Home » Humor, Intelligent Design » “My Failed Simulation” taken literally at scienceblogs

“My Failed Simulation” taken literally at scienceblogs

When I first wrote “My Failed Simulation” (now on the discovery.org main page here and at Human Events) it really never even occurred to me that anyone would think I had actually tried such a simulation, or that I was claiming to have tried it. I thought it was pretty obvious that it was just a thought experiment, designed to get people to think about the alternative to ID, namely that physics (the Schrodinger equation plus the elemenary particles of physics plus the four known forces of physics) alone can explain computers, libraries full of science texts and novels, and the Internet. My point was, not only is this the officially accepted view of science today, but anyone who doubts that physics alone can explain computers is considered so dumb he should be “Expelled” from the science classroom.

As I recall, only a couple of people at UD, where it was first posted, were confused as to whether or not I was serious (and they were probably only confused because they had not read below the fold). I even added “imaginary” to “friend” to make sure no one misunderstood it. But I have discovered an entire thread at Scienceblogs here where it seems many thought I was claiming to have actually done the simulation. Makes for very entertaining reading; but I don’t seem to have raised any doubts among this crowd.

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59 Responses to “My Failed Simulation” taken literally at scienceblogs

  1. Apparently those guys at scienceblogs are gullible enough to believe any old made-up story about how things evolve. They have a lot of experience in this regard. :-)

  2. 2

    One commenter says the N-body problem is of O(N^2) complexity and thus “likely” couldn’t even be run on a big cluster, let alone a laptop. Actually, it’s much worse than that, the N-particle Schrodinger equation is a PDE of dimension 3N, which means using finite differences with M gridpoint in each direction you have a time-dependent ODE system with M^(3N) unknowns, and here N is the number of elementary particles on Earth. Thus this is absolutely impossible for more than N = 3 or 4 (I’ve never solved a Schrodinger equation with more than one particle, actually).

    So I’d admit I don’t really know what would happen if such a simulation were somehow carried out, but I’m still pretty sure it would not create any computers or encyclopedias. At least, I think I have made the case that those who, like me, doubt that it would, should be taken seriously. But in this thread I am called everything from a “liar” to an “idiot” and even compared to a child molester. Frankly, such insults don’t even bother me anymore.

  3. Dr. Sewell. The insults you have been subjected to are disgusting. You have my utmost sympathy in this matter.

    The only way I can rationalize this, is to say that your work threatens them.

  4. Hopefully, *Expelled* will help matters. Even then, I’m not sure if it will be in every theater in the country.

    If theaters everywhere are going to show Michael Moore trash, then they should show Expelled. If they don’t, then our worst suspicions of media manipulation are confirmed.

  5. Hmmm. By my count, there are 29 comments in the Scienceblogs thread. Of those, I would say that 9 or 10 at least superficially suggest they took your “experiment” seriously. Maybe this is high order math, but how does 1/3 equate to “nearly everyone”?

    And I believe that your partial quote of the “he claims to have done this in FORTRAN” post incorrectly suggests that the author took you seriously.

  6. 6

    Larry,

    After looking at the comments more carefully, you are right that “nearly everyone” is an exaggeration, I have changed my post to read “many”. But certainly the author of the article, “Granville Sewell, Genius or Liar” thought I had attempted the simulation or claimed to have attempted it, and about half the commenters did also.

    Anyway, it’s the usual response to a reasoned argument for ID: divert attention from the main point by whatever means possible, and use insults to intimidate.

  7. Granville

    “The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” ~actually unsourced but widely attributed to Harlan Ellison

    It may be just anger, Granville. You present the case for order from chaos in such a way that makes it appear only a fool could not understand it or continue to believe it. That “open system” canard given in response to entropy is moronic. Just because it’s an open system doesn’t mean that every improbable order suddenly becomes probable. Keep everything about the earth exactly the same but remove intelligent agency from the “open system” and only an idiot would believe that the library of congress, computers, spacecraft, roads, dams, bridges, and other highly ordered compositions of matter and energy would still be here. Sure it’s physically possible for those things to emerge without intelligence but it’s so improbable due to entropy that it’s ridiculous to consider it as anything but practically impossible.

    The only reasonable response is that the natural evolution of intelligent agents isn’t so improbable. But that’s being countered by the evidence at every turn. No matter how much increasing detail we get from molecular biology about the machinery of life the appearance of design just gets stronger. The only way to describe those machines is by engineering terminology. It’s not metaphorical terminology either. Metaphor breaks down in literal interpretations. Engineering terminology describing cellular machinery doesn’t break down when taken literally. All our searching for other intelligent agents in the universe has come up with exactly nothing which only makes the case of natural evolution of intelligence being common look increasingly unlikely. Gonzalez was expelled for having the temerity to point out that the Copernican Principle of Mediocrity is refuted by the findings of modern astronomy. I held on to the dream that life and intelligence were a common commodity in the universe as long as I possibly could without letting it become an irrational belief but there comes a point when one has to admit that one’s most cherished beliefs are refuted by the plain evidence if one is serious about being an objective, rational observer.

  8. When I wrote “The insults you have been subjected to are disgusting.”

    I was expressing my displeasure at what you were being compared to. That was a very low thing to say.

  9. Hey, Dawkins made a complete simulation of evolution a while back, did he not? Doesn’t his simulation prove that evolution wrote “Methiks that it looks like a Weasel” or some thing like that?

    If Dawkins can write a working simulation, why can’t you?

    Oh yea, you are too complex.

  10. Seriously? 9 now counts as “many”? Does that make 2 “a lot”?

    Also, any comment on your misappropriation of the “FORTRAN” quote?

  11. 11

    Larry,

    It isn’t clear whether this commentor took me seriously or not, it’s a very short quote.

  12. 12

    One commenter said “I get the feeling people are PRETENDING not to be sure if he’s joking.” Maybe that is what is going on with “Granville Sewell–Genius or Liar?” But then the question becomes, why are they pretending to take it literally? Answer: that gives them something to attack without addressing the main point. I’m asking if the four fundamental forces of Nature can really create computers, and they’re criticizing me for not capitalizing FORTRAN, and comparing me to a child molester. Just the usual responses to ID arguments from these people.

  13. 13

    All Granville Sewell did was ask if the four fundamental forces of Nature can create computers and spaceships.

    They didn’t even try to reason and they went and compared him to being a ‘child molester’.

    Is it just me or is this crazy?

  14. 14

    To quote former Senator Bob Dole,

    “Where’s the Outrage?”

  15. “Is it just me or is this crazy?” – PannenbergOmega

    It’s not just you. It’s the internet, which has removed all of the traditional restraints on the propagation of nonsense (and bad taste). Internet publication is virtually free and is subject to no editorial approval. Even well-established laws against libel are practically unenforceable in this arena: who is going to spend time and money to bring suit against “FeatherHead43″ for an indiscreet remark buried on an obscure blog?

    And the internet “levels the playing field” in a very unfortunate way. Pertinent remarks by established authorities appear, without distinction, right along side ridiculous and unsupported assertions by semi-literate, obnoxious, hate-filled, unproductive teenagers with overactive glands. Whose remarks, in pre-internet days, would have found an audience no larger than the one or two equally useless companions who had joined our would-be orator in a musty basement bedroom to fight video game battles for imaginary glory.

    I think we have to console ourselves with the fact that the internet community is not a representative cross-section of humanity. And God help us if it is!

  16. PannenbergOmega -

    Give new meaning the term “peer-reviewed”, don’t you think?

  17. Peer review is more like peer-pressure review, meaning: conduct your research with outcomes that only support the theories and science we the ruling experts of science approve of. Should your research not focus through the lenses we give you then you may forget funding, forget grants, forget tenure, forget publication in our approved, certified, sanctified, sanctioned bastions of scientific journals.

    Even if your research is correct, if it conflicts with what we have decided is true based upon our interpretation of the data, we will laugh and scorn and scourge you from the halls of our teaching facilities.

    You may now kiss the Darwin-inscribed pinky ring on the SciencePope’s finger, you chattel you.

  18. Well, if they believe evolution, they could miss the point of the simulation description.

  19. 19

    Gerry,

    You make a good point, but on the other hand it could be argued that the Internet has played a very important role in the advance of ID theory. I have been an ID proponent for about 30 years now, that is, I felt Darwinism was insanity, but didn’t buy into the YEC’s attempts to distort science to fit Genesis; and for most of that time, I thought I was about the only person in the world with this view. I now know there were many other scientists with similar views, but there was simply no way for us to communicate, the other side had defined science in such a way as to ban us from the “peer-reviewed” scientific journals. The Internet has made it possible for us to communicate, so it has brought good along with the bad.

  20. “the minute you begin to seriously entertain the idea that the human body could have come about without design, you have lost your mind.”

    Darwinism is insanity.

  21. PannenbergOmega -

    I do think its crazy that people automatically dismiss Sewell’s ideas.

    Though, many of the people reading his papers, probably don’t have the slightest clue as to what he is talking about though.

  22. The Internet has made it possible for us to communicate, so it has brought good along with the bad. – Granville Sewell

    No doubt. I take it, then, you think the product worth the price. Though I’m sure you don’t enjoy defending yourself against the likes of Larry Cranston!
    Personally, I’d rather pay in ordinary currency. At a buck a post, I’m pretty sure the troublemakers would soon disappear. And the quality of the remaining contributions would would rise to new heights as well.

  23. Dr. Sewell, here is the full text of the post:

    “Did he have to claim to do this in FORTRAN? Makes the rest of us look bad. Of course what do you expect from someone who doesn’t even capitalize it correctly. Unless he meant Fortran 90, but everyone knows if you are going to simulate something totally insane, FORTRAN 77 is the only way to go.”

    Please note:

    1) It is not a short post. You used the word “quote”, and I am assuming you were referring to the original Scienceblogs post.

    2) You failed to cite the quote correctly. Your revision of the author’s post alters its meaning. I am sure that you would agree that when you quote someone else’s work, it should be done properly, and any errors admitted and corrected.

  24. Dr. Sewell -

    How’s that buck-a-post thing looking now? :)

  25. 25

    Larry,

    You are right, I misquoted him as “He claims to have done this in FORTRAN?” when he actually said “Did he have to claim to do this in FORTRAN?” I have removed the quote altogether, I will try to be more careful in the future.

  26. in order to avoid the confusion you should have published your post under the name Botnik and filed it under the tag P-A-R-O-D-Y!!

  27. Hi Granville,

    I read your original article, and I certainly did not think you actually coded and ran any such simulation. But then, I am one of those IDiots who think it possible to detect evidence of design.

  28. bfast:
    If Dawkins can write a working simulation, why can’t you?

    Oh yea, you are too complex.

    No, no, no!

    It is because he is so complex that he is able to be invoked as an explanation which does not itself require an explanation. Sheesh.

    I mean, really, how silly does “who designed the Granville” sound?

    When we look at computer simulations, are we obliged to ask, who designed the designer of the simulation?

    I think so. We must know, who designed Granville Sewell!?

    I am actually quite interested in an actual simulation of evolution. Maybe we can get one going here at UD? I think we have teh technical resources (as long as no one minds being asked who designed them).

    No one “minds.” Wow, how much is wrapped up in that simple statement/question?

    Step 1:

    Given observed mutations rates and what is known about the occurrence of “beneficial” mutations, how many members of a population must there be for a reasonable expectation of a beneficial mutation to appear in the population?

  29. Granville, you give the people reading your papers too much credit. Most people are not as smart as you. :)

  30. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the Prophets who were before you.

  31. 31

    Dembskian,

    I appreciate the compliment, but actually my writings on this topic are really, really simple, anyone could have written “My Failed Simulation.” In fact, that is the problem, everyone says, the problem can’t be this simple, but it is. If only I could figure out a way to use some advanced mathematics in the story, maybe people would take it seriously.

  32. Granville
    The response to your article reveals an incredible depth of ignorance on foundational principles of physics. It also exposes the pervasiveness of the brainwashing on the “creative power” of “evolution”.

    I am afraid that this may require that articles like yours be explicitly labeled “A Thought Experiment”.

  33. PannenbergOmega said that your work must frighten “them”, but this isnt work, at least it isn’t scientific work, it is a very very poor essay that is one long exercise in assuming the consequence. You produce no evidence, you have no data, you just said “This wouldn’t work”. What is frightening isn’t that people produce work like this, bad essays have always existed and always will. What is frightening is that people are buying into this sort of thing as science and being influenced into changing the science education of children to reflect this level of research.

  34. Donabain

    The really frightening thing is that people are being gulled into thinking anything can happen in an open system.

    If you’re so smart perhaps you’d care to comment on Granville’s more rigorous work published in The Mathematical Intelligencer underlying the tongue-in-cheek “failed simulation”.

    A Mathematician’s View of Evolution (2000)

    Can ANYTHING Happen in an Open System?(2001)

    For a wrap up, have a look at this:

    A Second Look at the Second Law

    We all await your highly informed critique.

  35. Seriously? That first article is meant to be science?
    It is based on a flawed understanding of the 2nLoT and a strange undefined idea of what a natural force is as well as a strange, undefined idea of how improbable something is. I will look at the other articles once I have access to a computer that reads pdf. But, I hope there is something actually rigorous in them.

  36. 36

    “What is frightening is that people are buying into this sort of thing as science and being influenced into changing the science education of children to reflect this level of research”

    Donalbain,

    What our children are being taught right now is that physics alone can explain the existence of computers and encyclopedias. Right now it is illegal in many places to even mention that there is a book in the library by scientists who doubt this. Why should your opinion be the only scientific theory to enjoy legal legal protection from scientific criticism; more to the point, why is it the only one that needs it?

    By the way, I didn’t claim my essay, or any of my writings on this topic, represent scientific research. I am a mathematician, not a biologist, my research has nothing to do with evolution. The best argument for Intelligent Design is to clearly state the opposing view, that is all I am trying to do with this essay. How much research do you need to do, anyway, to conclude that four attractive/repulsive forces (fine-tuned as they are) alone, plus chance, cannot create supercomputers and the Internet??

  37. Donalbain

    Seriously? That first article is meant to be science?

    Well, that depends on whether you consider math as a part of science. It was published in a peer reviewed math journal. There’s no misunderstanding of 2LoT in it. It’s been many decades since 2LoT was confined in application to thermodynamics. It is now understood to be the underlying principle of why law and chance can’t unbake a cake, unshatter a wineglass, undemolish a building, and things of that nature.

    After 2LoT’s formulation to explain what happens at energy gradients, like at the contact point of a hot piece of copper and a cold piece of copper, it was found that the same equations apply to the diffusion of materials like when a highly saline solution comes into contact with a low saline solution. After that it was found that the same equations describe the diffusion of order (information) across a gradient. It’s this last bit, diffusion of order across a gradient, that explains why law and chance can shatter a wineglass but can’t make a wineglass. The wineglass is a highly ordered system while the shattered wineglass is less ordered. Order crosses the gradient by law and chance in one direction – from greater to lesser – just as heat moves across gradients and salt moves across gradients. I believe it’s your incomplete understanding of 2LoT that is the problem here rather than any lack of understanding by Granville.

    The question raised by law and information gradients in life is twofold. We have unequivocally observed intelligent agents causing information to flow across gradients from lesser to greater. We hypothesize that random mutation and natural selection can mimic what intelligent agents can do but we haven’t actually observed it doing so except in trivial cases. No one has observed RM+NS creating novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans across a gradient from lesser to greater order. A second question arises from the fact that mutation and selection depends on a highly ordered system capable of metabolism, self-replication, storage and transmission of encoded information from parent to offspring. Law and chance have to explain how that highly ordered system arose from a less ordered source absent intervention from the only known means (intelligent agency) of moving information across a gradient from lesser to greater concentration.

  38. Donalbain
    See also the more recent version:
    Can “ANYTHING” Happen in an Open System? Appendix D in “The Numerical Solution of Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations” Granville Sewell, John Wiley & Sons, 2005 ISBN-10: 0471735809

    We look forward to you critique exposing errors in Sewell’s development of these generalized 2nd law equations, and/or your explanation based on foundational mathematical and physical principles as to where those equations are in error or do not apply to biological systems.

    To facilitate your cogitations, you may wish to review the commentary by Ulrich Mohrhof:
    Sewell on Darwinism and the Second Law AntiMatters, Vol 1. #2, 2007, pp 61-70

    To assist in your critique, you may wish to examine:
    HOW ANTI-EVOLUTIONISTS ABUSE MATHEMATICS J ROSENHOUSE – The Mathematical Intelligencer, 2001
    We would welcome your scholarly comments on how Rosenhouse addresses Sewell’s arguments
    - or misses the point entirely.

    PS It may also help to read Sewell’s popular article:
    Evolution’s Thermodynamic Failure, Granville Sewell, The American Spectator, 2/28/2005 12:05:33 AM

    Sewell’s articles have been posted and discussed at ISCID:
    * Evolution and the Second Law of Thermodynamics
    * Granville Sewell and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

  39. 39

    As an interested member of the public I’ve had a quick look at Granville’s work and you may be interested in my thoughts:

    Set against the application of the ‘second law’ as applied to macroscopic scenarios like the dropped wine glass is the phenomenon of a box of paper clips which when agitated produces clusters of paper clips; these clusters constitute organized configurations of paper clips. The morphospace of “paper clip configurations” effectively has contour lines of stability running through it representing clusters of paper clips of progressive complexity. Along these contour lines a biased form of diffusion will take place. Moreover, I suspect there are non-linearities in this system as the ‘surface area’ of a paper clip cluster has the potential to create ‘the rich get richer’ effects.

    Obviously this paper clip system is a ‘toy’ system and hardly constitutes a ‘proof’ of evolution (but then so is the wine glass). However, it sets a precedent that raises questions in my mind about how the far more sophisticated atomic elements in the real world behave when agitated, and just what contours of stability might be running through atomic configuration space.

    The second law works within a physical regime. That physical regime effectively applies mathematical constraints by weighting the probabilities of the possible states. The second law determines change within the structure of weighted possibilities; as we see in the paper clip system the allocation of these weightings may be highly organized. The second law tells us about the motion of the system given this structure of weightings. The second law settles for maximum disorder within this structure. The second law determines that a system moves toward maximum disorder, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the system becomes disordered in an absolute sense because the physical regime may eliminate such large numbers of disordered possibilities that there is a high chance of organization developing. It is the envelope of possibilities that is the more relevant factor than a (thermo) dynamical law that simply tells us that maximum disorder is the trend within this envelope.

    I’m not saying that the above constitutes proof of evolution, but considerations like the above steal away any compelling intuitions I might have about just what the outcome of the second law is when abstract constraints are applied to a system. My intuitions about what happens when a wine glass is dropped are canceled by my intuitions about agitated paper clips.

  40. 40

    Timothy V Reeves, you just debunked Granville Sewell?

  41. Timothy V Reeves
    Any papers, data you can point to?
    I suspect the phenomena you are referring to are related to the “design” or a priori specified configuration of the paper clips compared to metal balls or polymers, and represent the consequence of initial “embedded information” within the system. But even these apparent clumping effects are a consequence of the stochastic effects combined with natural laws of what is already within the system.

    This is dramatically different in kind and complexity from Complex Specified Information such as the very finely tunes irreducibly complex systems used to replicate and transcribe DNA, and photosynthesis, ion pumps etc. essential to even the simplest self reproducing cells. e.g., see DNA Compaction.

  42. 42

    Thank G-d for DLH, eh?

  43. 43

    I think Granville Sewell, Billy Dembski, Mike Behe and Jon Wells all deserve our respect. They have put ‘everything’ on the line for ID.

    Think about it.

    Mike Gene is using a pseudonym. These MEN gave everything four OUR cause.
    G-d bless them. Saints.

  44. Non nobis, Domine, Domine,
    non nobis, Domine
    Sed nomini, sed nomini,
    tuo da gloriam.

    Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
    But to your Name give glory. PS 115:1

    PS as sung with enthusiasm.

  45. 45

    It seems like everyone speak Latin but me. :)

  46. 46

    G-d bless you too DHL.

  47. Timothy

    You’ve basically restated the snowflake argument with paper clips. Snowflakes exhibit higher order than the water molecules in the air from which they formed and they take on shapes which are macroscopically describable. On closer examination things start to break down. No two snowflakes are exactly alike just as no two wads of paperclips will be exactly alike. The snowflake is a result of law and chance and presents no mystery. We can observe snowflakes (and many other crystalline forms) being formed. The paperclip example is not as good as they take on no real form that can be macroscopically described, all they do is get bigger like precipitates falling out of a solution when you add more of the right chemicals to the solution, where again precipitates are well described by law and chance. These orderings are trivial. Snowflakes, wads of paperclips, and chemical precipitates aren’t machines that do any kind of useful work. They don’t contain coded information on how to construct more snowflakes in the image of the original snowflake.

    Basically what you’re reaching for is some unknown law or laws that when applied prefers some type of organization that leads to living systems. This is called “process structuralism” and among its well known advocates are Richard Sternberg who, by the way, is one of the “Expelled”. His crime wasn’t thinking out loud about process structuralism, as process structuralism doesn’t call for intelligent agency so it’s “approved” science, but for daring to allow a paper to be published whose author was a design advocate.

    At any rate, I don’t discount process structuralism but I do believe more than just speculation that some unknown, unspecified laws of chemistry such as those that describe crystal formation work to produce “crystals” of life. As applied to examples of order that Granville cites – spacecraft and computers – it is like postulating that some unknown law of chemistry prefers the types of orderings found in computers and spacecraft and so their spontaneous formation by law and chance isn’t unreasonably improbable. Well, sir, find those laws and demonstrate how they work in a repeatable way and you’ll make a believer out of me. In the meantime I’m compelled to accept as the best explanation the only demonstrated means of how spacecraft and computers can be formed and that means is intelligent design.

  48. 48

    Calm down PannenbergOmega I’m not in the business of debunking anyone if I can help it, but neither am I fond of personality cults. I’m not here to shoot down people but to hunt down some answers. As I seem to be one of the few pro-evolutionists around these parts I thought you might be interested to hear why a member of the public has been so brain washed that he is buying into a theory that posits the efficacy of blind forces to magically generate fantastic designs (Let’s get the name calling over and done with!)

    DLH: No papers are needed because what I was talking about is standard physics: e.g. the Boltzmann distribution is not a maximum disorder distribution in an absolute sense but it is maximum disorder in a relative sense given physical constraints like the conservation of mass and energy. However as a theist, I’m not at all adverse to your comment that the outcome of the paper clip system is implicit in the ‘design logic’ of the system: Precisely! That is what is at issue here: how is the information introduced into the system? Is it mapped on to it on a point-by-point basis by the knocks and nudges of ‘divine design events’ down the ages ID style? Or is it introduced via some kind of generating system? Yes, and you are right, my ‘toy’ system is a long, long way from the self-sustaining and replicating structures of biology.

    Dave: The issue here is fairly basic: Does the second law prevent pockets of high order developing in a system? No it certainly doesn’t, as the paper clip system (macroscopic) and the snowflake (microscopic) exemplify. The second law does not prohibit localized high order developing. Conclusion: we can’t use the second law as a general prohibition against local increases in order – in some cases ‘wine glasses’ do seem to ‘unsmash’! Accordingly it is therefore not immediately intuitively obvious that the second law is violated by evolution. However I grant that it is far from a trivial extrapolation to extend these basic ideas to evolution.

    No, I am not proposing process structuralism. The point I am making about evolution requiring contours of stability running through morphospace is robust and applies whether you are a process structuralist or not: Without resort to saltation theories evolution works by cumulative changes and my reference to contours of stability in morphospace is simply an abstract way of saying that evolution predicts an unbroken line of stable transitional forms. Surely you agree with this because IC (Irreducible Complexity) is the negation of this evolutionary assumption? If IC negates it, it must be negating something that is at least an intelligible idea, even if you believe it to be false. Evolution (if it has happened) predicts that those contours of stability must exist in morhphospace, and moreover must have had a paleontological reification. From an ID point of view this is a counterfactual.

    The notion of contour lines of stability doesn’t invoke any new laws: it actually asks and suggests an answer to a nigh on intractable question: does morphospace, with its vast possibilities, juxtapose stable structures into string like contours enabling evolution to do its business? It’s a bit like asking if the Mandlebrot set is all connected, although the latter is a far more mathematically tractable problem: morphospace, with its vast unknown families of forms is unlikely to yield easily to analytical treatment. However the answer to this abstract question is implicit in the convoluted and intricate logic of morphospace and one need not invoke any new logic in the form of new laws.

    The paperclip and snow flake examples provide us with very simple morphospaces that clearly have contour lines of stability running through them, although once again I would acknowledge that it is far from a trivial step to make extrapolations from these toy systems to evolution.

    So the big question for theists is: has the divine mind mapped his thoughts directly onto biological structures or conceived a generating system? If it were the latter would you find it harder to believe? If so, why? Now, I am not going to push this on you and make you annoyed because I known that the ID movement has invested so much in IC.

    Sorry I don’t have any official academic status that you can vie with. I’m just an interested amateur science maverick (any laws against that?). For my part I’m very grateful for any feedback. I call my self pro-evolution, but I haven’t sold my soul to it, any more than I’d sell my soul to ID. Actually, I’m just road testing evolutionary theory; the second hand theory salesmen, Prof Larry Moran, who sold me the theory told me that it was good little runner, and so far that’s proved true in the sense that it is a sense making theoretical structure that succeeds in “joining lots of dots”. However, I’d as soon as dump it as a nagging mother-in-law if it starts giving me big trouble. In science a studied detachment in relation to theories is very helpful – it helps short cut the emotional heart ache and fulminations. It is an irritation that the two sets of people I need to talk to about creation/evolution are locked in such a polarized acrimonious struggle; it means that when approached they have a tendency shoot first and ask questions afterwards. For me the intellectual challenges are struggle enough without having to struggle with people.
    {DLH corrected IR to IC per following posts}

  49. As an interested, but obviously ignorant member of the public, I ask: What is IR?

  50. 50

    Sorry, my mistake – that should read IC; “Irreducible complexity”

    {DLH I corrected IR to IC in your post above.}

  51. Timothy

    Does the second law prevent pockets of high order developing in a system?

    Hold on here. That’s a qualified “no”. The second law and chance doesn’t prevent ordered systems from developing, it makes them more and more improbable as the order increases. The improbabilities in any specific case above the quantum scale is found through the use of statistical mechanics. For instance law and chance can form lots of regularly shaped stone blocks but the probabilities become prohibitive in the stone blocks getting stacked into pyramids such as those in Egypt. Law and chance can concentrate and melt gold into lots of shapes but the chances become prohibitive in chance melting gold into interchangeable machined parts like gears. The chances become even more prohibitive that interchangeable machined parts would be assembled together into a larger mechanism.

    However, introduce an intelligent agent into the picture who can form abstract thoughts of improbable arrangements of matter and then manipulate matter to instantiate the abstract into physical reality and then the most improbable things become routine.

    The contour lines of stability you suggest are indeed process structuralism and it does indeed require the discovery of laws which describe those lines. We know the laws that describe the contour lines of stability that form snowflakes and precipitates and planets and stars but we don’t know of laws which describe contour lines of stability for the formation polymeric amino and nucleic acids into precisely machined interchangeable parts that further assemble by law and chance into larger hideously complex nanometer scale self-modifying, self-replicating factories. The supposition that there are contours of stability imposed by law that make these things not improbable in statistical mechanics is indeed process structuralism. Statistical mechanics will accomodate any laws which change the probability of any kind of order emerging by law and chance. Find those laws, or principles, or tendencies, or whatever you want to call them, describe them either empirically or mathematically, and then we can talk further. Merely supposing that these undercurrents of structural contours exist is no more than wool gathering. Statistical mechanics underpins all analysis of order in nature, all prediction of how matter behaves by law and chance in non-quantum domains, and is extremely successful in its predictive capacity.

    Moreover, if laws are discovered that make the kind of structures we find in cellular automata not prohibitively improbable Granville’s generalization of like kinds of order having to be imported across a boundary still holds. The boundary line then becomes the limits of the observable universe. The universe itself must then be an open system with order being imported from outside of it. There’s just no means of escaping the second law. Only intelligent agency is capable of gaming the system to make the improbable into the probable.

  52. Timothy V Reeves,

    Your long post uses a lot of rhetoric that is sometimes hard to discern but I will use some your terms that I think I understand.

    The problem I have with gradualism is that there are no dots to connect. The dots should have been obvious in at least a few of the fossil records but what the fossil record has is an occasional dot and it is left to the observer to imagine all the intermediary dots. Once imagined these dots not found in the fossil record become evidence for gradualism even though there is no empirical data for them. Evolutionary biology is the only science where one’s imagination and its product is evidence. I kid you not. Making up a plausible scenario is the basis of a lot of conclusions.

    Also if the process of gradualism is working today we should see in our world some of these dots rather close together. Since each is stable and there is no reason why one would always obviate the previous dot there should be a multitude of examples of very close dots. There are millions of species in our world with opportunities to gradually change and there should be examples of some of them diverging in a way that indicates gradualism going on. But we do not see this. So no dots. Where are the dots?

    If we see similar variants of species there is never any indication that what you are seeing is no more than just a slight modifications of the genome due to environmental reasons. They are not moving to a new dot but just reshuffling the gene pool a little. There is never any differences of consequence. The Darwinists have not found any yet or else they would be shoving them down our throats as examples. They are very quiet here. I suggest you ask Larry Moran who main form or argument is mockery.

    What we do see is that the so called species are really not species but probably just variants of some gene pool that existed a long time ago and many do not deserve the classification as separate species. What we see is variety and an evolution that is primarily down and not up as Darwin predicted.

    Now if in your terminology “contours of stability must exist in morhphospace” you are I believe postulating that if an Intelligence came along and could design (I use these terms deliberately) species that are just a dot away from each other and stable and these dots eventually led to novelty and complexity then it should be possible for naturalistic processes to find these dots given enough time.

    The problem is that the movement from dot to dot requires probabilistic resources that are probably not available in the history of the universe. Moving from one dot to another is feasible but moving thousands of dots away is challenging us to find numbers large enough to express it. Then again there is the physical evidence that such dot movement does not exist today or ever existed.

    Your ideas or order are really irrelevant. There are numerous examples of how nature orders things but order is not specified complexity where one extremely complex system (DNA) specifies a highly complex functional system that is more functionally complex than anything made by man. How paper clips line up or snow flakes form or magnetic particles set up patterns is really quite primitive to a computer system more sophisticated than any designed by humans. These patterns of order have no function and do not specify any other system of interacting parts.

  53. Timothy V Reeves, you are a very clear communicator, and one who is more aware of his thought-process than most. I hope that in time we will be able to convince you of the validity of ID. If/when we can, you will be able to articulate the view very well.

    I, like you, have observed this debate from the position of a non-scientist with an open mind and good awareness of what drives my belief systems. I would love to share my data with you, as I find that it is rather convincing. That said, if there is one book that lays out the ID case best, let me suggest the book that convinced Behe — Denton’s “Evolution a Theory in Crisis.”

    The frustrating thing about this forum is that it spends 90% of its energy on the politics of ID, and only 10% on science. Of that 10%, 90% is just rehashing of old ideas. That leaves about 1% of meaningful scientific discussion.

    Another frustring thing about this forum is that non-IDers get kicked off really easily, too easily for my taste. To that end, let me strongly suggest that as a non-IDer you always use a respectful tone, as you have done so far.

  54. bfast, you’re skirting dangerously close to the edge of…rational discussion.

  55. Timothy V Reeves
    Thanks for a detailed thoughtful response.

    I’m not at all adverse to your comment that the outcome of the paper clip system is implicit in the ‘design logic’ of the system: Precisely! That is what is at issue here: how is the information introduced into the system? Is it mapped on to it on a point-by-point basis by the knocks and nudges of ‘divine design events’ down the ages ID style? Or is it introduced via some kind of generating system?

    My “design” comment was probably a poor choice of words getting discussion off on a tangent. Note the subsequent:

    represent the consequence of initial “embedded information” within the system. But even these apparent clumping effects are a consequence of the stochastic effects combined with natural laws of what is already within the system.

    This is dramatically different in kind and complexity from Complex Specified Information such as the very finely tunes irreducibly complex systems used to replicate and transcribe DNA, and photosynthesis, ion pumps etc. essential to even the simplest self reproducing cells. e.g., see DNA Compaction.

    It is this inability of conventional neoDarwinism to explain this complex specified information that is so much different from natural laws or my “embedded information”, that is at the foundations of why ID.

    (Now I need to write up the rest to better explain it.)

  56. 56

    Thanks everyone for the comments which I have read with great interest. There is a lot to ponder there, so I will try and boil it all down into a pithy response.

  57. Timothy V Reeves,

    If you want to see a lot of the issues with the current theory of evolution laid out, then read the article by Wolf-Ekkehard Loennig that Dr. Sewell refers to in his post put up this morning. It is long but a good exposition of many of our objections here to what he calls the synthetic theory of evolution. Here is the link

    http://www.weloennig.de/Giraffe.pdf

    This is an interesting example because it is a mammal and most recent mammals probably arose through naturalistic methods but the giraffe presents an unusual problem for gradualism.

  58. 58
    Timothy V Reeves

    Let me just say that I find Jerry’s comments especially challenging, perhaps because I’m no paleontologist or natural historian. Yes, it does seem that the dots are few and far between and I suppose that’s why Gould came up with his punctuated equilibria. However, from my layman’s position it’s as if I am viewing natural history from a great height; from this general perspective the overall landscape does have an evolutionary look about it. For example: a nested taxonomy (morphologically and genetically?), a few transitional looking fossil forms and living species suggestive of evolutionary relations like the mud skipper, skink, lung fish, amphibians. My general impression is that evolution does connect quite a few dots, albeit at my low-resolution view. However, zoom in (as does the giraffe pdf) and the apparent lines of decent fade somewhat and like the canals on mars one wonders if one’s mind is simply interpolating what’s not there. A project I feel that I really need to carry out one day is to list all the dots that evolutionary theory does succeed in joining (and any it doesn’t) and then sit back and take a long hard look at it… Anyway, thanks Jerry for the giraffe pdf.

    There are one or two issues I would have liked to take up with Dave, but I don’t want to overload this comment section. Another time perhaps…

  59. Timothy V Reeves,

    There is another thread on the list now titled “Grape Expectations and Interpreting Experience.” There is nothing in it that I want to point you to other than we tend to interpret things in terms of a framework even though the framework may be bogus.

    In a book on paleontology aimed at the layman, Henry Gee said about the evolution of humans:

    “New fossils are fitted into this pre-existing theory. We call these fossils ‘Missing links’ as if the chain of ancestry and descent were a real object of our contemplation, and not what it really is: a completely human invention created after the fact, shaped to accord with human prejudices. In reality the physical evidence of human evolution is more modest. Each fossil represents an isolated point, with no knowable connection to any other given fossil, and all float around in an overwhelming sea of gaps”

    He is describing the fallacy of Begging the Question. Gee is no friend of ID. And he, himself, is guilty of the fallacy he describes above by constantly assuming a hypothesis as fact when it is something to be proven. In other words he constantly begs the question by assuming gradualism is true. He does this on nearly every page of the book I am reading by him called “In Search of Deep Time.”

    Gee is no different than nearly every researcher in evolutionary biology who when faced with a contradiction will just blithely say that “such and such” evolved. It gets rid of any discussion of the problem.

    Good luck in your readings and search for how evolution happened. It is a fact that it happened in the sense that many new organisms appeared over time and these organisms seed to have a direction in terms of complexity and more elaborate biological systems. What is not a fact is any mechanism for how it happened.

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