it then became obvious that there was a lot to be done and to be understood. For one thing, as soon as you know of the neutron, it was quite clear that you must have new kinds of forces holding nuclei together. I think probably people who had thought seriously about it, always realized this, but not very quantitatively. I think then one just forgot about this idea of physics being finished.

    Interesting, isn’t it? Well, reading it better it seems that Bohr himself probably did not share that attitude, which however was sometimes surfacing in the QM group. I apologize with Bohr for wrongly involving him.

    The point is, when there is great advancement in some field of science, the temptation of thinking that “we have understood almost all, only the details need to be clarified” becomes very strong.

    Fortunately, reality is very good at surprising us when we least expect it. :)

    Maybe one day, when ID is finally accepted as the new paradigm of science, again we will believe that we have understood “almost all”.

    And again we will be wrong.

  209. Dionisio:

    Wow! A lot of stuff indeed. How can I follow your pace? :)

  210. What’s been going going on since Bohr’s day – I’m talking about theoretical physics in its broadest outline – seems to have been essentially what in computing they call, ‘house-keeping’, tidying up.

    Remember the Higgs Boson was supposed to be a revolutionary, epoch-making discovery, but, by all accounts, ultimately proved rather underwhelming. However, even references to anything’s being ‘infinite’, to ‘non-locality’, etc, in very principle, presage the end of physics. That is to say, physics in terms of our current, formal understanding of empirical science, as sullied by atheist/materialist scientism.

    How could it not have been the end of physics when:
    a) It was understood by Planck and Bohr that mind takes precedence over matter, indeed, must have created it, a fact repeatedly confirmed ever since; and

    b) As BA has often reminded us, QM is now mathematically proven to be the ultimate paradigm, being absolutely unimprovable.

    As I indicated earlier, it is only a formal disdain on the part of the Champions of Reason(!!!); the reality is that atheists, too, need to earn a living. Reality is cruel. It takes no heed of people’s sensiblities, their favoured world-view, etc., but just keeps rolling along.

  211. gpuucio #208

    The operative phrase in my posts is evidently ‘theoretical physics in its broadest outline’. To me, the rest is ‘house-keeping’. (Not ‘stamp-collecting’, mark you!)

    And that belief seems to be have been unequivocally foundational to his scientific world-view. To such an extent, indeed, that he viewed some eastern religions, such as Taoism as affording a better filter through which to view reality.

    Funny! I’ve just spotted your remark: ‘Fortunately, reality is very good at surprising us when we least expect it. :)

  212. Piotr

    A straw man has just popped up in in this discussion for no logical reason.

    Why would you characterize my question as a “strawman?” Sufficient reason and causation are either a non-negotiable laws or they are not. I understand you to be saying that they are not.

    As you put it,

    The principle of sufficient reason says that everything that occurs must have a reason for its occurrence. It’s practically a rewording of “the principle of causality”, and is every bit as questionable. “Cause and effect” and “sufficient reason” are colloqial, formally obscure notions.

    So, my question persists: Is it possible for a horse to appear in your living room without reason or cause? Is it possible for a brick wall to appear in front of your moving automobile without reason or cause? If not, why not? Given your apparent position, I think my questions are fair.

    I said the notion of causation, though not as fundamental as you made it, still had a legitimate place in science (and reasoning in general); it doesn’t follow, however, that everything has a detectable cause (or has to have one in order for science to work).

    Again, you are avoiding my question. If some things can come into existence without a cause, or change without a cause, or move without a cause, how do you know which things were caused and which things were not caused and how, under those circumstances, can you detect causes. In other words, how can you do science?

  213. Mark

    I will not challenge your statement that the rules of right reason always take logical precedence over the facts in evidence.

    OK.

    I am not convinced

    This is why I suggested that you are bending truth to desire. Rather than be persuaded by an unassailable argument, (and the argument is unassailable) you simply say that you will not challenge it but remain unconvinced, nevertheless.

    but it is much easier to argue that the “law of causality” is not a rule of right reason. I am not sure how you decide what is a rule of right reason but the statement “everything that is created has a cause” seems to me to be quite different in nature from say the law of contradiction.

    Yes, it is a different argument, but both arguments are inextricably connected. If something could come into existence without being caused by something else, in other words, if it could bring itself into existence, then the law of causation AND the law of identity would both be violated. In order to bring itself into existence, an object or organism would have had to exist before it existed, which is ridiculous since it would violate both the law of identity and the law of non-contradiction.

    Of course things do not in fact spring into existence without a cause at the macro scale.

    How do you know that things do not, in fact, spring into existence without a cause on the macro-scale? I know that they do not and cannot. The question is, how do you know it? According to your philosophy, we can only say that we have not yet had that experience as far as we know.

    But many things that seem absurd at the macro scale do happen at the quantum level.

    A surprising event is not an absurd event. It is surprising that quantum events are unpredictable and related to observation. But it would be absurd to say that a quantum event can come into existence without a cause. Once you grant that a quantum event can occur without a cause, you have no reason to insist that anything else cannot come into existence without a cause. Indeed, the same irrational people who say that the law of causality doesn’t apply at the quantum level also say that the law of non-contradiction does not apply at the quantum level. Accordingly, many of them claim that universes can come into existence without a cause. If a universe can come into existence without a cause, then why cannot a horse appear in your living room without a cause? Anyone who believes in selective causality is bending truth to desire because he is denying rationality at the most basic level.

    That things do not spring into existence without cause is a contingent not a logical fact and they do spring into existence without cause at the quantum level.

    How do you know that things spring into existence without a cause at the quantum level? That is a raw faith statement based on wishful thinking (bending truth to desire). No amount of evidence could possibly lead to such a conclusion, as you yourself indicated by acknowledging that evidence cannot judge or evaluate reasons rules, which are the judges and evaluators of evidence. The thing being judged cannot also be the judge as the law of non-contradiction makes clear.

    If events can occur uncaused then sometimes we discover causes and other times fail to do so.

    How can you know that you have discovered the cause of an event if, in principle, that same event could have occurred without a cause?

    What are your reasons for declaring the law of causality to be a rule of right reason?

    Because the law of causality is inextricably tied to the law of identity.

  214. 214

    MF

    That things do not spring into existence without cause is a contingent not a logical fact and they do spring into existence without cause at the quantum level.

    So here we are once again the so called defenders of science sawing off the branch upon which they sit. Just amazing to observe really.

    Like Stephen I too would like to know how you know that they spring into existence without a cause? The fact is you don’t know unless you have some kind of omniscience that others don’t possess. Regardless how do you know this?

    Mark do you agree that to say there is no cause is to say nothing caused it?

    Regarding my question RE 161 still interested in your response. Thanks

    Vivid

  215. 215

    Stephenb

    This is why I suggested that you are bending truth to desire. Rather than be persuaded by an unassailable argument, (and the argument is unassailable) you simply say that you will not challenge it but remain unconvinced, nevertheless.

    I think your argument is assailable – I just don’t want to take on that rather complicated task at the same time as discussing the law of causality. 

    Yes, it is a different argument, but both arguments are inextricably connected. If something could come into existence without being caused by something else, in other words, if it could bring itself into existence, then the law of causation AND the law of identity would both be violated. In order to bring itself into existence, an object or organism would have had to exist before it existed, which is ridiculous since it would violate both the law of identity and the law of non-contradiction.

    But I don’t agree that if nothing causes something to come into existence then it must bring itself into existence.  That is a non-sequitur.  My position is that it is logically possible that some things are not brought into existence by anything. They just appear.

    How do you know that things do not, in fact, spring into existence without a cause on the macro-scale? I know that they do not and cannot. The question is, how do you know it? According to your philosophy, we can only say that we have not yet had that experience as far as we know.

    That we have not yet had that experience is a pretty good reason for supposing it won’t happen. However, more importantly it would break a number of laws of nature – conservation of mass for one (such laws are true but they are not rules of right reason).

    A surprising event is not an absurd event. It is surprising that quantum events are unpredictable and related to observation. But it would be absurd to say that a quantum event can come into existence without a cause. Once you grant that a quantum event can occur without a cause, you have no reason to insist that anything else cannot come into existence without a cause.

    Many things are true at the quantum level which are not true at other scales.

    Indeed, the same irrational people who say that the law of causality doesn’t apply at the quantum level also say that the law of non-contradiction does not apply at the quantum level. Accordingly, many of them claim that universes can come into existence without a cause. If a universe can come into existence without a cause, then why cannot a horse appear in your living room without a cause? Anyone who believes in selective causality is bending truth to desire because he is denying rationality at the most basic level.

    There are many laws that apply at our  scale that do not apply at quantum scales and others that do not apply at a cosmic scale. We have no idea what laws apply to the creation of a universe. 

    How do you know that things spring into existence without a cause at the quantum level? That is a raw faith statement based on wishful thinking (bending truth to desire).

    I don’t know for certain but it is not raw faith.  As I understand it, quantum physicists have been unable to identify anything that could be the cause of some quantum events and the best model they can produce is that these events have no cause.

    No amount of evidence could possibly lead to such a conclusion, as you yourself indicated by acknowledging that evidence cannot judge or evaluate reasons rules, which are the judges and evaluators of evidence. The thing being judged cannot also be the judge as the law of non-contradiction makes clear.

    You are assuming the consequent – that the law of causality is a rule of right reason. You have offered one argument for this so far which relies on the unsupported premise that if something is not brought into existence by something else it must bring itself into existence.

    How can you know that you have discovered the cause of an event if, in principle, that same event could have occurred without a cause?

    Why not? Just as I might discover a planet has a moon although in principle it might not.

  216. StephenB

    In order to bring itself into existence, an object or organism would have had to exist before it existed

    Having no cause doesn’t mean being self-caused. And having no cause doesn’t mean that the event in question is unconstrained (that “anything goes”, and a macroscopic object can materialise before our eyes). For example, if you have an unstable elementary particle, there are only so many ways in which it can decay, but you can’t predict which type of decay will occur (although you know their probabilities), and you can’t predict when exactly the decay will happen (although you know the mean lifetime).

    And who says an organism (or a brick wall) can appear out of nowhere? Isn’t this another straw man?

  217. 217

    Vivid #214

    Like Stephen I too would like to know how you know that they spring into existence without a cause? The fact is you don’t know unless you have some kind of omniscience that others don’t possess.

    Please see my reply to Stephen in #213.

    Regardless how do you know this? Mark do you agree that to say there is no cause is to say nothing caused it?

    yes

    Regarding my question RE 161 still interested in your response.

    I don’t understand the question in #161. Could you rephrase it or maybe the answer is in my fairly lengthy response to Stephen in #213?
     
    Mark

  218. 218

    MF

    yes

    ^
    So they do have a cause and it’s cause is nothing. So what’s all this talk about no cause?

    Mark I did not see an answer in 213. Try rereading 161 again if you will. Thanks

    Vivid

  219. gpuccio

    Wow! A lot of stuff indeed. How can I follow your pace? :)

    Yes, my studying pace has accelerated a bit lately and I’m enjoying it. Still remember when someone asked me, not long ago, to get out of this blog and go back to my engineering software development, because my huge biology-related ignorance kept me behind the discussion flow. Glad you convinced me to stick to biology. Mile grazie!

  220. 220

    MF

    Please see my reply to Stephen in #213.

    You said you don’t know but the evidence is that nothing caused it that a fair summation of your position?

    Vivid

  221. Piotr

    And who says an organism (or a brick wall) can appear out of nowhere?

    Why do you continue to avoid my question? I think I deserve an answer since I have asked the question three times without a response.

    Can an organism, a universe, a horse, or a brick wall appear from out of nowhere–without cause or reason? If not, why not? Either you allow for such a possibility or you don’t. You cannot have it both ways.

    If you don’t rule it out, then you are allowing for the possibility. If you do rule it out, I am asking you to explain why you rule it out since you have questioned the proposition that the law of causality is a rule of reason.

    Please say, “yes, it could happen, in principle, though we have no experience to that effect” or, “no, it cannot happen because it violates one of reason’s rules”–or something to that effect.

  222. Mark

    I don’t know for certain but it is not raw faith. As I understand it, quantum physicists have been unable to identify anything that could be the cause of some quantum events and the best model they can produce is that these events have no cause.

    As a logician, you should know that the statement “there is no cause” does not follow from the statement “we have not found the cause.” Thus, when you say that quantum events occur uncaused, you are making a faith-based statement that is not, nor can it be, grounded in empirical evidence.

  223. Piotr

    If you have an unstable elementary particle, there are only so many ways in which it can decay, but you can’t predict which type of decay will occur (although you know their probabilities), and you can’t predict when exactly the decay will happen (although you know the mean lifetime).

    What does that have to do with the claim that the event occurred without a cause or in the absence of causal conditions?

  224. SB: How can you know that you have discovered the cause of an event if, in principle, that same event could have occurred without a cause?

    Why not? Just as I might discover a planet has a moon although in principle it might not.

    Whether or not a planet has a moon is not even remotely pertinent to the question. Never mind the unrelated problem of how one could discover a moon that doesn’t exist.

  225. StephenB

    Can an organism, a universe, a horse, or a brick wall appear from out of nowhere–without cause or reason? If not, why not? Either you allow for such a possibility or you don’t. You cannot have it both ways.

    First of all, there is no formal definition of “cause” in the physical sciences. Causality is typically distributed: lots of events in the past (or, to be more precise, in the past light cone) may contribute to the occurrence of X, so which of them is the cause? What causes a thuderstorm, or a rainfall, or the death of an old man who dies “of natural causes”? The relationships which we call “causal” form a complex network, not a chain. We can identify the major contributing factors and call them “causes”, but in doing so we ignore countless minor factors (since we can’t even hope to be able to identify them). That’s ore of the reasons why the accuracy of weather forecasts is what it is.

    A massive objest can’t appear out of nowhere, at least not according to our current understanding of physics. Laws of conservation are part of that understanding. They prohibit the spontaneous creation of things unless it happens in such a way that those laws are not violated. Thus, zero-point quantum fluctuations, creating virtual particles, are allowed, but the spontaneous creation of a horse or a brick is physically impossible. It’s prohibited by the empirically established laws of physics, not because of the law of causality, or the law of identity, or any other antiquarian aprioristic commandment telling the universe how it should behave.

    As for quantum events (like a pion decaying after 28 nanoseconds rather than 19 or 25), quantum mechanics is quite clear about there being no cause, as opposed to an unknown cause. Hidden variables at best fall foul of Ockham’s Razor (I mean non-local hidden variables; local ones are already ruled out by experiments). They don’t increase the predictive or explanatory power of the theory; they only introduce unnecessary complications.

    As for the universe, I don’t know. We have no theory of the origin of universes yet.

  226. gpuccio,

    Check this interesting research ‘Made in Italy’!

    We are interested in the molecular mechanisms governing asymmetric stem cell divisions, with emphasis on the role of the mitotic spindle orientation in determining daughter cells’ fate.
    The proper execution of asymmetric divisions is crucial in generating tissue diversity during development, as well as for tissue homeostasis and regeneration in adult organisms. An increasing body of literature supports the notion that certain human cancers arise from abnormalities in adult stem cells asymmetric divisions, able to alter cell fate and leading to over-proliferation (the so called cancer stem cell hypothesis). Indeed failures in asymmetric divisions occur when pathways controlling the position of the cytokinesis plane are compromised. They cause incorrect fate specification and abnormal proliferation during mammalian neurogenesis and skin development, and correlated with cancer progression.

    To make a cell division asymmetric, the position of the mitotic spindle has to be tightly coordinated to the cortical polarity, so that daughter cells will be properly positioned within the tissue, inherit unequal sets of fate determinants and follow differential fates. This observation sets the stage for our studies, aimed at gaining insight into the structural and functional organization of the molecular machines responsible for spindle coupling to polarity cues during stem cells asymmetric divisions. To address this biological problem, we use a combination of high-resolution X-ray crystallography, biochemical analyses on reconstituted protein complexes and stem cell biology. Using the detailed molecular information delivered by our structural studies, we formulate precise models of how intrinsic properties of individual protein relate to the behavior of the mitotic spindle during asymmetric cell divisions, that we challenge in living cells. An emerging concept in the cancer field is that cancer stem cells may be responsible for relapse and resistance to anticancer therapies. In this view, a clear molecular description of processes underlying asymmetric cell divisions will be instrumental in identifying new stem-cell specific drug targets for therapeutic intervention.

    https://www.ieo.it/it/RESEARCH/Basic-research/Department-of-Experimental-Oncology11/Molecular-basis-of-asymmetric-cell-division-Unit/

  227. ‘I don’t know for certain but it is not raw faith. As I understand it, quantum physicists have been unable to identify anything that could be the cause of some quantum events and the best model they can produce is that these events have no cause.’

    On the contrary, Mark. The problem lies in the failure of you atheists to admit to yourselves that non-locality necessarily entails a world you neither know nor can know anything about, other than its quantum incursions in our space-time universe.

    So, what do you do? Why, you always revert to your, ‘Well, now, ifn Oi wuz a goin’ to Whimpering Chutney, Oi’d not leave from here, d’yer see?’

    In other words, you’d prefer to leave from a spatio-temporal ‘nowhere’ locality, which is apparently the only place conceived by the human imagination, where one can witness nothing turn itself into everything. Or if not witness it, rationally(!) infer it!! And simply because you refuse to take on board the reality of non-locality, a reference-frame outside space-time.

  228. Mark

    I think your argument is assailable (Reason’s rules always take logical precedence over the facts in evidence)– I just don’t want to take on that rather complicated task at the same time as discussing the law of causality.

    Evidence does not inform reason’s rules; reason’s rules inform evidence. The process cannot be reversed. There is nothing complicated or abstruse about that proposition. The reason that I characterized it as an unassailable argument is because it is an unassailable argument. Why you refuse to concede it or even deal with it is a mystery. Or, maybe it isn’t such a mystery after all (another example of bending truth to desire?)

  229. The uncertainty principle permitting a quantum fluctuation was presumably what led Planck to state:

    ‘Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve;’ and

    ‘I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness.’

  230. Not a lot of scope for materialism.

  231. Axel @229, 230

    These are only Planck’s personal opinions, reflecting his metaphysical preferences. They are not statements about physics.

  232. 232

    Piotr

    As for quantum events (like a pion decaying after 28 nanoseconds rather than 19 or 25), quantum mechanics is quite clear about there being no cause, as opposed to an unknown cause.

    This is just metaphysics (beyond physical) disguised as science.

    Vivid

  233. SB:Can an organism, a universe, a horse, or a brick wall appear from out of nowhere–without cause or reason? If not, why not? Either you allow for such a possibility or you don’t. You cannot have it both ways.

    Piotr

    First of all, there is no formal definition of “cause” in the physical sciences.

    I didn’t ask you a scientific question. Science is not in the business of defining causality. I asked you a common sense philosophical question.

    As for quantum events (like a pion decaying after 28 nanoseconds rather than 19 or 25), quantum mechanics is quite clear about there being no cause, as opposed to an unknown cause.

    So, when I ask you if a horse can appear in your living room without a cause or reason, you don’t know what the word “cause” or “reason” means, but when you claim that quantum events can occur uncaused, you suddenly discover what the word “cause” means. That’s a neat trick.;

    A massive objest can’t appear out of nowhere, at least not according to our current understanding of physics.

    You mean you need the latest findings in physics to discern whether or not a horse can appear in your living room without a cause?

    It’s prohibited by the empirically established laws of physics, not because of the law of causality, or the law of identity, or any other antiquarian aprioristic commandment telling the universe how it should behave.

    You are begging the question and also avoiding the question. Can the laws of physics themselves appear without a cause or reason?

    Also, can those empirically-established laws of physics that you allude to be superseded by an event that cannot be explained by them? That’s the question. Physics cannot deal with such problems because all science depends on the prior self-evident rules of right reason, which you deny. Thus, you cannot bring reason to your analysis.

    In terms of irrational quantum mechanics being quite clear on the matter of acausality, you probably ought to read something from rational quantum theorists who disagree with that proposition.

  234. Not touting for a response, Mark, but I want to apologise for my needless quasi rancour in a personally-addressed post.

  235. ‘These are only Planck’s personal opinions, reflecting his metaphysical preferences. They are not statements about physics.’

    Piotr, his metaphysical opinions were vindicated in his eyes by his science. And it should be borne in mind that the development of his metaphysical assumptions proved to be impeccable by the paramount scientific paradigm that ensued from them.

  236. Piotr @225:

    As for quantum events (like a pion decaying after 28 nanoseconds rather than 19 or 25), quantum mechanics is quite clear about there being no cause, as opposed to an unknown cause.

    This is not even wrong. First of all, a pion does not decay exactly at 28 nanoseconds. This is just the average half-life of the pion. Second, every effect in nature is the result of a violation of a conservation principle. A pion decays because it is unstable. It is unstable because the energies and quantum properties at play within the pion are violating some conservation principle.

    It bears repeating. A cause in physics is a violation of a conservation principle. An effect is a correction of a violation.

    Let me add that I believe that one should take every pronouncement coming from the physics/cosmology community with a grain of salt. They know much less about the universe than they make believe. Ask any of them why particle decay is probabilistic or why two bodies in relative inertial motion remain in motion and you’ll come face to face with abject ignorance and cluelessness.

  237. ‘As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.’

    How could anyone contest his inference there, Piotr? And to put the regularity of the quantum world’s behaviour all down to chance – for all the subatomic particles in the universe – never mind, one – is surely an insanely tall order.

  238. Piotr

    As for the universe, I don’t know. We have no theory of the origin of universes yet.

    OK. that’s clear. You cannot, without a theory of origins, rule out the prospect that the universe and everything in it popped into existence without a cause or reason. Finally, I have my answer. Thank you.

  239. This is not even wrong. First of all, a pion does not decay exactly at 28 nanoseconds. This is just the average half-life of the pion.

    No, the average lifetime of a pion (which, for your information, is not the same as its half-life) is 26 nanosecods. In my example, a pion decays at 28 ns, a little later than the mean value. But the decay could happen at 19 ns, 25 ns, or even 100 ns (less likely, but not impossible). My point is that there is no external cause for any particular timing of the decay; no answer to the question, “Why at 28 ns (rather than some other time)”? We can answer questions like, “Why is the decay time of pions more often within the range of 20-30 ns than within 30-50 ns”? This, however, has nothing to do with cause and effect. It’s a question about large-number statistics, not the behaviour of individual particles.

    Second, every effect in nature is the result of a violation of a conservation principle. A pion decays because it is unstable. It is unstable because the energies and quantum properties at play within the pion are violating some conservation principle.

    This is not even wrong. The “exact” conservation laws (such as the conservation of mass/energy) are not violated by any known physical phenomena.

  240. Piotr, first off, statistics is just observation and causes nothing. If you don’t know why particle decay is probabilistic, then it’s obvious that you are prevaricating. We certainly are not going to let you tell us that it is caused by nothing. Your opinion is disqualified by virtue of your ignorance.

    Second, there are known forces (weak, electromagnetic, strong) at work within a particle. If the forces are not balanced (an unbalanced force is a violation of simple Newtonian conservation principle), the result is decay. IOW, decay can be caused by any interaction involving one of the three forces mentioned. Source: The Particle Adventure.
    To claim that particle decay is not caused is the result of either stupidity or an intransigent world view (meaning, you got religion). All phenomena are caused.

  241. Let’s try that link again: The Particle Adventure

  242. Piotr:

    I don’t want really to enter the “cause” debate here, for various reasons.

    But I would like to make a comment about QM and its probabilistic results.

    First of all, the main bulk of QM is strictly deterministic. The wave function evolves in a strictly deterministic way, and indeed QM is the most precise theory ever developed in physics.

    Obviously, there is the probabilistic aspects: the wave function itself can be interpreted as referring to the probability of some results, in particular conditions where, for reasons that are not yet really clear and which are the object of great debate, some very special event takes place, what is sometimes called the wave function collapse.

    Now, in some interpretations of QM (but not all), that collapse is expression of some intrinsic probability, which is different from the probabilistic approach we use to describe non quantum phenomena, where probability is only a way to describe a deterministic system whose variables are too complex to allow a detailed description. Quantum probability could be the expression of an intrinsic property of the world at quantum level.

    Now, certainly I don’t pretend to understand QM. That would be silly. But I propose a couple of comments, on which I would appreciate your thoughts:

    1) Even if quantum events, at the wave function collapse level, are intrinsically probabilistic (which in principle I believe), that does not mean that they don’t obey a law. A probabilistic distribution is still a law, and has a very definite mathematical form. Again, I will not enter here the philosophical debate about “cause”, but it seems to me that a system of events which strictly obeys a mathematical law is still very much constrained, although in a different way, and is still very much subject to understanding by reason (being mathematics the product of our reason).

    2) That said, the fact remains that QM is still a field in constant evolution (non darwinian, I hope :) ), and that nobody in the world can probably suggest that everything is “finished” about its meaning and interpretation. Just for reference and possible discussion, I paste here some thoughts from Wikipedia, with the explicit statement that I can understand almost nothing of what I am quoting :) :

    From “Wave function collapse”:

    In quantum mechanics, wave function collapse is the phenomenon in which a wave function—initially in a superposition of several eigenstates—appears to reduce to a single eigenstate after interaction with a measuring apparatus.[1] It is the essence of measurement in quantum mechanics, and connects the wave function with classical observables like position and momentum. Collapse is one of two processes by which quantum systems evolve in time; the other is continuous evolution via the Schrödinger equation.[2] However in this role, collapse is merely a black box for thermodynamically irreversible interaction with a classical environment.[3] Calculations of quantum decoherence predict apparent wave function collapse when a superposition forms between the quantum system’s states and the environment’s states. Significantly, the combined wave function of the system and environment continue to obey the Schrödinger equation.[4]

    When the Copenhagen interpretation was first expressed, Niels Bohr postulated wave function collapse to cut the quantum world from the classical.[5] This tactical move allowed quantum theory to develop without distractions from interpretational worries. Nevertheless it was debated, for if collapse were a fundamental physical phenomenon, rather than just the epiphenomenon of some other process, it would mean nature was fundamentally stochastic, i.e. nondeterministic, an undesirable property for a theory.[3][6] This issue remained until quantum decoherence entered mainstream opinion after its reformulation in the 1980s.[3][4][7] Decoherence explains the perception of wave function collapse in terms of interacting large- and small-scale quantum systems, and is commonly taught at the graduate level (e.g. the Cohen-Tannoudji textbook).[8] The quantum filtering approach[9][10][11] and the introduction of quantum causality non-demolition principle[12] allows for a classical-environment derivation of wave function collapse from the stochastic Schrödinger equation.

    From “Quantum decoherence”:

    In quantum mechanics, quantum decoherence is the loss of coherence or ordering of the phase angles between the components of a system in a quantum superposition. One consequence of this dephasing is classical or probabilistically additive behavior. Quantum decoherence gives the appearance of wave function collapse (the reduction of the physical possibilities into a single possibility as seen by an observer) and justifies the framework and intuition of classical physics as an acceptable approximation: decoherence is the mechanism by which the classical limit emerges from a quantum starting point and it determines the location of the quantum-classical boundary. Decoherence occurs when a system interacts with its environment in a thermodynamically irreversible way. This prevents different elements in the quantum superposition of the total system’s wavefunction from interfering with each other. Decoherence has been a subject of active research since the 1980s.[1]

    Decoherence can be viewed as the loss of information from a system into the environment (often modeled as a heat bath),[2] since every system is loosely coupled with the energetic state of its surroundings. Viewed in isolation, the system’s dynamics are non-unitary (although the combined system plus environment evolves in a unitary fashion).[3] Thus the dynamics of the system alone are irreversible. As with any coupling, entanglements are generated between the system and environment. These have the effect of sharing quantum information with—or transferring it to—the surroundings.

    Decoherence does not generate actual wave function collapse. It only provides an explanation for the observation of wave function collapse, as the quantum nature of the system “leaks” into the environment. That is, components of the wavefunction are decoupled from a coherent system, and acquire phases from their immediate surroundings. A total superposition of the global or universal wavefunction still exists (and remains coherent at the global level), but its ultimate fate remains an interpretational issue. Specifically, decoherence does not attempt to explain the measurement problem. Rather, decoherence provides an explanation for the transition of the system to a mixture of states that seem to correspond to those states observers perceive. Moreover, our observation tells us that this mixture looks like a proper quantum ensemble in a measurement situation, as we observe that measurements lead to the “realization” of precisely one state in the “ensemble”.

    Decoherence represents a challenge for the practical realization of quantum computers, since such machines are expected to rely heavily on the undisturbed evolution of quantum coherences. Simply put, they require that coherent states be preserved and that decoherence is managed, in order to actually perform quantum computation.

    Just as a curiosity: I noticed a couple of references to “information” in the last quote. Whatever they mean! :)

  243. 243

    Stephenb
     

    As a logician, you should know that the statement “there is no cause” does not follow from the statement “we have not found the cause.” Thus, when you say that quantum events occur uncaused, you are making a faith-based statement that is not, nor can it be, grounded in empirical evidence.

    Why did you edit my response? I wrote: As I understand it, quantum physicists have been unable to identify anything that could be the cause of some quantum events and the best model they can produce is that these events have no cause.
    This may not prove with logical certainty there is no cause (I never claimed that) but it is good evidence.

    Whether or not a planet has a moon is not even remotely pertinent to the question. Never mind the unrelated problem of how one could discover a moon that doesn’t exist.

    Why is it not related?  You made an argument of the form: “How can I know if A has attribute X if in principle A may not have X”. My example shows that this is easily done.

    I see you didn’t address all my other points about causality in #215. Let’s get to the real essence of this.  You argue that everything that comes into existence must have a cause is a rule of right reason. I argue that it is just a contingent attribute and that some events including things coming into existence may not have causes.  As far as I can see the only argument you have made for this is that if noting else causes something to come into existence then it must cause itself to come into existence.  As I said above this doesn’t follow. You didn’t respond.

    A couple of other points:

    * If the law of causality is a rule of right reason then it should be impossible to imagine something coming into existence without a cause. It may even be that everything does have a cause and it still not a rule of right reason.  There are lots of natural laws that are always true but they are not rules of right reason.  we have no problem imagining something popping into existence for no reason. Indeed you offer examples yourself.
     

    * Some of your arguments assume what you are trying to prove. For example, when you write:

    No amount of evidence could possibly lead to such a conclusion, as you yourself indicated by acknowledging that evidence cannot judge or evaluate reasons rules, which are the judges and evaluators of evidence. The thing being judged cannot also be the judge as the law of non-contradiction makes clear.

    This argument would only work if the law of causality is a rule of right reason.
    To make your case you can’t assume it is true.

  244. Mapou:

    I have no idea what you are reading into my post, bu I can assure you it’s your imagination, not anything I have said.

    Piotr, first off, statistics is just observation and causes nothing.

    What I said was statistics had nothing to do with cause and effect, so what are you trying to correct?

    If you don’t know why particle decay is probabilistic, then it’s obvious that you are prevaricating. We certainly are not going to let you tell us that it is caused by nothing. Your opinion is disqualified by virtue of your ignorance.

    So if a particle has several alternative modes of decay, what causes it to “choose” a particular mode and decay, and what causes it to “choose” time t rather than a little earlier or a little later?

    And, please, don’t tell other people they are ignorant or stupid just after you’ve said all that stuff about conservation laws.

  245. 245

    Stephenb
     
    I just noticed this one.

    Evidence does not inform reason’s rules; reason’s rules inform evidence. The process cannot be reversed. There is nothing complicated or abstruse about that proposition. The reason that I characterized it as an unassailable argument is because it is an unassailable argument. Why you refuse to concede it or even deal with it is a mystery. Or, maybe it isn’t such a mystery after all (another example of bending truth to desire?)

    I don’t concede it because I think it is not as simple you present it. I don’t want to deal with it here and now because I don’t have the time to address such a difficult subject.  and I don’t want to distract from the simpler (but still difficult) subject of the law of causality. I thought I already explained this in #215.
     

  246. Mark:

    I wrote: As I understand it, quantum physicists have been unable to identify anything that could be the cause of some quantum events and the best model they can produce is that these events have no cause.

    The second clause does not follow from the first. Quantum physicists cannot decide on the philosophical question about whether causes exist. They simply don’t have the tools. Science assumes causality and conducts it investigations accordingly. Any quantum theorist who says otherwise is revealing his ignorance about philosophy and the rules of reason. No argument can be made from evidence to the existence or non-existence of causality. If you believe that such an argument from evidence to the existence or non-existence of causality can be made, then go ahead and present it. You can present no such argument.

    SB: So, in your judgment, a horse could pop up in your living room without a cause? A brick wall could appear in front of your moving automobile without a cause?

    It couldn’t in practice happen at our scale.

    But you haven’t presented an argument for that position. Your argument is that is it unlikely to happen because it hasn’t happened yet. That is not the same thing as saying that it “cannot happen.” How do you justify the claim that it cannot happen if your reject causality as a law.

    You argue that everything that comes into existence must have a cause is a rule of right reason.

    Of course.

    I argue that it is just a contingent attribute and that some events including things coming into existence may not have causes.

    Yes, but you have not told us, given your argument, how you can distinguish those things which were caused from those things which were not caused?

    Some of your arguments assume what you are trying to prove.

    That isn’t true at all. To characterize the laws of non-contradiction and causality as self-evident principles that are the foundations of reason is not to assume my conclusion. All reasoning begins with self-evident truths. It cannot begin, as you seem to think, from scientific evidence, which relies on reason’s principles. You have never addressed this point. Much less have you provided your list of reason’s principles and told us which ones are, in your judgment, negotiable. Are the laws of non-contradiction and identity now negotiable for you since some philosophically challenged quantum theorists reject them? That was, after all, your stated reason for rejecting causality as a law.

  247. Evidence does not inform reason’s rules; reason’s rules inform evidence.

    Mark

    I don’t concede it because I think it is not as simple you present it.

    It is, indeed, that simple.

    I don’t want to deal with it here and now because I don’t have the time to address such a difficult subject.

    I have no doubt that you don’t want to deal with that subject matter. However, that is not a good enough reason for me to abandon it. Its the core of what we are discussing. Everything turns on it. All reasoning, including scientific reasoning, begins with self-evident truths.

  248. What I said was statistics had nothing to do with cause and effect, so what are you trying to correct?

    Well, you should take care to write more clearly then. You seem to imply in your comment that the reason for the specific half-life of a pion had to do with statistics. At the same time, you claim that there is no reason (cause) for it. Make up your mind.

    So if a particle has several alternative modes of decay, what causes it to “choose” a particular mode and decay,

    The particle does not choose a particular mode of decay. The type of decay depends on which force is unbalanced.

    and what causes it to “choose” time t rather than a little earlier or a little later?

    I think I know the answer to this: there is no such thing as a physical time dimension as Einstein claimed. Thus nature cannot calculate temporal intervals. It is forced to use probability in order to obey conservation principles in the long run. I am essentially arguing that, at every discrete step, nature chooses at random a fixed percentage of all pions in the universe to decay. The actual percentage depends on the energies involved.

    And, please, don’t tell other people they are ignorant or stupid just after you’ve said all that stuff about conservation laws.

    Well, you should correct me if you think I’m wrong. I’m not one to hold on to erroneous views in the face of contrary evidence. I’m just reacting to your strange insistence that particle decay is uncaused. Of course, it’s not so strange since we all know why you are making such a braindead claim: you got a religion to defend.

  249. 249

    Stephenb

    The second clause does not follow from the first.

    I didn’t claim it did.  The two clauses were two related but different reasons.

    Quantum physicists cannot decide on the philosophical question about whether causes exist. They simply don’t have the tools. Science assumes causality and conducts it investigations accordingly. Any quantum theorist who says otherwise is revealing his ignorance about philosophy and the rules of reason.

    There you again – arguing from the assumption that the law of causality is a rule of right reason. These scientists did not assume causality and found a workable model that included the hypothesis that some events are uncaused.  I suspect they couldn’t care a damn about philosophy and the rules of reason – especially as philosophers themselves do not agree about it (or anything else come to that).

    No argument can be made from evidence to the existence or non-existence of causality. If you believe that such an argument from evidence to the existence or non-existence of causality can be made, then go ahead and present it. You can present no such argument.

    I did present the argument. I will repeat it. If we fail to find a cause and can build a theoretical model that matches the observed world that does not include causes – then that is evidence that some things do not have causes. It is exactly the same kind of evidence that is used to substantiate most of science. You only dismiss it because you assume that the law of causality is a rule of right reason and therefore any evidence that it is false must be in error.

    But you haven’t presented an argument for that position. Your argument is that is it unlikely to happen because it hasn’t happened yet. That is not the same thing as saying that it “cannot happen.” How do you justify the claim that it cannot happen if your reject causality as a law.

    My actual case was that is has not been observed and it would break established laws of physics.  This is as good evidence as we have for the law of gravity. I think I can reasonably say that the law of gravity will never be broken ( but of course you could imagine what it would be like if it were broken).  I could never prove that is logically impossible that an object could suddenly appear at a macro scale because it is logically possible. It is just that we have massive empirical evidence that it can’t happen.

    Yes, but you have not told us, given your argument, how you can distinguish those things which were caused from those things which were not caused?

    Yes I did. But let me try rephrasing it.  We distinguish those things that are caused by observing the cause and building theoretical models that account for what we observe that include a cause. We distinguish those things that are not caused by failing to find a cause and building theoretical models that account for what we observe that do not include a cause. This seems fairly straightforward!

    That isn’t true at all. To characterize the laws of non-contradiction and causality as self-evident principles that are the foundations of reason is not to assume my conclusion. All reasoning begins with self-evident truths. It cannot begin, as you seem to think, from scientific evidence, which relies on reason’s principles. You have never addressed this point.

    This is utterly bizarre. You are arguing that causality is a self-evident principle which is a the foundation of reason. You then write the sentence I have highlighted above.  What could be a clearer case of assuming the truth of what you are trying to prove?

    Much less have you provided your list of reason’s principles and told us which ones are, in your judgment, negotiable. Are the laws of non-contradiction and identity now negotiable for you since some philosophically challenged quantum theorists reject them? That was, after all, your stated reason for rejecting causality as a law.

    As I have said repeatedly the the laws of non-contradiction and identity are a more difficult subject and you will not draw me into that debate however hard you try.  It is quite bad enough dealing with the law of causality.

  250. 250

    Stephenb

    However, that is not a good enough reason for me to abandon it. Its the core of what we are discussing. Everything turns on it. All reasoning, including scientific reasoning, begins with self-evident truths.

    I am not asking you to abandon it. I am only disputing whether the law of causality is one of those self-evident truths.

  251. F/N, FTR (cf 193):

    Take, as discussed so long ago, a bright red ball A on a table. Immediately, we have a world partition:

    W = { A | NOT-A }

    Immediately present in that act of recognising a world partition are the law of Identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle. Those are the core first principles of right reason and we cannot even communicate with text or words without recognising them. To refuse these, is in the profoundest way, is to be stubbornly irrational.

    Beyond, on seeing A, we may freely ask why A is, and find from that the expectation or at least hope of a good, sufficient reason. That is enough to recognise possible [unicorns] vs impossible [square circle] beings. It is enough to see of possible beings, contingent and necessary ones. Where contingent beings will have at least one on/off enabling factor (a key type of cause), which means they will not exist in all possible worlds, e.g. the flaming of a match. Something like the truth 2 + 3 = 5 is not dependent on such factors, never began, cannot cease, holds in any possible world.

    For MF, I would love to see his first principles that do not entail or implicitly rely on or use these three plus one principles.

    I know that so soon as he types text, he exerts world partitions that will instantly swing these into play. And that holds for Physicists trying to compose Q-mech too, so soon as they scratch their first expression on the proverbial chalk-board. Nope, as the WACs under the Refs tab long since laid out, Q-mech is no escape hatch. If you doubt me simply ponder Einstein’s desk as he left it, and the chalkboard.

    You are free to reason P => Q, I object to Q so I dismiss P, but the problem is NOT-Q is ALSO a commitment with entailments. And, at this level, you will need to examine what is implicit in assuming or asserting or implying that something A is, but without good and sufficient reason in one or more external factors or in and of itself in light of possibility vs impossibility of being and contingency vs necessity of possible beings, for which all that is needed is the weak form PSR that invites actual reflection rather than dismissal. Where, obviously, contingent possible beings have one or more on/off enabling factors, much like a flame. The case highlighted at 188 shows how much hot water that can get into how fast, cf. the May 2013 remarks here on trying to pull a cosmos out of a non-existent hat.

    KF

    PS: On the but quantum events are uncaused front, let us recognise that causal factors come in different forms. While we may not know the SUFFICIENT cluster of factors that lead to a pion decaying after x microseconds, or a nucleus after Y seconds, etc, we do know that absent certain enabling factors such events cannot occur. That is, we know there are (often, trivially simple) ENABLING factors that are NECESSARY for an event. The existence of a pi meson or an alpha-decay unstable nucleus is necessary for its decay is as basic as it comes, for instance. That’s obvious and uninteresting, one is tempted to say. But, it reflects a lesson we need to learn from the ancients: multiple factors may interact in the course of an event, and if such antecedents are necessary, we do not have a case of a-causal events. In short, we do not have something from nothing. Which makes sense — nothing (non-being . . . Try Schaeffer’s mark a zero on a chalk board then erase it then the board and even the space in which it was . . . ) has no abilities and can have no consequences nor can it contribute to an event as a causal factor. Moreover, that something happens by one of a cluster of pathways and/or may follow a statistical distribution or pattern, does not entail want of causal factors. Where, to be without cause, there must be no antecedent causal factors.

    PPS: Wiki, on causality, gives a useful summary in its introduction . . . as usual cited as speaking against known ideological tendency, and I add remarks on the elephant standing in the middle of the room, Aristotle’s four answers to why (with implications too as to “how”) — his four “be-causes.” A further clip, on sufficiency, necessity and contributory factors seems to also be relevant:

    Causality (also referred to as causation[1]) is the relation between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first.[2]

    In common usage, causality is also the relation between a set of factors (causes) and a phenomenon (the effect). Anything that affects an effect is a factor of that effect. A direct factor is a factor that affects an effect directly, that is, without any intervening factors. (Intervening factors are sometimes called “intermediate factors”.) The connection between a cause(s) and an effect in this way can also be referred to as a causal nexus.

    Though the causes and effects are typically related to changes or events, candidates include objects, processes, properties, variables, facts, and states of affairs . . . .

    Of Aristotle’s four kinds or explanatory modes, only one, the ‘efficient cause’ is a cause as defined in the leading paragraph of this present article. The other three explanatory modes would now be called material composition, structure and dynamics, and, again, criterion of completion. The word that Aristotle used was ?????. For the present purpose, that Greek word would be better translated as “explanation” than as “cause” as those words are most often used in current English. Another translation of Aristotle is that he meant “the four Becauses” as four kinds of answer to “why” questions.[3]

    In some works of Aristotle, the four causes are listed as (1) the essential cause, (2) the logical ground, (3) the moving cause, and (4) the final cause. In this listing, a statement of essential cause is a demonstration that an indicated object conforms to a definition of the word that refers to it. A statement of logical ground is an argument as to why an object statement is true. These are further examples of the idea that a “cause” in general in the context of Aristotle’s usage is an “explanation”.[3]

    The word “efficient” used here can also be translated from Aristotle as “moving” or “initiating” . . . .

    Causes are often distinguished into two types: Necessary and sufficient.[13] A third type of causation, which requires neither necessity nor sufficiency in and of itself, but which contributes to the effect, is called a “contributory cause.”[14]

    Necessary causes:

    If x is a necessary cause of y, then the presence of y necessarily implies the presence of x. The presence of x, however, does not imply that y will occur. [--> i.e. something else may be involved, cf factors for a flame . . . which to answer a rabbit trail is a doubly quantum process amplified to the macro-world, (i) a chain chemical reaction, and (ii) a linked photon emission process that often yields characteristic spectral lines that inform us as to just which elements etc are interacting]

    Sufficient causes:

    If x is a sufficient cause of y, then the presence of x necessarily implies the presence of y. However, another cause z may alternatively cause y. Thus the presence of y does not imply the presence of x.

    Contributory causes:

    A cause may be classified as a “contributory cause”, if the presumed cause precedes the effect, and altering the cause alters the effect. [--> think, fire accelerants] It does not require that all those subjects which possess the contributory cause experience the effect. It does not require that all those subjects which are free of the contributory cause be free of the effect. In other words, a contributory cause may be neither necessary nor sufficient but it must be contributory.

    . . . I think this helps us clarify what we are talking about. In UD debate contexts, for clarity, I have often spoken of necessary factors as enabling, on/off factors. Absence of X blocks Y, but presence of X does not force Y. And of course, a specific effect at a given location, time etc, has its specific set of causal factors which must include all enabling ones and must be sufficient for the result. This includes the possibility of things like creating a distribution of components that create a distribution and statistical effect with associated probabilities. As, we see with stochastic processes in which clusters of states are consistent with given macro conditions.

  252. Mark

    I suspect they couldn’t care a damn about philosophy and the rules of reason – especially as philosophers themselves do not agree about it (or anything else come to that).

    Yes, that is correct. Any scientist who argues that events can occur uncaused does not give a damn about philosophy or reason’s rules. Thank you.

    If we fail to find a cause and can build a theoretical model that matches the observed world that does not include causes – then that is evidence that some things do not have causes.

    That does not follow at all.

    I could never prove that is logically impossible that an object could suddenly appear at a macro scale because it is logically possible. It is just that we have massive empirical evidence that it can’t happen.

    Of course you cannot prove it. It isn’t possible to prove. All proofs proceed from self-evident truths, which cannot, themselves, be proven. They are the means by which everything else is proven. If you deny the self-evident truths on which all reasoning is based, then you cannot prove anything at all. The question is whether or not you acknowledge any self-evident truths. Apparently, you do not, but for some reason, you are reluctant to admit it.

    We distinguish those things that are caused by observing the cause and building theoretical models that account for what we observe that include a cause.

    How do you know that the causes you think you “observed” were caused if some things, perhaps the thing you observed, can occur without a cause?

    We distinguish those things that are not caused by failing to find a cause and building theoretical models that account for what we observe that do not include a cause. This seems fairly straightforward!

    Again, you are not addressing the issue. How can you ever find a cause if what you think might have been caused could be one of those things that just popped into existence and you were not aware of that fact?

    This is utterly bizarre. You are arguing that causality is a self-evident principle which is a the foundation of reason. You then write the sentence I have highlighted above. What could be a clearer case of assuming the truth of what you are trying to prove?

    It appears that you do not know the meaning of a self evident principle. If it is self-evident, it is not simply being assumed. It is something that is understood to be true and would be absurd to deny or even question.

    As I have said repeatedly the the laws of non-contradiction and identity are a more difficult subject and you will not draw me into that debate however hard you try. It is quite bad enough dealing with the law of causality.

    If you cannot bring yourself to acknowledge the unqualified truth of the law of non-contradiction and the law of identity, then I can’t imagine why you would expect to have any credibility at all.

    With respect to the law of causality, it is, as I pointed out, inextricably tied to the law of identity. Consult kairofocus’ explanation of the relationship. If you reject the law of causality, you are, by implication, also rejecting the law of identity. The reverse is also true.

  253. MF (Attn SB):

    Pardon an intervention FTR on status of causality (even knowing your habitual resort of ignoring or complaining rhetorically on alleged incomprehensibility . . . ):

    1 –> It is self-evident that if we behold a thing or event A, we may freely ask why it is and seek to answer, with hopes or even expectation on finding a good and sufficient reason.

    2 –> Why is this “self-evident”? Because, we may simply directly ask why and proceed with hope. (Where of course, I here give a weak form principle of sufficient reason that is simply not subject to objections of form P => Q, but I reject Q so I deny or challenge P . . . too often, hoping to dodge the issue, what then are the consequences of NOT-Q and NOT-P across the span of a serious worldview and socio-cultural agenda?)

    3 –> Whereupon, we find a pattern, that of candidates (say: (a) unicorns, (b) square circles and (c) propositions: 2 + 3 = 5) some are impossible (case b) and others possible (a, c).

    4 –> On inspection impossible candidate beings have mutually contradictory core attributes and something of that nature is therefore infeasible. The requisites to be squarish and circular cannot both be met under the same time, place, object and circumstances, etc.

    5 –> Possible beings come in two flavours, most easily understood in light of possible worlds talk: contingent beings (case a) would exist were at least one possible world, say Wa, to exist, but also there are other possible worlds — say W~a in which they do not. Necessary beings (case c) exist in all possible worlds, i.e. we cannot construct a feasible world W~c in which c does not obtain.

    6 –> In that context of understanding what are the circumstances of candidate being, causality immediately follows as a direct corollary of the weak form PSR as extended by actual serious effort.

    7 –> The extension by discussing circumstances of being actively implies however that this is not merely a question begging circle of argument.

    8 –> That is, cause describes the conditions on which if relevant possible worlds Wi are instantiated, a possible but not necessary being (case a) would occur.

    9 –> E.g. within a century, horned horses will likely be actual as genetic engineering is plainly feasible and people have long wanted to own or see such and will pay good money for that.

    10 –> In simple terms, a contingent being a is a possible being that has one or more enabling factors ek, such that if one or more of these is not met, the relevant possible world will not have a.

    11 –> But, in possible worlds where all the factors are met, a would exist if such a world were instantiated.

    12 –> So, causality is a direct corollary of the weak form PSR; which is self evident.

    KF

    PS: BTW, as noted a couple of times already, a flame, the classic case study on cause and effect, is a doubly quantum process that happens to be amplified to the visible macro- realm. The rapid heat generating oxidising chain reaction is a quantum process and the associated emission of characteristic light with given bands and lines, is also a quantum process. For instance the characteristic yellow colour of many fires reflects the Sodium D-couplet at c 593 nm, a spectroscope will often show that up. Toss various salts into a fire and you get diverse characteristic colours, as the producers of fireworks know quite well. It’s not just a flame temperature effect.

  254. 254

    Stephenb

    Your responses are getting so bizarre I wonder if you are just playing a game of some kind.

    Let’s be clear about the issue we debating.

    You assert that  (A ) the law of causality is a self-evident truth and a rule of reason.

    I assert that  (B ) it is a contingent law that we have discovered empirically to be true pretty much all the time at our scale.

    Now how do we resolve this?  It is not a very good argument for either of us to:

    * repeat our position and declare it must be true

    * assume our position and say therefore any contradictory evidence is invalid

    You can prove your case by

    * showing that failing to observe the law of causality leads to a logical absurdity. I have only seen one attempt to do this which contained the non-sequitur that if something else does not cause an object to come into existence then it must cause itself to come into existence.  You have not responded to my objection that this does not follow.

    I can prove my case in two ways:

    * by showing actual examples that do not conform to the law of causality

    * by showing that even if everything does conform to the law of causality it is true as a matter of empirical fact like a law of nature not as a logical necessity. In particular if it is possible to coherently describe what it would be like to contravene the law of causality then it cannot be a logical necessity that it is true.  I submit that I have done both.  Quantum mechanics contains examples of things that do  not conform to the law of causality.  You yourself have coherently described what it would be like for a human scale object to appear without cause.

    Now to look at some of your comments.

    MF: If we fail to find a cause and can build a theoretical model that matches the observed world that does not include causes – then that is evidence that some things do not have causes.

    SB: That does not follow at all.

    Why not? It is perfectly standard model of reasoning.  Why is the idea of luminous ether no longer accepted? Because we couldn’t observe it and scientist have built a model that explains what we observe without it. 

    Of course you cannot prove it. It isn’t possible to prove. All proofs proceed from self-evident truths, which cannot, themselves, be proven. They are the means by which everything else is proven. If you deny the self-evident truths on which all reasoning is based, then you cannot prove anything at all. The question is whether or not you acknowledge any self-evident truths. Apparently, you do not, but for some reason, you are reluctant to admit it.

    The question is whether the law of causality is a self-evident truth. You continue to assume (A ) in your responses.

    How do you know that the causes you think you “observed” were caused if some things, perhaps the thing you observed, can occur without a cause?

    Uh? I think there may be a typo in your sentence. Did you mean to ask how I knew if the causes were caused?  If so, then by exactly the same method as I know  if the original event was caused. By observing or failing to observe the cause. Why is this so hard? Just because something may or may not have attribute X – it doesn’t mean I cannot determine whether it does in fact have attribute X.

    Again, you are not addressing the issue. How can you ever find a cause if what you think might have been caused could be one of those things that just popped into existence and you were not aware of that fact?

    By observation.  For a very crude example,  if  whenever we observe event type A it is always followed by event B and if when we stop A then B stops there is good (but not certain) reason to suppose A causes B. There is of course a rich literature on when correlation can be taken as evidence for causation. 

    It appears that you do not know the meaning of a self evident principle. If it is self-evident, it is not simply being assumed. It is something that is understood to be true and would be absurd to deny or even question.

    I understand that but we are debating whether that applies to the law of causality. You cannot validly argue whether it is true simply by assuming it to be so.

    With respect to the law of causality, it is, as I pointed out, inextricably tied to the law of identity. Consult kairofocus’ explanation of the relationship. If you reject the law of causality, you are, by implication, also rejecting the law of identity. The reverse is also true.

    I have addressed this. I pointed out the supposed linkage contains a non-sequitur.  You have not responded.

    Without assuming it is true, give me a reason to suppose that the law of causality is a self-evident truth (other than the non-sequitur that it would entail objects causing themselves to come into existence)

  255. All this has happened before, and all this will happen again. Complete with the bizarre parts.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....u-have-it/

    Note that StephenB conceded by the end of the discussion that some events may be outside the law of causality.

    You seem to have misread what was said. Causality, at the quantum level, and with respect to movement, may or may not HAVE been violated because we simply don’t know for sure. On the other hand, there is no reason, in principle, why it cannot be suspended in that context because there is no firm law that can either forbid it or mandate it.

    (I was Diffaxial. R0b was R0b.)

  256. PPS: On LOI, LNC and PSR with corollary causality for contingent beings.

    Consider world W, with a distinct object A, say the same red ball on a table that has been used for years . . . or the sequence of glyphs in this post that allow us to see a message, or an unstable atom prone to alpha decay — just to be concrete. Once we recognise A, we see a world partition:

    W = { A | NOT-A }

    Immediately the triple cluster obtains, pivoting on that partition: A has a distinct identity as A, A cannot at the same time be not itself, and by virtue of the partition a generic entity x will be such that it is either in A or in NOT_A, i.e. we have A X-OR NOT_A. These are the laws of identity, non contradiction and excluded middle.

    What if there is a fuzzy border? Such as that of an atmosphere? Then, we recognise that fact and fix a reasonable border, but just because Jupiter and NOT-Jupiter do not have a crisp border does not mean that Jupiter has no reality and stable distinct identity as a planet.

    Likewise, just because a given atom may decay to something else at a time we cannot predict beyond a distribution for a body of element A, does not mean it has no distinct identity or that A –> B + alpha, is such that formation of B is without cause.

    Indeed, we see that A and B have distinct identities [they are discernible], and a causal relationship expressed in that RA decay equation.

    And if instead we had a beta decay, a Weak interaction that transforms the nature of a particle in A, to form C, much the same would obtain.

    We also see here the issue of how the distinct identity of A, B and C are tied to their nature and causal relationships. That is, we are dealing with contingent entities – atoms and even nucleons, mesons etc are composite particles and are thus inherently contingent. Causality is bound up in why A, B, C and cannot be severed from their identity.

    Where also the sheer fact of contingency for A, B, C inextricably binds in the question of possibility/ impossibility of being. That is there are core attributes that constitute the nature of A, B, C, which are such that they must be mutually compatible for A, B, C to be possible. Square circles are impossible.

    And, if we had a wire, D that was at time t1 in the shape of a circle, and then at time t2 was bent to form a square, we see that the law of non contradiction has not been broken, as there is a transformation through time and space, under a cause, bending.

    If instead we had a string S, that was fixed at the two ends and plucked so that it vibrates with superposed modes, the fact of superposition of distinct contributory modes, say M1, M2, . . . Mn, does not mean that the resulting superposed composite vibration V1, requires the presence of contradictions. We have composition by superposition of modes. This extends to quantum cases such as hybrid orbitals and bonding, most commonly studied in organic chemistry. Think, the Benzine ring or the -COOH acid function group.

    And so forth.

    Indeed, the attempt to pull a cosmos out of a quantum foam hat and reliable that as nothing, is a classic in point of the underlying problem, abuse of concepts dressed up in a lab coat.

    It is high time we clarified our thinking.

  257. MF: Re-labelling the core point SB makes as bizarre is a case of dismissal on rhetoric, not cogent response. There patently are self evident truths, things that once we understand them are seen to be so, necessarily so on pain of absurdity on attempted denial. We may recognise them in the course of living in the world and may then generalise empirically, but the underlying relationships that have been outlined are logically connected to the nature of being of distinct entities A such that world partitions W = { A | not_A } exist, as has been laid out again and again, just ignored or dismissed. But in fact, simply the process of posting a text relies on the LOI, LNC and LEM, just to communicate. PSR weak form and causality are directly connected and are not merely empirical but are in fact also seen to be in the first instance directly self evident and in the second — as many of us are unfamiliar with the nature of being per possible/ impossible, contingent/ necessary — once we have a basic exposure, the second is a direct corollary. Try to identify a case or a possible case of a contingent being without an enabling causal factor. You cannot, due not just to failure of search but the nature of being involved. KF

  258. 258

    KF #256

    It is high time we clarified our thinking.

    I couldn’t agree more.

  259. F/N: as an example of a self-evident truth, consider 2 + 3 = 5. Or, || + ||| –> |||||. Once we understand what is involved we see it is so, it is necessarily so and that attempted denial or dismissal lands in patent absurdity. This is an existence demonstration. KF

  260. F/N 2: Now, back to the world, W and the partition based on that bright red ball on the table A:

    W –> W = { A | NOT-A }.

    Once the world is, and A holds a distinct identity we may see that we have that which is A and that which is not A. The triple cluster of first principles of right reason immediately appear: LOI, LNC, LEM.

    Why? As an immediate consequence of the partition, shown by the bar.

    And without distinction, for instance, communication collapses.

    Indeed, just to stir the ire of those with a vampire-crucifix aversion, let us hear the Apostle Paul pointing out the obvious tot he Corinthians, who needed to hear the obvious:

    1 Cor 14: 7 It is similar for lifeless things that make a sound, like a flute or harp. Unless they make a distinction in the notes, how can what is played on the flute or harp be understood? 8 If, for example, the trumpet makes an unclear sound, who will get ready for battle? [NET]

    One who would dismiss distinction and distinct identity immediately undermines communication and meaning itself.

    Patent absurdity.

    But the LOI, LNC and LEM immediately follow from — actually are inseparable corollaries of — that act of partition.

    (a) the part labelled A will be A (symbolically, [A => A] = 1),

    (b) A will not be the same as NOT-A ( [A AND NOT-A] = 0); and

    (c) there is no third option to being A or NOT-A ( [A OR NOT-A] = 1). Or, to be clearer about the significance of the dichotomy in World, W = { A | NOT-A }, let’s instead explicitly use the Exclusive OR, AUT not VEL: [A Ex-OR NOT-A] = 1. That is A, or not A but not a third option such as A AND NOT-A, and no fourth such as neither A nor NOT-A.

    Then, simply proceed to ask, why A in the context of the options of possible/ impossible, contingent/ necessary.

    Causality, and especially that contingent beings will have one or more necessary enabling factors, will be seen as an immediate corollary of the weak form PSR in the context of the triple cluster we started from.

    I have already shown why quantum scale events are not exceptions, contrary to commonly asserted fallacies. INCLUDING the flame example that MF tried to dismiss as a macro-event. In fact it is a case of a visible quantum process! Combustion chain rxn plus photon emission, the photons being shaped by the atoms involved so we can get flames of various colours. Just ask the fireworks people.

    KF

  261. 261

    KF

    I really cannot understand much of what you write but it would a shame to waste all your thinking about the subject. I invite you to make the case that the law of causality is self-evident with the following conditions:

    * It is written in simple non-technical English using complete sentences.

    * You don’t need to establish the LOI, LNC or LEM. For the purposes of this discussion I will accept them as true.

    * Address the question “Is the law of causality self-evident”. This is not the same as “Is the law of causality true?”.

    * Only include what is relevant.

    If you can do that I would be interested to engage in a discussion about it.

  262. MF: Pardon but with all due respects, IIRC you have done philosophy (and have studied to Graduate level in any case), and the above is well within the reach of a non-technical reasonably educated — sixth form or so — person. In particular, why LOI, LNC and LEM are self evident on seeing say a red ball on a table and pondering the resulting world partition are plain. On pain of breakdown of communication as Paul highlighted — thus we see that such are true, must be true and are so on pain of absurdity on attempted denial. What self-evident means is shown by demonstration of || + ||| –> |||||. The directly self-evident principle is the weak form PSR, and on considering modes of being to gain familiarity, Causality is an immediate corollary regarding contingent beings. And, I took time to show how the fire example you earlier tried to brush aside is in fact a quantum action case that happens to be macroscopically visible. In addition, I laid out in outline why several other paradigmatic quantum cases illustrate rather than overturn the generality of the LOI, LNC, LEM, Weak-form PSR and Causality. All of which — despite your insinuations about irrelevance — are directly relevant and form a mutually supportive whole informed by too many rounds of obfuscatory, evasive and dismissive rhetoric across several years when these matters have come up in and around UD. I think I can now safely leave the ball back in your court for the moment. Off to put out some local brush fires using these same laws as routinely trustworthy. KF

  263. PS: Just to highlight a pivotal point, which of course is not divorced from its context as one strand in a rope of argument:

    The directly self-evident principle is the weak form PSR, and on considering modes of being to gain familiarity, Causality is an immediate corollary regarding contingent beings.

    It should be plain why I hold Weak-form PSR self evident and causality a corollary once one familiarises oneself with modes of being. I strongly believe that many are NOT familiar with modes of being and that this is why there needs to be an intervening step.

  264. PPS: Why I hold the weak form PSR self evident and the causality principle as a corollary:

    Simple, if something A — say the red ball on the table — is, we may directly ask, why, and expect or even just hope to find an answer.

    This is unchallengeable as one may simply proceed to ask the question.

    Doing so leads straight to the modes of being, possible/ impossible and necessary/ contingent.

    That is unfamiliar to many.

    So, we must become familiar as was done above.

    Then we can immediately see that once a being is contingent, it has at least one enabling causal factor.

    KF

  265. 265

    KF #264
    This is short  enough to address.

    Then we can immediately see that once a being is contingent, it has at least one enabling causal factor

    “contingent” has two meanings. It can mean
     
    (A ) “possible but not necessary”.
     
    It can also mean
     
    (B ) “contingent upon X” i.e. depends on X being true
     
    (A ) does not entail (B ) although (B ) entails (A ).
     
    Which one do you mean?  Your argument only holds if you mean sense B. However, my case can be phrased as: there is no logical problem in things that are contingent in sense A but not sense B.

  266. Mark

    * You don’t need to establish the LOI, LNC or LEM. For the purposes of this discussion I will accept them as true.

    But do you accept those truths as self-evident? This is absolutely critical.

    SB: It appears that you do not know the meaning of a self evident principle. If it is self-evident, it is not simply being assumed. It is something that is understood to be true and would be absurd to deny or even question.

    I understand that but we are debating whether that applies to the law of causality. You cannot validly argue whether it is true simply by assuming it to be so.

    Come on, Mark, cut it out. I explain that causality is self evident, which means it is not being assumed. You say that you understand that I am arguing that causality is self-evident and is not being assumed, then you accuse me of arguing that it is true by assuming it.

  267. Mark

    …non sequitor

    It is not a non-sequitor. To say that something came into existence without a cause is to say that being came from non-being. It is a self-evident truth that being cannot come from non-being.

  268. MF: The snip out of context strawman tactic game again. You know or should know that I explicitly defined contingent being on being a possible being present in some but not all possible worlds. As a direct corollary, such a being has one or more external enabling factors that trigger possible presence in a given possible world. Absent any one of these and the being will be absent from a given possible world. These factors of course we can see are enabling, factors and the sufficient conditions for the existence of a contingent being in a given world are that hey must all be present. As can be seen from the need for heat, oxidiser, fuel and chain reaction to have a flame. Which when you were pointed to it at the outset of this discussion you brushed aside. The factors that are necessary, enabling ones are causal factors, and the set of factors that will trigger the existence of a given contingent being in a given possible world, constitute a sufficient set of causal factors. Kindly cf the clip from Wiki above (speaking against ideological interest), which you also managed to find an excuse to rhetorically dodge. KF

  269. 269

    SB

    Come on, Mark, cut it out. I explain that causality is self evident, which means it is not being assumed. You say that you understand that I am arguing that causality is self-evident and is not being assumed, then you accuse me of arguing that it is true by assuming it.

    This is a confusion between two statements
     
    (a ) the law of causality is true
    (b ) the law of causality is self-evident
     
    I am not accusing you of assuming (a ).  I am accusing you of assuming (b ) which is the issue under debate.

  270. Reciprocating Bill

    Note that StephenB conceded by the end of the discussion that some events may be outside the law of causality.

    RB, I am glad that you can express yourself once again on this forum. I remember you as Diffaxial, but I didn’t know that RB and Diffaxial were one and the same.

    I do recall granting arguendo, that some “movement” (not the coming into existence) might lie outside the bounds of causality, but that was before I learned the difference between ontological and epistemological randomness. So I would not grant it now.

    The claim of uncaused existence, however, is a much deeper (and more absurd) claim than that of uncaused movement, both of which I reject.

  271. 271

    SB

    To say that something came into existence without a cause is to say that being came from non-being. It is a self-evident truth that being cannot come from non-being.

    But if there is no cause then it doesn’t  “come from” anything?  That is why it is a non-sequitur (got the spelling right this time)

  272. Mark

    I am accusing you of assuming (b ) which is the issue under debate.

    Correct. The law of causality is self evident. I understand that you do not accept it as such. For you, being can come from non-being. I say that this is illogical and you say that it isn’t.

    However, you have not addressed a key question. Do you accept any self-evident truths at all? Do you, for example, consider the laws of identity and non-contradiction to be self evident?

  273. 273

    KF #268

    You know or should know that I explicitly defined contingent being on being a possible being present in some but not all possible worlds. As a direct corollary, such a being has one or more external enabling factors that trigger possible presence in a given possible world.

    Why is this a direct corollary? I don’t see it follows at all.

    Kindly cf the clip from Wiki above (speaking against ideological interest), which you also managed to find an excuse to rhetorically dodge.

    I am not dodging anything. Do you really think I have time to wade through everything that you write? I have now read the passage you referred to and it makes no difference at all as far as I can see. It is a nice introduction to different kinds of causality. My case is that it is logically possible that some things can exist without having a cause – different types of causality make no difference to this.

  274. gpuccio,
    [off topic]
    About 3 months ago News referred to this Springer book, specifically to this chapter by Dr. A. Riva (italiano):

    http://link.springer.com/chapt.....-30574-0_2

  275. Mark

    But if there is no cause then it doesn’t “come from” anything? That is why it is a non-sequitur (got the spelling right this time)

    To say that something pops into existence with no cause at all (no sufficient cause, no necessary cause, no causal conditions) is exactly the same thing as saying that nothing was the cause. You may not recognize it in that form, but that is exactly what is being said. With this formulation, “no cause” is synonymous with “nothing caused it.” In effect, you are trying to explain the things existence without explaining it. There is no way to escape causality as a necessary factor because it is built into reason itself, just as non contradiction and identity are built into reason. That is the irony and the tragedy involved in the illogical rejection of causality as a law. On the one hand, you are saying, “here is the how,” (It just popped into existence) at the same time, you are saying “there is no how” (nothing caused it to pop). It is a contradiction of the first order.

  276. But if there is no cause then it doesn’t “come from” anything? That is why it is a non-sequitur,

    If it “comes into existence,” then the status of “it” has changed from non-being to being. It came “from” potential existence “to” actual existence.

  277. But if there is no cause then it doesn’t “come from” anything? That is why it is a non-sequitur,

    If it “comes into existence,” then the status of “it” has changed from non-being to being. It came “from” potential existence “to” actual existence.

  278. gpuccio,

    Apparently your OP has attracted the attention of a few experts on ‘causality’ and other similarly difficult philosophical concepts. Their intensive discussion seems quite interesting, though it’s above my poor comprehension capacity.
    Perhaps they know that the procedures you plan to write about, in the second part of your OP, just popped up out of nothing, according to certain law(s) they keep referring to quite passionately.
    Since I can’t contribute to the ongoing discussion, I just watch their debate from the sidelines, while I remember your prophetic comment #139:

    In the end, we are always back to the great classics!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDLWbBrvA40

  279. 279

    SB

    To say that something pops into existence with no cause at all (no sufficient cause, no necessary cause, no causal conditions) is exactly the same thing as saying that nothing was the cause. You may not recognize it in that form, but that is exactly what is being said.

    Stephen that is what Mark is saying. See post 217

    Vivid

  280. 280

    If it “comes into existence,” then the status of “it” has changed from non-being to being. It came “from” potential existence “to” actual existence

    This is just a joke.  Not only are you trying to make existence a predicate (a well known philosophical conundrum), you want to make potential existence a predicate.  Tell me – how do you discriminate between two  potentially existent objects. Say there is a  potentially existent bat and a potentially existent cat  what’s the difference between them!  And what about the poor things that are not even potentially existent. Is that another category.  This is the most severe case of language bewitching intelligence I have come across.

  281. 281

    SB (and vivid)

    To say that something pops into existence with no cause at all (no sufficient cause, no necessary cause, no causal conditions) is exactly the same thing as saying that nothing was the cause.

    This is a school boy pun. If I say nothing was the cause the word “nothing” doesn’t refer to something which is called nothing!  It means there is no thing which is the cause.   Just as if I say there is nothing to see on television I don’t mean there is something called “nothing” being broadcast.

  282. 282

    SB #272

    Correct. The law of causality is self evident. I understand that you do not accept it as such. For you, being can come from non-being. I say that this is illogical and you say that it isn’t.

    Is this your way of graciously admitting that you have sometimes assumed (b ) which is the very thing under debate? Or do you want me to remind you of the examples.

    However, you have not addressed a key question. Do you accept any self-evident truths at all? Do you, for example, consider the laws of identity and non-contradiction to be self evident?

    Why is this key? Can we not stick to one issue at a time?

  283. 283

    MF

    This is the most severe case of language bewitching intelligence I have come across.

    Mark that will happen when you start regurgitating nonsense like nothing caused this or that.Language will fail you. For instance you say that things “spring” into existence. What kind of nonsense is that? If something is springing into existence its “springing” from somewhere else otherwise there is no “springing” into. But there is no somewhere else so where is it springing from? Nothing of course. But how can it be springing from nothing if there is “no where” there in nothing? Language is always going to fail us when we go down the path of absurdity.

    This is a school boy pun. If I say nothing was the cause the word “nothing” doesn’t refer to something which is called nothing! It means there is no thing which is the cause.

    Another example of language failing absurd notions.No Thing is NoThing. Your just repeating yourself and coming back to the same place which is that nothing caused it. Furthermore where is your evidence that nothing caused it? I am not talking about the models you speak of I am talking about the nothing you claim that caused it.It is not possible to have any evidence of nothing since nothing has nothing.There is no physical componet to nothing which makes “nothing” meta physical which is exactly what you are proposing, a meta physical explanation,wrapping it up as if it is science.

    Mark I got to say this. You and those like you are a danger to science. I know you dont see that and I also know you dont intentionally mean to be. You have always been respectfull to me and with as much repsect as I can I want to be respectful to you as well. I dont attribute any nefarious motives on your part I am convinced you want to promote science but your notions are very dangerous.JMO

    Just as if I say there is nothing to see on television I don’t mean there is something called “nothing” being broadcast.

    Well there is a television and there is a broadcast whether you see it or not.

    Vivid

  284. SB: However, you have not addressed a key question. Do you accept any self-evident truths at all? Do you, for example, consider the laws of identity and non-contradiction to be self evident?

    Why is this key? Can we not stick to one issue at a time?

    It is key because it would indicate that you reject causality as a self evident truth not simply in isolation but also because you reject all self-evident truths as self evident, including the law of non-contradiction. So, I think it is time for you to go on record.

    SB: If it “comes into existence,” then the status of “it” has changed from non-being to being. It came “from” potential existence “to” actual existence

    This is just a joke.

    If the answer to your question is a joke, then your question was a joke. You asked where the something came from and the obvious answer is that the “IT” (that you referred to) came TO a state of existence FROM a state of non-existence. If you don’t want to attribute existence to an non-existent it, then don’t ask about the source of the non-existent it. That should be clear enough.

    I

    If I say nothing was the cause the word “nothing” doesn’t refer to something which is called nothing! It means there is no thing which is the cause.

    It also means that being would have come into existence from a state of non-being. Would you like to hear what David Hume, the father of all modern skeptics and a critic of the certainty about causal connections said about your position:

    “I have never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without cause.” This king of skeptics has characterized your position as ridiculous. It is ridiculous.

  285. MF: At this point I have little energy to go in endless rhetorical circles. I laid out first, with explanation and a motivating context how we get from a distinct entity A to a world-partition and the immediate corollaries, the LOI, LNC & LEM. This sets the reality of self evident truth and first principles of reason on the table as foundational and inescapable once we deal with any distinct things, which as Paul pointed out is a requisite of communication and meaningfulness. Next, I pointed out the question, Why A, and how a weak form PSR that simply asks such a why A question and seeks, expects and hopes for an answer is unobjectionable, as one can simply do it. This leads to a point where many are unfamiliar, that exploration of the question surfaces modes of being: possible/ impossible, contingent/ necessary. I gave examples. It is in that context that using possible worlds, I showed that a contingent being will have enabling factors that if “OFF” lock out existence in a given world. A sufficient set of factors for such a contingent will have all such enabling factors, as with a fire. I then pointed out that these necessary factors are causal factors. Given that you started with trying to dismiss the case that would show all of this, a fire, as a macro-world phenomenon, I corrected that this is doubly a quantum phenomenon that is macro-visible. I also showed several other quantum phenomena that exhibit the same enabling causes. You first tried to pull apart the rope of mutually supportive reasoning and to get to look at a strand in isolation. Indeed, I notice where you “generously” offered to accept LOI, LNC and LEM for argument — nope, these are self evident, shown self evident based on the meaning of that and the act of recognition of a distinct A, and to try to reduce to a for argument already shows deep problems on your part with basics of logic. You then tried to dismiss causality as a corollary of what happens when sufficient reason, weak form is used to tease out modes of being. Your “argument,” in effect: as it does not seem so to me, I disagree. Well, it seems to me that you disagree largely because you refused to examine in context. I suggest you need to revise your approach. KF

  286. 286

    KF: “At this point I have little energy to go in endless rhetorical circles. “

    Yet you proceed to write a 3000 word essay.

  287. PS: To one who understands modes of being, causality is self-evident — that’s what Hume saw behind his something from nothing remark. The problem is, today, there is a commonplace understanding gap there that requires first establishing that distinction and world partition lead straight to LOI, LNC and LEM as immediate self-evident corollaries. We may then pose the unobjectionable weak form PSR, and explore modes of being. One step here is to see that impossible beings such as square circles have contradictory core attributes so they cannot all be met. Thus too, a possible being must have a coherent nature with mutually consistent core attributes. In that context, we may use possible worlds . . . which have internally consistent states of affairs . . . to understand that necessary beings must exist if any possible world is instantiated, and contingent beings will have at least one possible world where they would exist AND another where they don’t. A key difference between the two will be the state of an enabling factor: ON/OFF. And, pop, as a corollary, that factor will be a CAUSAL factor — if on, it removes a roadblock for the contingent being. To effect such — as a fire in light of the fire tetrahedron shows — all enabling factors must be present, and there must be a sufficient cluster of factors. These factors are causal, helping to trigger, produce, make, start, sustain etc the effect. The problem, then, is to come to understand modes of being. Once that is fixed, cause is no problem. And the old exercise with matches will teach a lot — if one is willing to learn. KF

  288. A-b: the post you tried to dismiss by deriding by implication as long-winded instead of attending to a point you likely need help with, is 396 words long by LibreOffice’s count. I trust, you have now also sorted out the difference between physics and chemistry etc. KF

  289. 289

    KF:” I trust, you have now also sorted out the difference between physics and chemistry etc. KF”

    I certainly have. All chemistry is physics.

  290. In spite of my repeated requests. Mark has made no argument for acausality on the basis of scientific evidence for the simple reason that no such argument can be made. When he says that some quantum “models” justify it, he is, in fact, bluffing because there is nothing in the structure of those models to justify the leap from “we can’t find the cause” to “there is no cause.” Nor is any argument made to support that leap.

    This ties in directly to the point that causality is a first principle and no first principle can be argued for. It is the basis on which other arguments are made. I have made this point several times, but Mark either ignores it or dismisses it. He either doesn’t understand or refuses to accept the fact that no argument can be made from a scientific interpretation of evidence to the metaphysical existence or non-existence of causality. The argument can only be made from the metaphysical principle of causality to the interpretation of scientific evidence.

    Therefore, anyone who says that scientific evidence warrants the conclusion of acausality is bluffing. I dare anyone, especially Mark, to present a counter argument.

  291. StephenB:

    RB, I am glad that you can express yourself once again on this forum. I remember you as Diffaxial, but I didn’t know that RB and Diffaxial were one and the same.

    Thank you for that gracious re-welcome, Stephen.

  292. F/N: It will probably help to summarise what self-evident truths are, in brief:

    self-evident truths are truths that we see as so and as necessarily so, so soon as we understand them as minded, enconscienced creatures in the world we live in. And, we can deny such truths only on pain of patent — obvious, not subtle — absurdity.

    For example it is self-evident that we are self-aware, conscious entities. Indeed, that is fact no 1 through which we access all other facts. One cannot be deluded that one is conscious, even if one is otherwise deluded.

    Similarly, it is self evident that error exists — simplest, take this as asserting that the set that collects errors is non-empty.

    Another case is, a finite whole is greater than any of its proper parts.

    On the moral side, it is self evidently true that it is wrong to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a little child.

    In math, it is self-evident that || + ||| –> |||||

    I have pointed out that on recognising a distinct A — thus creating a world-partition: W = { A | NOT-A }, LOI, LNC and LEM are immediate, self evident corollaries. Similarly we may see the weak form PSR is unobjectionable and on using it to draw ut understanding of modes of being [a sadly common gap in current education and thought] causality is immediately present as a corollary.

    And so forth.

    FYI, for those who want to understand.

    And of course, notice carefully just who are freely, stoutly standing up for rationality and respect for first principles of right reason.

    That, too is instructive about some subtler aspects of the debate over ID and linked issues.

    Later.

    KF

  293. A-b: of course, the converse is not true and things like high energy physics etc (including a lot of more mundane areas) are not chemistry. Which is where that point came up. KF

  294. SB: especially, when we understand that necessary, enabling factors are causal factors. In an observed cosmos that credibly had a beginning say 13.7 BYA, any material entity in it is contingent, and having a beginning has a cause. As for the idea of redefining a quantum foam as “nothing” and trying to pull a cosmos out of a non-existent hat, cf here — the vid with CRD is especially telling. KF

    PS: For those wondering, we’ve been here before, cf here.

  295. 295

    KF, I might disagree, just a bit. Nuclear fusion and fission, is still chemistry. Although not in the conventional sense. But where do you draw the line? There are many “classical” chemical reactions that only occur under ver high temperatures or pressures.

    My much earlier point was just that the difference between physics and chemistry was more about scale than fundamentals.

  296. gpuccio,

    The European Human Brain Project will try to build a model that would need “exascale” computers 1,000 times the power of today’s supercomputers, but which are not expected to be ready until 2019.

    http://www.genengnews.com/keyw.....t/4/35377/

  297. Mark Frank,

    If you can spare the time from the discussion of whether causality is a self-evident proposition, I would like to further engage you on the implications of the OP.

    You may remember that we originally we were discussing proteins created while we watched by random mutations and natural selection, and proteins created, or more precisely the code for proteins created, by intelligent designers whom we both know to exist, namely ourselves. The former were not known to produce the code for complex proteins de novo; The best that has been demonstrated is 2 significant amino acid changes, before natural selection has to give a hand in spreading the new gene. The particular protein under discussion is nylonase. There are mathematical reasons to believe this empirical observation, and to further believe that the maximum change in a direction toward a particular island of function is 6 mutations for all of geologic time.

    At the same time, humans are able to create strings of DNA with over 500,000 DNA base pairs, the vast majority of which are in the right order to code for a cell. Even if the tolerance for error is 50%, that means that humans can create strings with 250,000 base pairs in the proper order, including, if I am reading the google search results properly, the proper code for ATP synthase.
    Therefore, one could reach the tentative conclusion that ATP synthase had originally been created by an intelligence equal to or superior to that of modern humans, with the ability to manipulate DNA code somehow. Possible candidates for the job would be humanlike creatures from another planet, possibly from another solar system, superhuman aliens, supercomputers possibly made by these superhuman aliens, supernatural beings such as angels, or God or a god. Design theory by itself cannot distinguish between these possibilities, but would support that one of them was correct.

    The logic itself seems unexceptionable, especially if we view the argument not as a proof but an inference to the best explanation. I noted this in #80, which states in part,

    We know that intelligences exist, and that they are capable of creating geologically sudden changes in organisms. If we find evidence for geologically sudden changes in living organisms, and they are beyond the reasonable action of nature without intelligent designers, then it seems reasonable to tentatively conclude that intelligent designers created those changes. It certainly seems unreasonable to declare that intelligent designers must not have been responsible for the changes without some further reason to conclude that they did not exist or did not have the requisite capability.

    I know you read it, because you quoted it in #100 as (most of) the central part of my argument.

    You raise three objections to that argument. First,

    1) You are greatly underestimating the leap you have made from “intelligent humans can insert genes” to “therefore some other intelligent agent can insert complex proteins.” We know that human beings can create sudden changes in organisms – at a much smaller scale than we are discussing. We do not know what attributes are needed to create a sudden change of the magnitude the ATP energy system or indeed if it is possible to do it at all. It is unjustified assumption that in order to make a bigger change all that is needed is something with more “intelligence”. A bird’s wings enable it to fly – that doesn’t mean a creature with big enough wings could fly in the stratosphere.

    This objection seems to suffer from two logical flaws. First, and most obvious, humans can create the code for ATP synthase, because, unless my eyes deceive me, they have. So the “at a much smaller scale than we are discussing” is simply inaccurate. If anything, humans have created DNA at the entire genome level, not just ATP synthase (although including it). Second, if there are intelligent agents with intelligence and matter-manipulating ability equal or superior to that of modern humans, there is no reason why they should not be able to duplicate our efforts. If you believe otherwise, perhaps you can explain why.

    (BTW, if we scale up wings and power supplies, a creature with big enough wings does fly up in the stratosphere. I have done it myself. ;) )

    Taking #3 out of order,

    3) You are fudging things by talking about “geologically sudden”. From a geologists’ point of view a change over one generation of prokaryote is indistinguishable from a change spread over many thousands of generations. From where we are we can’t see if the advent of ATP synthase happened in one generation or a hundred thousand generations. So there isn’t really evidence for a one-off insertion of genetic material.

    You are, of course, right that “From a geologists’ point of view a change over one generation of prokaryote is indistinguishable from a change spread over many thousands of generations.” But what you miss is that if humans can make the changes in one generation, which we observe, then it logically follows that they can do it in a “geologically sudden” period. The stronger claim automatically includes the weaker. My claim was not that I could prove that the transition happened in one generation. My claim was the weaker one that a cause that could explain change in one generation was, other things being equal, an adequate explanation for change that was “geologically sudden”. You, as a logician, should be able to tell the difference. So your point that “From where we are we can’t see if the advent of ATP synthase happened in one generation or a hundred thousand generations” was beside the point. It functions as a red herring. Is this what they teach you in logic classes, or is this one of the sophistic techniques you learned when you studied internet arguments?

    Finally we come to what I regard as the core of your argument:

    2) There are good reasons to suppose there was nothing with even the ability to insert a very small change into the genome at the time that ATP synthase appeared. All we know about the environment all those billions of years ago suggests that there was nothing more complicated than prokaryotes on earth.

    That is, my argument may be perfectly sound and logical, but its real weakness is that there were no candidate designers around at the time when ATP synthase was first made. I will agree that from one point of view, one can make a strong case: Humanoids have trouble with interstellar travel, just like we do now. Besides, they might have been expected to stay. Perhaps superhuman or alien life forms or their products might traverse space more easily, but it seems unlikely that they would have spent so much effort making life on earth only to abandon it without leaving any traces. Why haven’t we contacted, or been contacted by, ET? And angels and God or gods are outmoded ways of thinking, and there is no scientific evidence for them.
    Of course, I would view this differently. While I agree with the criticisms of ET, I have personal experience where God seems to have been active in my life, and the reports and records of others who have had similar experiences, and to me the attempts to explain these away have a certain ad hoc feeling to them. And if we view ID as evidence for intelligence, and eliminate ET (at least as the final explanation), it also is evidence for the supernatural.

    There we might sit, staring at each other across a great divide, understanding but not agreeing with each other’s position, except for one small fact. In #108 you say,

    For me the search for truth is a matter of logic and evidence and nothing else.  I would like to believe in a deity, it is possible that I might be a happier, more moral and more healthy person if I did believe in a certain kind of deity, but I can’t just choose to believe something against the evidence.

    The usual interpretation of that statement is that you find the theory (and practice) of a deity attractive, but just can’t believe because of evidence and logic. Remember that part of evidence and logic is that intelligences can and do create structures including long specified strings of DNA which nature without intelligences has not been shown to do, and that no coherent theory shows how nature without intelligences could do. Remember that ET, while perhaps not being logically ruled out, seems unlikely, and that a deity could explain these facts. What combination of evidence and logic do you see that overrules this argument?

    Please don’t use the argument that “it isn’t science”. All that would prove would be that science by that definition doesn’t encompass all of reality.

  298. PG,

    Remember that ET, while perhaps not being logically ruled out, seems unlikely,…

    Well, wasn’t ET on Earth back around 1983? There is a very strong evidence -a film showing him in California or somewhere in the US. But apparently he didn’t like it here, hence he called his relatives, who came to pick him up. ;-)

  299. 299

    SB, KF, Vivid

    As my shingles is getting better I no longer need the distraction of debate. Thank you for your time. I will respond to Paul Diem as I think I can have a constructive discussion with him.

    Mark

  300. 300

    Paul,

    If you can spare the time from the discussion of whether causality is a self-evident proposition, I would like to further engage you on the implications of the OP.

    Certainly. I deeply regret wasting my time on the causality issue.

    You may remember that we originally we were discussing proteins created while we watched by random mutations and natural selection, and proteins created, or more precisely the code for proteins created, by intelligent designers whom we both know to exist, namely ourselves. The former were not known to produce the code for complex proteins de novo; The best that has been demonstrated is 2 significant amino acid changes, before natural selection has to give a hand in spreading the new gene. The particular protein under discussion is nylonase. There are mathematical reasons to believe this empirical observation, and to further believe that the maximum change in a direction toward a particular island of function is 6 mutations for all of geologic time.

    Clearly a large number of specialists in the area think it is possible to bridge such gaps in geologic time spans.  I have always found the maths stemming out of ID to be highly suspect so I would be interested to see the argument.

    This objection seems to suffer from two logical flaws. First, and most obvious, humans can create the code for ATP synthase, because, unless my eyes deceive me, they have. So the “at a much smaller scale than we are discussing” is simply inaccurate. If anything, humans have created DNA at the entire genome level, not just ATP synthase (although including it). Second, if there are intelligent agents with intelligence and matter-manipulating ability equal or superior to that of modern humans, there is no reason why they should not be able to duplicate our efforts. If you believe otherwise, perhaps you can explain why.

    Humans can create ATP synthase but that is not sufficient. ATP synthase is nothing without the whole ATP energy system.  Are you sure humans have created an entire genome?  But anyway the biggest difference of all is that humans are duplicating (and then possibly modifying) something that is already functioning. In a sense most of what they are doing is copying DNA. ATP synthase already existed.   The task of creating genomes and complex proteins without previous knowledge as to what worked is of a different order. So it is not sufficient to duplicate our efforts. These intelligent agents would have to do something quite different.

    (You are, of course, right that “From a geologists’ point of view a change over one generation of prokaryote is indistinguishable from a change spread over many thousands of generations.” But what you miss is that if humans can make the changes in one generation, which we observe, then it logically follows that they can do it in a “geologically sudden” period. The stronger claim automatically includes the weaker. My claim was not that I could prove that the transition happened in one generation. My claim was the weaker one that a cause that could explain change in one generation was, other things being equal, an adequate explanation for change that was “geologically sudden”. You, as a logician, should be able to tell the difference. So your point that “From where we are we can’t see if the advent of ATP synthase happened in one generation or a hundred thousand generations” was beside the point. It functions as a red herring. Is this what they teach you in logic classes, or is this one of the sophistic techniques you learned when you studied internet arguments?

    My point was intended to be the other way round.  Even if natural processes take 100,000 generations or more to create a something new it would appear as geologically sudden.  This takes us back to the beginning of the post as to whether this is possible. Unfortunately my subject matter expertise runs out there.

    There we might sit, staring at each other across a great divide, understanding but not agreeing with each other’s position, except for one small fact. In #108 you say,

    For me the search for truth is a matter of logic and evidence and nothing else.  I would like to believe in a deity, it is possible that I might be a happier, more moral and more healthy person if I did believe in a certain kind of deity, but I can’t just choose to believe something against the evidence.

    The usual interpretation of that statement is that you find the theory (and practice) of a deity attractive, but just can’t believe because of evidence and logic. Remember that part of evidence and logic is that intelligences can and do create structures including long specified strings of DNA which nature without intelligences has not been shown to do, and that no coherent theory shows how nature without intelligences could do. Remember that ET, while perhaps not being logically ruled out, seems unlikely, and that a deity could explain these facts. What combination of evidence and logic do you see that overrules this argument?

    Please don’t use the argument that “it isn’t science”. All that would prove would be that science by that definition doesn’t encompass all of reality.

    First I am not impressed by the evidence and logic leading up to this. Second I find the argument “we cannot see how this could have been done therefore we have evidence for a deity” to be very weak.  There is a long history of apparent mysteries being ascribed to deities and then proving otherwise.  For my proof of a deity would have to be a direct experience such as you say you have had but I fear I have not.

  301. MF:

    I first wish you well with your health challenge.

    On the matter at stake in the thread, I think it would be to your benefit to seriously reconsider the general issue that there are self-evident truths, and even to “wade through” this or a similar discussion I have made in hope that you would attend enough to clarify your thinking.

    For, do you not think it at least possible that you may have what Mortimer Adler terms, after Aquinas IIRC, “little errors in the beginning,” which may then cascade through our whole schemes of thought?

    Could it not be possible then that rethinking in light of starting from first principles and first acts of thought might just lead to a different view?

    Surely, you are not here just to spew dismissals and show up those who can only be ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, as they dare disagree with The Consensus that has cornered the market on sensible thought?

    Please, think again.

    In that light, I believe you should next ponder on how and why, among these self-evident truths are truths springing from the first act of rational thought — recognition of distinction and distinct things. And that, as a result, we have the triple-member cluster of self-evident first principles of right reason.

    Further to this, on recognising A it is unobjectionable and self-evident that we may ask why A, then seek, expect or hope to find a good and sufficient, reasonable answer. This is unobjectionable, as one may simply proceed even if one has some doubts. That is, a weak-form principle of sufficient reason — let’s symbolise wPSR — is self-evident.

    On such exploration, we will rapidly find that there are modes of being, in two linked pairs: possible vs impossible beings and contingent vs necessary beings.

    The former bridge back to the LOI-LNC-LEM cluster as an impossible candidate being such as a square circle has in it core attributes that stand in mutual contradiction that cannot obtain together. Consequently, it cannot exist in any possible world.

    A possible being would exist in at least one possible world, were it instantiated.

    Going on, of possible beings, we may have contingent ones, which would exist in at least one possible world, and would NOT exist in at least one other possible world. Necessary beings — such as the self-evident truth expressed in the proposition || + ||| –> ||||| (often symbolised as 2 + 3 = 5) — will obtain in all possible worlds. That is, such beings would be present in ANY possible world.

    Notice, too, these things are independent of whether we are dealing at quantum microscales or macro scales, they are general considerations of being.

    Cause relates to circumstances of contingent beings.

    Namely, as such beings would exist in a world Wj but not in a world Wk, there is some enabling factor Fj that if present in an enabling state or degree allows the contingent being Cj to exist in Wj. But below a threshold or if absent, it inhibits or blocks Cj.

    The classic case is, that for a fire, we need heat, fuel, oxidiser and an un-interfered- with heat generating chain reaction. This last factor, BTW, implies that a fire is a quantum, micro-process. Such fires are often visible through another quantum process, photon emission . . . often involving spectral lines and bands characteristic of involved elements. (For instance, this is how fireworks manufacturers generate desired colours.)

    This example and other similar or more exotic ones such as radioactive decay, photo electric effects and superposed “hybrid” orbitals such as in the Benzine ring point to the significance of such enabling factors linked to the occurrence of contingent beings, even in the quantum world.

    Indeed, the usual term for such factors is necessary causal factors; aptly described by the Wiki article on causality cited at 251 above:

    If x is a necessary cause of y, then the presence of y necessarily implies the presence of x. The presence of x, however, does not imply that y will occur.

    And we come to the crux: given such enabling factors, for a thing A to be without cause, it must be a possible being but must have no such enabling factors.

    But, such a being is quite familiar.

    Under the circumstances where A is possible — existing in at least one possible world Wj — and yet has no factors that may block its existence in any possible world Wk, A would exist in ALL possible worlds.

    That is, A is a necessary being.

    Such a being would have no beginning or end, for the same reason.

    In short, the very fact of having a beginning is a demonstration of contingency. (Which credibly directly implies that our observed cosmos and contents are contingent given evidence pointing to a singularity c. 13.7 BYA.)

    So, it seems that once we familiarise ourselves with modes of being, on applying wPSR, we see why cause is a direct corollary of the wPSR in light of such modes of being.

    Of course, I cannot force you to accept this, but I can lay out sufficient that I can invite you to reconsider.

    KF

  302. MF, a F/N:

    I see your reply to PG along lines of gods of gaps arguments when he argued in summary:

    intelligences can and do create structures including long specified strings of DNA which nature without intelligences has not been shown to do, and that no coherent theory shows how nature without intelligences could do.

    I find PG is arguing inductively on what we DO know from abundant examples, and in light of the search space challenges to find zones exhibiting FSCO/I. (Cf. here.)

    I suggest your gods of the gaps dismissal is misdirected and should be rethought.

    a: Blindly searching beyond astronomical spaces is not a productive prospect,

    b: the notion of a vast continent of functional forms traversed in small incremental steps is questionable given sharp diversity of body plans [and the 10 - 100+ mn bits of genetic info for each of dozens of such plans], and

    c: the pop genetics to fix and accumulate desirable changes without being swamped out by deleterious ones is not plausible. (Not to mention, plausibly requiring time scales that are just not on the table.)

    KF

  303. F/N: I direct attention to 251 above, which outlines the matter. KF

  304. 304

    KF #301
     
    As you have gone to the effort to set out your argument clearly I will respond. I do not like the possible worlds approach to impossibility and necessity. However, I think I can describe acausality within this framework.  It is very simple.  Acausality is the position that it is logically possible for something to exist in some worlds but not others without there being any other enabling or inhibiting factor.  It just is there in some worlds and not in others. You need to show why this is not logically possible.

  305. Dionisio:

    I am happy that you appreciated the Donald Duck reference :)

  306. Dionisio:

    I will probably dedicate myself to finishing the procedures part. We will decide later if it is caused or not! :)

  307. 307

    gp

    I will probably dedicate myself to finishing the procedures part. We will decide later if it is caused or not!

    Depends on how big the duck is!!:)

    Vivid

  308. Paul at #297:

    Thank you for giving some more attention to ATP synthase. It certainly deserves it.

    I must say That Mark is humble and honest enough to admit that he cannot enter too much into biological details. That’s admirable.

    In the end, his main objections to our arguments are linked to his difficulty in believing that conscious intelligent agents could have existed at the times when biological design occurred. IOWs, to his “priors”. I would agree with you that his priors are an unacceptable pre-commitment to a specific worldview. He believes differently.

    I think it is really difficult to go beyond that level.

  309. Mark Frank (#300),

    I’m glad to hear that your shingles is getting better. That can be quite painful.

    Minor point. You seem to have gotten the name wrong a couple of times. It’s Giem, not Diem.

    To reply to your points,

    Humans can create ATP synthase but that is not sufficient. ATP synthase is nothing without the whole ATP energy system.  Are you sure humans have created an entire genome?  But anyway the biggest difference of all is that humans are duplicating (and then possibly modifying) something that is already functioning. In a sense most of what they are doing is copying DNA. ATP synthase already existed.   The task of creating genomes and complex proteins without previous knowledge as to what worked is of a different order. So it is not sufficient to duplicate our efforts. These intelligent agents would have to do something quite different.

    Yes, I am as sure that humans have created an entire genome as I am about anything in science. True, Venter could be lying, but he and his group do have the relevant expertise, and others have decoded a secret message he put into the code. I think we can safely put to rest the idea that humans have not created an entire genome.

    Your second point deserves more attention. You are correct that it is easier to copy a design with modification than it is to come up with the entire design, including having the design integrated into a cell. What that means is that if we go the designer route, we must assume that the original designer (although not perhaps the one that made life on earth) was in all probability smarter, or had more time, or both, than we are or do. That points to a deity or deity substitute. Remember, that is supposed to be an attractive option to you.

    One may object to this that perhaps we do not need a designer at all. But the law of biogenesis (“omne vivum ex vivo”) implies that nature does not have a strong inherent tendency to create life, and with no plausible theory as to why life should be created out of inanimate matter, we might reasonably (tentatively) conclude that it did not happen without help.

    My point was intended to be the other way round.  Even if natural processes take 100,000 generations or more to create a something new it would appear as geologically sudden.  This takes us back to the beginning of the post as to whether this is possible. Unfortunately my subject matter expertise runs out there.

    Your point is a valid one. However, size matters. 100,000 generations is considerably shorter than billions of years. It is harder, not easier, to create a new complex protein machine such as ATP synthase in 100,000 generations than it is to create it in 3 billion years, using the same toolkit. And the evolutionary toolkit contains mutations and natural selection and that’s about it, and for the origin of life, until we get to the first set of replicating molecules, it doesn’t even contain natural selection.

    You may not see the force of the argument, but I would advise you to improve your subject matter expertise, and you might be surprised by what you find.

    First I am not impressed by the evidence and logic leading up to this.

    Perhaps if you had more subject matter expertise, you might be more impressed. I know that was my experience.

    Second I find the argument “we cannot see how this could have been done therefore we have evidence for a deity” to be very weak.  There is a long history of apparent mysteries being ascribed to deities and then proving otherwise.

    Yes, but there is also a list, albeit shorter, of apparently solved subjects turning out to be more complex than first thought, and apparently requiring something beyond a mechanical universe without any kind of deity. The origin of life is one of those subjects which was previously thought to be solved.

    At this point I would like to address the epithet “God of the gaps” head-on. It sounds like a wonderful argument. But if it is granted that we should never deduce the presence or action of a deity from otherwise unexplained phenomena, it will be impossible to ever deduce the presence or action of a deity. One cannot deduce them from already explained phenomena. The denigration of “God of the gaps” arguments is equivalent to the claim that either no God exists, or that He cannot act in the material world other than by sustaining natural law. (That in itself is an interesting proposition, as otherwise why should objects in nature follow well-defined laws? What makes (denser than air) objects on earth fall to earth? Do they decide that on their own?) The denigration of all “God of the gaps” arguments is basically a call for theists to surrender.

    For my proof of a deity would have to be a direct experience such as you say you have had but I fear I have not.

    I pray that you will have some such experience. However, you cannot recognize it if you maintain an absolutist atheist position. For then you will be forced to explain the experience away, and someone who is determined enough can ignore any evidence if he wishes.

    And you shouldn’t need proof. As you know, science can’t ultimately prove anything. All we can do is establish that the (sometimes vast) preponderance of evidence points in a given direction. If you have such evidence, take the rest on faith. We do that all the time in science.

    Clearly a large number of specialists in the area think it is possible to bridge such gaps in geologic time spans.

    Yes, but why do they think that? Do they think that because there is a convincing theory with lots of experimental evidence to back it up, or do they think that because it is a corollary of naturalism (i.e., There once was no life on earth, there now is life on earth, aliens couldn’t have done it and we know there are no deities, therefore nature must have done it)? If the latter, then their opinion does not come from their expertise, but rather from their philosophy, and they may be poor philosophers.

    In this post you have seen the collective blindness of experts in the field, who read Ohno’s paper and believed that frameshifting might be a way of producing nylonase (and a priori, it might), but who never thought through the subject enough to realize that Ohno’s hypothesis was testable, and didn’t try to test it. Instead, a couple of (well-informed) amateurs did the appropriate test. Experts can have blind spots, especially if the subject impinges on their philosophy. (So can I, which is why I try to make the evidence and my deductions from it explicit, so you don’t have to trust me.)

    I have always found the maths stemming out of ID to be highly suspect so I would be interested to see the argument.

    Which maths would you like to see first? We’ll see if we can present them. This could get really interesting.

  310. MF: I trust things get better. I note that what makes things contingent, appearing in SOME possible worlds but not others, is exactly that something inhibits. This is best seen from actual cases, such as fires — which are quantum events [chemical reactions], and nuclear decay. For instance alpha emission from an unstable nucleus is a potential barrier phenomenon and a tunnelling effect. Without the nucleus, there is no possibility of decay — that’s an enabling causal factor. We may not know the sufficient condition that triggers decay, beyond that certain circumstances set up a probability pattern leading to a predictable population effect [e.g. half-life], but the fact is that even without that, we already have a clear causal factor. For something to be without cause, it has to have NO causal factors contributing. Which is the context of SB’s something from nothing concern. And, that we may not know or be able to know the specific nature of a sufficient cluster does not mean that it does not exist. KF

  311. Paul:

    Yes, but why do they think that? Do they think that because there is a convincing theory with lots of experimental evidence to back it up, or do they think that because it is a corollary of naturalism (i.e., There once was no life on earth, there now is life on earth, aliens couldn’t have done it and we know there are no deities, therefore nature must have done it)? If the latter, then their opinion does not come from their expertise, but rather from their philosophy, and they may be poor philosophers.

    In this post you have seen the collective blindness of experts in the field, who read Ohno’s paper and believed that frameshifting might be a way of producing nylonase (and a priori, it might), but who never thought through the subject enough to realize that Ohno’s hypothesis was testable, and didn’t try to test it. Instead, a couple of (well-informed) amateurs did the appropriate test. Experts can have blind spots, especially if the subject impinges on their philosophy. (So can I, which is why I try to make the evidence and my deductions from it explicit, so you don’t have to trust me.)

    I really like the way you can summarize things with such clarity.

    Our kind interlocutors should realize and admit that our position is that a very serious collective cognitive bias has gradually become “state of the art” in modern biology and in modern scientific thinking about biology.

    Very simply, it justifies itself as a philosophy that “must” be accepted by all: methodological naturalism (which is only a hypocritical way of saying materialist reductionism).

    Very simply, it supports itself through general errors of attitude, thought and methodology, which have the aim of hiding the complete lack of evidence for the current explanation, and at the same time of making everyone believe that overwhelming evidence exists.

    IOWs, the wrong attitudes of thoughts that were the object of the OP here.

    It is very clear that this is what we are debating here. We are in no way “anti-science”. We just believe that a very important thread of modern scientific thought has betrayed the true duty of science: a credible search for truth which, while not completely impartial (because that would be impossible) should at least strive to achieve some impartiality.

    This, I believe, is in essence our position. It certainly is mine. We may be wrong, but if our interlocutors want to convince us that we are wrong, they must certainly do something more than just remind us that our position is different from the position of most scientists and experts. We know that very well. Indeed, that is exactly the problem we are debating.

    IOWs, I am a minority guy, and happy of that! :)

  312. 312

    KF 310

    MF: I trust things get better.

    Much better thanks.

    I note that what makes things contingent, appearing in SOME possible worlds but not others, is exactly that something inhibits. This is best seen from actual cases, such as fires — which are quantum events [chemical reactions], and nuclear decay. For instance alpha emission from an unstable nucleus is a potential barrier phenomenon and a tunnelling effect. Without the nucleus, there is no possibility of decay — that’s an enabling causal factor. We may not know the sufficient condition that triggers decay, beyond that certain circumstances set up a probability pattern leading to a predictable population effect [e.g. half-life], but the fact is that even without that, we already have a clear causal factor.

    Remember the proposition is that is being debated:
    The law of causality is self-evident
    So why are you having to point to examples to provide evidence? I absolutely accept that the vast majority of events have causes – maybe it will turn out that every event does.  What is important is that you need to prove this by repeated observation. It is not self-evident.

    For something to be without cause, it has to have NO causal factors contributing. Which is the context of SB’s something from nothing concern. And, that we may not know or be able to know the specific nature of a sufficient cluster does not mean that it does not exist.

    It is true as a matter of observation that there are always conditions in place which are necessary for an event to take place in the universe as we know it. However, at the quantum level there appear to be events for which there are no sufficient conditions – the appearance of some elementary particles, the emission of an alpha particle at a particular time.  Of course the religious significance of the law of causality applies to the beginning of the universe which is also the beginning of conditions as we understand them. So given that the law of causality is not self-evident we have no reason to reject the idea that the beginning of universe had neither necessary nor sufficient conditions. It is all beyond the scope of even our imaginations so it is hard to even describe what “cause” means in the context of the beginning of the universe.

  313. 313

    #309 Paul

    First I apologise for getting your name wrong.

    I will try to respond but now I am no longer in pain I have a lot of catching up to do and your comment requires a careful response.

  314. kairosfocus:

    This is best seen from actual cases, such as fires — which are quantum events [chemical reactions], and nuclear decay. For instance alpha emission from an unstable nucleus is a potential barrier phenomenon and a tunnelling effect. Without the nucleus, there is no possibility of decay — that’s an enabling causal factor. We may not know the sufficient condition that triggers decay, beyond that certain circumstances set up a probability pattern leading to a predictable population effect [e.g. half-life], but the fact is that even without that, we already have a clear causal factor. For something to be without cause, it has to have NO causal factors contributing.

    Yes, indeed. Further, we can say that the prospect of any event occurring without a cause is simply not possible in a rational world where things are what they are and not something else.

    “The laws of Identity and Causality obviously require each other: By determining what something is, we can determine what it will do; by observing what something does in relation to other entities, we can begin to grasp what it is. So, the two Laws are inseparable. One is always involved in the other. Necessarily, any attempt to deny or undermine either of these two fundamental laws is contradictory—it does not follow from valid reasoning, and it is an impossibility given the facts of reality.”

    –Wes Bertrand

  315. StephenB

    Note, however, how Wes Bertrand defines the Law of Causality:

    Every entity in the universe, including the innumerable relationships of these entities, has a certain identity. From its certain identity, an entity will act accordingly—which is the Law of Causality. An entity will behave only in ways consistent with its nature (its identity). Nothing will ever act in contradiction to its particular identity. For something to act in opposition to its nature is—metaphysically—impossible.

    I wouldn’t dispute that, but where does it say that every event should have a cause/sufficient reason?

  316. Mark

    It is true as a matter of observation that there are always conditions in place which are necessary for an event to take place in the universe as we know it. However, at the quantum level there appear to be events for which there are no sufficient conditions – the appearance of some elementary particles, the emission of an alpha particle at a particular time.

    As I have pointed out, there is no warrant for making the leap from “we haven’t found the cause” to “there is no cause.” Nothing in the structure of a quantum model can justify that leap. Do you have any other arguments? Repeating the same argument does not improve its quality.

    Even if causality was not a self-evident truth and a mere assumption, it would still be the standard for evaluating evidence. It is not logically possible to reverse the process and reason your way from the evidence to the standard, just as it is not possible to work your way from the evidence to the prior laws of identity or non-contradiction. The thing being judged cannot also be the judge.

  317. Piotr

    I

    wouldn’t dispute that, but where does it say that every event should have a cause/sufficient

    One important component of the law of causality is that a cause cannot give what it does not have to give. You can’t have more in the effect than was in the cause. Bertrand doesn’t cover that ground, but he probably should have.

  318. 318

    Stephenb

    I am sorry but I am not going to enter into any further debates with you on this issue. Our ideas of what constitutes a rational argument are just too far apart.

  319. In physics, a cause is a violation of a conservation principle. The effect is the correction. The interval between a cause and its effect depends on the energies involved. This applies to all phenomena, including inertial motion. Most physicists will tell you with a straight face that a body in inertial motion remains in motion for no reason at all, as if by magic. This is rather unfortunate, IMO, because it blinds science to the true nature of motion. The following is an excerpt from a blog article I wrote on this topic several years ago.

    Greek philosopher Aristotle was a fervent believer in cause and effect. He maintained that the natural state of matter was absolute rest and that nothing can move unless it is caused to move. In other words, if an object is caused to move by a force, it will stop moving as soon as the cause is removed. Let me come right out and say that I agree 100% with Aristotle in this regard and I will explain why later. I think it is a shame that subsequent thinkers utterly failed to grok the supreme importance of causality and rejected Aristotle’s motion hypothesis mostly on the basis of the man’s propensity for crackpottery.

    Aristotle was hard pressed to explain why an arrow kept moving after it was released from an archer’s bow. He offered a cockamamie hypothesis according to which the arrow created a trailing vacuum that pushed it in its direction of travel. He should have kept his mouth shut and admitted that he had no understanding of the actual causal mechanism of movement. I guess that, given the state of knowledge in his day, the man can be forgiven for venturing a made up explanation, especially since nobody at the time could muster a convincing refutation. Needless to say, this and Aristotle’s strange explanations of other natural phenomena did not work in his favor in the eyes of future generations. So out the window, it was, with the bathwater and Aristotle’s baby!

    To make a long story short, I argued that the causality of motion forces us to posit that matter is moving in an immense lattice of energetic particles. Everything moves by interacting with the lattice. No lattice = no motion. One day in the not too distant future, we will learn how to tap into this energy field for extremely fast propulsion and practically unlimited energy production.

  320. 320

    Paul #309

    I don’t have time to do justice to everything you have written. But I can pick out a few highlights.

    Your second point deserves more attention. You are correct that it is easier to copy a design with modification than it is to come up with the entire design, including having the design integrated into a cell. What that means is that if we go the designer route, we must assume that the original designer (although not perhaps the one that made life on earth) was in all probability smarter, or had more time, or both, than we are or do. That points to a deity or deity substitute. Remember, that is supposed to be an attractive option to you.

    As I tried to explain before. You can’t assume that what is needed to solve a dramatically more difficult problem is more of what solved the easier problem i.e. more “smartness” whatever that is. For all we know it might turn out that the only way to solve this is through some kind of evolutionary/selection process.

    You may not see the force of the argument, but I would advise you to improve your subject matter expertise, and you might be surprised by what you find.
    …..
    Perhaps if you had more subject matter expertise, you might be more impressed. I know that was my experience.

    There is only time to become knowledgeable in a limited number of subjects. Some time ago I made a conscious decision not to concern myself too much with whether current science can explain evolution. Even if it doesn’t another explanation my be forthcoming the in the future. I am more interested in how this may or may not lead to the conclusion that there is a designer which is a philosophical/statistical issue.

    At this point I would like to address the epithet “God of the gaps” head-on. It sounds like a wonderful argument. But if it is granted that we should never deduce the presence or action of a deity from otherwise unexplained phenomena, it will be impossible to ever deduce the presence or action of a deity. One cannot deduce them from already explained phenomena. The denigration of “God of the gaps” arguments is equivalent to the claim that either no God exists, or that He cannot act in the material world other than by sustaining natural law.

    I think the “God of the Gaps” problem goes a bit deeper.  The problem is that it usually amounts to little more than:

    “An explanation for problem X is that something exists which has the power and motive to solve  problem X”.

    I imagine you agree that this is a truly unsatisfactory explanation.  There needs to be more to the hypothesis. It needs to be tied to an identified force which has properties other than “has the power to solve this problem” and there has to be some kind of case for linking those other properties to the same force which solved the problem – which in turn implies some other source of evidence. The same thing applies to natural explanations. Ideally there should be some other predictions that can be tested. If Newton had proposed that the reason the apple fell was because there was a force that caused that apple to fall it would have been a joke.  What he proposed was a natural law that could be tested throughout the universe.  Science may invoke specific explanations instead of natural laws e.g. the extra-terrestrial impact explanation for the KT boundary, but these still have implications which can be predicted and tested e.g where was the crater from the impact.

  321. MF:

    Glad to learn of health progress.

    On cause.

    Actually, the case I have made strictly is that the [weak form] PSR is patently self-evident, and that once we are sufficiently familiar with modes of being, causality is seen as a direct corollary, applicable to contingent beings.

    There are indeed uncaused things, necessary beings such as numbers like 2, 3, 5 and propositions such as 2 + 3 = 5. (To get there, start with the empty set {}, assign it as 0 then collect {0} –> 1, and {0, 1} –> 2 etc. Then simply deduce how || + ||| –> |||||. And so forth. Not proofs, again, a drawing out to aid understanding.)

    Such beings obtain in all possible worlds as one cannot flick off an enabling condition to lock them out. You cannot build and instantiate a possible world without the necessary beings being implicitly present.

    If — by contrast — there is a possible being subject to such enabling conditions then there is a possible world where it would be and there is another such that it would not be. Such is what we mean by contingent being. That enabling condition, we of course label a cause [specifically, a necessary cause]. Let us note Wiki testifying against interest and inviting a possible worlds presentation again:

    If x is a necessary cause of y, then the presence of y necessarily implies the presence of x. The presence of x, however, does not imply that y will occur.

    I daresay, our world c July 1914 — a terrible time — was a possible world in which none of us involved were around. Today — a different possible state of affairs historically derived in part from the world of 1914, we are. And in my case if my Grandpa had not been stabbed in 1912 when he went to volunteer to fight in I think 1914, he may never have been around for my father much less me to have been born. The West India Regiment, after all did see some fighting in WW I as infantry. By contrast, in 1943 if matters had been reversed and it was my Grandpa not my uncle who drowned as a war worker in Connecticut while swimming to rescue people from a boat that swamped [a cold spring and massive muscle contraction] I would still have been possible but would have never met that grandfather. Even as, in the actualised world I have never met that particular uncle. But, well do I recall visiting a Kaiser Bauxite plant, and having a security guard spot family resemblance and corroborate the family story of that uncle. He, too, had been a war worker in WW II.

    So, discussion on possible worlds can help us understand in light of experience. And it helps us build up our ability to understand.

    And, given that we tend to have a familiarity problem here, I point to concrete cases by way of clarifying example. The cases do not change the logic, but just as the diagrams in a Geometric proof are helpful by way of imperfect illustration of the strict ideal, the concrete experiences help our understanding.

    Remember, that which is self-evident, we see as true once we understand it [think, Pons Asinorum], and as what must be true in light of our understanding of the world based on experience of it; where the attempted denial is patently absurd. By contrast we have analytic statements that on reductio ad absurdum are necessarily true, but the path to that necessity via reductio is subtle not patent.

    Nor, is this a simple or inductive generalisation or inference to best explanation or appeal to experience. Instead I am saying we have active minds that engage the world and develop insight. In the course of which, we are able to understand and see direct consequences. So, for instance, having experience with RA sources behind a lead castle then under a Geiger Counter, spotting the 1/2 life pattern and deducing the influence of background, enables us to understand this quantum phenomenon and have a direct check on error. So, for instance, one who has done the work to set up and blank out background, then sees what happens with a live source understands down in the bones the subtle force of an apparently trivial point: a body of unstable atoms is an enabling factor for the stochastic process of RA decay. And so, whatever else is at work, it is not causeless.

    Likewise, working through the measurements and deducting for background then allows understanding the reality of 1/2 life, which points to dN/dt = – lambda* N as mathematical pattern. And that has two further consequences.

    First, we see that we are immediately recognising and using distinctions and associated world-partitions

    W = { A | NOT_A }

    We cannot get away from that, it is there all the time.

    And so, we know that to deride or dismiss the immediate corollaries, LOI, LNC, LEM, is to saw off the branch on which one must sit to do science, including quantum science.

    These are self-evident.

    Second, we see that not only do we have enabling causal factors at work, but we see that even in a stochastic case we have a pattern. We may not be able to identify the timing of decay of a given RA atom’s nucleus, but we know the population follows a definite stochastic pattern. This means there are sufficient conditions to stamp in that stochastic pattern.

    Again, causal factors are at work.

    (And of course, you see some of the reason behind the old gallows humour about telling the physicists from the others at a science convention as they are the ones that glow in the dark.)

    At a simpler, safer level, much the same can be found by playing with that visible quantum process, a fire, including the colouring of a flame by introducing various elements, and maybe even looking in one of those school lab low cost Edmund Scientific scaled spectroscopes to get an idea of wavelengths of lines that appear.

    Line spectra of course are one of the key points that grounded Quantum theory.

    So, we need to have a sufficient base of experience to be able to understand what is being discussed. Then, we can see why certain things are not just provisionally true on experience or the like, but must be so on pain of patent absurdity.

    BTW, this also shows the blinding ability of paradigm-induced blind spots.

    It is a fact of experience too, that there is such a thing as clinging to absurdity and the resulting sadly delusional march of folly. Indeed, madness can be contagious as one fool makes many — ask the ghosts of the Trojans.

    KF

  322. PS: Roll-your own scaled spectroscope, here — might work in reflection with a CD set up as crude diff grating.

  323. PPS: Classroom spectrometer stuff video — a gateway to the quantum world — notice the flame test. Apply the modes of being causal grid to that quantum world and spot some enabling factors . . .

  324. Mark

    I absolutely accept that the vast majority of events have causes – maybe it will turn out that every event does. What is important is that you need to prove this by repeated observation. It is not self-evident.

    Huh?

    First, we have the repeated observation of quadrillions upon quadrillions of events over thousands maybe hundreds of thousands of years with no known exceptions to the law of causality. Just how much repetition would it require, Mark.

    Second, first principles cannot be proven in any case. They are the means by which we prove other things. To ask someone to prove a first principle is to reveal a shocking unfamiliarity with the process.

    Then we have the two unanswered points @316

    As I have pointed out, there is no warrant for making the leap from “we haven’t found the cause” to “there is no cause.” Nothing in the structure of a quantum model can justify that leap. Do you have any other arguments? Repeating the same argument does not improve its quality.

    Even if causality was not a self-evident truth and a mere assumption, it would still be the standard for evaluating evidence. It is not logically possible to reverse the process and reason your way from the evidence to the standard, just as it is not possible to work your way from the evidence to the prior laws of identity or non-contradiction. The thing being judged cannot also be the judge.

    I am sorry but I am not going to enter into any further debates with you on this issue.

    A wise decision.

  325. MF: on gOTG issues, the real challenge these days is materialism of the gaps and how dare you question our Promissory Notes . . . we’re wearing Lab Coats. More specifically, we have direct experience of the source of FSCO/I, design. We see analysis that makes it maximally implausible that blind chance and mechanical necessity can account for a single case much less a world full of cases. So, we have a right to challenge attempts to convert an empirically and analytically grounded inference to best explanation into an imaginary loaded inference on ignorance to supernatural miracles, and to insist that generally speaking the best empirically grounded explanation of codes, coded algorithmic strings, and execution machinery is design. KF

  326. MF:

    It is true as a matter of observation that there are always conditions in place which are necessary for an event to take place in the universe as we know it. However, at the quantum level there appear to be events for which there are no sufficient conditions – the appearance of some elementary particles, the emission of an alpha particle at a particular time.

    BTW, who’s talking religion? We are talking logic and first principles of reasoning. Let us not cloud matters by injecting issues loaded with all sorts of attitudes.

    Next, I observe your attempt to limit the import of a key admission: on OBSERVATION, events — things that have a beginning, by definition — have underlying conditions that seem to constrain whether they do or don’t happen. That is, you admit to observing enabling, ON/OFF necessary conditions for events, as a general pattern.

    That is exactly what we should expect to see where contingency entails a possible world without an event E, and a possible world with event E, and of course entity N, stemming from the event.

    That is, we are seeing that there are contingent beings and that absent enabling conditions in ON states, E does not happen and N is not present. Pop to ON, and there’s E, there’s N, reliably . . . science is built on that at root.

    Or, there may be a different case, when condition C is on, we have a POPULATION of possible events E1, E2 . . . En, with some sort of statistical distribution. In case Ei, we see Ni, but maybe in case Ej we don’t see Ni but Nj.

    But, absent C being ON, the pop of possibilities P1 vanishes.

    Cause is still there, just one step back.

    But, you suggest, there is no SUFFICIENT cause present for Ei to must-be vs Ej.

    Even were that so, the point still obtains, there are causal factors at work. For something to actually be without cause, it would require that there be no necessary, no sufficient and no contributory causal factors.

    And, for our purposes, it is quite adequate that we know there is a sufficient cluster of causes for W = the distribution of possibilities, to obtain. Ei vs Ej would be within the sufficient cause for W.

    But also, SB has a point.

    There is a world of difference between there is no sufficient set of conditions for Ei, and there is no KNOWN set of conditions. Even, there is no KNOWABLE set for us.

    And for alpha emission, we have a potential barrier, the tunnelling phenomenon, and the implication that in unstable nuclei, there is a definite rate at which in a population N, a fraction lambda* N will decay per unit time. That is, we have a sufficient causal pattern for a decay pattern. And, we know in that, necessary factors for the decay.

    None of this undermines the point that causal factors are at work.

    Much less, the logic on contingency of beings that points to cause as a corollary of the weak form PSR in light of modes of being.

    KF

  327. 327

    KF #321

    I cannot find anywhere in this long comment where you show that is self-evident that there must be an enabling condition for an event which takes place in some possible worlds but not others. Clearly pointing to examples will not prove that it is self-evident.

  328. MF:

    Pardon, but please notice where this begins.

    First, we take a distinct thing A, and so have a world partition: W = { A | NOT_A }

    This immediately entails as corollaries that we have LOI, LNC and LEM, self evident. Details elsewhere.

    Next, we undertake the question, why A and indicate we may freely ask it and seek, expect or hope for a good and sufficient reason. This is patently unobjectionable. This leads to investigating modes of being, via two successive partitions: impossible vs possible beings first.

    Beings are impossible if there are core attributes that preclude feasibility due to mutual contradiction, as with that proverbial candidate being example, the square circle. And note, the examples are for clarification not demonstration or inductive generalisation etc. As a related point, had my Grandfather and not my uncle drowned in Connecticut in 1943, I would still have been possible but would have had a non-core difference. Had he gone off to war in 1914 (and the block to that was, he was stabbed in 1912 and was rejected . . . ) and had he fallen, neither my Father nor I would exist. Again, illustrative example on what “core” is about.

    Recall, of possible beings, they would exist in at least one possible world.

    Of possible beings, next, we may dichotomise again, based on whether or not there are enabling factors for being. A possible being with no enabling on/off factors will exist in at least one possible world (and from examples given, maybe in indefinitely many with sufficiently similar states of affairs), and as there is nothing to block it in any world, it will exist in all possible worlds. Something like the number 2 or the proposition 2 + 3 = 5 illustrate this. That is, we cannot construct a possible world in which this will not obtain.

    Now, on the other side, we DO have a possible being, but one with enabling factors, at least one. Such a being can be blocked from existing in at least one possible world, and THAT IS WHY IT IS CONTINGENT.

    For instance, had my Grandfather not been stabbed in 1912 and had there been a Turkish marksman with the proverbial numbered bullet (given his reputation as a rifleman I am sure he would have become a sniper) neither my Dad nor I nor my son etc would be possible.

    In short the descriptive labels contingent and necessary are secondary to the modes of being.

    Just so, we term an enabling factor for a possible being a necessary causal factor.

    A cluster of factors sufficient to guarantee that A will be, is a sufficient cause. Such must at minimum enfold all necessary factors.

    For instance, for me to exist, I would need my parents and genetic composition, but I would be the same basic core being even if I did not know any of my Grand parents. For my wife, that was the case.

    KF

  329. 329

    KF #328

    The key sentence in all that appears to be:

    A possible being with no enabling on/off factors will exist in at least one possible world (and from examples given, maybe in indefinitely many with sufficiently similar states of affairs), and as there is nothing to block it in any world, it will exist in all possible worlds.

    This assumes that if there is nothing to block something appearing it will appear in every possible world. This an unsubstantiated assumption. The thesis of acausality is that things may happen or appear in some possible worlds and not happen or appear in others without any enabling or disabling factors. You need to show that this is self-evidently false. Describing numerous examples of enabling and disabling factors will not do this.

  330. PS: Let’s not forget, there are two possible loci for influences on an object inside it or external to it, where, nothing — non-being not mislabelled quantum fields — plainly has no power to act. If A does not exist at least in nascent or seminal form, it cannot act reflexively on itself. Thus, the locus for initiating enabling factors is in the external world.

    PPS: Of course, necessary beings are without beginning or end, and no possible world can be without them. Not for arbitrary reasons but because their non-existence is what is impossible. For familiarity, do start from the empty set {} –> 0, then go {0} –> 1, {0, 1} –> 2 etc. Now try to construct a possible world in which such is impossible or even just not there.

  331. PPPS: That means, too, for the A pops up acausally, we are looking at trying to extract causal powers from non-being.

  332. MF: Nope, it is not even an assumption. Per definition, an impossible being is blocked in every possible world, by something internal — mutually contradictory core attributes. A possible being will have two characteristics: no internal blocks and existence in at least one world. The being will be contingent if there is at least one world where it is absent, pointing to an external block as nothing, non being cannot have influences. A being without dependence on external influences that is also possible and existing in one world will have no blocks on it in any world. Rather, the block will be on its non-existence — it will be necessary as we saw with examples. A being that is blocked in at least one world will be contingent: me for instance. Being possible the block is not internal. Non-being has no capability to enable or to block, so the block will be external to it. It will be dependent on external enabling factors. KF

  333. Should add, consider a being with no external dependencies and no internal roadblocks. It does not exist in a world, for argument. There is nothing in the world to pop it up, it is not there even in nascent form, and nothing has no powers. It is not going to happen. Unless of course you wish to assign powers to non-being Which is a reductio. KF

  334. F/N: Notice too such an entity as popping up with no external causal dependences cannot be made of matter — that is an enabling factor, it cannot be popping up in space, it cannot be a proposition or concept in a mind, it cannot be an arrangement of matter, and so forth. What then is it but nothing. KF

  335. 335

    KF

    I will try for a bit longer but I am running out of ways to explain my point.

    Should add, consider a being with no external dependencies and no internal roadblocks. It does not exist in a world, for argument. There is nothing in the world to pop it up, it is not there even in nascent form, and nothing has no powers. It is not going to happen. Unless of course you wish to assign powers to non-being Which is a reductio. KF

    The whole point is that it is conceivable that there is something that does not need anything to “pop it up”. It just appears – without anything popping it up – not an external force, not itself, not “nothing”. As Stephenb puts it a zebra suddenly appears in the living room for no reason. In some possible worlds it pops up. In others it doesn’t. I know its absurd and it will not happen in our possible world, but that is not the point. It is imaginable and therefore there is a possible world where it does happen and therefore it is not self-evident that it cannot happen.

    To put it another way – it is conceivable that there are things with no blocks that appear in some worlds but not in all. If you free your mind of this dependency on blocks and enablers you might come to understand.

  336. 336

    It is imaginable and therefore there is a possible world where it does happen and therefore it is not self-evident that it cannot happen.

    I’ve been trying to follow the discussion and would like to jump in for a minute. I’m glad for the explanation above because I didn’t understand the challenge before this. To me it seems, however, that the fact that something is imaginable is not a very strong basis for it being possible.

    We can imagine, for example, something coming from nothing.
    That’s basically the point here.

    We imagine nothingness.
    We can then imagine that something pops up and has existence now.

    So, can we conclude, on this basis that “it’s possible for something to come from nothing”?

    The reason it’s not possible and illogical is that the term “come from” refers to some “thing” prior to the event. If there is nothing, there is no way for a “from” event. “Nothing” provides no basis for anything to come from it. If it did, it wouldn’t be nothing.

    A zebra pops up into the room with no cause.

    But this is the same as saying that the zebra “came from” nothing.

    Again, that’s illogical since “nothing” cannot provide any means for something to come from it.

  337. Friends:

    I have tried to avoid intervening in this interesting discussion, because I am not completely at ease with purely logical arguments.

    Just to say something, I would like to know if it is possible to move a little the discussion to the empirical level, without renouncing to debate the problem of cause or not cause.

    I am not really interested in what is logical or not logical, but in what exists and in how things exist.

    So, I am not interested if it is “possible” that “a zebra suddenly appears in the living room for no reason”. I just want to know if it happens. In this world, in another world, anywhere.

    The fact that we can “imagine” that “a zebra suddenly appears in the living room for no reason” is no evidence that such a thing happens. It is just evidence that we can imagine it. It’s not the same thing.

    So, does “a zebra suddenly appears in the living room for no reason”, any where?

    I don’t think so.

    My simple point is that in the phenomenic world events are always related to other events. Those relationships can take different forms, but they are relationships just the same, and IMO those relationships can be potentially understood and cognized.

    Cause and effect is a kind of relationship. The general idea is that all phenomenic events are in some way constrained by laws. The most “unconstrained” event I can imagine is an event influenced by free will, but even in that case there are constraints on which free will acts.

    As I tried to argue previously with Piotr (post #242, point 1), probabilistic constraints in QM, whatever they mean, are constraints just the same. A probabilistic law, especially if intrinsic, is still a law. Those events cannot happen “out of control”, because otherwise the wave function would not generate a specific probability distribution. The fact that the law acts on the general form of many events does not make it less a law.

    I believe that we do need an uncaused cause to get a worldview that makes sense. But that uncaused cause is defined, on purpose, as transcendent phenomena. Some call it God.

  338. 338

    SA

    We can imagine, for example, something coming from nothing.
    That’s basically the point here.

    We imagine nothingness.
    We can then imagine that something pops up and has existence now.

    Hi Silver I would have to disagree with some of this.

    Yes we can imagine something just appearing but the one thing we cannot imagine is nothingness. To imagine nothing we have to imagine something but nothing is not something.

    Vivid

  339. 339

    GP

    Just to say something, I would like to know if it is possible to move a little the discussion to the empirical level, without renouncing to debate the problem of cause or not cause.

    GP I apologize for participating in any dreailment of your thread.I will go back to lurker status.

    Vivid

  340. GP:

    God, of course, is perhaps the most serious candidate to be a necessary being. That is as old as the descriptions I AM, and The Eternal One.

    The issue being touted here is that someone wishes for a possible but not necessary being that is without contributory causal factors. The problems with such a notion are many, not least for any would be materialist.

    Such a being is not material or energy [thus is not a quantum phenomenon . . . and Q-mech cannot be called up in empirical support], cannot be made of components, is not a proposition or number or mental construct of any type. Is not even a ghost as a ghost comes from a living being if such exist. ( I pointed out much of that earlier today.)

    Those are the preliminaries.

    On empirical entities and considerations, such a being is obviously non-empirical. Indeed, so far removed from the province of science that one must wonder how we got there.

    But the underlying point is that the issues we are addressing pivot on an underlying situation where we have objectors to design who on being pressed turn out to object to the binding nature of first principles of right reason, deny that there are such things as self evident truths that are foundational to reasoning, wish to deny that if something begins it has a cause, and more.

    In short, the problems we face begin far, far before the issue of living in a world that is orderly and shows stable empirical patterns that may legitimately be understood as causal.

    It begins to look to me — with all due respect to MF and others who would join him — more and more like the issues involved in objections to design thought are at root metaphysical, epistemological logical and more. Basically, it looks more and more like we are seeing a burning down of the house of reason in order to walk away from a case that must be compelling indeed in the merits of fact and logic.

    And, that leads me to wonder if we are now dealing with global or selective hyperskepticism, more likely the latter as there is a push to put on the table an imagined verbal assertion which cannot even come close to empirical evidence.

    And, that would be a sobering candidate fallacy indeed.

    At this point, I have to ask MF et al to show me good reason to reject that position, which I hesitate to take up but find it harder and harder to avoid.

    I will now, by your leave turn back to MF and address him briefly.

    KF

  341. 341

    Yes we can imagine something just appearing but the one thing we cannot imagine is nothingness. To imagine nothing we have to imagine something but nothing is not something.

    That seems right – we don’t really imagine nothingness in itself (it’s not an “itself”) but we imagine some kind of state of nothing.

    The point was that if we can imagine things popping into existence without a cause, we’re really imagining them coming from nothing.

  342. 342

    KF @340:

    The observation you make is particularly poignant when we notice on so many occasions that such hyperskepticism seems to be applied only in those instances in which the subject matter impacts a foundational philosophical/worldview. It is unlikely such individuals would adhere to such tactics if the discussion were about, say, the best way to engineer a new piece of computer equipment or the way to approach a discovery from SETI or the way to interpret a new archaeological dig.

    The hyperskepticism is less a rational argument than it is a last-ditch refuge from the obvious facts at hand.

  343. 343

    gpuccio @337:

    So, I am not interested if it is “possible” that “a zebra suddenly appears in the living room for no reason”. I just want to know if it happens. In this world, in another world, anywhere.

    The fact that we can “imagine” that “a zebra suddenly appears in the living room for no reason” is no evidence that such a thing happens. It is just evidence that we can imagine it. It’s not the same thing.

    So, does “a zebra suddenly appears in the living room for no reason”, any where?

    I don’t think so.

    Well said. It is important to think in terms of practical possibilities, not pure logical possibilities. The latter may serve as an occasional thought experiment, but is not very useful in understanding reality.

    I am reminded of Bill Dembski’s excellent essay from several years ago:

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

  344. 344

    GP
    <Just to say something, I would like to know if it is possible to move a little the discussion to the empirical level, without renouncing to debate the problem of cause or not cause.

    Actually I tried to apply it to the empirical level.MF stated that to say there is no cause is to say that nothing caused it. I asked MF for empirical evidence for “nothing” which he claims is the cause.

    but we imagine some kind of state of nothing.,

    Silver just picking at nits but nothing has no state :)

    In short, the problems we face begin far, far before the issue of living in a world that is orderly and shows stable empirical patterns that may legitimately be understood as causal.

    KF Exactly!!!

    Vivid

  345. vividbleau:

    Why apologize? I appreciate the discussion here, and it is certainly of great value. I just try to contribute as I can, and from my personal point of view.

    Please, don’t “go back to lurker status”! I love your interventions. :)

  346. MF:

    Pardon me for my aside to the thread owner, but he pretty directly addressed us. I believed I needed to show a connexion of the exchange that has developed to the thematic focus of this thread.

    At this point, I am highlighting again, that the sorts of entities that would be even considerable as candidates for the contingent but uncaused beings you suggest have to face rather stringent constraints:

    Such a being is not material or energy [thus is not a quantum phenomenon . . . and Q-mech cannot be called up in empirical support], cannot be made of components, is not a proposition or number or mental construct of any type. Is not even a ghost as a ghost comes from a living being if such exist.

    Such a candidate being is not conceptual or empirical.

    How is it different from nothing?

    What would be even possible as evidence that such exists?

    Let’s consider your remarks:

    >> it is conceivable that there is something that does not need anything to “pop it up”.>>

    1 –> Nope, we may make a form of words to that effect, but we may also make a form of words to the effect square circle and may form some vague ghostly mental image.

    2 –> That makes no difference to the fact that it is easily seen that a square circle is an impossible being.

    >> It just appears – without anything popping it up – not an external force, not itself, not “nothing”.>>

    3 –> Again, assertions making up forms of words rather than good reasons.

    4 –> Recall, nothing implies non-being. If something that begins is not causally influenced by anything, that only leaves nothing . . . which can indeed have no causal influence, so the issue is that you are implying something coming from nothing with no reason and appearing in space and time.

    >> As Stephenb puts it a zebra suddenly appears in the living room for no reason.>>

    5 –> Just so, a something from nothing case.

    6 –> But also a problem, cause is not just antecedent to something, it can be contemporaneous with it.

    7 –> A zebra in particular is a being based on a body with involved matter, energy, organisation etc etc. All of this is a range of relevant enabling causal factors.

    8 –> So, you have cited as an example that which cannot be an example of what you want.

    >> In some possible worlds it pops up. In others it doesn’t.>>

    9 –> But, such an example even if one were to pop up would not be without enabling cause.

    >> I know its absurd and it will not happen in our possible world, but that is not the point.>>

    10 –> You have specified a being that begins without enabling causal influences, but the case in point is just the opposite.

    >> It is imaginable and therefore there is a possible world where it does happen and therefore it is not self-evident that it cannot happen. >>

    11 –> No, this case is imaginable by overlooking a material consideration only. It is not in fact an example of what is suggested.

    KF

  347. 347

    GP

    Why apologize? I appreciate the discussion here, and it is certainly of great value. I just try to contribute as I can, and from my personal point of view.

    Please, don’t “go back to lurker status”! I love your interventions.

    As you can see I cant help myself :)

    On a serious note and to circle back to trying to keep things on the empirical.

    There can never be any empirical evidence of nothing since nothing has no physical substance of any kind.This means that to propose nothing as the cause of something or that something springs into existence from nothing is not an empirical observation. It is beyond (meta) physics. It is a metaphysical position passed of as physics.

    Vivid

  348. vividbleau:

    I think there are two aspects here. One is really logical and terminological. I appreciate all the contributions about that, but still I am not sure of how much it is relevant to the empirical discussions about ID. No problem, however, in discussing it at large. This is probably where Mark is more concerned.

    The other is more empirical, because it refers to real events in the phenomenic world. If I understand well, the basis for denying traditional causality here comes especially from some intepretations of QM. I think that Piotr made some statements in that sense, if I understand well his positions.

    I have tried to object to this second type of argument. Quantum events are not “non causal”. Not at all. They obey a different type of causality, which we still do not understand completely (see all the debates still going on about the real meaning of QM).

    That is certainly interesting, because the type of causality in QM is the best suited to act as interface to consciousness and free will, as discussed many times. But it is in no way a negation of law and reason and order in the state of things.

    The application of some quantum ideas to the generation of the whole universe (popping out of nothing, or popping out of multiverses, or popping out of multi-nothings, or just not popping out at all) is IMO bad philosophy. There is some aspect in the multiverse hypothesis that can be of interest, as far as it can be supported by scientific aspects of the QM theory, but the use of the idea to deny causality and law and to support ridiculous scenarios where everything can and will happen somewhere is really bad philosophy and nothing else.

  349. EA: In fact, the exchange began way above, when I suggested that an excellent way to understand cause and effect would be to go get a box of matches and experiment with it in the context of the fire triangle or tetrahedron. That was objected to and the issue of quantum cases was raised. I have several times pointed out that a fire is a quantum case doubly, the rapid oxidation and the emission of light (including oftentimes interesting line spectra and what fireworks folks do). The issue of roots of causality came up and thus first principles of right reason which via issues of good and sufficient reason and modes of being possible/impossible and contingent/necessary, land us where we are. Even nothingness and non-being, where some would pull a cosmos out of a quantum field relabelled as nothing . . . as a way to dismiss the cosmological design inference and the significance of evidence pointing to a fine tuned cosmos of finite past duration. These are the underlying issues and categories that frame what empirical, scientific discussions and thought can do. KF

  350. GP: The QM issue is one reason I point out the three common types of causes — necessary, sufficient, contributory. For something to be non-caused, it cannot be affected by any of the three. And in fact it is fairly easy to see that there are generally speaking enabling, necessary causal factors involved in QM phenomena. Such, then are hardly a-causal. KF

  351. 351

    GP

    I think there are two aspects here. One is really logical and terminological. I appreciate all the contributions about that, but still I am not sure of how much it is relevant to the empirical discussions about ID. No problem, however, in discussing it at large. This is probably where Mark is more concerned.

    Understood however for Mark nothing less than the appearance of a designer will suffice as evidence. For Mark to invoke ID as the best explanation for ATP synthase is tantamount to saying a miracle occurred.

    Why does it make sense to assume this? It is of course impossible to disprove but it is tantamount to saying a miracle occurred.

    Basically you believe miracles happen from time to time and large chunks of genome are inserted into life by some undefined process. You are right. It is impossible to argue against this. This doesn’t mean that there is much from an ID point of view to be gained from studying the development of complex proteins. If you get into any difficulty you just assume a miracle happened at that point. This is not a fruitful approach to science. It is a practical necessity for anyone who is not assuming miracles to ignore the development of large proteins. There just isn’t sufficient data.

    Mark goes on to say.

    For me the search for truth is a matter of logic and evidence and nothing else.

    What Mark means by logic and what he means by evidence must be explored and clarified so that the various participants can be on the same page.

    3. Skepticism is certainly an appropriate stance towards any specific hypothesis – Darwinian or otherwise. May I be a bit sceptical about the hypothesis that the very first living thing had the whole ATP mechanism inserted by an undefined process?,

    Yet Mark seems to be not skeptical when it comes to things “springing” into existence from nothing, indeed maybe the whole universe! What can be a more undefined process than this????

    Vivid

  352. GPuccio, thanks for your forbearance. I suspect that the trajectory of the thread may not be exactly what you had hoped for. I will, therefore, make one final comment about causality, which will likely be my final word on the subject (at least on this thread).

    The point of fussing over first principles is not to displace evidence-based arguments with purely logical arguments, which would be an exercise in futility. It is to differentiate between evidence-based arguments that are rational and evidence-based arguments that are not rational. In my opinion, the conflict is less about the nature of the evidence and more about what can reasonably inferred from the evidence.

    Almost always, our adversaries assume, perhaps without realizing it–and certainly without disclosing it–that an effect can occur in the absence of a proportional cause. Maybe it’s the hope that minimum resources and limited tine can produce biodiversity; maybe it’s the claim that empty space can provide a quantum particle; maybe it’s the notion that matter can generate information; maybe it’s the idea that nothingness can create a universe. Whatever form it takes, it constitutes an assault on a self-evident truth: A cause cannot give what it does not have to give.

    If we take such an idea seriously and give it even the smallest amount of credence, we have lost the debate even before we enter the arena. Or, to paraphrase G. K. Chesterton’s description of this phenomenon, “just grant me this one thing and the rest will be easy.” Yes, we do well to respect the person who denies causality, but we should not respect the idea itself because it isn’t respectable. Indeed, it is destructive. To be sure, human beings deserve to be treated mercifully and I strive to meet that standard daily. Bad ideas, on the other hand, deserve no mercy at all, and I show them no mercy.

  353. Vivid:

    remember, ever since 1984 with Thaxton et al in TMLO — the very first technical ID book — it has been explicitly, specifically and repeatedly acknowledged that the evidence on the world of life is relevant to inferring design, but that it does not in and of itself suffice to infer to the nature of the relevant designer as being within or beyond the cosmos.

    I have put it this way, that the evidence regarding FSCO/I in life on earth could be adequately explained by a molecular nanotech lab some generations beyond Venter et al.

    So, what is going on there is the insistent but insistently unacknowledged fallacious setting up and knocking down of a strawman caricature, “Creationist in a cheap tuxedo” target. In language both MF and I will understand the subtle depths of, that’s not Cricket.

    Then, it is on the evidence of a fine tuned cosmos set up in ways that facilitate C-chemistry cell based life, from the first four most abundant elements that so impressed lifelong agnostic and Nobel-equivalent prize holding astrophysicist, Sir Fred Hoyle: H, He, O, C. From core physics we get stars, gateway to the periodic table, water with all its unusual even strange properties, the connector block world of organic Chemistry. N is close by, IIRC 5th for our galaxy. That gives us the -NH2 group and thus amino acids and the chaining core of proteins.

    All, showing all the signs you would want, of a put-up job.

    Therefore also putting firmly at the table the question of mind before matter and the shaper not only of matter but the physics of matter — which was just the subject of a bitterly fought retreat by those heavily invested in not accepting that blind, cause-effect chain GIGO constrained computation is qualitatively different from self-aware, insightful, meaning based rational contemplation.

    And yet, it’s all of a piece, now that self-evident first principles of right reason are on the table including an unobjectionable weak-form Principle of Sufficient Reason and linked clarification of modes of being, that let us see how causality is a corollary to the wPSR.

    And so, that lends considerable force to your point:

    Mark goes on to say.

    For me the search for truth is a matter of logic and evidence and nothing else.

    What Mark means by logic and what he means by evidence must be explored and clarified so that the various participants can be on the same page.

    3. Skepticism is certainly an appropriate stance towards any specific hypothesis – Darwinian or otherwise. May I be a bit sceptical about the hypothesis that the very first living thing had the whole ATP mechanism inserted by an undefined process?,

    Yet Mark seems to be not skeptical when it comes to things “springing” into existence from nothing, indeed maybe the whole universe! What can be a more undefined process than this????

    Food for thought on what is really going on “at depth” as the volcanologists a few miles south of here are fond of saying in discussing the invisible things that drive surface phenomena. (And BTW, our old friend is still up to tricks at depth.)

    KF

  354. F/N: Sir Fred Hoyle speaks:

    ___________________

    >> Once we see that life is cosmic it is sensible to suppose that intelligence is cosmic. Now problems of order, such as the sequences of amino acids in the chains which constitute the enzymes and other proteins, are precisely the problems that become easy once a directed intelligence enters the picture, as was recognised long ago by James Clerk Maxwell in his invention of what is known in physics as the Maxwell demon. The difference between an intelligent ordering, whether of words, fruit boxes, amino acids, or the Rubik cube, and merely random shufflings can be fantastically large, even as large as a number that would fill the whole volume of Shakespeare’s plays with its zeros. So if one proceeds directly and straightforwardly in this matter, without being deflected by a fear of incurring the wrath of scientific opinion, one arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure or order must be the outcome of intelligent design. No other possibility I have been able to think of in pondering this issue over quite a long time seems to me to have anything like as high a possibility of being true.” [[Evolution from Space (The Omni Lecture[ --> Jan 12th 1982]), Enslow Publishers, 1982, pg. 28.]

    From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16]

    The big problem in biology, as I see it, is to understand the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules. The issue isn’t so much the rather crude fact that a protein consists of a chain of amino acids linked together in a certain way, but that the explicit ordering of the amino acids endows the chain with remarkable properties, which other orderings wouldn’t give. The case of the enzymes is well known . . . If amino acids were linked at random, there would be a vast number of arrange-ments that would be useless in serving the pur-poses of a living cell. When you consider that a typical enzyme has a chain of perhaps 200 links and that there are 20 possibilities for each link,it’s easy to see that the number of useless arrangements is enormous, more than the number of atoms in all the galaxies visible in the largest telescopes. This is for one enzyme, and there are upwards of 2000 of them, mainly serving very different purposes. So how did the situation get to where we find it to be? This is, as I see it, the biological problem – the information problem . . . .

    I was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe. So try as I would, I couldn’t convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes – by what are called the blind forces of nature . . . . By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, not by random processes . . . .

    Now imagine yourself as a superintellect working through possibilities in polymer chemistry. Would you not be astonished that polymers based on the carbon atom turned out in your calculations to have the remarkable properties of the enzymes and other biomolecules? Would you not be bowled over in surprise to find that a living cell was a feasible construct? Would you not say to yourself, in whatever language supercalculating intellects use: Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. Of course you would, and if you were a sensible superintellect you would conclude that the carbon atom is a fix . . . .

    I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars. [["The Universe: Past and Present Reflections." Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12] >>
    __________________

    For reminder.

    KF

    PS: A discussion of what self=evidence means, from last year — with a spot of help from the Angelic Doctor.

  355. F/N: Let’s clip the Angelic Doctor:

    Now a thing is said to be self-evident in two ways: first, in itself; secondly, in relation to us. Any proposition is said to be self-evident in itself, if its predicate is contained in the notion of the subject: although, to one who knows not the definition of the subject, it happens that such a proposition is not self-evident. For instance, this proposition, “Man is a rational being,” is, in its very nature, self-evident, since who says “man,” says “a rational being”: and yet to one who knows not what a man is, this proposition is not self-evident. Hence it is that, as Boethius says (De Hebdom.), certain axioms or propositions are universally self-evident to all; and such are those propositions whose terms are known to all, as, “Every whole is greater than its part,” and, “Things equal to one and the same are equal to one another.” But some propositions are self-evident only to the wise, who understand the meaning of the terms of such propositions . . . .

    Now a certain order is to be found in those things that are apprehended universally. For that which, before aught else, falls under apprehension, is “being,” the notion of which is included in all things whatsoever a man apprehends. Wherefore the first indemonstrable principle is that “the same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time,” which is based on the notion of “being” and “not-being”: and on this principle all others are based, as is stated in Metaph. iv, text. 9.

    Worth a thought or two.

    KF

  356. PS: I went on to observe:

    >> . . . First, standing by itself a SET has an objective character and is a first principle, a point of certain knowledge. But, that brings up the second aspect: we need to understand it, that we may grasp it. And, that may well fail, primarily by way of ignorance, secondarily by way of commitment to a contrary ideology that makes it difficult or even nearly impossible to acknowledge that which on the actual merits is self-evident.

    How can we address the problem?

    By understanding the significance of how rejecting a SET ends in absurdity. Which may be by outright obvious logical contradiction, or by undermining rationality or by being chaotically destructive and/or senseless. Moral SETs are usually seen as self evident in this latter sense. >>

  357. Mark Frank@109 -

    It’s been a while since I looked at this thread. Since you’ve been providing such a “target rich” environment, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of how some other folks here perceive your posts.

    Querius #105

    The supernovae theory is not the point.

    This is what you posted after I demonstrated to you that you were not aware of what NASA recently published regarding the mystery of how gold came into existence. You were so sure, but apparently so wrong.

    How did you respond? Did you say, “Wow, I wasn’t aware of this research and some important discoveries. This is really interesting!” No. You simply waved your hand and declared that it wasn’t important. So much for your claims to be a seeker after truth.

    It is accepted cosmology that at the beginning of the universe there weren’t even elements much less gold. Then hydrogen formed and gradually other elements were created.

    Actually, it is accepted cosmology that we really don’t have a clue how the universe or the “dark energy” required to stretch the fabric of the universe at an accelerating rate started. Give me some evidence why gold couldn’t be one of the first elements to form in the small, finely tuned, super-dense early universe, and that extremely rapid inflation subsequently ripped the nuclei into the lighter elements.

    So gold must have been created by some process, even it wasn’t the supernovae theory.

    Oh wow, an epic retreat into the protective shell of a logical tautology! Really? You’re bravely arguing that gold must have been created “by some process?” Be still my beating heart! LOL

    Or are you saying all of current cosmology is propaganda?

    No, what I actually said was, “Do you see how easy it is to be propagandized by authoritative speculation? Everyone’s susceptible, myself included.”
    Let me explain the difference. The spectral red-shift in the sodium D lines of stars is directly measurable. It is not speculation. The idea that gold formed as a result of supernovae is speculation. To not know the difference is a problem. It means that you’re way too trusting of the hopeful announcements from the scientific community.

    I absolutely accept that some bacteria and certainly some viruses have as much right to be labelled highly evolved as we do.

    This is a massive mischaracterization of what I said. As anyone can confirm from querius@105, I said, “Speaking of evolution, would it be wrong to say that bacteria, and possibly viruses are actually the most evolved organisms on the planet? Think about it.”
    Notice that I didn’t say equally evolved, nor does it involve any “rights” granted by some constitution, court, or clown. You revised what I said, and then responded to what was left with the following:

    Basically “highly evolved” doesn’t mean much. So what?

    No, not after you’ve mutilated my statement beyond all recognition. LOL

    All of this is to demonstrate your (likely unconscious) prejudice and dishonesty. No, I don’t care at all about my stupid alchemy analogy. It’s completely fulfilled its purpose.

    -Q

  358. 358

    Mark:

    Just noticed this gem from your earlier comment (H/T Vivid and KF):

    May I be a bit sceptical about the hypothesis that the very first living thing had the whole ATP mechanism inserted by an undefined process?

    There you go, focusing on the purely mechanistic aspect again. :)

    Furthermore, I thought it was particularly amusing that you would be critical of the ATP mechanism coming about by an “undefined process.” That is pretty rich, given the naturalistic “explanation” (cough-cough) for the existence of the ATP mechanism.

  359. But Eric, don’t you know that the ATP cycle coming about through scientific-sounding miraculous/magical means is far and away more credible than any other miraculous/magical means? ;-)

    -Q

  360. I wonder who will post number 360?

    -Q

  361. Querius:

    Well, ATP synthase is being discussed after all. At least by us IDists! :)

    Thank you for your good contributions (as usual). #360 was specially funny and gratifying. I never had so many posts in one of my threads!

    So, a shameful self-contribution: here is #361. :)

  362. 362

    There have been so many comments overnight – many directed to me – that I cannot respond to them all.  I apologise if I miss anyone’s devastating debating point. It doesn’t mean I am trying to evade it. I will start with Gpuccio’s sensible comment:

    So, I am not interested if it is “possible” that “a zebra suddenly appears in the living room for no reason”. I just want to know if it happens. In this world, in another world, anywhere.

    Fair enough.  But it gives me an opportunity to summarise the debate as I see it and thus address some of the other comments.

    Why causality matters

    Mostly it is because of the argument from first cause or prime mover for the existence of God. If every contingent thing must have a cause then reality (being contingent) must have had a cause. That cannot be a contingent cause or it would itself need a cause. Therefore it is a necessary being and the best candidate for that is God.  Stephenb also seems to think that the assault on causality as self-evident is part of a broader move to destroy all self-evident propositions and the foundations of reality. (Actually I accept that statements such the LEM are always  true and we do not need empirical evidence to prove this. I just want to avoid debating them because I have different ideas about why they are always true which would distract from the discussion about causality)

    The Debate About Causality

    We continue to muddle two propositions. 

    (A )  Everything that comes into existence has a cause.

    (B ) It is self-evident that (A ) is true.

    I think that at the QM level (A ) is false which would entail (B ) is false. The evidence for this being  that QM scientists have built robust models without causes that account for what we observe. This is generally accepted as evidence for something not existing – think phlogiston or ether. However, Stephenb will not accept this as evidence because  he believes (B ) is true and therefore (A ) is axiomatic and there cannot be any evidence falsifying  it.

    So we were led on to discussing whether (B ) is true. One way to disprove (B ) is to show that it is possible that ( A ) is false even if there some doubt as to whether it is actually false.  KF likes to describe possibility in terms of possible worlds so for his sake I can phrase this as there are some possible worlds where (A ) is false. We never clarified what kind of possibility we are talking about but it seems pretty clear we are talking about logical possibility. If you can imagine something then it is logically possible. So for example you cannot imagine a square circle but you can imagine being transported instantly to a planet on another galaxy even though it is physically impossible.  Stephenb had already imagined the zebra appearing in the living room so I used that example to show it is possible (A ) is false and therefore (B ) is false. Phew!

    A few other points about causality.

    Several people have commented that (A ) is true and maybe (B ) because something can’t come from nothing or words to that effect.  I can do no more than repeat what I written many times above.  I contend that it is at least possible and maybe true at the QM level that things sometimes just appear.  They don’t “come from” anything. There is no “coming from” taking place. They are just absent one moment and present the next. I don’t understand why this is so hard to accept.

    This one is mainly for KF. KF has pointed out quite correctly that every event, including things coming into existence, has necessary conditions. Even the appearance of a particle at the QM level requires certain conditions to be in place before it can happen. I don’t dispute that (although I don’t think  it is self-evidently true). However, I think (A ) implies more than that. It implies that there are sufficient conditions for everything that comes into existence. If there were only necessary conditions for object X to come into existence that would imply that there were some possible worlds where object X existed and others where it didn’t and no enabling or blocking difference between the two possible worlds.  Returning to the argument from first cause, it makes no sense to talk of the conditions under which reality is caused because all conditions are part of reality.

    That is it for causality! I am unlikely to respond to any further comments on this subject in this thread because I think we have flogged the dead horse long enough. I will pick up other subjects in separate comments.

  363. 363

    Querius #357
      You finish this comment:

    All of this is to demonstrate your (likely unconscious) prejudice and dishonesty. No, I don’t care at all about my stupid alchemy analogy. It’s completely fulfilled its purpose.

    I try to avoid personal comments but I would like to defend myself against charges of dishonesty (conscious or not). Reading through your comments I think this is a misunderstanding. It all started with my comment #85  that was intended as light-hearted response to what you admit was a stupid analogy. My concern was simply to point out that there must have been some natural process that created gold given that there was no gold at the beginning of the universe.  I was not trying to conjecture as to the actual process.  As far as I can tell from your comments you agree with this. I never was even aware of the NASA research until you linked to it.  I am sorry I didn’t express interest in the research. No doubt it is fascinating but one cannot take an interest in everything and it was not relevant to my argument.

    No, what I actually said was, “Do you see how easy it is to be propagandized by authoritative speculation? Everyone’s susceptible, myself included.”Let me explain the difference. The spectral red-shift in the sodium D lines of stars is directly measurable. It is not speculation. The idea that gold formed as a result of supernovae is speculation. To not know the difference is a problem. It means that you’re way too trusting of the hopeful announcements from the scientific community.

    I understand the difference, but as I was not even aware of the NASA research I can hardly have been propagandized by it. 

    This is a massive mischaracterization of what I said. As anyone can confirm from querius@105, I said, “Speaking of evolution, would it be wrong to say that bacteria, and possibly viruses are actually the most evolved organisms on the planet? Think about it.”Notice that I didn’t say equally evolved, nor does it involve any “rights” granted by some constitution, court, or clown.

    This is making an awful lot of what appears to be very little.  My main point is that “most evolved” is fairly meaningless term.  If you disagree that’s fine.  Explain what you mean and why you believe bacteria and viruses are the most evolved organisms on the planet.

  364. Mark:

    Thank you for trying to clarify your points. I really appreciate your goodwill. I can probably agree with some of the things that you say, not all, but again I don’t want to go too much into the details.

    Just another comment about QM which can maybe contribute to the discussion. At quantum level, one of the problems could be that we should not necessarily reason in terms of “objects” or “things”. We know how QM deals with more abstract mathematical entities, like the wave function. Moreover, entanglement and other aspects of QM pose serious difficulties to a conception of “objects” as isolated component of reality.

    That’s why I say that probabilistic reasonings in QM are well defined laws. They may not describe each individual event, but they describe families of events quite well. And maybe families of events are more “real” than single events.

    The final point is, if reality takes specific forms, it is according to specific laws. Those laws may even include, in my view, the free choice of free agents. But there are laws which can explain how that free choice can be integrated in the existing laws.

    The argument for a prime cause of phenomenic reality is, IMO, a good argument, but it is mainly a philosophic argument. So, anyone can accept it or not, and science has not much to say beyond what is known of phenomenic reality.

    Deriving from QM the idea that the whole universe could come out of a quantum fluctuation is not, IMO, a good argument. Even if there were truth in that idea, we should just the same explain the existence of quantum laws in phenomenic reality, and how and why they can allow the emergence of an universe.

    The emergence of a functional and ordered universe is something more, it is a form of the ID argument applied to the whole universe. I have argued many times that IMO it is a good argument, but not as strong as the ID argument for biological information. The difference is that any discussion about the origin of the whole universe has inevitably some philosophical nature, while a discussion about the origin of specific objects in time and space is definitely and purely scientific in nature, even if it has philosophical implications.

  365. MF:

    Good morning, I trust you continue to do well.

    I see your summary.

    I think we differ materially, e.g.

    Why causality matters

    Mostly it is because of the argument from first cause or prime mover for the existence of God . . .

    For me, causality primarily matters as it is a part of rational insight that makes ours an intelligible world. Understanding, help me, was a major motivation for my choice of field of study; if you will, my lifelong addiction. And so, to me it is all of a piece to seek to frame the process of reason in light of its roots.

    And, starting with that bright red ball A on the table and the resulting recognition of world partition,

    W = { A | NOT_A }

    thence seeing LOI, LNC and LEM as direct corollaries of that first act of rational perception, is pivotal to my thought. Thus, too, to see that there are plumbline, self-evident principles that are true — accurately describe reality — are necessarily true once understood, and are necessary on pain of patent absurdity, is foundational.

    In that context, it is a further rational step to ask, why A and seek, expect or at least hope for a good and sufficient reason in answer. This is a weak form Principle of Sufficient Reason [wPSR], it is enough to inquire into modes of being. And, it is unobjectionable.

    That, on examination one sees possible vs impossible beings pivoting on coherence of core attributes becomes significant, in answer to longstanding intellectual puzzles such as square circles. There is a reason why something CANNOT be like that, a powerful issue that ties back to LOI, LNC and LEM.

    Then, as one who studied a discipline where across the 1920′s to the 1960′s there was a revolution in astrophysics regarding moving from a steady state world in continual slow self creation (so that conservation of energy and matter is only a first approximation) to one with an expansion indicated by Hubble’s red shift pointing to a singularity and beginning some 10 – 20 BYA, generally now 13.7 BYA or thereabouts, that was bound to have an impact. For me necessary and contingent beings are directly relevant to the nature of the observed cosmos, one of the objects of interest for my discipline. So, to think on this for myself seems a reasonable part of my intellectual duty.

    You will understand the impact of pondering a simple microcosm experiment, the burning of a match. And, BTW it is not coincidental that this example is used in Copi’s Logic.

    Nor, that fire triangles and tetrahedrons [to deal with Halon extinguishers] are actually part of fire safety instruction for lab work and technology courses.

    So, causality is on the table, in the context of a discipline that has an almost endless supply of “effects” to study.

    It was logical to focus the distinction between sufficient and necessary causal factors, and to recognise the fundamental importance of necessary factors. The fire tetrahedron factors are each necessary for and together are jointly sufficient to start or sustain a fire. So, causally necessary, enabling, ON/OFF factors are pivotal. And in digital circuit contexts such conditions and factors are a commonplace. Set one input to a NAND gate low and it locks the output high. To enable signal passage, trip the input high.

    That’s causal, and pivotal to the extremely puzzling behaviour of the RS latch, which only finite state machine analysis gave me a satisfactory answer to. Digital feedback and memory as a result leads to very strange things, especially with forbidden states. And, this is pivotal to sequential logic — the logic that drives computers etc.

    Pulling back, I pondered, what of a thing that has no causal dependence on enabling factors?

    Impossible being, or if possible, no beginning nor end.

    Things like the construction of natural numbers on the empty set and a successive collection of sets assignable cardinalities 0, 1, 2 . . . as such beings, and the status of truths such as 2 + 3 = 5, fit in here. So also, how by using place value notation and sequences we can go continuum, also, by introducing complex numbers and the linked ijk vectors with time we can have trajectories etc. Thence a reason to see the deep embedding of the logic of mathematics in empirical reality.

    Coming back, I could see that causality is a corollary of wPSR in the context of modes of being, particularly possible, contingent beings present in some possible worlds but not others.

    So, for me, I find unifying insights that help make sense of reality.

    Which is more than sufficient motive in itself.

    Now, yes, I am a theist, indeed a Christian theist.

    But that itself has been an intellectual and life-impact journey, not a binding, blinding a priori. (Things like the miracle of guidance that saved my life as a child suffering a major chronic disease, count. That there are literally millions with life experiences pivoting on positively transforming living encounter with God also counts. So does the sort of historical grounding I have found, cf. here on.)

    I find, in that context, that it is very satisfying to view the eternal world of numbers etc as eternally contemplated by mind, a necessary being. And though I do not regard it as any ultimate proof, but instead a powerful articulation the concept of God as maximally great, necessary being is powerfully integrative . . . and just happens to make a lot of sense of ideas in theological traditions.

    Now, separately, I am a design thinker.

    One, profoundly impressed by the significance of functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information [FSCO/I], whether in text or computers or Thomson integrators or neural networks, or the world of life or the organisation of the physics of a credibly fine tuned cosmos. So was one of my intellectual heroes, the lifelong agnostic, Nobel equivalent prize holding astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle. The same who spoke so boldly at Caltech.

    So, let us come to reasonable terms, in understanding why we think as we do.

    And no, as you can see, the First Cause issue is not a primary concern on my part when I ponder first principles of right reason and linked themes.

    I find an infinite causal regress utterly unimpressive given the challenge to traverse a countable transfinite in succession implied on that. I find that it is self-evident at least to me that non-being . . . a proper nothing . . . can have no causal properties. It is not even the empty set, that’s not nothing.

    In that context I see that a credibly contingent and fine tuned observable cosmos — even through a multiverse [per Leslie's lone fly on the wall section swatted by a bullet] — points to a designing mind and to a necessary being as root cause. Something with the power, knowledge, skill and purpose to build a universe. That, is satisfying intellectually on worldview level inference to best explanation, it is not a matter of fallacious question begging to prop up dubious notions held for other reasons.

    Likewise, I find that we, individually and collectively, are morally governed, with moral yardstick 1 . . . the kidnapped, raped murdered child who comes back to me again and again . . . as a patently self-evident case that shows the reality of OUGHT. So, we live in a world with a foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT. That points, on inference to best explanation, to exactly one serious candidate: the inherently good Creator-God, a maximally great and necessary being.

    And so forth.

    Not, some imaginary perfect deductive chain, but a rope of many mutually reinforcing strands, so that the performance of the whole builds on the strengths of the parts, and compensates their limitations.

    I hope this helps building a bridge of understanding.

    KF

  366. So for example you cannot imagine a square circle…

    Actually, even this is not quite self-evident either but depends on the geometry of the space in question. A square circle can’t exist on a Euclidean plane with a normal Euclidean metric, but in a spherical geometry the largest possible square (say, one whose vertices are the two poles and two diametrically opposed equatorial points) is a perfect circle.

  367. MF:

    Pardon, but I must beg to differ here, and note again for record:

    We continue to muddle two propositions.

    (A ) Everything that comes into existence has a cause.

    (B ) It is self-evident that (A ) is true.

    I think that at the QM level (A ) is false which would entail (B ) is false. The evidence for this being that QM scientists have built robust models without causes that account for what we observe.

    As a matter of analysis of modes of being, we must never forget that enabling, on/off factors are also causes. Whether or no we know or can know SUFFICIENT clusters of causal factors for cases, I can say with confidence that I have never yet seen a quantum mechanical case here enabling actors with necessary causal impact were not present.

    Never.

    Not on photoelectric effects, not on chemical reactions, not on spectroscopy, not on radioactive decay or particle phenomena, not on even the idea of a cosmos popping up from a quantum field. Not on electron beam double-slit interference events. Not even with Schroedinger’s unfortunate cat. And so forth.

    And of course, the case you posed at the beginning, to try to dismiss as a macro-event irrelevant to the quantum case, the fire, in fact fires are rapid oxidation reactions which are therefore quantum processes. They are made visible by another quantum process emission of photons, which often tell us on atoms involved through characteristic spectra, especially line spectra.

    The issue, I find, pivots on failure to fully appreciate that necessary causal factors are causal factors. We may not know sufficient factors that force an outcome just so just now just here, but we do know factors sufficient to establish stochastic patterns that are pretty definite, e.g. for alpha decay with the definite relationship and constraint dN/dt = – LAMBDA* N, N the current population of atoms.

    For something to actually be without cause, it must not have reflexive influence, it must not have causal influences from something in time and space, it must not be made of matter, it must not use energy or exhibit effects of energy, it must not come from or be influenced by information, design or mind or physically instantiated stochastic processes, etc etc.

    In short, this would be a case of something from nothing.

    Yes, many physicists speak loosely and ill advisedly along the lines you just raised, but that is a demonstrable error on their part. (Cf. the discussion and vid here.)

    Please rethink.

    KF

    PS: Getting late, later.

  368. Piotr, you have unfortunately equivocated. Square and circle have a meaning and context and a 3-d shape on a sphere’s surface does not meet that test. Kindly cf here on the broader problem, noting esp. the point made by Wolfram. KF

  369. F/N: MF — a moment, nope, cause is cause. For something to occur without cause there can be no enabling, necessary, potentially blocking factors. And on sufficiency, it is reasonable to mark a difference between what we know, what we can know and what obtains. Where, it seems to me rather tendentious to suggest that if we know of circumstances sufficiently enabling to allow a distribution of possible events though we may not know just which will happen just where or when, we have established lack of sufficiency sufficient to dismiss causality as not present. In short rejection of A on your part turns on something highly questionable. As to the part B, I repeat that what is unquestionable is wPSR, and in that light we can familiarise ourselves with modes of being. On doing so, causality especially enabling factors, arises as a corollary of contingent possible being. In that context of familiarity, it is indeed self-evident. But in our day, familiarity with modes of being is a definite pons asinorum. KF

  370. F/N: Let me add that having a beginning points to a possible world without an entity say X and another possible world with it, i.e to have a beginning is positive demonstration of contingency. To be made of parts, i.e. be composite is another, as is by consequence to be made of matter in aggregate. Where also mass-energy conversions and the credible origin of the observed material cosmos point to contingency of matter as we observe it. Finally, non-being — a proper nothing — has no causal properties. KF

  371. KF

    Piotr, you have unfortunately equivocated. Square and circle have a meaning and context and a 3-d shape on a sphere’s surface does not meet that test. Kindly cf here on the broader problem, noting esp. the point made by Wolfram.

    The surface of a sphere is two-dimensional, and it’s perfectly possible to define squares and circles on it (since angles, geodesics and distances are all definable). If you say that a special context is required for square circles to be impossible, you in fact admit that their self-contradictory character is not obvious.

  372. BTW, cause is cause . . . A is A, we are back to LOI and its travelling companions. KF

  373. Piotr, nope it is a 3-dimensional object. We may move about within or on the surface as a curvilinear space, a subspace of the overall 3-d space, but again A is A. As in a locus in which x^2 + y^2 + z^2 = r^2, r a constant the radius and the origin being at its centre. KF

  374. Piotr, Further to this, there are standard, ordinary, well known commonplace meanings for circle and square of thousands of years standing. Locus of points in a plane equidistant from a fixed centre, and the enclosed surface. A rhombus with sides right angles, and that sort of stuff. It is those who take the terms out of that context who have duties to highlight shift in context and its import for understanding, not me. While I do not claim that the impossibility of a square circle is self evident, it is in fact a case of core characteristics standing in mutual contradiction — a classic example. KF

  375. KF,

    Have you ever taken a course in topology?

  376. Piotr: you are trying to change a context that is known to all, to evade a plain point in plain language. That’s called a strawman tactic. It speaks volumes. Game over. KF

  377. Mark

    Mostly [causality matters] because of the argument from first cause or prime mover for the existence of God.

    It goes a lot deeper than that. Causality matters because rationality depends on it. You have not explained why if one thing can come into existence without a cause, anything and everything could not also come into existence without a cause

    Challenge #1 left unanswered
    .
    Further, you have not been consistent: On the one hand, you acknowledge that a zebra CANNOT appear in my living room without a cause because the laws of physics prevent it. On the other hand, you insinuate that a zebra CAN appear in my living room without a cause because there is no law of causality that requires a zebra to respect the laws of physics. Which is it?

    Challenge #2 left unanswered

    Stephenb also seems to think that the assault on causality as self-evident is part of a broader move to destroy all self-evident propositions and the foundations of reality

    No, it is a strategy for destroying the foundations of reason, not the foundations of reality. Reason and reality are correlated, but they are not the same thing.

    (Actually I accept that statements such the LEM are always true and we do not need empirical evidence to prove this.

    Why?

    I just want to avoid debating them because I have different ideas about why they are always true which would distract from the discussion about causality)

    You don’t have to debate them. You can simply disclose them. You can also disclose your list of reason’s rules and tell us which ones are and are not negotiable–and why they should be counted as rules.

    Challenge #3 left unanswered

    I think that at the QM level (A ) is false which would entail (B ) is false. The evidence for this being that QM scientists have built robust models without causes that account for what we observe.

    Nonsense. Quantum theorists have not built robust models without causes that give a full account of what we observe. This is a bluff. Some atheist QM theorists) have simply made the faulty claim that unknown causes constitute non-existent causes. That is also your argument, and it fails for obvious reasons.

    Challenge #4 left unanswered

    Also, you seem not to realize that the same irrational quantum theorists who reject causality typically reject the law of non-contradiction on the same grounds. Since you accept their interpretations without question, why do you not follow them and reject the law of non-contradiction as well.

    Challenge #5 left unanswered

    I can do no more than repeat what I written many times above. I contend that it is at least possible and maybe true at the QM level that things sometimes just appear.

    Yet, in spite of my repeated requests, you have provided no argument to explain how evidence for unpredictability could logically lead to a conclusion of acausality—or why an unknown cause translates into a non-existent cause. You simply claim, with no warrant whatsoever, that some QM theorists have created models that bridge those two gaps. They have not.

    Challenge #6 left unanswered

    That is it for causality! I am unlikely to respond to any further comments on this subject in this thread because I think we have flogged the dead horse long enough. I will pick up other subjects in separate comments.

    Translation: I will never answer StephenB’s challenges—any of them

  378. 378

    Piotr w/r/t a “square circle”:

    If your only point is that a word can mean different things in different contexts, then fine. Point taken. But also rather unhelpful and doesn’t address KF’s point. So just go back and read all of KF’s statements with the added parenthetical “(in normal Euclidean geometry)” and you’ll be all set.

    BTW, just as a secondary question, in spherical geometry, are you saying that a square and a circle (of appropriate size) would trace out the same exact shape, or would the circle itself trace out a different shape than we are used to seeing? If the latter, then KF’s point holds, regardless of which geometry you are using.

  379. Hi Mark Frank, kairosfocus and gpuccio,

    I’m very late to this discussion, but I’d just like to make a few remarks.

    I’d like to begin with Mark Frank’s remark, “If you can imagine something then it is logically possible.” This statement is profoundly wrong, for it confuses an image with a concept. Aristotle refuted the notion that a concept is a kind of image more than 2,300 years ago, in his De Anima, Book III. His example of the sun appearing to be a foot wide even though we understand it to be larger than the earth is well-known. But if you don’t like that example, consider the example (often invoked by Professor Ed Feser, and building on an illustration used by Descartes) of the concept of a 999-sided figure vs. the concept of a chiliagon. We have the same mental image of both figures, yet our concepts of the two are quite distinct.

    My point here is that “logically possible” and “imaginable” are by no means equivalent: some logical possibilities may be unimaginable (quantum physics, anyone?), while some things we can imagine aren’t logically possible. Think of Escher’s paintings. Or think of a bird, flying in a vacuum: we can all picture it, but when we ask: “What would keep it up, and how would flapping its wings help it stay up in space?” we can see at once that the idea of a bird flying in a vacuum makes absolutely no logical sense.

    I’d now like to turn to the two propositions that have caused so much controversy:

    (A ) Everything that comes into existence has a cause.

    (B ) It is self-evident that (A ) is true.

    Regarding (A), I’d like to quote from physicist David Albert’s review of Lawrence Krauss’ book, A Universe from Nothing:

    The particular, eternally persisting, elementary physical stuff of the world, according to the standard presentations of relativistic quantum field theories, consists (unsurprisingly) of relativistic quantum fields. And the fundamental laws of this theory take the form of rules concerning which arrangements of those fields are physically possible and which aren’t, and rules connecting the arrangements of those fields at later times to their arrangements at earlier times, and so on — and they have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place. Period. Case closed. End of story.

    What on earth, then, can Krauss have been thinking? Well, there is, as it happens, an interesting difference between relativistic quantum field theories and every previous serious candidate for a fundamental physical theory of the world. Every previous such theory counted material particles among the concrete, fundamental, eternally persisting elementary physical stuff of the world — and relativistic quantum field theories, interestingly and emphatically and unprecedentedly, do not. According to relativistic quantum field theories, particles are to be understood, rather, as specific arrangements of the fields. Certain ­arrangements of the fields, for instance, correspond to there being 14 particles in the universe, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being 276 particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being an infinite number of particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being no particles at all. And those last arrangements are referred to, in the jargon of quantum field theories, for obvious reasons, as “vacuum” states. Krauss seems to be thinking that these vacuum states amount to the relativistic-­quantum-field-theoretical version of there not being any physical stuff at all. And he has an argument — or thinks he does — that the laws of relativistic quantum field theories entail that vacuum states are unstable. And that, in a nutshell, is the account he proposes of why there should be something rather than nothing.

    But that’s just not right. Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-­theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields — what it is (obviously, and ineluctably, and on the contrary) is the simple absence of the fields! The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing. (Emphasis mine – VJT.)

    With regard to proposition (B), Mark Frank refutes his own argument, with an example he declares is logically possible: teleportation. Mark Frank claims he can imagine something coming into existence out of nothing. But how is this mental image of somthing coming into being ex nihilo any different from that of something being teleported from a faraway location? In both cases, an object suddenly appears, seemingly out of nowhere.

    So the real question we need to ask is: can we conceive of such a thing occurring? Professor Ed Feser argues that we cannot consistently do so, because the appearance of something out of nothing would constitute an event without an explanation, and this in turn would entail epistemic skepticism:

    Consider that whenever we accept a claim as rationally justified, we suppose not only that we have a reason for accepting it (in the sense of a rational justification), but also that our having this reason is the reason why we accept it (in the sense of being the cause or explanation of our accepting it). We suppose that our cognitive faculties track truth and standards of rational argumentation, and that it is because they do that we believe the things we do. But if PSR [the Principle of Sufficient Reason - VJT] is false, then we can have no justification for supposing that any of this is really the case. We may in fact believe what we do for no reason whatsoever, and yet it might also falsely seem, again for no reason whatsoever, that we believe things for reasons. And our cognitive faculties may have the deliverances they do for no reason whatsoever — rather than because they track objective truth and standards of logic — and yet it might also falsely seem, for no reason whatsoever, that they do track the latter.

    In short, either everything has an explanation or we can have no justification for thinking that anything does. No purported middle ground position, on which some things have genuine explanations while others are “brute facts,” can coherently be made out. If there really could be unintelligible “brute facts,” then even the things we think are not brute facts may in fact be brute facts, and the fact that it falsely seems otherwise to us may itself be yet another brute fact. We could have no reason to believe anything. Rejecting PSR entails the most radical skepticism — including skepticism about any reasoning that could make this skepticism itself intelligible. Again, the view simply cannot coherently be made out.

    So there we have it. What do you all think of this argument by Professor Feser?

  380. F/N: Let’s lay out a couple of basic definitions to make the point even plainer, without going off on a red herring sidetrack led off to a convenient “there’s a squirrel” strawman:

    square n 1. (Mathematics) a plane geometric figure having four equal sides and four right angles. Compare rectangle, rhombus 2. any object, part, or arrangement having this or a similar shape: a square of carpet; a square on a chess board. [Collins Engl. Dict]

    circle n 1. (Mathematics) maths a closed plane curve every point of which is equidistant from a given fixed point, the centre. Equation: (x -h)² + (y -k)² = r² where r is the radius and (h, k) are the coordinates of the centre; area ?r²; circumference: 2?r 2. (Mathematics) the figure enclosed by such a curve [Collins English Dict.]

    A planar figure cannot be both a square and a circle at the same time, as the requirements to be squarish and those to be circular contradict, e.g. straight vs curved perimeter lines, corners vs no corners.

    The logical point about impossible beings stands, and the example used to illustrate it stands. And, plainly, it is the one using the unusual sense who has a duty of explanation. Where a “square” in the surface of a sphere, will have curved not planar sides. It is possible to draw a circle on the surface of a sphere.

    Distraction from the meaning and significance of modes of being is over.

    It remains the case that wPSR is unobjectionable. Using it, we may look at some thing A, and ask why is it so.

    This leads to two successive dichotomies, first possible vs impossible, on the issue of coherence of core attributes of a candidate being. Second, among possible entities, we have those with and without dependence on an enabling factor. In the latter case we have necessary beings, in the former, contingent beings. Contingent beings will exist in at least one possible world, and will not exist in at least one possible world, depending on the enabling factor’s condition. Something which begins to exist is a classic case in point, as it is first so that we have a possible world without it, then thereafter, we have a possible world with it.

    (I used my own existence above and things that might have happened in my family to draw this out.)

    Let’s not reward distractive red herring side track and strawman set-up then knock over rhetorical games

    KF

  381. VJT: Quite interesting as usual. The brute facts effectively from zip, is yet another spin on the general delusion problem, to me. Any world concept that boils down to a general delusion, is self-undermining. KF

  382. vjt: #379

    ‘My point here is that “logically possible” and “imaginable” are by no means equivalent: some logical possibilities may be unimaginable (quantum physics, anyone?), while some things we can imagine aren’t logically possible.’

    I’m puzzled by your assertion that ‘some logical possibilities may be unimaginable’, such as occur, for example, in quantum physics.

    Is it not the case, rather, that they are very abstruse mysteries which defy logic, and merely have to be accepted as ‘brute facts, and duly incorporated to advantage in the otherwise logical analyses and calculations of the rest of the study?

    Of course, such ‘brute facts’ will invite study just the same, and logical inferences leading to greater mysteries, perhaps, uncovered. I believe this to be the case with the ‘wave-particle’ duality.

  383. Eric Anderson:

    BTW, just as a secondary question, in spherical geometry, are you saying that a square and a circle (of appropriate size) would trace out the same exact shape, or would the circle itself trace out a different shape than we are used to seeing? If the latter, then KF’s point holds, regardless of which geometry you are using.

    A sphere is a 2-dimensional manifold, which means that locally, near each point, it resembles a Euclidean plane. In other words, sufficiently small squares are practically identical with Euclidean squares as to their shape and properties. We humans are very small compared to the size of the Earth, so a square we draw on flat ground is to all intents and purposes Euclidean; the difference is negligible. But if you draw a really large square (i.e., a regular polygon with four equal angles and four equal sides), for example one whose sides have a length of 10 km each, you will discover that each angle, if measured accurately, is slightly larger than a righ angle (and the area of the square is slightly larger than 100 km², by the way). The larger the square, the larger the difference. Cartographers, land surveyors and civil engineers can’t ignore it.

    If the length of each side is about 10,000 km, each angle becomes a straight angle (180°), and the square becomes a great circle of the sphere (in this example, of the Earth).

    Circles in a spherical geometry are identical with Euclidean circles, as to their shape. The area surrounded by a circle and its circumference expressed as a function of the radius are locally given to a great accuracy by the normal formulas of planar geometry; but again the larger the radius, the larger the difference, since the curvature of the surface can no longer be ignored. If r = 10,000 km, the circumference equals 4r (not 2πr), and the area equals 2πr² (not πr²).

    Lest you should think this is merely an exercise in equivocation, we have very real problem of the same kind simply because we happen to live in a Universe whose geometry is not perfectly Euclidean, and whose spacial dimensions are interwoven with the dimension of time into a 4-dimensional manifold, only locally approximated by a “flat” Euclidean 3-space plus time as a separable dimension. Consider the composition of velocities. It might seem “self-evident” that they simply add (Galileo and Newton wouldn’t have doubted it for a moment), but for large velocities the difference between real spacetime and its Galilean approximation begins to matter and we have to use the formulas od special relativity. If we ignored the non-classical geometry of spacetime, GPS systems would be useless.

  384. 384

    MF

    Thanks for taking time out to respond. I too hope you are feeling better. I thought you did an excellent job in summarising your position. A few comments.

    We continue to muddle two propositions.

    (A ) Everything that comes into existence has a cause.

    (B ) It is self-evident that (A ) is true.

    I think that at the QM level (A ) is false which would entail (B ) is false. The evidence for this being that QM scientists have built robust models without causes that account for what we observe. This is generally accepted as evidence for something not existing – think phlogiston or ether.

    To say that A is false does not mean “something not existing” or that something comes from nothing. There indeed can be no evidence of nothing. Your examples of phlogiston or ether have the potential to be investigated as to whether they exist or do not exist, nothing cannot be investigated since it has no physical properties whatsoever.There can be no evidence of nothing. It is as I keep repeating beyond (meta) physics.

    Even if you are correct that QM models accurately reflect no causes that does not equate that something comes from nothing. No model can model nothing since there is nothing to model.

    Several people have commented that (A ) is true and maybe (B ) because something can’t come from nothing or words to that effect. I can do no more than repeat what I written many times above. I contend that it is at least possible and maybe true at the QM level that things sometimes just appear. They don’t “come from” anything. There is no “coming from” taking place. They are just absent one moment and present the next. I don’t understand why this is so hard to accept.

    I have no problem with the observation that “things sometimses just appear” The key word here is “appear” and if everyone just left it there I would have no problems with that. But you dont leave it there rather you take a meta physical leap that this means that things that are appearing exist from nothing. This is an unwarranted leap IMO.

    If you can imagine something then it is logically possible.

    And this has been one of my main points all along. Assuming you are correct about this( see VJT).If it is correct you have argued forcibly that it is not logically possible that something springs from nothing.Please imagine for all of us “nothing”

    Vivid

  385. Mark Frank (320),

    Let me distract you for a little while longer from the argument regarding universal causality.

    You said,

    As I tried to explain before. You can’t assume that what is needed to solve a dramatically more difficult problem is more of what solved the easier problem i.e. more “smartness” whatever that is. For all we know it might turn out that the only way to solve this is through some kind of evolutionary/selection process.

    Logically I might not have eliminated the possibility that an unguided process can create light, and it is reasonably certain that humans with their (our) present knowledge and technology are unable to create life, so it is logically possible that your scenario would work. But that is a little like saying that it is logically (and possibly even theoretically) possible that volcanic eruptions can get a piece of parchment with writing on it from earth to the moon, and that humans in their present stage (think 1860) are not capable of doing it, and therefore we should bet on the volcanic eruptions.

    After my comments that you might be more impressed with the strength of the argument if you knew more about the science of the subject, you said,

    There is only time to become knowledgeable in a limited number of subjects. Some time ago I made a conscious decision not to concern myself too much with whether current science can explain evolution. Even if it doesn’t another explanation my be forthcoming the in the future. I am more interested in how this may or may not lead to the conclusion that there is a designer which is a philosophical/statistical issue.

    I am confused as to why you refer to statistics. In order to calculate statistics correctly, one has to know the underlying odds, which are usually thought to be best calculated if one has a good handle on the underlying scientific issues. This should make you more, not less, interested, in the current science, and the trajectory of scientific opinion.

    The reference to philosophical issues is more understandable. If one always allows that a new unknown theory could explain what is presently inexplicable, one cannot prove that what appears to be the current weight of evidence in science will eventually turn out to be correct, so there are no absolute truths, or even absolute falsifications, in science. But that has been trivially known since the days of Einstein. And it hasn’t stopped science from having opinions (even erroneous ones ;) ).

    And perhaps more importantly, you seem to be completely divorcing the issue of whether there is a designer from the science involved. That sounds like scientific know-nothingism. Briefly, the argument could be put, the difficulty of nature creating even relatively small polymers essential for life and the ease with which intelligent agents can produce much larger polymers that can be functional is not even involved in the question of whether an intelligent agent was responsible for the first life. The ultimate absurdity would be to take this reasoning to its logical conclusion: if we observe intelligent agents creating life itself, this would have no bearing on the question. To sustain this position requires some really robust philosophy! ;)

    You said,

    I think the “God of the Gaps” problem goes a bit deeper.  The problem is that it usually amounts to little more than:

    “An explanation for problem X is that something exists which has the power and motive to solve  problem X”.

    I imagine you agree that this is a truly unsatisfactory explanation.  There needs to be more to the hypothesis. It needs to be tied to an identified force which has properties other than “has the power to solve this problem” and there has to be some kind of case for linking those other properties to the same force which solved the problem – which in turn implies some other source of evidence. The same thing applies to natural explanations. Ideally there should be some other predictions that can be tested. If Newton had proposed that the reason the apple fell was because there was a force that caused that apple to fall it would have been a joke.  What he proposed was a natural law that could be tested throughout the universe.  Science may invoke specific explanations instead of natural laws e.g. the extra-terrestrial impact explanation for the KT boundary, but these still have implications which can be predicted and tested e.g where was the crater from the impact.

    In an ideal world, with ideal knowledge, I do agree with you. But in the real world, with our real limitations, I strongly disagree. You have concentrated on Newton’s brilliant synthesis, that lasted for 300 years with minimal modification, gave structure to the modifications (such as electromagnetism and the wave theory of light), and finally, even though superseded, was accurate enough to get us to the moon. What you have forgotten is that Newton’s theory was based on all kinds of “there is a force that caused the apple to fall” observations, the most specific of which was Galileo’s observations on the speed of round objects rolling down ramps. That is precisely the kind of “there is a force that caused the apple to fall” kind of reasoning which you decry.

    Every observation can be the first of its kind. As long as there are different kinds of observation, some observation inevitably has to be the first of its kind. If one wants to, one can dispute any theory, even a correct one, by serially going around and disputing every piece of evidence that might lead to it, and thereby finishing with “no evidence” to support the theory.

    You may think that this is a theoretical scenario, and that no scientist would engage in such behavior (or “no true Scotsman” scientist). But the entire leadership in a particular in a field has been known to make this mistake.

    Take the case of J Harlan Bretz. He proposed, on the basis of several pieces of evidence, a massive flood that covered most of the eastern part of the state of Washington, along with a good share of Oregon. He had way more than one piece of evidence. But there were two considerations that stopped him. One was, Bretz didn’t know where all the water came from. That is, he didn’t have all the answers, so one could argue logically that perhaps his other conclusions were wrong too.

    The second consideration is even more fascinating. Bretz was proposing flooding on a hitherto unrecognized scale. It violated, at least in the minds of the detractors, the Lyellian principle that only causes known to be present now can be invoked, and only at rates comparable to those happening now. The present is the key to the past, and this flood would have been unprecedented. If one believes NOVA, some even thought his flood was too close to the Biblical one. Therefore, until he had proved his case, it must be wrong.

    Of course, history records that eventually the source for the water was found, and even more evidence for the massive flooding has come to light, and eventually the geologic community was won over. Thus we know (as much as we know in science) who was right. The problem is, what do we do before all the evidence is in?

    How do we avoid being on the wrong side of history? I think it starts with being humble. Science even today doesn’t know everything. But neither does philosophy. Perhaps the best way to operate is to keep both options open, and foreclose them only with appropriate evidence. But finally, one thing Bretz’s detractors did not do was to follow him into the field–they thought they knew without evidence. So make more observations, and do more experiments, and follow the results. Origins of life science is pertinent to the question of whether there is a designer. It is worthwhile to study it.

    When I look back at what appears to me to be the main thrust of your comments, it seems to be that ID hasn’t proved its case. And I think that most ID advocates, certainly the more prominent ones, would agree that ID can never logically prove its case. That’s why the reasoning is more properly described as adductive, or the inference to the best available explanation. But you seem to be requiring more; you need philosophical/mathematical/scientific proof. You can never get scientific proof. You really don’t like it when someone tries philosophical proof. And mathematics may limit, but does not dictate, the shape of the material world (you can’t show me why the moon is in the exact position it is in, or even that there is a moon, from mathematics alone). So there will be no proof for you.

    Awhile back, you said,

    For me the search for truth is a matter of logic and evidence and nothing else.  I would like to believe in a deity, it is possible that I might be a happier, more moral and more healthy person if I did believe in a certain kind of deity, but I can’t just choose to believe something against the evidence.

    Awhile back, I gave you evidence (long strings of DNA, including that for ATP synthase and the entire ATP metabolic chain, have been synthesized by (an) intelligent agent(s), that could well be God; unintelligent forces have not been seen to synthesize such long strings of DNA, nor is there any coherent theory how those forces should do so; so God might explain something that is currently unexplained). You may argue that the evidence is weak, but I think it is unfair to call it non-existent. That means, if I understand it correctly, that you believe that there is more evidence that counterbalances the evidence I have given. That is, if the description of your mental state is accurate, you would give a tie to God. We have more than a tie if all we have is what I have put on the table.

    You are still not a believer in God. That means, if I take you literally, that you believe that there is some evidence that outweighs what I pointed out above. What is it?

    Earlier I quoted you and said,

    I have always found the maths stemming out of ID to be highly suspect so I would be interested to see the argument.

    Which maths would you like to see first? We’ll see if we can present them. This could get really interesting.

    I still think it could get interesting. Would you care to point us in the direction of which maths you would want better explicated?

  386. Actually, even this is not quite self-evident either but depends on the geometry of the space in question. A square circle can’t exist on a Euclidean plane with a normal Euclidean metric, but in a spherical geometry the largest possible square (say, one whose vertices are the two poles and two diametrically opposed equatorial points) is a perfect circle.

    Great insight.

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve studied non-Euclidean geometry, and I was wondering (in passing) if that special case existed. I’m impressed you found it. Outstanding!

    It is for that reason, I’ve tried to add, in case I suspect there will be such an objection, “in Euclidean geometry…”

    But to be fair, the qualifier “in Eucledean geometry” is assumed to be the default geometry being described, and that is true even in most math textbooks, it usually is an unstated assumption. Nevertheless, thank you for the comment. That’s a cool fact!

  387. If you think about it, neither Euclidean nor non-Euclidean geometry can exist in reality except as an approximation. The reason is that both assume that continuity (infinite divisibility) is a logical concept. The truth is that, on the face of it, continuity leads to an infinite regress and that’s a no-no. The universe is discrete for this reason. Furthermore, given the discreteness of the universe, Euclidean geometry is the better macroscopic approximation for everyday use.

  388. Piotr:

    I will simply note for record, that as anyone who has handled a ball knows, a sphere is a 3-d solid object bounded by a 3-d curved surface. Collins Dict:

    sphere n 1. (Mathematics) maths a. a three-dimensional closed surface such that every point on the surface is equidistant from a given point, the centre b. the solid figure bounded by this surface or the space enclosed by it. Equation: (x-a)² + (y-b)² + (z-c)² = r², where r is the radius and (a, b, c) are the coordinates of the centre; surface area: 4?r²; volume: 4?r³/3 2. any object having approximately this shape; globe

    Yes, if a sphere is large enough or the scale of what we do is small enough, the local surface seems flat enough to approximate to a flat planar surface. That’s why it took some effort to conclude between c. 400 and 200 BC that our home is a sphere of a certain size. And yes, you can go off and do some exotic geometry tied to the idea of moving around in such a curved surface.

    That is useful in its own place but is patently simply irrelevant to and distractive from what a square properly is as described in an ordinary context with ordinary language, what a circle similarly properly is, and why a square circle is an impossible being. Namely, its core attributes stand in mutual contradiction.

    And, that reminds us of the business on the table you would distract us from:

    It remains the case that wPSR is unobjectionable. Using it, we may look at some thing A, and ask why is it so.

    This leads to two successive dichotomies, first possible vs impossible, on the issue of coherence of core attributes of a candidate being. Second, among possible entities, we have those with and without dependence on an enabling factor. In the latter case we have necessary beings, in the former, contingent beings. Contingent beings will exist in at least one possible world, and will not exist in at least one possible world, depending on the enabling factor’s condition. Something which begins to exist is a classic case in point, as it is first so that we have a possible world without it, then thereafter, we have a possible world with it.

    Back on track.

    KF

  389. The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing. (Emphasis mine – VJT.)

    Yes, I have read Albert’s report. He gets it exactly right. Thank you.

    In short, either everything has an explanation or we can have no justification for thinking that anything does.

    Of course. Professor Feser is correct. Thank you.

  390. VJT,

    Your clip from Feser highlights what is at stake in the issues over deeper fallacies lurking in today’s popular scientism, skepticism and Darwinism:

    We suppose that our cognitive faculties track truth and standards of rational argumentation, and that it is because they do that we believe the things we do. But if PSR [the Principle of Sufficient Reason - VJT] is false, then we can have no justification for supposing that any of this is really the case. We may in fact believe what we do for no reason whatsoever, and yet it might also falsely seem, again for no reason whatsoever, that we believe things for reasons. And our cognitive faculties may have the deliverances they do for no reason whatsoever — rather than because they track objective truth and standards of logic — and yet it might also falsely seem, for no reason whatsoever, that they do track the latter.

    In short, either everything has an explanation or we can have no justification for thinking that anything does. No purported middle ground position, on which some things have genuine explanations while others are “brute facts,” can coherently be made out. If there really could be unintelligible “brute facts,” then even the things we think are not brute facts may in fact be brute facts, and the fact that it falsely seems otherwise to us may itself be yet another brute fact. We could have no reason to believe anything. Rejecting PSR entails the most radical skepticism — including skepticism about any reasoning that could make this skepticism itself intelligible</b. Again, the view simply cannot coherently be made out.

    In short, believing in, expecting, hoping that the world is intelligible is a basis for science, empirical thought, and common sense.

    Tossing such overboard leads to some sobering consequences that we need to ponder.

    Indeed, it leads straight to . . . absurdity. (Which is very relevant to the concept of self evident truth.)

    KF

  391. KF:

    If you want to supplement your mathematical education, I’m afraid the Collins English Dictionary may not suffice.

    I gave the example of a legitimately defined “square circle” only to show that nothing is as obvious as it might seem. What happens in the Universe at various scales is so removed from our everyday experience (and whatever is dreamt of by your philosophers) we can’t really trust our intuitions and elevate them to the rank of universal rules of reason.

    Which said, I sign out of the discussion of causality etc. Enough is enough.

  392. Piotr: I deliberately used a reference that shows the ordinary and relevant meanings. Which more than suffice to make the point. Side track fails. KF

  393. F/N: As we are liable to see that talking point again, let’s note the story of Feynmann and the Painter.

    P: I can make yellow paint using white and red.

    F: Let’s see.

    P: Here, we mix white and a tad of red . . .

    F: So far, that’s Pink, as Physics predicts.

    P: But I’m not finished yet, let me add some yellow here to brighten it up. There, yellow!

    Yes, by shifting contexts and playing games with definitions, you can talk a good talk about making yellow out of pink . . . but you have not changed the underlying facts.

    In this case, it is quite obvious that one uses ordinary spatial contexts in speaking about ordinary objects, and that does lead to the ordinary result. In this case, a square circle is in fact an impossible object.

    But, if we let someone play the brighten it up game, then we end up with a pretence that the ordinary is not correct.

    In this case, drastically shift the spatial context and substitute a very different shape for a square. Yes, a collection of arcs and nodes in the surface of a sphere can be called a square (with a different meaning), and that can be stretched to a special case where the arcs form a continuous circle. But that has been by equivocation — where reading in explicit or implicit context has always been a primary rule of reading.

    As was pointed out from the outset. KF

  394. 394

    Piotr:

    Very impressive, and interesting, discussion of spherical geometry. But you still didn’t answer the direct question I was curious about: Are a circle and a square one and the same object in spherical geometry? If not, then your example fails.

    But even if your example were to hold in spherical geometry, the more important point is that KF is using the words as normally understood in Euclidean geometry. Of course if your point is simply that the same word can have different meanings depending on the context, then I’m sure you won’t find any objectors here.

    Anyway, like you, I’ll probably bow out, since this is a sidetrack to the more central issues.

    Cheers.

  395. StephenB (#389)

    (Quoting Feser)

    In short, either everything has an explanation or we can have no justification for thinking that anything does.

    Almost. Either everything that has a beginning has an explanation or we can have no justification for thinking that anything does. Math still requires axioms for which there is no explanation by invoking further axioms. See G¨odel. And one cannot find an explanation for God. He just is.

    Be careful how you phrase things (that applies to Feser as well).

  396. Feser:

    In short, either everything has an explanation or we can have no justification for thinking that anything does.

    Paul Giem

    Almost.

    I don’t think the word “almost” is accurate. I think Feser’s statement holds.

    Either everything that has a beginning has an explanation or we can have no justification for thinking that anything does.

    Why do you think that it applies to “everything that has a beginning” and not to “everything that requires an explanation,” which would, by definition, include those things that have a beginning and many other things as well. The law of causality doesn’t just apply to the beginning of existence. It also applies to movement and change–to every event without exception.

    Math still requires axioms for which there is no explanation by invoking further axioms.

    I don’t understand why that is relevant? Math is not subject to or related to the law of causality in any way. Numbers don’t cause things to happen nor can they be at the beginning, middle, or end of a causal chain.

    Meaning no disrespect, but I think you are confusing mathematics with philosophy. Philosophical first principles are not, as you seem to believe, arbitrary. They are grounded in self-evident truths, as we have been saying.

    Granted, many modern philosophers and scientists have lost touch with these truths, but that doesn’t make them less true. It simply means that they are in error. Error changes; truth doesn’t.

    Be careful how you phrase things (that applies to Feser as well).

    Good advice. I have no reason to believe that I have failed to meet that standard in this case. I am sure, however, that I have failed at other times and in other ways. Or, perhaps you can show me how it applies in the present argument. I am certainly open to any kind of fraternal correction.

  397. Paul Giem@385 . . .

    Wonderfully described! The scientific resistance against the evidence of the Missoula mega-floods based solely on philosophical grounds is an excellent example of ideological contamination.

    How do we avoid being on the wrong side of history? I think it starts with being humble. Science even today doesn’t know everything. But neither does philosophy. Perhaps the best way to operate is to keep both options open, and foreclose them only with appropriate evidence.

    So true. A good scientist is observant, methodical, and patient, willing to learn and be taught. Not someone who forces facts into preconceived ideas. Actually, those sound a lot like Christian qualities.

    Just saying.

    -Q

  398. Piotr

    I gave the example of a legitimately defined “square circle” only to show that nothing is as obvious as it might seem. What happens in the Universe at various scales is so removed from our everyday experience (and whatever is dreamt of by your philosophers) we can’t really trust our intuitions and elevate them to the rank of universal rules of reason

    This comment reflects a misunderstanding of both the example of the square/circle and the laws of logic. Even if a perfect square could be a perfect circle in a non-Euclidian sense, (not something approaching a perfect circle, which is what you seem to be describing) it would only mean that the definitions of the terms employed were be precise and complete enough to make the circumstantial distinction between them. In other words, it is not logically possible that a square can be a circle at the same time and under the same formal circumstances.

    Law of non-contradiction/identity. A thing cannot be true and false (or be and not be) at the same time and under the same formal circumstances

  399. Piotr,

    Your example is a fascinating one. I’m not sure it is really accurate. I read one definition of a square: “A 4-sided regular polygon with all sides equal and all internal angles 90°”. another one is “a rectangle having all four sides of equal length”. That source has as the definition of rectangle, “a parallelogram having four right angles.” In that case, if reality has curvature, either two-dimensional or three-dimensional, there is no such thing as a square, as the angles vary in greater or lesser degree from 90 degrees. So your example would be kaput.

    But perhaps we could call it a square, as long as there are 4 equal angles. That’s fudging the definition, but it would work until the moment it became a great circle, when you cannot pick out the 4 equal angles. At that point, any arbitrary point could be called an angle, there would be no reason to privilege any particular point as one of the four angles (and why not 3, or 5, or 7, or 342?). So, unless you are trying to form a complete mockery of the definition, a figure cannot be a square and a circle at the same time. The blurring of the distinction fails precisely where you make the final transition.

    Perhaps you can tell me your definition of square, and where you got it. That is, if you are still answering questions here.

  400. Mark Frank@363 heroically resisted with

    I try to avoid personal comments but I would like to defend myself against charges of dishonesty (conscious or not).

    No, they weren’t charges. They were just my observations without malice.

    Reading through your comments I think this is a misunderstanding.

    That would be nice.

    It all started with my comment #85 that was intended as light-hearted response to what you admit was a stupid analogy.

    Light-hearted I didn’t get. It seemed like you were engaging in a desperate, life-or-death struggle with a harmless little sock puppet, pounding on the cute little analogy, and Winning after twelve rounds by a split decision.

    But then all the little analogy was supposed to do is demonstrate the kind of slipshod reasoning and tortured logic that makes Darwinism what it is today. In this it was eminently successful.

    I was not trying to conjecture as to the actual process.

    Not true. Scroll up and read your post. The sock puppet pointed out that you accepted groundless speculation as to the “mystery” of the origin of heavier elements such as gold as proven fact.

    I understand the difference, but as I was not even aware of the NASA research I can hardly have been propagandized by it.

    Yet you uncritically accepted what you’d heard in school. Uncritical acceptance of speculation on the strength of authority rather than evidence is pretty much equivalent to being propagandized. Obviously, you’re still blind to this effect.

    My main point is that “most evolved” is fairly meaningless term.

    Really? That was your main point?

    And what pray tell was the evidence that you marshalled in support of your main point?

    Sorry, but the sock puppet might have “won” after all.

    -Q

  401. StephenB,

    Good advice. I have no reason to believe that I have failed to meet that standard in this case. I am sure, however, that I have failed at other times and in other ways. Or, perhaps you can show me how it applies in the present argument. I am certainly open to any kind of fraternal correction.

    I gave you two sets of examples. The first was mathematical concepts, concerning which you missed the significance. The second was far more important. Feser failed to make any exceptions, but God clearly should be one. The Ground of All Being does not need nor does He have, an explanation. Otherwise, the “who created God” objection would apply in full force. Think. Do you really want to give away that store?

    Let me quote Feser again:

    In short, either everything has an explanation or we can have no justification for thinking that anything does.

    He didn’t say “everything that has a beginning”, or even “everything that moves”. He said “everything”. He was not careful enough.

  402. Paul,

    So, unless you are trying to form a complete mockery of the definition, a figure cannot be a square and a circle at the same time.

    Just as calculus is based on dividing by zero (OK, large values of zero), and Euclidean geometry is based on correct reasoning applied to incorrect figures, non-Euclidean geometries are based on correct reasoning applied to absurd definitions. It’s mildly annoying that this actually works.

    If you draw the largest square possible on the surface of a spherically curved universe, you will get a circle.

    If you want to have more fun, you can prove to yourself that if space is spherically curved in 4D, the minimum value of Pi is exactly 2, depending on the size of the circle in relation to the size of the universe.

    Oh hey, my previous post hit 400 exactly!!! Do I get three wishes? ;-)

    -Q

  403. Paul

    I gave you two sets of examples. The first was mathematical concepts, concerning which you missed the significance.

    I don’t understand your response. Did I not say that the law of causality has nothing to do with mathematics? Did I not say that numbers cannot be a part of a causal series of events? Did I not say that the first rules of right reason are not simply assumed? Why do you allude to mathematical axioms in this case when, unlike reason’s rules, they are not necessarily based on self-evident truths? You must have something else in mind.

    Feser was not careful enough.

    OK. I get your point on this one. Feser should have used the words “every event” or something to that effect. Otherwise, someone might get the impression that God must be subject to explanation in order for PSR to be true. I really don’t think anyone is going to misunderstand him if they read the entire three paragraphs, but I agree he could have been more precise in this case.

  404. Perhaps you can tell me your definition of square, and where you got it. That is, if you are still answering questions here.

    A definition should not contain redundant elements. The definition of a regular polygon is, “a polygon that is equiangular (all angles are equal in measure) and equilateral (all sides have the same length)”. Since you can prove that in Euclidean geometry each interior angle of an n-sided convex polygon measures [(n-2)/n]×180° (= 90° for n = 4), there’s no need to specify this value in the definition. So if we use the term “square” as shorthand for “regular quadrilateral”, then of course in Euclidean geometry every square has four right angles; this, however, is a corollary of the definition, not part of it.

    Likewise, a regular convex pentagon has five equal angles and five equal sides. This is enough to define it, and then you can calculate the measure of each angle (108°), assuming that you’re doing geometry on a Euclidean plane.

    Such a parsimonious definition has the advantage of remaining meaningful in geometries that are not Euclidean. You can still have equiangular and equilateral quadrilaterals in spherical and hyperbolic geometries, but each angle will be, respectively, larger or smaller than 90°.

    The alternative description of a regular polygon, “a polygon with equal sides, inscribed in a circle” is equivalent to the definition above, and also remains valid in non-Euclidean geometries.

    I’m not making this up; it’s standard stuff:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....n_geometry

    Of course it’s a generalisation of the everyday notion of “square”, but maths is all about useful generalisations. Integers are a generalisation of natural numbers, and rational, real, and complex numbers are still further extensions at greater and greater levels of abstraction. But the same operations still work for them all, and they all have important applications in physical science. I don’t hear people protest that zero is not really a number because the ancient Greeks didn’t regard it as such, ot that π is not a number because you can’t count up from one to π or have π apples in a basket.

  405. 405

    Paul Giem (385),

    Let me distract you for a little while longer from the argument regarding universal causality.

    I don’t intend to return to that discussion. So no problem.
     

    Logically I might not have eliminated the possibility that an unguided process can create light, and it is reasonably certain that humans with their (our) present knowledge and technology are unable to create life, so it is logically possible that your scenario would work. But that is a little like saying that it is logically (and possibly even theoretically) possible that volcanic eruptions can get a piece of parchment with writing on it from earth to the moon, and that humans in their present stage (think 1860) are not capable of doing it, and therefore we should bet on the volcanic eruptions.

    No. It is like saying that just because the volcano hypothesis is not viable we cannot assume there is no unguided hypothesis.
    The ID position is like saying we don’t how a piece of parchment could have got to the moon but we do know people carry pieces of parchment to Paris so let’s assume that some undefined thing with a super carrying ability took it to the moon, and let’s rule out unguided processes because the volcano theory doesn’t stand up and we can’t think of one that would do the trick.  The volcanic eruptions theory would be a specific hypothesis that could easily be disproved.

    I am confused as to why you refer to statistics. In order to calculate statistics correctly, one has to know the underlying odds, which are usually thought to be best calculated if one has a good handle on the underlying scientific issues. This should make you more, not less, interested, in the current science, and the trajectory of scientific opinion.

    I am interested in statistics in all sorts of contexts but I don’t have the time or will  to get the scientific background to apply them to evolutionary theory.

    And perhaps more importantly, you seem to be completely divorcing the issue of whether there is a designer from the science involved. That sounds like scientific know-nothingism. Briefly, the argument could be put, the difficulty of nature creating even relatively small polymers essential for life and the ease with which intelligent agents can produce much larger polymers that can be functional is not even involved in the question of whether an intelligent agent was responsible for the first life. The ultimate absurdity would be to take this reasoning to its logical conclusion: if we observe intelligent agents creating life itself, this would have no bearing on the question. To sustain this position requires some really robust philosophy!

    I think it is quite possible to divorce the question of whether current evolutionary theory can explain the creation of relatively small polymers (not nature – that does not follow) from the logic of the argument – therefore something like a souped up human being did it. 

    On the God of the Gaps and J Harlan Bretz.  Bretz proposed a hypothesis with lots of implications that could be tested. He didn’t just look at some pieces of evidence and say “the explanation is a supernatural force that has the power to produce this evidence”.  As I have said many, many times – if ID stepped up to the plate and said we believe life was created by this God with these powers using these methods we could then do the kind of assessment that Bretz was subject to

    When I look back at what appears to me to be the main thrust of your comments, it seems to be that ID hasn’t proved its case. And I think that most ID advocates, certainly the more prominent ones, would agree that ID can never logically prove its case. That’s why the reasoning is more properly described as adductive, or the inference to the best available explanation. But you seem to be requiring more; you need philosophical/mathematical/scientific proof. You can never get scientific proof. You really don’t like it when someone tries philosophical proof. And mathematics may limit, but does not dictate, the shape of the material world (you can’t show me why the moon is in the exact position it is in, or even that there is a moon, from mathematics alone). So there will be no proof for you.

    I don’t want proof so much as something to prove or disprove.

    Which maths would you like to see first? We’ll see if we can present them. This could get really interesting.

    I have seen the maths I have found dubious. Do you think I would find it dubious without seeing it? Here are a couple of examples.

    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/likely.cfm
    http://www.markfrank.me.uk/hom.....0&d=1
     

  406. PG, 401:

    I gave you two sets of examples. The first was mathematical concepts, concerning which you missed the significance. The second was far more important. Feser failed to make any exceptions, but God clearly should be one. The Ground of All Being does not need nor does He have, an explanation. Otherwise, the “who created God” objection would apply in full force.

    Q, 402:

    Just as calculus is based on dividing by zero (OK, large values of zero), and Euclidean geometry is based on correct reasoning applied to incorrect figures, non-Euclidean geometries are based on correct reasoning applied to absurd definitions.

    SB, 403:

    Did I not say that the law of causality has nothing to do with mathematics? Did I not say that numbers cannot be a part of a causal series of events? Did I not say that the first rules of right reason are not simply assumed? Why do you allude to mathematical axioms in this case when, unlike reason’s rules, they are not necessarily based on self-evident truths? . . . .

    Feser should have used the words “every event” or something to that effect. Otherwise, someone might get the impression that God must be subject to explanation in order for PSR to be true.

    Piotr, 404:

    The definition of a regular polygon is, “a polygon that is equiangular (all angles are equal in measure) and equilateral (all sides have the same length)”. Since you can prove that in Euclidean geometry each interior angle of an n-sided convex polygon measures [(n-2)/n]×180° (= 90° for n = 4), there’s no need to specify this value in the definition. So if we use the term “square” as shorthand for “regular quadrilateral”, then of course in Euclidean geometry every square has four right angles; this, however, is a corollary of the definition, not part of it.

    Likewise, a regular convex pentagon has five equal angles and five equal sides. This is enough to define it, and then you can calculate the measure of each angle (108°), assuming that you’re doing geometry on a Euclidean plane.

    Such a parsimonious definition has the advantage of remaining meaningful in geometries that are not Euclidean. You can still have equiangular and equilateral quadrilaterals in spherical and hyperbolic geometries, but each angle will be, respectively, larger or smaller than 90°.

    The alternative description of a regular polygon, “a polygon with equal sides, inscribed in a circle” is equivalent to the definition above, and also remains valid in non-Euclidean geometries.

    1 –> First, the principle of sufficient reason (weak or strong form) should not be divorced from the analysis of modes of being that it invites. Which will inform us that of possible beings — in light of the issue of enabling factors — there are contingent and necessary beings.

    2 –> In that context, God is best understood philosophically, conceptually, as a maximally great and necessary being. Indeed, the reference, The Eternal One, points to necessary being status. And that is a sufficient reason . . . as opposed to a causal explanation.

    3 –> Theism thus implies that one cannot build a feasible world without God as its root. Thus, it is an implicit prediction of theistic worldviews that non-theistic views will at some point run into insuperable worldview difficulties. (But such may not necessarily be obvious on merely understanding the skeletal structure of the views.)

    4 –> Where, yes, Mathematical axioms today tend to stand on their own, but are shaped by a tradition and framework that historically tied mathematics to insights on reality and reasoning, such that incoherence is a major red flag, and indeed a key step in proofs by contradiction of the denial of a claim. Where of course, Mathematical axioms do not need to be self-evident, though some in fact are.

    5 -> Similarly, whether by the conventional limits approach or the hyper-real numbers and their reciprocals used in non-standard analysis [which BTW is close in spirit to Newton's initial ideas, and I found that echoed in an early, mid-C19 edn of the famous Elements of the Integral and Differential Calculus textbook by Smith, later Granville, Smith and Longley], Calculus scrupulously avoids division by zero. Though, popular talk about infinitesimals might give that impression.

    6 –> In fact, that is why Mathematical definitions are often as carefully composed as terms of a legal contract — to avoid trouble.

    7 –> Where, I find it very interesting to see how a key element in the ordinary definition of a square and indeed a polygon, is subtly being dropped in the way P is arguing: straightness of sides. As in a square is a rhombus [an equal-sided quadrilateral] with a vertex angle as a right angle, or a rectangle with equal sides.

    8 –> Again, as Collins Dict. reports on ordinary usage . . . which prevails without clear stipulation of special usage in a new context:

    polygon n 1. (Mathematics) a closed plane figure bounded by three or more straight sides that meet in pairs in the same number of vertices, and do not intersect other than at these vertices. The sum of the interior angles is (n-2) × 180° for n sides; the sum of the exterior angles is 360°. A regular polygon has all its sides and angles equal. Specific polygons are named according to the number of sides, such as triangle, pentagon, etc

    9 –> In short, we are back at the problem of Feynman’s painter making Yellow from white and red paint, then brightening it up with a bit of yellow.

    10 –> By all means, explore non-Euclidean Geometries and ask whether our space in the large is Euclidean, and whether we are seeing only an ideal based on the small scale we are used to. But, kindly appreciate that the Euclidean type space has a validity on its own, is broadly applicable in ever so much real-world work, and is the ordinary spatial sense employed.

    11 –> So, when one discusses the problem of the square circle, that context is implicit. And, to get to the geometry of a spherical surface, key elements are reshaped.

    12 –> That reshaping ought not to be done without announcement of a diverse context, and key differences such that a “square” as redefined loses the requisite of straight sides and right angle corners for a planar figure, should not be glided over as if they were unimportant.

    13 –> Just for illustrative purposes, let me take the reals line as definable by using the development of numbers from collected sets in order from {} –> 0. {0} –> 1, {0,1} –> 2 on, with fractions and reals by use of place value notation. We define an orthogonal axis as y = i*x, i being sqrt -1. (As a bonus this sets up rotations, vectors etc.)

    14 –> This defines also the plane and we may then define a circle as above, algebraically. Easy version, the locus of points p stipulated by x^2 + y^2 = r^2, with r real and x, y in the closed interval [-r, r]. Where, interior points are also part of the circle. This can be displaced from the origin by suitable adjustments (which just complicate things) so this is WLOG.

    15 –> Similarly, we may define a square on being a figure bounded by the lines y = 0, x = 0, y = 2r, x = 2r, with its interior points. Again, such can be displaced so this is WLOG.

    16 –> We have a Cartesian plane that indicates just how important a Euclidean space is, and part of why it is the standard, default space geometry used.

    17 –> It is patently impossible for a figure to satisfy both the equation for a circle and that for a square, however displaced. (And yes, I have used conditions that will make the figures of similar size.)

    18 –> I do this to show that the traditional geometry which is commonly intuitively applied, is capable of being represented in a coordinates based form, and thus of algebraic representation which brings out the sorts of problems that are connected to trying to erect a square circle.

    19 –> However, this algebraic case has the problem that this is not now a “simple” picture. I have had to go back as far as setting up sets of numbers and drawing out how we arrive at a plane space, including use of complex numbers.

    20 –> The much simpler case that squarishness and circularity require contradictory attributes when these are understood [implicitly] in the normal everyday sense, is something accessible to any reasonably experienced person, though real-world objects and sketches are not the ideal figures of geometry, or for that matter graphs on a textbook page are again indicative illustrations not the correct figures. (E.g. A line has no thickness and a point has no size, only location.)

    21 –> But the models we use on sand, chalkboard or paper or these days on screen, are useful representations.

    22 –> The bottomline remains, we must not make the error of Feynman’s painter brightening up a pink mixture to make yellow.

    23 –> And, there’s a handy name for yet another fallacy: brightening up the pink paint with yellow.

    KF

  407. F/N: I should add on getting the plane Z. The plane is the set of points z such that z = x1 + i*x2, where x1 and x2 are reals. z –> (x, y). Building the plane on a unit square with 2r = 1, draws out euclidean properties. KF

  408. 408

    Piotr @404:

    You still haven’t answered the question that your example rests on:

    Is a square identical to, in other words the same thing as, a circle in non-Euclidean geometry?

    Yes or no?

  409. Paul @403,

    The more I think about it, the more I am inclined to go with my original position and support Feser’s comment. Granted, we cannot really explain God, but insofar as we are discussing the principle of sufficient reason or causality, we can, and must, explain God’s role. We cannot understand causality without realizing that God must be an uncaused caused insofar as he, unlike everything else, did not come into existence. God is the necessary being if there is any such thing as being at all. Also, we cannot fully understand causality without understanding that creation itself must be caused and that God is the cause or reason for its existence. In these, and other ways, we can explain God’s role.

  410. Eric Anderson:

    Is a square identical to, in other words the same thing as, a circle in non-Euclidean geometry?

    No, not in general (there are squares that are not circles, and there are circles that are not squares), but in spherical geometry every great circle is at the same time a square (or, to be precise, there are infinitely many squares identical with it, since you are free to choose any point on the circle as one of the vertices of a square.

  411. Piotr: Are those squares based on straight line side, polygons — specifically, a rhombus with a right angle vertex? If not, have we not equivocated the term square, which carries us right back to square one? And, are we not therefore on a side-track that — however interesting in its own right — does not undermine the basic point that when we see an entity A we may ask, why is it, and seek to understand in light of modes of being, with impossible beings having a problem of self contradictory core characteristics that block them from being feasible in any possible world? Such as, classically, a square circle, per the ordinary meaning of circles and squares? KF

  412. SB: That there is a sufficient reason for God, would not entail that we have compassed all there is of God in such a discussion. KF

  413. 413

    KF at 411. Exactly. So many of the other side’s arguments rest on equivocation that I’ve lost count.

  414. SB: That there is a sufficient reason for God, would not entail that we have compassed all there is of God in such a discussion. KF

    Right. That is the point I was trying to express to Paul after taking his objection into account. (In other words, I don’t think Feser needs to change his language [unless there is some other point that I am missing])

  415. KF:

    Are those squares based on straight line side…

    Of course they are: the “straight lines” in question are geodesics (a line segment bounded by A and B is defined as the shortest path from A to B in the space we are considering).

  416. Two men walk into a room and notice a red ball lying on the table that once wasn’t there.

    Person A. Look, there is a red ball lying on the table. I wonder how it got there.

    Person B. What do you mean, “how did it get there?” Obviously, someone put it there.

    This argument is unassailable. It is self-evidently true. No amount of scientific evidence can affirm it or negate the point. The principle of causality is not based on science; science is based on the principle of causality.

    Now blow the ball up to the size of the room. Has the argument changed or lost any of its force? No. Now blow the ball up the size of a city, a country, the world, the cosmos. Has the argument changed? No. The only thing that has changed is the size of the ball.

  417. Piotr: When is a straight line not a straight line? It depends on what the meaning of is, is. Please, confusion of identity through equivocation is a straight path to absurdity. KF

    PS: Kindly note that I gave something that will allow us to identify straight lines in accord with y = mx + c, above. We can extend to a 3-d space using the ijk unit vectors.

  418. Piotr

    Of course they are: the “straight lines” in question are geodesics (a line segment bounded by A and B is defined as the shortest path from A to B in the space we are considering).

    Define a non-Euclidian circle and define a non-Euclidian square.

  419. StephenB:

    I have already defined a square: a polygon with four equal internal angles and four equal sides. This definition works in both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries.

    A circle is the set of all points on a surface that are at the same distance r (called the radius) from a given point O (called the centre). Again, this works in both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries.

    Do you really think I’m fudging definitions or making stuff up as I go along? It’s been mathematical common knowledge for a long time. Non-Euclidean geometries were discovered by Gauss, Lobachevsky and Bolyai about 200 years ago. By the 1850s Riemann developed a general theory of n-dimensional manifolds, geometries and their metric properties — the formalism employed, for example, in general relativity.

  420. Gentlemen, please answer this question: is there such a thing as a line? Does it not assume continuity, i.e., infinite smoothness? Before one can talk about a line, one must prove that continuity is a scientific/logical concept.

    In my opinion, continuity is pseudoscientific nonsense. This means that lines, surfaces, circles, spheres, etc., do not exist. We only have approximations at the macroscopic level.

  421. Piotr

    Do you really think I’m fudging definitions or making stuff up as I go along? It’s been mathematical common knowledge for a long time.

    I don’t think it is ever an imposition to ask a person to define his terms. To me, that’s where everything starts.

    [Square: a polygon with four equal internal triangles and four equal sides].

    [Circle: the set of all points on a surface that are the same distance from a given point O].

    Thank you. I appreciate it. I am just trying to make sense of your other comment to Eric about non-Euclidian squares:

    No, not in general (there are squares that are not circles, and there are circles that are not squares), but in spherical geometry every great circle is at the same time a square (or, to be precise, there are infinitely many squares identical with it, since you are free to choose any point on the circle as one of the vertices of a square.

    So, some non-Euclidian squares are circles and others are not? Does this mean that some non-Euclidan circles have four equal sides and others do not?

  422. StephenB

    [Square: a polygon with four equal internal triangles and four equal sides].

    Four equal angles, not triangles.

    So, some non-Euclidian squares are circles and others are not?

    Yes, the two sets partly overlap. Like, say, some integer numbers divisible by 3 are also divisible by 7, but there are also integers divisible by 3 but not by 7, and integers divisible by 7 but not by 3.

    Does this mean that some non-Euclidan circles have four equal sides and others do not?

    It means that some circles in spherical geometry (considered as sets of points on a surface) are at the same time analysable as quadritalerals with four equal sides and four equal angles. The only circles that have this property are the so-called great circles of the sphere in question (a great circle is any circle that cuts the sphere into two equal hemispheres).

    A great circle is also the spherical-geometry analogue of a Euclidean straight line, so you can say that in that type of geometry there are certain figures that are at the same time straight lines, circles, and squares (and, by the way, equilateral triangles, regular pentagons, hexagons, heptagons, etc.).

  423. StephenB@416

    Nicely stated.

    - Yes, causality is a foundation of science (among other things, including repeatability).

    - In contrast, the primary foundation stone of Darwinism is speculative interpretation (among other things, including ideological affinity).

    Mapou,
    Non-Euclidean geometries depend on what one chooses to define and how many instances there are. Some geometries define only points—there is no such thing as a “line.” In others, several lines are defined and “points” are not.

    Anyone read George Gamow’s “One, two, three … Infinity” when they were growing up? In it, Gamow describes an equilateral triangle with straight lines that each meet at a 90 (not 60) degree angle. Now how did he do that? ;-)

    -Q

  424. Piotr

    Yes, the two sets partly overlap. Like, say, some integer numbers divisible by 3 are also divisible by 7, but there are also integers divisible by 3 but not by 7, and integers divisible by 7 but not by 3.

    SB; Does this mean that some non-Euclidan circles have four equal sides and others do not?

    It means that some circles in spherical geometry (considered as sets of points on a surface) are at the same time analysable as quadritalerals with four equal sides and four equal angles. The only circles that have this property are the so-called great circles of the sphere in question (a great circle is any circle that cuts the sphere into two equal hemispheres).

    Analyzsable? I am not asking you how they appear or by what method they can be studied. I am asking your what they are, by definition. You can analyze a circle as a square all day long, that doesn’t mean that is is, by definition, a square.

    According to your definition, a non-Euclidian square has four equal sides, and is different from some non-Euclidian circles, which do not. Conversely, non-Euclidian circle (that is not a great circle) does not have four equal sides and is different from a square.

    On the other hand, a non-Euclidian great circle, which would have to satisfy the definition of a circle and a square in order to be both, does have four equal sides.

    So it seems evident that some non-Euclidian circles (great) have four sides and some do not. Similarly, some non-Euclidian squares (by virtue of also being great circles) are the set of all points on a surface that are at the same distance from the center while others are not.

    So, do you have a single definition for a non-Euclidian circle and a non-Euclidian circle or do you not?

  425. Querius @423. Thank you. I hope that I am not running out of ways to explain why reason must lead and scientific evidence must follow.

  426. 424 should read, “So, do you have a single definition for a non-Euclidian circle and a non-Euclidian [square] or do you not?”

  427. StephenB,

    I’m not going to stretch this off-topic thread ad infinitum. If you want to educate yourself, I recommend an excellent, pretty elementary and reader-friendly introduction to non-Euclidean geometry by Stefan Kulczycki (originally written in Polish in the 1950s but still re-published in English):

    Stefan Kulczycki. 1961. Non-Euclidean Geometry. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

    A convenient brief introduction (with illustrations, links, and more bibliography) can be found here:

    http://www.math.cornell.edu/~mec/mircea.html

  428. SB: Recall, the injection of non-Euclidean geometries was used rhetorically to distract attention from the point that there are impossible beings — entities that are infeasible as core attributes contradict, by coming up with equivocated redefinitions and contexts that twist all into pretzels. Such geometries are interesting in their context, but obviously what they call a square is not a square in the ordinary sense as already described, what they call a straight line is not a straight line in the ordinary sense and so on. If P had said, the analogue of a square or the analogue of a straight line or the like, that is different, but the above just shows tat we are seeing an equivocation based red herring led away to a strawman in a context where we saw a major outcome on the issue of first principles of right reason and the linked matter of causality. Notice, behind the cloud of distractive discussion, that pivotal matter seems to have now vanished from attention. I doubt that that is an accident. Let us take due note, and only respond tot he distraction insofar as it is relevant to highlight it as yet another example of fallacious reasoning. KF

    PS: Observe, Wikipedia:

    In non-Euclidean geometry, squares are more generally [--> Notice, shift of context from the normal one] polygons [--> Also redefined to not imply straight line based sides, oops, straight line is also redefined] with 4 equal sides and equal angles.

    In spherical geometry, a square is a polygon whose edges are great circle arcs [--> not straight lines] of equal distance, which meet at equal angles. Unlike the square of plane geometry, the angles of such a square are larger than a right angle [--> Tell that to manufacturers of roofing squares and carpenter's squares]. Larger spherical squares have larger angles.

    In hyperbolic geometry, squares with right angles do not exist. Rather, squares in hyperbolic geometry have angles of less than right angles. Larger hyperbolic squares have smaller angles

    Where obviously “polygon” has been redefined from being an object with straight line sides, straight line has been redefined form being actually straight, etc etc. Distance, too, and being in a plane, and more.

    The point is the whole purpose here is distractive based on an equivocation fallacy. Brightening up the pink paint mix to make yellow, by adding yellow paint.

    “It depends on what the definition of is, is.”

  429. Mapou,

    an earlier response was eaten, probably by my ISP. Pardon delay. I seek to give you some guidelines that speak to concerns without further distracting thread from main focus on fallacies.

    I note that whole numbers, fractions and the real numbers can be defined, based on place value notation without reference to concrete material objects. Recall, we go {} –>0. {0} –> 1, {0,1} –> 2 etc, then we get fractions a/b, then we define special ways to represent numbers as WHOLE.abcd . . . like 19.78. Between any two place value based numbers [think decimals like 19.78123 . . . ] we can interpolate a third, i.e. we have a meaning for continuum. Like a perfect rope not like rungs on a ladder with gaps you cannot stand on. Using sqrt -1, we may define an orthogonal axis so we define a plane of numbers z = x1 + i*x2, xn being a real number. We map the i*x axis to y.

    In such a plane, the eqn y = m*x + c defines a line.

    And, as all of this is conceptual, it can be ideally continuous, and lines have no thickness, they are strung together locations. Points, are locations, they are not blobs.

    All of this can then be applied to our world, recognising the limitations of reality relative to an idealised concept.

    So, we can think of getting area under a curve as a limit of a process of slicing it up into stripes that are thinner and thinner. In the limit, we arrive at the area. And, we thus have a meaning for the infinitesimals used in Calculus, dx, dt, etc. Non-Standard analysis may help you.

    KF

    KF

  430. F/N: It is plain that we are dealing with a case of a network of mutually reinforcing fallacious thought; a problematique. So, when we press objectors at one level, there is a resort to ever deeper levels of fallacy-driven differences, ultimately rooted in doubts about or outright rejection of first principles of right reasoning, especially sufficient reason, modes of being, causality, identity and non-contradiction. This, we must recognise and highlight for what it is. Frankly, this is an intellectually bankrupt age, living on and rapidly consuming the heritage of the past. We need to wake up to that fact, face it, then set out to renew our civilisation’s intellectual culture and linked moral culture — duties of care to accuracy, truth, fairness etc are directly coupled to genuine reasonableness. KF

  431. GP:

    Back in the OP, you identified four key fallacies — all of which I agree are relevant:

    1. The fallacy of denying the objectivity of function.

    2. The fallacy of overemphasizing the role of generic function.

    3. The fallacy of downplaying the role of specific function.

    4. The fallacy of completely ignoring the highest form of function: the procedures.

    To recognise the existence, identity and significance of complex specific function and associated organisation and information requires one to acknowledge the reality of organisation, information, cause-effect chains and design as well as empirically reliable signs of design. Not to mention, the willingness to allow inductive logic on cause-effect patterns as observed to have its say.

    In a world where selective hyperskeptics in lab coats are only too willing to dismiss causality and linked first principles of right reason, want to pull a universe out of a quantum foam hat they wish to relabel as nothing, wish to assume that blind chance and mechanical necessity have magical powers to create FSCO/I regardless of search space challenges, and so forth, we do need to identify that problem.

    Similarly, there is a gross extrapolation problem where minor changes suddenly take on the guise of proof that much bigger and search space challenged changes are practically certain. We see refusal to recognise what pop genetics is telling us about fixation of mutations, and more. Let’s just mention deep isolation of protein fold domains in AA sequence space.

    I think at root, objectors need to take a long hard look at how they have been reasoning, with Johnson’s warning in the back of their minds:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    KF

  432. KF:

    I would say that the bias that has been established in scientific thought in the last decades is no more tolerable.

    It cannot be accepted that, after all the new discoveries about molecular biology and cell functions, a molecular explanation like neo darwinism may be still considered not only valid, but absolutely undisputable.

    I can still accept a position where someone recognizes the inadequacy of the neo darwinian explanation, but cannot accept the design approach. Still, it would be fair to recognize that the design approach is scientific and legitimate.

    There is no reason that different scientific approaches should not coexist. The abundance of new information about biological realities can and should be analyzed from all points of view, including design and neo darwinism, or anything else if anything else exists.

    Scientific debate must go back to what it must be: a debate. ID must be allowed its role in scientific interpretation, and then it will be able to contribute more actively to scientific research.

    The current dominion of neo darwinian thought is unwarranted: it is a shame and a waste of scientific and intellectual resources.

  433. 433

    GP

    You write as though researchers into evolution were all unable to think beyond or present critical alternatives to RM+NS. In fact, as you know, there is active research based on alternatives such as neutral drift, epigenetics, and endosymbiosis to name just a few. Scientists do work in these areas and come up with experiments, field trials and testable hypotheses about specific situations.

    As far as I can see the only “science” ever done by ID is to criticize naturalistic hypotheses (if I am wrong please direct me to the source). There is nothing wrong with this but it could equally be done by someone who did not believe in ID. Where are the hypotheses coming out of ID?

  434. Glad to see the discussion is back into biological functionality.

  435. MF:

    With all due respect, there is a definite a priori materialism that has become an ideological imposition on current origins science, much as Johnson warned against. It matters not whether there is a dominant school and there are variants of diverse kinds, that all must line up with this frame, by institutional imposition and some pretty ugly tactics that have come out in recent years against dissenters.

    That’s a first concern that must be fairly and frankly faced.

    In that context it must be fairly and frankly faced, too, that here is a serious challenge as to whether blind chance and mechanical necessity can reasonably account for the origin of life and the body plan level biodiversity we see.

    Tht surfaces the next concern.

    Science made its reputation not merely for creating empirically useful models, but as a means of seeking the truth about our world, based on the strengths and limitations of empirical, inductive, observation and measurement based methods.

    So, if in fact there is good evidence that functionally specific complex organisation and associated information is only observed to come from intelligent design, and there is associated good reason to see that the search space challenges are such that blind chance and necessity are maximally implausible as sources, then that is a significant finding worth facing — cf. here. (And of course, all of this is directly subject to empirical test.)

    One that hen brings the vera causa test to bear on causal explanations of origins: only such causal factors as are seen to be capable based on actual observation, should be used in explaining the deep unobserved past.

    That directly challenges the various chance variation and blind environmental culling on differential reproductive success models out there.

    And so, we are right back at issues of soundness in scientific thought.

    KF

  436. 436

    KF – I missed the bit where you told me about the experiments, field trials and testable hypotheses about specific situations coming out of ID.

  437. You write as though researchers into evolution were all unable to think beyond or present critical alternatives to RM+NS. In fact, as you know, there is active research based on alternatives such as neutral drift, epigenetics, and endosymbiosis to name just a few. Scientists do work in these areas and come up with experiments, field trials and testable hypotheses about specific situations.

    Didn’t GP write this @ 432?

    I can still accept a position where someone recognizes the inadequacy of the neo darwinian explanation, but cannot accept the design approach.

    Actually, here in this blog they posted a very respectful link to ‘the third way’. It seems like GP implicitly referred to that OP too.
    Probably some of us were not aware of that ’3rd way’ initiative before the OP by News. At least I wasn’t.
    BTW, in that same thread there are a few comments with links to recent research publications that raise many new questions while trying to answer outstanding ones.
    One possible reason why the third way is more palatable than ID to many folks out there may have to do with the fact that it’s on the same side as ‘n-D evo’ in the ongoing worldview confrontation.
    But again, it’s been in this blog UD where I saw the third way’s web page for the first time. Doesn’t that tell how open this blog is up to discussion?
    Regarding GP, if I didn’t know he is a medical doctor, I would have thought he is a career diplomat, because he is very polite and nice when dealing with confrontational individuals. Definitely something for me to learn from.
    Can’t wait to see the second part of this OP!

  438. MF: Every field trial or test that explores the capabilities and limits of evolution by the various mechanisms is automatically a test of design theory. Every exploration of proteins and Amino acid space is the same . . . that stuff Axe was squeezed out of Oxbridge over but completed and published anyway. The tests of gene knockout mechanisms are tests of irreducible complexity. The studies on the sources and spread of resistance to Malarial drugs are field tests and lab tests — and have underscored the limits to evolution by blind chance. The genetic engineering work is a direct field demonstration of intelligent design in the world of life. Studies on active information are studies of ID, though computer based. Evolutionary Informatics and computing is ID work. Linked hypotheses are all ID linked. Then, there are all the explorations on the fine tuning of cosmos, galaxies and solar systems and planets for life. Studies on cosmological and stellar nucleosynthesis are connected — most recently you were reminded on how there is a development on origin of Gold etc in context of collisions of neutron stars. And more. I think there is an issue of being in denial of something that is live and ongoing, despite all the attempts to squash, squeeze out, discredit, deny and dismiss. KF

  439. Mark:

    1) Are ID scientists freely allowed to publish their work, even if it were only criticism of the current theories, on the main scientific and biological journals? Do you really believe that Dembski, Axe, Durston and anyone else would be allowed to publish data or interpretations which directly are meant to support a design view of biology?

    2) Have you noticed that the few “official” papes which deal with the concept of functional information, or with any ID related concept, have to explicitly declare that they have nothing to do with ID?

    3) Are you aware of how many resources, both in terms of money or academic representation, are allowed to the ID point of view, in comparison to the neo darwinian point of view?

    4) Have you noticed that even those who are so enthusiast of neutral drift and similar, suddenly backpedal to RV + NS as soon as they have to “explain” any functional complexity?

    5) Are you aware of the emphasis which is given to experiments like Lenski’s, and how difficult it is for one single individual (Behe) to explain the real meaning of the so called miraculous evolutions?

    And so on, and so on. People like you and Piotr, who come here to discuss with us “peer to peer”, are true exceptions. The discussion about ID as a scientific perspective is very actively banned from all scientific contexts.

    A lot of very good research could be done from an ID perspective, starting from research about the protein functional space. Done without prejudice and without tricks, I mean.

    But, if even the concept of functional information is ostracized, what can we hope?

  440. MF,

    My 437 was in reference to your 433.

    Later in 436 you wrote:

    I missed the bit where you told me about the experiments, field trials and testable hypotheses about specific situations coming out of ID.

    As far as I know, most serious scientists are doing their research on real issues that have little (or nothing) to do with ‘n-D evo’ – my wife and I just had lunch with two dedicated Scandinavian biologists, who are not ID proponents, but didn’t seem to care much about ‘n-D evo’ when doing their intensive and extensive research work on allergies and diabetes.

    If you really care about heavy-duty science research, you may want to try suggesting ideas on the over 130 links to research reports I have posted here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com...../#comments

    Note that over 1,100 visits to that thread have not left any comment on the over 130 links to research reports I have posted there so far.
    Where have the real science lovers gone?
    Wanna take the challenge and answer detailed bottom line questions? I can start posting them anytime upon request. Just let me know.
    But please, don’t complain about ‘unfair interrogation’ later.
    Real questions, down to the bottom, no compromises.
    BTW, I’m not a medical doctor or a scientist. Hence my questions come from a humble admission of ignorance.
    But I require real answer that can hold water. Not philosophical chat.
    Ready?

  441. Piotr

    I’m not going to stretch this off-topic thread ad infinitum.

    Why is it than when my dialogue partners think they have the edge, they have time to enter into a discussion and consider the subject matter is relevant, but when I begin to expose their errors and faulty reasoning, they run out of time and play the “Off topic” card. It is the second time it has happened on this thread.

    If you want to educate yourself, I recommend an excellent, pretty elementary and reader-friendly introduction to non-Euclidean geometry by Stefan Kulczycki (originally written in Polish in the 1950s but still re-published in English):

    Actually, there are some books you should read about the logical precedence of first principles over mathematics.

  442. kairosfocus:

    SB: Recall, the injection of non-Euclidean geometries was used rhetorically to distract attention from the point that there are impossible beings — entities that are infeasible as core attributes contradict, by coming up with equivocated redefinitions and contexts that twist all into pretzels.

    I remember it well. This business of circles becoming squares didn’t just come out of nowhere. Its all about attacking reason’s rules and replacing them with ideology and a new set of standards for interpreting scientific evidence. Most here do not understand the relevance of this topic. I can’t be concerned about that.

  443. SB:

    How you reason, on what ground rules controls how you conclude. That is why it is pivotal to start right and stay right.

    It seems there is a horror of the notion that we are accountable for truth and right reason in light of self-evident — thus undeniable — first principles.

    It is sad to see that those who would object are forced to depend on distinct visual, oral and written verbal symbols that set up the very world-partitions that lead straight to the LOI, LNC and LEM they would undermine.

    The attempts to suggest that Quantum Mechanics undermines these would be amusing if it were not sad . . . newsflash, physicists routinely depend on first principles of right reason to do Q-Mech. (Cf. the WAC 38 in the resource tab if you need help here.)

    Likewise it is unobjectionable that one may ask, on noticing A, why A?

    Such as: FSCO/I, so why FSCO/I?

    Then, expecting or hoping, one may investigate modes of being; this will show impossible vs possible being . . . FSCO/I is possible as this post exemplifies.

    Dependence on enabling factors/ Independence?

    FSCO/I is dependent — it is informational and deeply contingent, not necessary.

    So, it is caused.

    By what?

    Empirical observation and analysis of search challenges of config spaces concur: intelligent design.

    Onward inference: FSCO/I is a reliable sign of design, and points to design as cause.

    Routine, but when origins comes up there is a refusal to accept the blind search challenge and the challenge to incrementally fix a new body plan within “reasonable” time, mutation rates, population scales and burden of incrementally deleterious mutations.

    At root, there is much evidence of a materialist reigning orthodoxy that locks out such heretical notions as that design is a serious possibility.

    We need to think again about what is going on.

    KF

  444. KF

    At root, there is much evidence of a materialist reigning orthodoxy that locks out such heretical notions as that design is a serious possibility.

    Yes, and there are three strategies to “lock it out.”

    1) Outright suppression. The Academy declares that you simply may not argue on behalf of Intelligent Design. (“Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed.”)

    For those who refuse to be intimidated, the second obstacle is waiting:

    2) Methodological Naturalism. The Academy changes the rules of empirical investigation and declares that science must study nature as if nature is all there is. (“ID is not science.”)

    For those who escape this trap, the most deadly land mine of all has been set.

    3) Anti-Intellectualism. The Academy militates against the tool of argumentation and declares that there can be no such formulation as “If A is true, then B must true, meaning that anything at all can follow from A. (“The Laws of Causality and Non-Contraction are negotiable”).

  445. F/N: Angus Menuge gives a warning on the practical import of so-called methodological naturalism as an underlying problem with current scientific thought:

    It is possible that a materialistic explanation of consciousness might be found, but that does not make the claim that consciousness is non-physical an argument from ignorance… At any given time, scientists should infer the best current explanation of the available evidence, and right now, the best evidence from both neuroscience and rigorous philosophical analysis is that consciousness is not reducible to the physical. Churchland’s refusal to draw this inference is based not on evidence, but on what Karl Popper called “promissory materialism,” a reliance on the mere speculative possibility of a materialistic explanation. Since this attitude can be maintained indefinitely, it means that even if a non-materialist account is correct (and supported by overwhelming evidence), that inconvenient truth can always be ignored. Surely the project of science should be one of following the evidence wherever it leads, not of protecting a preconceived materialist philosophy. Isn’t it that philosophy — the one that constantly changes its shape to avoid engagement with troublesome evidence, either ignoring the data or simply declaring it materialistic — that most resembles a virus?

  446. F/N: Did you know that all of the following are true?

    a: 0 + 1 = 1

    b: 1 + 1 = 0

    c: 1 + 1 = 2

    What? You didn’t know that! You need to learn more and better Mathematics!

    Of course, what is happening is that the meaning of the symbols is changing.

    In case a, 1 is a binary logic value and + means INCLUSIVE OR. In case b, + means EXCLUSIVE OR. In case c, 1 is the numeral and + represents ordinary addition. Interestingly enough, to create an adder circuit, one approach is to use an EX-OR gate.

    This brings out the issue of implicit context and resort to equivocation above.

    By the time we were finished, it was clear that a straight line wasn’t straight anymore — an apt summary for pretzel-twisting arguments. Not to mention, a flat plane wasn’t flat anymore, a polygon’s “straight” sides were bent, and so forth.

    You can make yellow paint from red and white, in short. Sure, if you first make pale pink then “brighten it up” with yellow paint.

    Let us therefore understand how equivocation, unannounced context and subject switching, injection of unannounced a prioris and the like work to distract, distort and obfuscate.

    Then, let us understand that if we are to think straight about FSCO/I and its significance, we have to think straight. Starting with first principles of right reason. Which, for good reason, are seen as self-evident.

    Including, not only the identity cluster that is immediately present when we see a distinct thing, A . . . LOI, LNC, LEM (as in A is A, not NOT_A and not some weird blend with NOT-A or some thing outside of W in W = { A | NOT-A } ) . . . but also that if A is, we have a perfect right to ask why A and to seek and expect a good and sufficient reason. Which points to modes of being, possible vs impossible, dependent on external enabling factors vs not so dependent. Thus, we see how contingent beings depend on causal factors, particularly enabling ones.

    Where, too, nothing properly denotes non-being.

    So, let us note where the flak barrage is heaviest.

    That’s the target that is being defended.

    Which is therefore where we need to hit hard.

    Which tells us, we are seeing a fundamental hostility to right reason informed by first principles that are independent of our opinions or wishes, in our day.

    That is itself revealing.

    Beyond, let us note that sufficient reason, modes of being and cause-effect patterns are foundational to science. Including, firm adherence to the point that things do not unintelligibly poof into existence without rhyme or reason, from nothing, or by inexplicable emergence.

    Including, in quantum mechanics: to not know the necessary and sufficient causal factors for an event E here, now with this material basis and those circumstances, beyond knowing what sets up a distribution in which E is possible, is not the same as, there is no sufficient cluster of causal factors or there are no enabling factors so E is without cause.

    KF

  447. GP 439
    There are always vastly more resources allocated to currently accepted science than the new boy on the block.  Controversial theories have often struggled. But they have gone ahead and done real research which is more than knocking all the alternatives and, if they are on to something, eventually the establishment has recognised them. It is possible for ID enthusiasts to get published, the Discovery Institute provides a list: http://www.discovery.org/a/2640. The Discovery Institute has enough resources to produce at least one paper putting forward a hypothesis about how something evolved along with evidence.  It isn’t lack of recognition or resources that is stopping them.

  448. 448

    Dionisio #440

    I am confused. The point of my #433 was that there is lots of active and published reseach that is not neo-darwinism. You have produced a nice web site that supports that. I would imagine the lack of comments is because these are quite heavy science and are best discussed in the technical literature by experts. Certainly I don’t feel qualified to comment on them.

  449. MF: DI and its fellows have published on topics regarding evolution and its limits in appropriate professional literature, for quite some years now; as a bare matter of fact that should be faced. It is an important service to science and knowledge (not to mention the progress of a civilisation that tends to look to science as a guide to truth) to show that a proposed family of mechanisms — the blind chance and mechanical necessity ones favoured by various evolutionary materialist schools of thought — are grossly inadequate. It is not an intellectual virtue to teach or hold the adequacy and superiority of a grossly inadequate mechanism, on grounds that within our sandbox, we can build such wonderful castles. Moreover, there are fields of study of technological evolution by design in light of core principles (e.g. TRIZ), and there is the door of reverse engineering that is relevant to automation studies, computer architectures, and much more. The notion that the design view of nature is unfruitful and a science stopper was dead in the water as of Newton’s General Scholium to Principia, and should have long since been retired. Of course, while it is your privilege to ignore or dismiss such considerations, it is equally our privilege to take due note of the further gaps in reasoning thereby exposed. KF

  450. It isn’t lack of recognition or resources that is stopping them.

    Indeed, the Discovery Institure’s own online journal, Bio-Complexity, is hardly teeming with activity.

  451. Mark and Piotr:

    If you really believe that ID is only a “controversial theory” which lacks “recognition”, you have really lost contact with reality. I would expect something better from intelligent and honest people as you are.

    ID is not “controversial”. It is banned. There is quite a difference.

    The DI does what it can. Dembski does what he can. Behe does what he can, with explicit disclaimers, both of his university and of his fellow colleagues, on the university public site. Durston has proposed a methodology which has great cognitive power and which could be extremely useful in investigating the peculiarities of protein functional space, and he has been utterly ignored. Lenski, on the other hand, is acclaimed as a hero of neo darwinism, while all that he has done is to support ID.

    And so on, and so on.

    Now, I am not a conspiracy theory fan. What I am saying is that there is a very heavy cognitive bias against any design paradigm, and a complete dogmatic support of any interpretation which does not disturb “methodological naturalism” (IOWs, the defence of the current theory).

    Mark, you equivocate when you say:

    “The Discovery Institute has enough resources to produce at least one paper putting forward a hypothesis about how something evolved along with evidence. ”

    ID hypothesis is clear and simple: there are sudden inputs of functional information in natural history, and they cannot be explained by any existing theory, least of all neo darwinism. Design is the best explanation for those events.

    So, the first priority is to rethink all that we know in those terms, and see how it makes sense.

    ID is a general paradigm, not a specific hypothesis for some rare event. You are completely missing the point.

    And Piotr, you are really unfair in “remarking” about the scarce but precious activity of a few people who have comparatively no resources and no voice in the scientific world, but who believe in what they are doing and are methodologically much more correct in their work than most of those who deal with the same aspects in official science.

  452. Piotr: I guess this activity and this activity — note publications or the work of this man on Y pestis that showed that the bacterial flagellum is in fact irreducibly complex — as well as this activity specifically sponsored by DI from its resources — note research description here — don’t count? Similar to how a straight line is no longer straight, a polygon is no more a planar figure and so forth, all without acknowledgement of context switching that is material? KF

  453. F/N: The core design hypothesis of course is that functionally specific complex organisation and associated information in its various guises, is per inductive investigation and linked analysis of search space challenges, a characteristic, reliable sign of intelligent design as key causal factor. This proposition or hypothesis if you will, is subject to empirical testing and is in fact tested every time you infer from a coherent English text or test in another language to an author and not noise on the internet. That such tests are informal does not mean they are not in fact tests. So is the point that in communications we routinely distinguish between signals or messages and noise to the point where a key concept and metric is signal to noise ratio — based on characteristics of genuine signals that are maximally implausible to arise by chance. In the biological world we not only encounter FSCO/I in the complex functional organisation, but in codes and algorithms shown by the use of string data structures and information in D/RNA and the use of this in the synthesis of proteins. For instance cf VJT here currently, showing the case of protein synthesis. KF

    PS: Observe the discussion of FSCO/I here recently, and note the studious silence of the critics.

  454. 454

    GP

    ID is a general paradigm, not a specific hypothesis for some rare event. You are completely missing the point.

    This exactly the point. Unless that paradigm produces a specific hypothesis then it is barren. And, whatever the opposition to it, the ID community has the resources to produce a hypothesis if the paradigm is capable of doing it. I have to admit I can’t imagine what an ID hypothesis would look like – but that is exactly the point.

  455. Shiftingfocus Kairosfocus:

    I guess this activity and this activity — note publications or the work of this man on Y pestis that showed that the bacterial flagellum is in fact irreducibly complex

    You are changing the subject. I didn’t say people connected with the ID movement never published anything in peer-reviewed journals. But since you’ve raised the subject, it should be noted that the stuff they do publish is pretty orthodox as a rule (like Marcus Ross’s PhD thesis on mosasaurs, in which he pretends to accept geological time scales). In which journal article does Scott Minnich mention, define or demonstrate “irreducible complexity”? Can you quote it? (I mean an article, not his Kitzmiller trial testimony).

    What I did say was that the DI’s own flagship journal had shown only some symbolic activity all these years. Where are the ID researchers when you need them? A single university department, no matter how underfunded, typically publishes more peer-reviewed stuff in a year than the whole movement has produced since its inception. Gpuccio, how about contributing an article or two to Bio-Complexity before it dwindles away?

    — as well as this activity specifically sponsored by DI from its resources — note research description here — don’t count?

    I can’t see much actual publishable research there. It looks more like informal blogging plus some propaganda.

    Similar to how a straight line is no longer straight, a polygon is no more a planar figure and so forth, all without acknowledgement of context switching that is material?

    Don’t bait me: I think I have already rested my case. Let me only quote my own post (#366), the one that started that exchange:

    Actually, even this is not quite self-evident either but depends on the geometry of the space in question. A square circle can’t exist on a Euclidean plane with a normal Euclidean metric, but in a spherical geometry the largest possible square (say, one whose vertices are the two poles and two diametrically opposed equatorial points) is a perfect circle.

    I explained the role of changing context in the very first post. So much for your accusations; EOT on my part.

  456. Mark Frank @448

    Dionisio #440
    I am confused. The point of my #433 was that there is lots of active and published reseach that is not neo-darwinism.

    When some text appears confusing, it might help to read it more carefully another time. Also, it might help to try asking specific questions about whatever seems confusing. Perhaps someone will try to answer the specific questions to clarify any specific subject that might seem confusing. Or the allegedly confusing text could be rewritten for clarification.

    You have produced a nice web site that supports that. I would imagine the lack of comments is because these are quite heavy science and are best discussed in the technical literature by experts. Certainly I don’t feel qualified to comment on them.

    Clarification: I did not produced that web site, someone else did it.

    As you well stated, most of my over 130 posts in the referred thread deal with heavy-duty science issues. They demand serious precise coherent comprehensive comments.

    I appreciate your honest admission to lack of knowledge on the subject of the referred posts.

    FYI – most of my over 130 posts in the referred thread are linked to technical literature and raise questions that have no serious precise coherent comprehensive scientific answer at this moment. That’s why not even the experts can comment on these posts.

    I expect more answers to come from the analysis of the data gathered by the researchers and published in the technical literature. As more light will be shed on those heavy science subjects, more and more outstanding questions will be answered, but new questions will be raised. That process should take us closer to the understanding of the biological systems. Then the ID paradigm should get stronger and more obvious to many out there who still don’t see it this way.
    That’s why I look with much anticipation to reading newer research reports on the subject I’m studying: cell fate determination, differentiation and migration, during the first weeks of development, which includes, among other things, the detailed mechanisms associated with the precise centrosomes segregation timing, spindle apparatus, checkpoints, centrioles, kinetochores, and all that stuff involved in a magnificent choreography.
    Certainly these are exciting times for biology-related researchers and science fans in general.

  457. #456
    Error correction:

    I did not produced

    I did not produce…

  458. 458

    Dionisio

    When some text appears confusing, it might help to read it more carefully another time. Also, it might help to try asking specific questions about whatever seems confusing. Perhaps someone will try to answer the specific questions to clarify any specific subject that might seem confusing. Or the allegedly confusing text could be rewritten for clarification.

    I am sorry. I didn’t mean the text was confusing. I am confused because I got the impression that you were criticising something I had written and yet what you wrote seemed to support what I was saying. That is all.

  459. Piotr:

    “Gpuccio, how about contributing an article or two to Bio-Complexity before it dwindles away?”

    Well, what about: I have my work as a medical doctor, and I, like you, have to fight with my personal life to write what I write here…

    Problems of choices, problems of resources.

    And about “peer-reviewed stuff”: is that a joke?

    Again I find your statements deeply unfair, but again that’s the common trend. At least, you come here and discuss with respect, so I suppose you are a good exception at least for that.

  460. Mark:

    The hypothesis is simple, it’s you who seem not to understand it.

    Let’s rethink the interpretation of all that we know from natural history and molecular biology, and let’s throw away the dogma that what cannot be explained by RV and NS must be explained by RV and NS.

    Let’s identify those inputs of functional information which are certainly beyond current interpretations. Let’s consider those transitions as designed, or at least unexplained, and see if they build up some interesting scenario, which can be explained in terms of a project rather than in terms of fitness advantage.

    Let’s quantify the true functional information in proteins, in protein systems, in general systems. Let’s apply Durston’s method, or find better methods if they can be found. But reasoning in terms of functional space.

    Let’s face the problem of the procedures (I am working at that aspect for the next post) in terms of functional programming.

    IOWs, if we admit that it is possible that biological systems are designed, and if in the end that were the case, the best way to understand them is certainly to acknowledge that possibility. You will never understand a designed system if you obstinately go on thinking that it came into existence by some non existing non design process. Therefore, excluding a priori the hypothesis of design means excluding the only true explanation in the perfectly possible case that what we observe was really designed. Can that be a scientific attitude? Obviously not.

    You should at least admit that, but probably you won’t. Which is exactly the problem.

  461. Gpuccio:

    And about “peer-reviewed stuff”: is that a joke?

    From a DI page to which KF provided a link:

    In 2011, the ID movement counted its 50th peer-reviewed scientific paper and new publications continue to appear.
    http://www.discovery.org/a/2640

    Never mind the question how many of those papers were actually published in journals generaly considered to be peer-reviewed. But they boast of having produced 50 papers in twenty-odd years. Say, two papers yearly (for the whole ID movement).

    I work in the humanities. For obvious reasons we publish fewer research articles than our colleagues from the faculties of physics, chemistry or biology. The faculty where I work is one of the smaller ones at our university. In 2013 people from my faculty published 18 papers in JCR journals (Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Reports), 16 papers in ERIH journals (the European Reference Index for Humanities), 8 monographs, and more than 100 articles in collections, conference proceedings, etc.). At least the first two categories are guaranteed to be peer-reviewed. It’s one year’s output of one rather small faculty, in the area of humanities, at one university in Poland.

  462. 462

    GPuccio: ”2) Have you noticed that the few “official” papers which deal with the concept of functional information, or with any ID related concept, have to explicitly declare that they have nothing to do with ID?”

    The First Step Towards Unification

    The various schools of biosemiotics developed their approaches independently and went along separate roads for at least three decades, from the late 1960s to the end the 1990s. Eventually, however, contacts were established and people started talking to each other and comparing notes. The first steps toward unification came in 2004, at the fourth Gathering in Biosemiotics organized by Anton Markoš in Prague. Jesper Hoffmeyer, Claus Emmeche, Kalevi Kull, Anton Markoš and Marcello Barbieri decided that what was uniting them —the introduction of meaning in biology— was far more important than their divisions. Up until then, Barbieri had referred to the science of biological semiosis as semantic biology ,or biosemantics, whereas Markoš had called it biohermeneutics , but they both agreed to give up their favourite names and to adopt the term Biosemiotics that Thomas Sebeok had been campaigning for with so much passion and vigour. That is when biosemiotics really came of age. It happened when people decided to work together not because they had identical ideas but because they accepted to put their differences aside in the interest of a greater goal.

    The existence of semiosis in life does not exclude, in principle, the existence of semiosis in inanimate matter, but the unifying idea of Prague was the concept, proposed by Thomas Sebeok, that “life and semioisis are coextensive”, i.e. that “semiosis exists in all living beings and only in living beings”. This became ‘the foundational principle’ of biosemiotics, and it was precisely its acceptance that realized the first step towards unification. It must be underlined that this principle is a scientific hypothesis because it is falsifiable (a single example of semiosis in inanimate matter would immediately falsify it).

    Today there are still differences between the schools, but there is also a ‘minimal unity’ in the field because of two basic principles, or postulates, that are accepted by virtually all biosemioticians.

    (1) The first postulate is Thomas Sebeok’s idea that “life and semioisis are coextensive”. This implies that semiosis appeared at the origin of life, and sharply differentiates biosemiotics from ‘pansemiotics’ and ‘physiosemiotics’, the doctrines that semiosis exists also in inanimate matter and therefore everywhere in the universe. It also differentiates it from the views that semiosis exists only in animals or only in humans beings.

    (2) The second postulate is the idea that signs, meanings and codes are natural entities. This sharply divides biosemiotics from the doctrine of ‘intelligent design’, and from all other doctrines that maintain that the origin of life on Earth was necessarily the product of a supernatural agency.

    – A Short History of Biosemiosis, Marcello Barbieri
    Biosemiotics 2:221–245 DOI 0.1007/s12304-009-9042-8

    Anyone even remotely read in semiosis recognizes that the first postulate given above is derived directly from intractable material evidence, while the second postulate is entirely socio-political, without any material foundation whatsoever. And Barbieri knew fully well that ID does not posit a supernatural agency when he wrote those words. It was pure non-science.

    Neither Mark Frank nor Piotr will enter (in earnest) a conversation about semiosis. It does not profit them in the way that square circles and the math of poker does.

    I maintain that in order to organize the original living cell, a coordinated system must arise that includes two sets of arrangements of matter to bridge and preserve the physicochemical discontinuity between an informational medium and its resulting effect upon translation. One set must encode form, while the other set must establish what the physical result of that encoding will be. The system must preserve this necessary discontinuity because inexorable law would otherwise limit the system to only those effects that can be derived from the material properties of the medium itself, making informational constraint on the system impossible to obtain. And because the discontinuity is preserved, a local independence from physical determinism is created – resulting in functional effects that are not derivable from inexorable law; they are only derivable from the organic systems that translate information. Lastly, in order to originate life on earth, this system must arise from within a non-information (inanimate) environment, with the details of the system’s construction being encoded in the very information that the system makes possible.

    I’ve approached both Mark and Piotr with this semiotic model of translation, and both have flatly rejected the discussion. One simply says I’m wrong, and the other doesn’t want to talk about it.

    “It’s always very refreshing to be able to just make a clean break, start over again with something you’re completely ignorant about” … “that’s very exhilarating; nothing’s expected of you because you’re a novice; and, with luck, you come up with something that other people were saying was impossible because they know too much.” – Physicist/Geneticist Semour Benzer

  463. UB:

    Thank you. That is a good example of the “banning” I referred to, and of the dogma of methodological naturalism in action.

  464. Piotr:

    Again, you are unfair.

    They “boast” what they can. It’s just to prove that we exist. But it’s not easy.

    Research is done in a network of thought. You cannot do research when you are alone and banned.

    Your attempt to state that ID is unable to do scientific research because of some defect in the theory is ridiculous. There are a lot of reasons for the difficulty of having abundant ID research (the lack of biologists with an ID commitment is one of them).

    There are many reasons why most people in ID are from other fields (mathemathics, informatics, engineering, medicine). I am sure that you believe that you know very well the reason for that, but believe me, you are wrong. The real reason is a shame for the scientific world, and I doubt that you would ever admit it.

  465. Upright BiPed

    Here’s some more by Marcello Barbieri:

    In the Editorial of the very first Issue of this Journal I wrote that Biosemiotics rests on two basic principles. The first is the idea that semiosis belongs to life, i.e., that it does not exist in inanimate matter; this differentiates biosemiotics from Pansemiotics, the doctrine that accepts the existence of semiosis even in the physical world. The second principle is the idea that semiosis and meaning are natural entities; this divides biosemiotics from the doctrine of ‘intelligent design’, and from all other doctrines that maintain that the origin of life on Earth was necessarily due to a supernatural agency.

    … We need to get vaccinated against Pansemiotics as we have been against Intelligent Design. They are the Scylla and Charybdis of Biosemiotics, and only if we pass consciously through them we can, like Odysseus, reach the open sea of our voyage of discovery.

    “The Scylla and Charybdis of Biosemiotics”
    Biosemiotics 1/3, December 2008, pp. 281-284

  466. Piotr:

    I suppose you are making our point here.

    Have you been well “vaccinated”? :)

  467. 467

    Piotr,

    I am very familiar with the paper. You should have reflected on it for a moment before you posted it.

  468. #462 UB

    I’ve approached both Mark and Piotr with this semiotic model of translation, and both have flatly rejected the discussion. One simply says I’m wrong, and the other doesn’t want to talk about it.

    I am not sure which one I am! I am sure you are wrong but on the few occasions we discussed it the debate became tedious and repetitive. Life’s too short for that.

    I see a couple of complaints above about people dropping out of debates. The fact is that no one is ever going to concede and the debate has to stop some time. There are healthier things to do, both physically and mentally, than keep repeating old arguments on the Internet.

  469. 458 Mark Frank

    I am sorry. I didn’t mean the text was confusing. I am confused because…

    …it’s hard to understand how an ignorant ‘Joe Smoe’ can make the experts to admit they don’t know how to answer fundamental questions in their own area of expertise.

    Well, that’s how things are in modern biology these days. Bad news for some folks out there: it ain’t gonna get easier. As more outstanding questions get answered by the ongoing research, new questions will be raised. This revelation process will keep shedding more light on the complex biological systems, resulting in the strengthening of the evidences that support the ID paradigm.
    The party is just starting. The fun part is still ahead ;-)

  470. Dionisio:

    Some time ago, here at UD, Gil Dodgen expressed a similar concept very well. I invite you and all who may be interested to read this old post:

    “ID and the Trajectory of Observational Resolution”

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....esolution/

    I paste here the conclusion:

    The proper analogy would be that with increasing telescope power and other sophisticated analytical capabilities, we could observe that the canals on Mars were supported by suspension bridges, that the water was redirected to hydroelectric plants equipped with generators, that there was a power grid that distributed the power all over the planet, and that there were sophisticated software programs that controlled the distribution of the electrical power and synchronized it all.

    This is what we observe in living systems, only raised to the Nth power — and N is very large.

    Very good thought! Thank you, Gil.

  471. 471

    Mark,

    You have made repeated attempts to reposition the dialogue as ‘old hat’. Your attempts are as transparent as they can possibly be. This is evidenced by the simple fact that you never mention any key details (any details whatsoever) of this imagined rebuttal of the semiotic evidence presented.

    Our last encounter…

    UB, I know you think that there is some kind of symbolism going in a cell. You are wrong.

    If you’d like to establish a response that mirrors your blanket denial, then why don’t you address the comments made:

    I maintain that in order to organize the original living cell, a coordinated system must arise that includes two sets of arrangements of matter to bridge and preserve the physicochemical discontinuity between an informational medium and its resulting effect upon translation. One set must encode form, while the other set must establish what the physical result of that encoding will be. The system must preserve this necessary discontinuity because inexorable law would otherwise limit the system to only those effects that can be derived from the material properties of the medium itself, making informational constraint on the system impossible to obtain. And because the discontinuity is preserved, a local independence from physical determinism is created – resulting in functional effects that are not derivable from inexorable law; they are only derivable from the organic systems that translate information. Lastly, in order to originate life on earth, this system must arise from within a non-information (inanimate) environment, with the details of the system’s construction being encoded in the very information that the system makes possible.

  472. gpuccio,

    That’s indeed a very interesting analogy by Gil Dodgen.
    Thank you for bringing it to my attention here.

  473. Piotr:

    Pardon but the first pivotal issue is whether design theory is helpful in moving science towards finding the truth about origins based on empirical evidence and known causal factors. It passes that test, evolutionary materialist ideology hampered schools of thought don’t.

    Second, has it produced significant work over the years and especially in fairly recent times, despite dirty tactics ruthless opposition; again, yes.

    Third, with peer review showing the kind of ugly underside that is increasingly popping up, appeal to authority is not primary, the issue is, has reasonable work been done, is more being done, is there promise and is there reasonable publication — including books, papers, proceedings etc.

    All of that, too has been happening, and it is noteworthy that different theories have different ranges of focus, so not only biology but informatics, computing, astrophysics and cosmology are relevant, as well as broader work in phil of sci.

    And btw, resort to schoolyard namecalling taunts is a sure sign you have lost on the merits.

    Where, a straight line is still just that . . . as in, LOI: A is A and not NOT_A, a plane is still flat (think, Complex Plane based on R x R if you don’t know what that is), and polygons and circles still have well known meanings so — pretzel-twisting notwithstanding — square circles (think the functional representations in the Plane as given, as muscle behind ordinary meanings) are still good examples of impossible beings.

    So also, we see the importance of first principles of right reason, modes of being and causality in sound thought including for science.

    For instance, equivocation violates law of identity.

    The evolutionary materialist fallacy problem continues to be a material issue, right from first principles of right reason on up.

    KF

  474. UB:

    I maintain that in order to organize the original living cell, a coordinated system must arise that includes two sets of arrangements of matter to bridge and preserve the physicochemical discontinuity between an informational medium and its resulting effect upon translation. One set must encode form, while the other set must establish what the physical result of that encoding will be. The system must preserve this necessary discontinuity because inexorable law would otherwise limit the system to only those effects that can be derived from the material properties of the medium itself, making informational constraint on the system impossible to obtain. And because the discontinuity is preserved, a local independence from physical determinism is created – resulting in functional effects that are not derivable from inexorable law; they are only derivable from the organic systems that translate information. Lastly, in order to originate life on earth, this system must arise from within a non-information (inanimate) environment, with the details of the system’s construction being encoded in the very information that the system makes possible.

    Useful summary, pivoting on elements of a comms system and how they work together.

    The we didn,t agree and pretzel twisted beyond recognition so let’s move on tactic fails. But, it reveals another worrying fallacy of evo mat ideology: Throw up inough dust, fuss and confusing smoke and distractins then pretend the problems have gone away.

    Indeed, the latest seems to be, we have contained the design movement, have created enough confusion and polarisation, it is dying, the problem is over.

    Even were that so, “the blood of thy brother crieth up from the ground . . . ”

    KF

  475. Mark Frank @454- RE a specific ID testable hypothesis:

    Darwinism, Design and Public Education page 92:

    1. High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.

    2. Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.

    3. Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.

    4. Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

    And then there are the specific hypotheses borne from “The Privileged Planet”

  476. kairosfocus:

    Where, a straight line is still just that . . . as in, LOI: A is A and not NOT_A, a plane is still flat (think, Complex Plane based on R x R if you don’t know what that is), and polygons and circles still have well known meanings so — pretzel-twisting notwithstanding — square circles (think the functional representations in the Plane as given, as muscle behind ordinary meanings) are still good examples of impossible beings.

    Yes, and we also have the problem of having two definitions for a non-Eulidian square and a non-Eulidian circle.

    It should be obvious that a large non-Euclidian square, which is alleged to have both the qualities of a square and a circle, cannot be the same kind of thing (square) as a small non-Euclidian square, which does not have all those same qualities.

    It should be equally obvious that a large non-Euclidian circle, which is alleged to have both the qualities of a circle and a square, cannot be the same kind of thing (circle) as a small non-Euclidian circle, which does not have all those same qualities.

  477. I have read through most of this thread with great interest. The discussion concerning the principles of “right reason” I found particularly illuminating, in several ways. Even though better men and better minds than me have made the first principles case I’d like to take a shot at it. I’ve been meaning to do this anyway but the discussion here has provided a nice foil. I will consider this a trial run to be refined based upon the conversation that follows, if any follows.

    I start, pre-reflectively, with the awareness that things exist. I exist. The world around me exists. The keyboard upon which I am typing exists. The computer screen upon which I cast my gaze exists. And so forth.

    As I begin to think about this the first thing that I become aware of is that everything that exists, is what it is. That is, everything is identical with itself. Everything is what it is. In my entire experience I have never seen one thing that is something other than what it is. (Leaving aside for the moment that I may be confused or ignorant about what that is, exactly, which is an epistemological issue and not an ontological issue.) Thus, I can be certain that things do in fact exist, and that things are identical with themselves. I exist. There can be no question of that. If I didn’t exist then I couldn’t say that I did. If I didn’t then no one is typing this post. Clearly this is absurd so our starting point is upon the firmest possible ground. Things exist and they are what they are. This is called the Law of Identity and it is The First Principle. Without the Law of Identity there is nothing. No existence, no identity, nothing.

    So it seems that I have connected with a universal truth. That things are and that things are what they are. I did not assume this to be true. I did not start from some a priori or arbitrary or assumed starting point. I started with the evidence that the universe presented to me. I started with the data. It seems obvious that intellectual integrity demands that we account for ALL of the data. Science seems to be about the data, or it should be, anyway. So what could be more fundamental than this data? That things exist.

    I also think that this illustrates a confusion in philosophy (and science) that runs deep and wide in epistemological issues (and who am I to say but I will anyway) and that is a failure to understand that all knowledge begins in the senses. It ends in the mind but it begins in the senses. We sense particulars and we generalize or abstract based upon those particulars. What I am saying is that even deduction is induction, in the end. The First Principle of Identity, which encompasses two concepts, that of Being or existence, and Identity; that a thing is and must be what it is, is an eternal and universal truth, an a priori truth, but we discover it by means of experiencing the world through our senses. How else could it be? The notion of “a priori” truth has been conflated with the notion of “a priori” knowledge. There is “a priori truth,” i.e. “a priori principles,” but we come to an awareness of them by means of sense experience, in an “a posteriori” fashion.

    What else becomes apparent based upon this Law of Identity? If I say that something is what it is, that is just a “short cut” way to saying that it is not what it isn’t. Instead of saying, Hi, I’m not KF, and not Upright BiPed, and not SB, or well you get the point, I say Hi, I’m Tom. In other words, when I say that something is, at the same time, in the same mental act, I am also saying what it is not. To say what something is, is at the same time to also say what it is not. Now we have the Law of Noncontradiction. I can’t say that something is AND isn’t, because to say what something is, is to say what it isn’t. It’s absurd to say that I am me and that I am not me. I understand this clearly and distinctly, to use a phrase from Descartes. I cannot be confused about this. I can deny this principle in my arguments or in my conversation but when I do I only demonstrate to the world that I am an irrational or ignorant or unthoughtful person. For what could be more foolish than to claim that I am and that I am not? Remembering that this principle, which we have discovered, not invented or created, we have discovered by “the scientific method” of analyzing data, the data of existence.

    The other thing that falls out of this is the Law of the Excluded Middle. As I think about something being or not being, I realize that there is no third option. There is no tertium quid or middle option. Thus “excluded middle.” Thus we have the “First Principles” of “right reason,” the Laws of Identity, Noncontradiction, and Excluded Middle, which have been inferred from the data of existence.

    These principles are falsifiable. All it takes is one instance or example to make them not so. So for Mark Frank or Piotr, or anyone else, all you have to do is show some data, one datum, even, of something that isn’t what it is, or is and is not at the same time, or that falls into a third category beyond is or isn’t. In the meantime, you’ll forgive me and “us” for considering these laws of thinking, or principles of right reason, or First Principles, inviolable. Since it is literally inconceivable to think that something is and isn’t, I think we are on pretty solid ground for our starting point.

    What’s the big deal with the starting point? Well, if I start in the wrong place, even though I get my facts right and reason properly