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Polanyi and Ontogenetic Emergence

I have been studying the concept of emergence, especially from Arthur Peacocke, and Michael Polanyi recently. Peacocke was very much influenced by Polanyi, but instead has developed a monistic approach to reality within an emergentist-naturalistic-panentheistic perspective. Peacocke speaks about the process of evolution having ‘creativity’ as does the emergentist process philosopher Ian Barbour who suggested that there is some ‘design’ in the system of evolution.

Polanyi believed in an irreducible hierarchy in nature, but one that has arisen through ‘ontogenetic emergence.’ This process was believed to have been driven forward by a ‘creative agent’ or director. (Polanyi (1962) Personal Knowledge, Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp. 393-395  (ontogeny – the development of what exists – as a child develops from an embryo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontogeny ) 

Compares perhaps with Darwin’s concluding remarks “There is grandeur in this view of life . . . having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that . . . from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” 

Polanyi perhaps saw something mysterious, and unknowable, (i.e.tacit knowledge) in how human beings have arisen through an emergent evolutionary process. Steve Meyer in ‘Signature in the cell’ also makes some very interesting comments about Polanyi and the sequence of nucleotides in the genetic code not being physically determined.   

I would like to ask some questions here for discussion. 

How did Polanyi see mind acting on the evolutionary process? 

How would we view Polanyi’s position involving ‘ontogenetic emergence’ directed by a ‘creative agent’ ? 

From this, would ID proponents see ID as part of emergence or as an alternative to emergence?

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38 Responses to Polanyi and Ontogenetic Emergence

  1. I think emergence generally is an idea that theists and atheists use to describe the same things. It’s just that theists think emergent phenomena are evidence of God and atheists think they “emerged” spontaneously. I say that ID should be friendly towards the idea of emergence, because it’s essentially an admission by materialists of defeat in the search for a real material cause. As Napoleon once said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

    Now I don’t consider atheists to be my “enemy” in the sense that Napoleon meant it of course. :D I have liked every atheist I’ve ever known personally. But it is a battle of ideas.

  2. Interesting . . . from Wikipedia:

    “In philosophy, emergence is often understood to be a much stronger claim about the etiology of a system’s properties. An emergent property of a system, in this context, is one that is not a property of any component of that system, but is still a feature of the system as a whole. Nicolai Hartmann, one of the first modern philosophers to write on emergence, termed this categorial novum (new category).

    In religion, emergence grounds expressions of religious naturalism in which a sense of the sacred is perceived in the workings of entirely naturalistic processes by which more complex forms arise or evolve from simpler forms. Notable examples of a scientific understanding of emergent complexity that lead to a sense of the sacred include a 2006 essay titled ‘The Sacred Emergence of Nature’ by Ursula Goodenough and Terrence Deacon and a 2006 essay titled ‘Beyond Reductionism: Reinventing the Sacred’ by Stuart Kauffman.”

  3. Perhaps the staunchest supporter of the concept of emergence in evolutionary biology was Ernst Mayr. Indeed, he parted company with Will Provine on precisely this point: that evolution is distinguished from physics and chemistry in that levels of biological organization cannot be “reduced” to phenomena at “lower” levels.

    Furthermore, Mayr was quite explicit about what the “creative agent(s)” in evolutionary emergence is: it is the “engines of variation” (my own shorthand term for the 50+ processes listed here: http://evolutionlist.blogspot......awman.html ), coupled with the various mechanisms of micro- and macroevolution, which bring about the emergence of virtually all of the overwhelming diversity of life on Earth.

    (Will Provine also doesn’t like “reductionism” in biology, but for different reasons than Mayr. He doesn’t like “emergence” because it smacks of Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin, both of whom he views as fundamentally wrong-headed about evolution)

  4. How does one rationally grasp the idea of randomness coalescing into order without reference to design? It can’t be done, claims by EVO-DEVO proponents notwithstanding.

    IOW, emergence is only intelligible from a front-loading perspective.

  5. Mr Oramus,

    Feedback loops. Attractors.

  6. Nakashima and Oramus,

    A system of randomness and law absent intelligence will indeed coalesce into local patterns of order — it is merely the laws of the system which cause that order/regularity — however law and randomness absent intelligence don’t produce functional organization (a functionally specified spatial arrangement which is not defined by law — mathematical descriptions of regularities that emerge from the physical/material/measurable properties of matter and energy.)

    Since functional organization is not defined by law or best explained by chance there is no reason to even postulate that only law+chance absent intelligence will produce such arrangement. Furthermore, no one has provided any theory or tests to support the idea of such functional organization arising from law+chance absent intelligence.

    The best attempt to try to explain such organization so far is to throw vast excess of probabilistic resources at the problem in order to “allow” chance to do the dirty work of generating these patterns that are routinely observed to require intelligent systems utilizing their foresight. However, along with multiple universes there comes no non-arbitrary cutoff point as to what infinite probabilistic resources are to be used to explain. Infinite probabilistic resources can be used to explain away every pattern in existence and thus science stops since no further explanation is required. Even the infamous camera found on a planet on the other side of the universe, those hypothetical radio signals from ETI, and the orbit of the planets around the sun, and the arrangement of crystals could be explained by chance if infinite probabilistic resources are given.

    But if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?

  7. CJYman – can you be clearer about what you mean by “functional organization”? Your parenthetical comment is rather opaque to me, I’m afraid.

  8. Hello Heinrich,

    - Beginning with “law:”

    The word “law” is usually either used to describe a statement of cause and effect or observation which is universally true or it is used as a description of certain patterns. When we speak of the “law of gravity,” we are referring to either a specific universally true statement of attraction or we are referring to the mathematical description of such attraction. When speaking of chemical or physical reactions occurring according to a certain law, we are describing an effect which is the result of specific material/physical/measurable properties of the matter and energy involved in the reaction; responsible for the ending pattern.

    That’s why in reference to the cause of certain patterns, I have defined “law” as “mathematical descriptions of regularities that emerge from the physical/material/measurable properties of matter and energy.”

    - Moving on to “organization:”

    A spatial arrangement is merely a pattern in any dimension. An organized pattern is one which is not merely ordered — defined by law/regularity such as the patterns of planets orbiting the sun, crystals repetitiously arranged, or a vortex. Ordered patterns emerge from the physical/material/measurable properties of matter and energy, whereas organized patterns are not defined by such properties of the materials utilized to generate the organization. If we stopped here though, any statistically random pattern would qualify as “organization.” However there are patterns which are not merely “ordered” (defined by law) and yet are also not random in the sense of lacking correlation. These organized, non-ordered, yet also non-random patterns are usually arranged according to an independent non-random scheme or diagram (which is why they lack “randomness.”)

    Here is a quote from Jeffrey S. Wicken, “The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 77 (April 1979): 353, 349-65, which will hopefully help explain the basics of “organization:”

    ” ‘Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems. Neither kind of system is ‘random;’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content.”

    Ordered patterns arise from the internal properties of the material utilized which produces *regularities* when those materials are present (and that is why order is described as simple mathematical descriptions or algorithms), whereas organized patterns do not arise from the properties of the material used and that is why an external diagram or scheme is needed in order to describe and generate the placement of the material — the pattern of the material.

    That is the difference between “ordered” and “organized.” Order can occur as a result of “self-ordering phenomenon” since it can be generated from the properties of the materials within the ordered system, however organization must be caused by something external to the organized system since it is not defined by laws of the materials utilized within the organized system.

    - And now we move on to “functionally specified:”

    How can we tell if a pattern is indeed non-random? You can put it through statistical tests and if a certain amount of order is detected, there is most likely a law (that mathematical equation or simple algorithm which produces the regularity) which can account for the pattern. Also, one can look for a correlation, since randomness is indeed the lack of correlation.

    This is where “specified” comes in. A specified event, according to Dr. Dembski, is an event which can be formulated as an independent pattern. A specified event is correlated, independent of the event, with its formulation as a pattern. Because there exists independent correlation, randomness is not the best explanation. Since we are dealing with independence, we can describe a specified pattern using a simple mathematical function, where f(pattern)=event; the event is independently formulated as the pattern. As you can see, ordered systems are specified, and thus non-random, since f(mathematical equation for gravity)=pattern resulting from effects of gravity. However, non-ordered systems can also be specified where f(blueprint)=pattern resulting from the implementation of that blueprint or f(specific arrangement of parts)=effect which contributes to a larger organization and it is this last type of specified event which can be seen as “functional.”

    Of course, one can say that puddles are specified since we can say that f(shape of hole in the ground)=shape of the water which fills the hole. As long as the shape of the hole in the ground is indeed independent from the water which fills it, then the critic seems to have a point. But, that is why merely having a specified pattern can not allow one to jump to a design inference. Just as merely having a complex pattern can not allow one to jump to a design inference. The pattern (event) must be either both complex (highly improbable) and specified, or in the case of what I am now discussing, functionally specified in order to arrive at a design inference.

    Adding the term “functionally” to “specified” merely lets us know that the organization is functional in the sense of contributing to a larger whole by producing an effect which which would not exist if the organization where to change. IOW, the functional effect is dependent on the specific organization. This definition is similar to the Merriam-Webster definition #3 of function: “any of a group of related actions contributing to a larger action.”

    - So, having explained each piece, let’s put it all together to define functional organization: “a functionally specified spatial arrangement which is not defined by law — mathematical descriptions of regularities that emerge from the physical/material/measurable properties of matter and energy.”

    - Which brings us to the point that I made previously: “Since functional organization is not defined by law or best explained by chance there is no reason to even postulate that only law+chance absent intelligence will produce such arrangement. Furthermore, no one has provided any theory or tests to support the idea of such functional organization arising from law+chance absent intelligence.

    - So, again, I ask the question: “if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?”

  9. For more on organization check out
    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity

  10. Mr CJYman,

    How do I distinguish between ordered and organized, in nature? Is there an effective procedure that always decides correctly between them? Even just gets it right 95% of the time?

  11. CJYman, do you allow your laws to be stochastic?

  12. I think there may be a difference between emergence and intelligent design in terms of approaches to God’s immanence and transcendence. Someone who emphasises God’s transecendence is more likely to believe in a direct form of intelligent design. Someone who emphasises God’s immanence is more likely to believe in a more naturalistic emergence.

  13. Andrew Sibley,

    Thank you for your #12.

    To my mind, your disjunction is a signal contribution towards bridging some gaps among the contending parties and enhancing understanding.

    Being scientifically inclined, I guess I belong in the immanence camp. (Along with the papacy and theistic evolutionists?)

    Please continue to flesh out your ideas on this subject.

  14. Hello Mr. Nakashima,

    I believe I have described the difference between ordered and organized patterns sufficiently in my last few comments. If there is something which doesn’t quite make sense or if you would like to delve a little deeper into a specific aspect, please ask. Hopefully I will be around for some time to continue a lengthy discussion. Basically, once regular mathematically described patterns are found, we know we are dealing with an ordered event. As well, if the arrangement is based upon laws of attraction/repulsion emerging from physical/material/measurable properties of matter and energy we will see regularities as seen in crystals and orbits/vortexes.

    The answer to your question as to how we can tell even 95% of the time is that any investigation is a process. Are you thinking about a specific example where order was mistaken for organization or vice versa?

    A scientific process should simply follow the evidence and weigh competing hypothesis against available evidence which is why I make the point and ask the question that I did at the end of my last comment. Furthermore, there are times in which we can test a system and discover, as in an essay, that the overall arrangement of letters is not defined by any of the physical properties of the letters. If that were not true then one letter would necessarily have to follow another letter (as in a crystal) and there would be no variability and no ability to store and transfer information (as a measure of decrease in uncertainty). If that were the case, then we would be stuck with mere regularities and not an essay. The story is the same within DNA and proteins and complexes of proteins.

    For more information on formal organization (as Abel titles it), of which functional organization would be a subset, see the above linked paper on Chaos and Complexity.

  15. Hello Heinrich,

    A system of law+chance would be stochastic.

    Would you care to expand on your question? I’m not sure I see the relevance or if I understand your question in light of our discussion of law, order and functional organization.

    - Again, my point is:
    “Since functional organization is not defined by law or best explained by chance there is no reason to even postulate that only law+chance absent intelligence will produce such arrangement. Furthermore, no one has provided any theory or tests to support the idea of such functional organization arising from law+chance absent intelligence.

    - And so, I ask the question:
    “if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?”

  16. Andrew Sibley,

    Along with Adel DiBagno, I would also belong in the immanence camp.

  17. Mr CJYman,

    Abel seems to be restating many of his basic points in this paper. However, one section I had difficulty with was

    As pointed out in the above reference, even less information-retaining ability would be found in an oligoribonucleotide adsorbed onto montmorillonite [201-206]. Clay surfaces would have been required to align ribonucleotides with 3’ 5’ linkages. The problem is that only polyadenosines or polyU’s tend to form. Using clay adsorption to solve one biochemical problem creates an immense informational problem (e.g., high order, low complexity, low uncertainty, and low information retaining ability.

    Refs 201-206 cite the work of Ferris et al., in particular “Sequence- and Regioselectivity in the Montmorillonite-Catalyzed Synthesis of RNA” Miyakawa and Ferris 2003. This paper notes

    The reactivity of A was similar to that of G, and C was comparable in reactivity to U.

    and Ferris elsewhere notes

    An important aspect of this RNA oligomer formation is sequence selectivity —the preferential linkage of different nucleotides with bases A, C, G, or U. In experiments where we began with equal amounts of these four bases, clay catalysis resulted in the formation of a non-uniform distribution of the 16 possible pair sequences (Ertem and Ferris 2000; Miyakawa and Ferris 2003). In fact, eight of the sixteen dimers accounted for 84% of the reaction products, and all eight of these dimers have a purine nucleotide at their 5’-end.

    My point is that Abel’s references do not seem to support his contention. Nor does Abel reference Yarus and direct templating of proteins on RNA at all, even though the probabilistic nature of this templating means that many protein sequences could be generated by a single RNA sequence.

  18. Hello Nakashima,

    Unlike most other IDers I know about, I am not opposed to abiogenesis simply defined as life from non-life. Since there was a time in our universe’s history when there was no life and then a time when there was life, barring a hand ripping through time and space and intervening to form life (which IMO is a useful as Last Thursdayism), some type of abiogenetical process must have occurred. I am personally partial to some type of RNA first scenario.

    However, the point that I made and the question I ask still stand and no one has yet refuted the point or answered the question.

    Even though I see no way around the fact (IMO) that abiogenesis must have occurred, there is no reason to suppose that it happened by law+chance absent previous intelligence even if we could observe the occurrence of the formation of life and it appeared to happen by chance. After all, “Me thinks it is like a weasel” can appear to form itself by chance from a random assemblage of letters, however upon closer inspection (*and not giving up*) and with what we know about how law, chance, and intelligence operate, we can come to the conclusion that intelligence was necessarily in that phrase’s causal chain.

    I honestly don’t see the relevance between your last comment and my explanation of the difference between patterns described by functional organization, order (law), and randomness (chance).

    Furthermore, the part of Abel’s paper that I have read through and agree with and was referring to was the part on differentiating between organization and order in “The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity.”

  19. Andrew Sibley,

    You’ve given the most balanced and insightful remark I’ve ever seen in a white box at UD:

    I think there may be a difference between emergence and intelligent design in terms of approaches to God’s immanence and transcendence. Someone who emphasises God’s transecendence is more likely to believe in a direct form of intelligent design. Someone who emphasises God’s immanence is more likely to believe in a more naturalistic emergence.

    What basis is there for emphasizing one over the other? I recommend that people maintain a dialectic of transcendence and immanence. The creation of a creating universe proceeds in each and every instant. This is a truth that any individual can apprehend privately, but that public science cannot countenance.

  20. A system of law+chance would be stochastic.

    Would you care to expand on your question? I’m not sure I see the relevance or if I understand your question in light of our discussion of law, order and functional organization.

    Sorry about the delay. Anyway, I am not a great fan of the separation of “law” and “chance”: for a lot of stochastic processes this separation is non-trivial, as the two are not independent. It is also not clear where Mendel’s laws of heredity would fit into this: they are about stochastic phenomena.

  21. Hello again Heinrich,

    I’m also not a fan of the separation of law and chance. First, I don’t see how chance is possible without laws and any group of laws will create stochastic processes.

    Heinrich:
    “It is also not clear where Mendel’s laws of heredity would fit into this: they are about stochastic phenomena.”

    Yes, as is the search for “Me thinks it is like a weasel.” The letters are chosen based on random input, yet the random input is guided toward complex, specified organization.

    So, to bring our discussion back to what I was originally saying …

    - Again, my point is:
    “Since functional organization is not defined by law or best explained by chance there is no reason to even postulate that only law+chance absent intelligence will produce such arrangement. Furthermore, no one has provided any theory or tests to support the idea of such functional organization arising from law+chance absent intelligence.

    - And so, I ask the question:
    “if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?”

  22. Mystic wrote: “What basis is there for emphasizing one over the other? I recommend that people maintain a dialectic of transcendence and immanence. The creation of a creating universe proceeds in each and every instant. This is a truth that any individual can apprehend privately, but that public science cannot countenance.”

    A proper theistic approach is to hold immanance and transcendence in balance, although I see immanance presently more important in relation to the church with God bringing all things together in Christ.

    The problem as I see it for American public science is that naturalistic approaches to science bring beliefs from a religion of nature into science and exclude Christianity. See Clouser, The Myth of Religious neutrality, Uni Notre Dame Press.

  23. Since functional organization is not defined by law or best explained by chance there is no reason to even postulate that only law+chance absent intelligence will produce such arrangement.

    That is, of course, a non-sequitur. There is no logical reason for saying “A can’t do X, B can’t do X, therefore A+B won’t be able to do X”: I hope you learned enough chemistry at school to know this.

    “if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?”

    I wonder where you place the development of embryos. There is nothing in their physical properties of their material (proteins and other chemicals) that would imply an organism. I’m not sure that the “mathematical description of regularity” (presumably of the fully developed organism) defines the pattern (unless you mean this as a truism: the pattern is the adult organism, the mathematical description is a description of the adult). So where does that leave us? With intelligent embryos?

    It seems to me that one finds a lack of foresight in the development of an embryo: it doesn’t “know” what it will be. The whole thing develops because of a set of “rules” in stochastic conditions.

  24. CJYman:
    “Since functional organization is not defined by law or best explained by chance there is no reason to even postulate that only law+chance absent intelligence will produce such arrangement.”

    Heinrich:
    “That is, of course, a non-sequitur.”

    I disagree. Think about it a bit. When do we invoke law to describe a pattern? Answer: when it is *defined* by regularity and mathematical description (ie: equation for gravity) as I explained above. So, if a pattern isn’t regular and mathematically describable, we don’t use law to describe it. OTOH, if we do discover regularities we don’t just say that it was a result of chance, with no law guiding the pattern, as we would say of patterns resulting from the input of atmospheric noise (ie: http://www.random.org).

    Although I don’t believe that law+chance can be separated, as in one can exist without the other, we can still separate patterns that are guided by law from patterns which are not as I just explained.

    Heinrich:
    “There is no logical reason for saying “A can’t do X, B can’t do X, therefore A+B won’t be able to do X”: I hope you learned enough chemistry at school to know this.”

    That is why I am not speaking in terms of A can’t “do” X. I’m speaking in terms of defining a pattern, since law and chance are used to *define* patterns before we can say that those patterns are explained by either law or chance. There is a big difference between “A doing X” and “A defining X.” Think about it this way: A rock is not defined as “alive;” neither is it defined as a “gas.” So why would we think that we can define a rock as a “living gas.” Likewise, this comment I’m writing isn’t defined by law, yet also is not defined by chance. So, why would someone think that the essay could be defined by a combination of both?

    When dealing with law and chance, one can only say that a pattern has been “caused” by law or chance (although technically chance is in itself only a description and not a cause) when that pattern is defined by law or chance. IE: there is no lawful arrangement in a statistically random pattern, thus it is not defined by law and we can say that there is no law which guided it into its arrangement. However, the planetary orbits are an example of a regularity definable in terms of a mathematical equation. In this case, we can say that there is a law (gravity) which causes that regular pattern. Of course there are also random variables such as position and size of the planets and their orbits and that is why the planetary orbits are the result of law+chance.

    Heinrich:
    “I wonder where you place the development of embryos.”

    Different aspects are defined by law (any regularities and patterns resulting from the physical/material/measurable properties of the matter and energy involved), some by chance (environmental conditions affecting development), and other aspects by functional organization (DNA, Protein Complexes, etc).

    Heinrich:
    “There is nothing in their [embryo's]* physical properties of their material (proteins and other chemicals) that would imply an organism.”
    *added by CJYman for clarification

    Not sure what you mean by this or the relevance. Of course there is nothing in a seed that would necessarily imply a tree unless one could decipher the genetic code and other relevant organization sufficiently.

    Heinrich:
    “I’m not sure that the “mathematical description of regularity” (presumably of the fully developed organism) defines the pattern (unless you mean this as a truism: the pattern is the adult organism, the mathematical description is a description of the adult).”

    Point me to the regularities caused by the physical/material/measurable properties of the matter and energy used and there you have lawful order. But, yes, you are right. There are aspects of the embryo that are not defined by law.

    Heinrich:
    “So where does that leave us? With intelligent embryos?”

    Nope. That leaves us with an intelligent cause.

    Heinrich:
    “It seems to me that one finds a lack of foresight in the development of an embryo: it doesn’t “know” what it will be.”

    According to this logic, there appears to be a lack of foresight in that comment of yours because the comment itself doesn’t “know” what its purpose is. However, its intelligent cause “knows.”

    Heinrich:
    “The whole thing develops because of a set of “rules” in stochastic conditions.”

    … and because of functional organization which is not defined by “rules” and chance. So, we are back to … From whence come functional organization if it is not even defined by law+chance.

    If you wish to show that functional organization can result from an arbitrary set of “rules” and stochastic conditions (law+chance) then go ahead and do so. However, as I already stated, there is not so much as any theory behind such a conjecture. Furthermore, there is no reason to think that if a pattern can’t be defined by law (thus caused by law) and can’t be defined by chance (thus “caused”/explained by chance) that it can be defined by the combination of the two. IOW, to put it simply, is there any reason why a system of only law+chance would produce a pattern which is not defined by law or chance?

    So again, I ask:
    “if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?”

  25. I’m speaking in terms of defining a pattern, since law and chance are used to *define* patterns before we can say that those patterns are explained by either law or chance.

    What a strange statement. I can’t recall laws being used to define patterns: they can produce them but that’s rather different. And any pattern we will observe can be produced by more than one process: all theories are underdetermined.

    Heinrich:
    “So where does that leave us? With intelligent embryos?”

    Nope. That leaves us with an intelligent cause.

    So there is an intelligence that develops every embryo?

  26. Heinrich:
    “What a strange statement. I can’t recall laws being used to define patterns: they can produce them but that’s rather different.”

    Strange?!?!? How so? The pattern of the planetary orbits are defined by the mathematical equation for gravity. The law of gravity (as I already explained above) provides a mathematical definition (or more properly a “description”) of the pattern. I hope we aren’t getting hung up on mere semantics yet even so, I see no problem with using either “defined” or “described” in this case since definitions of objective patterns are usually descriptions of those patterns.

    Thus, since the pattern is defined/described by law, we can then say it is caused by law (as I have already explained above). How else do you suppose we come to the conclusion that something is caused by a certain law if we can’t define or describe its regularity in terms of a mathematical equation? IE: Mr. Newton gets hit on the head with the infamous apple, notices a re-occurring (regular or periodic) pattern, realizes that he can describe the pattern as a mathematical relation that he hypothesizes is universally true and the law of gravity is born.

    Heinrich:
    “And any pattern we will observe can be produced by more than one process: all theories are underdetermined.”

    Theory deals with process and mechanism. Law is a definition/description of a regular pattern, and/or a reference to a universal truth as I already explained above. Law deals with mathematical descriptions of regularities which emerge from the physical/material/measurable properties of matter and energy. This tells us that the pattern which is described by law is a pattern which is arranged by the physical properties of matter and energy. And yes, there may be different processes/mechanisms (theories) which could potentially explain exactly how matter and energy did generate or could generate that pattern.

    Heinrich:
    “So there is an intelligence that develops every embryo?”

    C’mon, you don’t seriously think that I believe that, do you? Give me the benefit of the doubt here for a second. There is an intelligence necessary for the development of every instance of functional organization. That intelligence could be applied either directly or indirectly. Just because I say that intelligence is necessary to build a car does not mean that I can’t program a robot to build a whole bunch of cars. Look at evolution, life itself, and the development process as the programmed robots.

    For future reference, I am not an interventionist and I have no problem with abiogenesis defined simply as life from non-life. I am actually partial to some sort of RNA first scenario.

    … but this whole comment seems to be getting off track of my original point and question. Before I get back to that, do you have any more problems with how I have explained “law?”

  27. Strange?!?!? How so? The pattern of the planetary orbits are defined by the mathematical equation for gravity. The law of gravity (as I already explained above) provides a mathematical definition (or more properly a “description”) of the pattern.

    I would say this is wrong. The law of gravity doesn’t describe elliptical orbits. But if you have a solar system acting according to the laws, that’s what you get. it’s an outcome of the laws acting on the material present.

    Heinrich:
    “So there is an intelligence that develops every embryo?”

    C’mon, you don’t seriously think that I believe that, do you? Give me the benefit of the doubt here for a second.

    Welcome to reducto de absurdum!

    Just because I say that intelligence is necessary to build a car does not mean that I can’t program a robot to build a whole bunch of cars.

    This is a movement away from your initial position. You were saying that chance + law can’t produce anything with functional organisation. But how else do robots function other than by chance and law?

    You’re now shifting to saying that it is enough to say that the initial conditions – the set-up – has intelligence involved.

  28. CJYman:
    “The pattern of the planetary orbits are defined by the mathematical equation for gravity. The law of gravity (as I already explained above) provides a mathematical definition (or more properly a “description”) of the pattern.”

    Heinrich:
    “I would say this is wrong. The law of gravity doesn’t describe elliptical orbits. But if you have a solar system acting according to the laws, that’s what you get. it’s an outcome of the laws acting on the material present.”

    First, you say I’m wrong and then you agree with me? First you state that the elliptical orbits that the planets are in are not described by the law of gravity. Then you state in the very next sentence the pattern seen in the planetary orbits is the type of pattern you would get if they were following the law of gravity. That would mean that the pattern indeed *is* described by the law of gravity.

    You are confusing me as well as yourself. Tell me Heinrich, what is the law of gravity? Here let me help you out a bit …

    -http://www.ncsu.edu/labwrite/res/res-glossary.html

    scientific law: “A logical, mathematical statement *describing* a consistency that applies to all members of a broad class of phenomena when specific conditions are met. Examples of scientific laws: Faraday’s Law of electromagnetic induction, Coulomb’s Law of electrostatic attraction, Dalton’s Law of partial pressures, Boyle’s Gas Law.”
    [asterix added by myself]

    That is almost exactly how I have defined “law” and that is how I have been using the term.

    -http://www.astronomynotes.com/glossary/glossl.htm

    law of gravity (Newton’s): the force of mutual attraction between two objects = G×(mass #1) × (mass #2) / (distance between the objects)2. The term G is a universal constant of nature that always = 6.672× 10-11 meter3/(kilogram second2).

    Thus, putting the two together …

    The law of gravity is a mathematical equation which describes a consistency … according to my own terminology, a regular pattern. Thus, my quote of my previous comment at the top of this comment is bang on.

    I’m really not sure what you’re getting hung up on here.

    Heinrich:
    “Welcome to reducto de absurdum!”

    … of what?!?! … something I didn’t ever state? … a strawman perhaps? …

    CJYman:
    “Just because I say that intelligence is necessary to build a car does not mean that I can’t program a robot to build a whole bunch of cars.”

    Heinrich:
    “This is a movement away from your initial position.”

    Not at all. Intelligence is still required.

    Heinrich:
    “You were saying that chance + law can’t produce anything with functional organisation. But how else do robots function other than by chance and law?”

    By functional organization, chance, and law. So again, where does the functional organization come from?

    Heinrich:
    “You’re now shifting to saying that it is enough to say that the initial conditions – the set-up – has intelligence involved.”

    No shift at all. I just hadn’t gotten into the details of mechanism yet. *You* seem to be the one attempting to shift out of my main point and question …

    - Again, my point is:
    “Since functional organization is not defined by law or best explained by chance there is no reason to even postulate that only law+chance absent intelligence will produce such arrangement. Furthermore, no one has provided any theory or tests to support the idea of such functional organization arising from law+chance absent intelligence.

    - And so, I ask the question:
    “if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?”

  29. First, you say I’m wrong and then you agree with me? First you state that the elliptical orbits that the planets are in are not described by the law of gravity. Then you state in the very next sentence the pattern seen in the planetary orbits is the type of pattern you would get if they were following the law of gravity. That would mean that the pattern indeed *is* described by the law of gravity.

    No, you’ve mis-understood. The laws of gravity describe forces that lead to acceleration in a straight line. There is nothing in them about ellipses. It is possible to set up a system where some bodies make an ellipse, but that’s no more describes by the laws of gravity than a pile of paint and canvas describes the Mona Lisa.

    The law of gravity is a mathematical equation which describes a consistency … according to my own terminology, a regular pattern.

    Right, but no ellipse: you need Kepler for that.

    “You were saying that chance + law can’t produce anything with functional organisation. But how else do robots function other than by chance and law?”

    By functional organization, chance, and law. So again, where does the functional organization come from?

    So robots work according to something more than the (stochastic) laws of nature? Hm.

    P.S. Don’t be so arrogant by pretending to read my mind (“You are confusing me as well as yourself.”). You’ve no idea about my state of mind, so don’t fool yourself. (sorry, this is something that really annoys be about people on both sides of the debate)

  30. Heinrich:
    “No, you’ve mis-understood. The laws of gravity describe forces that lead to acceleration in a straight line. There is nothing in them about ellipses. It is possible to set up a system where some bodies make an ellipse, but that’s no more describes by the laws of gravity than a pile of paint and canvas describes the Mona Lisa.”

    Now I finally see what you are stating and I didn’t think I’d have to get very specific since the general idea that in order for a pattern to be caused by a law it must first be defined/described by that law (mathematical description of a regularity) is non-controversial as I’ve explained above. So, here are the specifics. Kepler’s law of planetary motion is arrived at by combining Newton’s law of gravity with Newton’s law of motion. The resulting law describes the motion of orbiting bodies. Thus, we are back to where we started. First, we see a regular pattern that can be described mathematically and then we say that there is a law to explain that pattern. This new law is usually derived from other laws and thus explained as a combination of those laws.

    Heinrich:
    “So robots work according to something more than the (stochastic) laws of nature? Hm. ”

    Here, I’ll give you a chance to work through that question yourself, first. Is the arrangement of parts in a robot defined by the physical/material/measurable properties of any of the matter utilized to build the robot? Furthermore, is the arrangement of parts described by mere regularities — periodicity — and thus able to be compressed into a mathematical function? Also, is chance (randomness) a good explanation for the robot? Is the pattern defined by statistical randomness; lacking correlations?

    What I am saying is that once robots are sufficiently organized, they operate according to the stochastic laws of nature in conjunction with the functionally organized patterns which make up the robot. However, yes, I am stating that more than the stochastic laws of nature are required to arrange the functional organization which makes up a robot, since neither law nor chance describe the end pattern of a robot. So again, from whence comes functional organization?

    … and the robot example is an excellent example of a pattern being defined by neither law nor chance and also requiring intelligence in its causal chain. This brings us naturally into the question that I have been asking directly after I keep making my main point. I will again reiterate them at the end of this comment since we haven’t been able to discuss them yet.

    Heinrich:
    “P.S. Don’t be so arrogant by pretending to read my mind (”You are confusing me as well as yourself.”). You’ve no idea about my state of mind, so don’t fool yourself. (sorry, this is something that really annoys be about people on both sides of the debate)”

    I apologize. I was just a little frustrated since I was making what I thought to be very non-controversial, easily understood points which you seemed to be both agreeing with and denying at the same time. It still seems to me that you are sometimes merely nitpicking, which is okay to a point in order to clarify what is being stated. I apologize for not giving you the benefit of the doubt on that one.

    Now that’s cleared up. Do you have any more problems with how I have explained “law?” Can we continue on to my main point and question now?

    - Again, my point is:
    “Since functional organization is not defined by law or best explained by chance there is no reason to even postulate that only law+chance absent intelligence will produce such arrangement. Furthermore, no one has provided any theory or tests to support the idea of such functional organization arising from law+chance absent intelligence.

    - And so, I ask the question:
    “if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?”

  31. So, here are the specifics. Kepler’s law of planetary motion is arrived at by combining Newton’s law of gravity with Newton’s law of motion. The resulting law describes the motion of orbiting bodies.

    True. Note that Kepler’s laws do define elliptical motion. Newton’s laws don’t, but they can be applied to derive an elliptical path.

    Heinrich:
    “So robots work according to something more than the (stochastic) laws of nature? Hm. ”

    Here, I’ll give you a chance to work through that question yourself, first. Is the arrangement of parts in a robot defined by the physical/material/measurable properties of any of the matter utilized to build the robot?

    You’ve shifted the goalposts – previously you (and I) were discussing the working of robots. Now you’ve shifted to how they are designed.

  32. Heinrich:
    “You’ve shifted the goalposts – previously you (and I) were discussing the working of robots. Now you’ve shifted to how they are designed.”

    And now I’m starting to get a little frustrated again. For being one who doesn’t like being accused of certain things (ie: having a certain “mental state” of confusion), you sure seem to like to accuse others — in this case, of purposeful avoidance (goal post shifting). Since we are getting to know each other a bit (in terms of what annoys us), let me tell you what annoys me … hypocrisy. I will try to be courteous and give you the benefit of the doubt if you will do the same for me.

    Now, I would understand your contention if I actually did in fact shift goalposts, however I did not. In fact, you seem to be the one here who is well versed in avoiding what has been stated. So maybe we should stop accusing and instead clarify. Directly after the paragraph of mine that you quoted I stated:

    “What I am saying is that once robots are sufficiently organized, they operate according to the stochastic laws of nature in conjunction with the functionally organized patterns which make up the robot.”

    So, I have provided both a statement of how robots operate *and* how they are designed in relation to their functional organization.

    Do you have any issues with that and with how I have explained “laws?”

    If not, let’s carry on …

  33. Now, I would understand your contention if I actually did in fact shift goalposts, however I did not.

    Sorry, but look back to this:

    “You were saying that chance + law can’t produce anything with functional organisation. But how else do robots function other than by chance and law?”

    By functional organization, chance, and law. So again, where does the functional organization come from?

    Here the question is about how robots function, NOT how they came about. I was chasing this up, because of where it leaves your argument…

    “What I am saying is that once robots are sufficiently organized, they operate according to the stochastic laws of nature in conjunction with the functionally organized patterns which make up the robot.”

    OK, we agree here. But then a functioning robot can produce something with “functionally organized patterns”, as you admit (@26):

    Just because I say that intelligence is necessary to build a car does not mean that I can’t program a robot to build a whole bunch of cars.

    Now, if it is possible for a robot to produce something with functional organisation without intelligent intervention, and if a robot has functional organisation, then it is possible that the robot itself was produced without intelligent intervention. Agree?

  34. Heinrich:
    “Sorry, but look back to this:”

    So, you still contend that I was “shifting goalposts?”

    Heinrich:
    “Here the question is about how robots function, NOT how they came about.”

    So, you agree that we began discussing how robots function. That is why I stated, two different times, *how* robots function:
    “By functional organization, chance, and law.”
    …and…
    “they operate according to the stochastic laws of nature in conjunction with the functionally organized patterns which make up the robot.”

    So, what are you not understanding here? You’ve got two things to do now. Show where I have “moved goalposts,” and explain why you yourself are ignoring what I am stating.

    Heinrich:
    “Now, if it is possible for a robot to produce something with functional organisation without intelligent intervention, and if a robot has functional organisation, then it is possible that the robot itself was produced without intelligent intervention. Agree?”

    You are stating something that is quite obvious that I brought up earlier to show that I am by no means an interventionist. That is why I said to treat life and evolution as a “robot.”

    I know exactly where you are going with this and the only point I have made thus far is that functional organization is not explained by only law and chance and so far you have not been able to show otherwise.

    Of course, other than making that point above, which appears to be holding up just fine, I have also asked a very pertinent question, which you continually ignore.

    That question is:
    ““if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?”

  35. So, what are you not understanding here? You’ve got two things to do now. Show where I have “moved goalposts,” and explain why you yourself are ignoring what I am stating.

    I’ll repeat myself, in the hope you read it this time:

    “Here the question is about how robots function, NOT how they came about.”

    I know exactly where you are going with this and the only point I have made thus far is that functional organization is not explained by only law and chance and so far you have not been able to show otherwise.

    Well, if you’re mind-reading again, rebut my argument.

  36. Heinrich:
    “I’ll repeat myself, in the hope you read it this time:

    Here the question is about how robots function, NOT how they came about.”

    By “function,” you mean “operate,” correct? If so, I’ll repeat myself as well, for the third time in the hope that you will read it this time and then you can continue to make whichever point it is you are attempting to make.

    In regard to a robots function (operation) I stated, again three times now:
    “By functional organization, chance, and law.”
    …and…
    “they operate according to the stochastic laws of nature in conjunction with the functionally organized patterns which make up the robot.”

    There is absolutely *nothing* in those two quotes above that deals with *how* robots come about. Those quotes only state *how* robots function.

    Heinrich:
    “Well, if you’re mind-reading again, rebut my argument.”

    Nah, I’ll just wait in anticipation for where I’ve seen the chain of reasoning that you seem to be providing lead to in the past.

    If you have no further point to provide that would negate my main point or answer my question, then I will just leave it at that …

    - Again, my point is:
    “Since functional organization is not defined by law or best explained by chance there is no reason to even postulate that only law+chance absent intelligence will produce such arrangement. Furthermore, no one has provided any theory or tests to support the idea of such functional organization arising from law+chance absent intelligence.

    - And so, I ask the question:
    “if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?”

  37. Nah, I’ll just wait in anticipation for where I’ve seen the chain of reasoning that you seem to be providing lead to in the past.

    OK, we’re done here. I don’t think you can read my mind, and you’re just pissing around. I don’t see the point in continuing if it’s going to descend into snark.

    I’ve tried to rebut your point, but I think it’s going to take too long to try and separate out the threads of the argument: every time I try to separate out initial conditions from subsequent dynamics, you insist on mingling the two.

  38. Heinrich:
    “I don’t see the point in continuing if it’s going to descend into snark.”

    Sure, I could take the high road, but I have decided not to do so. The only reason things are descending into “snark” is that you are completely ignoring what I am stating.

    Heinrich:
    “I’ve tried to rebut your point,”

    Yet you are obviously, so far, unable to do so.

    Heinrich:
    “… but I think it’s going to take too long to try and separate out the threads of the argument:”

    It’s really quite easy, we’ve discussed two basic issues.

    1. The operation (“subsequent dynamics”) of a system containing functional organization, of which you have yet to make any point.

    2. That law+chance on its own will not produce functional organization, of which you have not bothered countering once I fully explained all the relevant terms, and when I showed that both law or chance are only used as explanations of patterns once those patterns can either be defined by law or chance.

    And then there is the third issue: my question, which you seem to not wish to touch with a ten foot pole.

    Heinrich:
    “every time I try to separate out initial conditions from subsequent dynamics, you insist on mingling the two.”

    Not at all. Your only question so far referencing subsequent dynamics is in relation to how a robot operates and I’ve answered your question three times. Here it is again for the fourth time:
    “By functional organization, chance, and law.”
    …and…
    “they operate according to the stochastic laws of nature in conjunction with the functionally organized patterns which make up the robot.”

    Are you denying that a robot’s subsequent dynamics are not explainable as functional organization operating within the confines of stochastic laws?

    So far, you have not responded to my answers referencing the robot’s subsequent dynamics either positively or negatively.

    If you wish to clarify anything, go ahead. I’ve given you ample opportunity while I’ve continually restated relevant quotes of mine that you insist on ignoring without explanation.

    And to provide some context, I will repost my main point and question:

    - Again, my point is:
    “Since functional organization is not defined by law or best explained by chance there is no reason to even postulate that only law+chance absent intelligence will produce such arrangement. Furthermore, no one has provided any theory or tests to support the idea of such functional organization arising from law+chance absent intelligence.

    - And so, I ask the question:
    “if chance isn’t the best explanation on account of highly improbable functional specificity (non-random correlation) and if neither the physical properties of the material in question nor mathematical description of regularity define the pattern emerging from that material (as in an essay or DNA), and if those types of patterns are routinely observed to be the result of systems utilizing foresight, then where should we begin our investigation into the cause of such patterns?”

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