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Simply Not Credible

This thread inspired the following observations.

The bottom line is that none of Dawkins’ computer programs have any relevance to biological evolution, because of this in WEASEL1:
Target:Text=’METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL’;
and this in WEASEL2:
WRITELN(’Type target phrase in capital letters’);
READLN(TARGET);

which allows the user to enter the “target” phrase. No search is required, because the solution has been provided in advance. These programs are just hideously inefficient means of printing out what could have been printed out when the program launched. The information for the solution was explicitly supplied by the programmer. Once this is recognized, further conversation about the relevance of the programs to biological evolution is no more illuminating than conjecture about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

The bottom line is that the proposed Darwinian mechanism of random errors filtered by natural selection makes no sense on its face, as an explanation for the kinds of highly sophisticated information-processing engineering we see in living systems. It is a claim that an inherently entropic process can produce unlimited neg-entropic results, from the lowest to the highest levels (the cell to the piano concerti of Rachmaninoff). The magic wand of “deep time” (which is not very deep in terms of probabilistic resources) cannot be waved to make this transparent lunacy believable.

The Darwinian mechanism as an explanation for all of life is simply not credible. Most people have enough sense to recognize this, which is why the consensus “scientists” — with all their prestige, academic credentials, and incestuous self-congratulation — are having such a hard time convincing people that they have it all figured out, when they obviously don’t.

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211 Responses to Simply Not Credible

  1. The information for the solution was explicitly supplied by the programmer. Once this is recognized, further conversation about the relevance of the programs to biological evolution is no more illuminating than conjecture about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

    The only relevance to biological evolution claimed for it by its author was as an illustration of the point that cumulative selection can reach a target far faster than a purely random search.

    That the target was set by the author is simply irrelevant to the point he was trying to make.

    He wanted to demonstrate the relative speed and efficiency of cumulative selection.

    That’s what he did. That’s all he did.

    Why is that so hard to grasp?

    The Darwinian mechanism as an explanation for all of life is simply not credible. Most people have enough sense to recognize this, which is why the consensus “scientists” — with all their prestige, academic credentials, and incestuous self-congratulation — are having such a hard time convincing people that they have it all figured out, when they obviously don’t.

    So what you’re saying is that Joe the Plumber and Gil the Programmer understand biology better than professional biologists?

    Suppose we turn this round a little.

    Suppose Gil the Programmer is told by Joe the Plumber that his understanding of how water flows round pipework gives him a special insight into the way electrons flows around the circuits of a computer. On this basis, Joe has decided that much of the code Gil has written is so much crap.

    What are the chances of Joe being right and how do you think Gil would react to this?

  2. My code works, and can be demonstrated to produce the results that are claimed for it. Such is not the case concerning the creative power of random errors filtered by natural selection to produce biological computational engines. It’s all wild speculation and grossly unsupported extrapolation that flies in the face of reason.

  3. Mr Dodgen, I know how you feel! I can’t get my head around quantum mechanics at all!! But I’m told it is true. :-)

    I wonder if people felt the same way about continental drift when it was first proposed? It’s hard to believe based on our everyday experience, operates over vast periods of time and we can only observe small seemingly insignificant steps.

  4. ellazimm:

    Thank you for your post. However, I don’t think that continental drift and quantum physics are good analogies for evolution by natural selection.

    The bizarre effects in quantum physics can be observed in the lab, so there’s no doubt about their occurrence, at least. However, there continues to be considerable controversy about the underlying postulates we need to make in order to best explain their occurrence (think of Schrodinger’s cat) – as well as which common-sense assumptions we need to jettison.

    Continental drift can be measured, thanks to lasers. Even if we had no idea how the continents drifted, we could still know that they drift. Over a long time interval (tens of millions of years), it’s easy to show, by mathematical extrapolation, that they can drift thousands of kilometers.

    Evolution can be measured, but cannot be extrapolated. You cannot simply start with an ancestral organism (say, a bacterium four billion years ago) and morph it into a human being, a fish, a tree or what have you. You need to show that the intermediate forms are viable. Organisms cannot leave descendants if they are not viable. Continents don’t have that problem.

    Even if common descent could be demonstrated beyond all doubt, that would not establish that a blind mechanism could generate the diversity of life-forms we see today.

  5. My code works, and can be demonstrated to produce the results that are claimed for it. Such is not the case concerning the creative power of random errors filtered by natural selection to produce biological computational engines. It’s all wild speculation and grossly unsupported extrapolation that flies in the face of reason.

    May I offer an opposing view?

    But first, wrt “My code works, and can be demonstrated to produce the results that are claimed for it.” I have to ask: Is your code a true representation of the Dawkins algorithm, and the results consistent with the claims made by Dawkins?

    But more important is this: The way I see it, the target phrase is irrelevant. From the POW of each of the mutated lines of each generation, the most fit WRT the target phrase are most fit – and it is its level of fitness that determine whether that particular line will survive to the next generation, or if it will be discarded as unfit.

    The point of interest here is that the target by itself is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is that from each generation, the best fit are selected..

    What is demonstrated is the effect of selection of individuals from a generation for survival into the next generation.

    That’s the purpose of the program, to demonstrate the cumulative effect of random mutations and selection.

    If one attach some effect on the demonstration by the fact that the target is a known string, one has not really understood what the program does, what the purpose is.

    Applying the logic of the program to real life – which of course is what it is all about if is to be of any value at all, it demonstrate what Darwin proposed in 1859: Survival of the fittest.

    That is not an ideological statement; it is just an observation of what happens in real life: If you are more fit than your neighbor, your chances of survival should be better. The flip side is that if you are less fit, your chances of survival are poorer.

    Just as in real life the target is fitness – not a particular path towards some goal. The program actually nicely demonstrates this – the results are identical regardless of the target phrase.

    The bottom line of which is that over time, some traits, some genetic variations within a population tend to become more frequent because of a higher rate of reproductive success.

    The way I understand this, it has very much to do with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allele_frequency

    But I am just an innocent bystander so don’t take my word for more than just a personal opinion. Anyone interested in learning what is true and what is not will in most cases – that is my experience – find it if he search with an open mind.

    PS. We may think of the genome as a character string. Variations in that string are the source of variations that confer differing values of fitness to a generation. Over time a species will eventually have undergone a change in overall fitness – making it more fit WRT a target.

    Without a target, evolution would not be possible. The catch is to understand that there is no fixed, predetermined target. But I believe that if one is in doubt about what Weasel actually does, it might be possible to write a version with a moving target too. If the rate of target movement were not too high, we still would see survival.

    We would also see that the program never would reach an end, just as in real life evolution never reach a finite goal because there isn’t any. Bottom line: The one and only target is SURVIVAL.

  6. A variation of the program is the idea of questioning an oracle: you have to get the string which is only know to the oracle. To any string you propose to the oracle, it will answer with a value.
    Oracle and algorithm could be stored on different machines, so it could be really a challenge to guess the string right.
    An interesting part of the problem is then: what do you know about the possible values given by the oracle?

  7. If you do know that the oracle answers with the number of correct letters, you can build an intelligent method which allows you to guess the phrase with less than 27 * 28 tries – which is quite good, especially if you imagine that it may cost you to ask the oracle a question.

  8. But the oracle could calculate the quality of a string in a different way – unbeknown to you: perhaps it gives back the length of the longest correct sub-string. Or the number of vowels in the right place times the number of correct consonants.
    Then Dawkins algorithm isn’t that bad as it works with a number of fitness functions…

  9. 9

    Cabal,

    The problem with your argument is that the program starts with a goal – the target phrase. Darwinism does not. The program gave us a goal of fitness, which Darwinian evolution does not give us. You say that the program’s purpose was to demonstrate gradual selection, or the ‘gradual effect of random mutations and selection,’ and I have no argument against that. The problem is that it did not demonstrate gradual selection by a Darwinian process, but by a designed process, which is vastly different than what Dawkins claims happens in nature.

    You keep saying that the target phrase is irrelevant. It is the most relevant part of the program, because the target phrase is what determines fitness. Darwinian selection as I understand it does not work that way.

  10. Weasel is indeed ROCKET SCIENCE! With about 10 lines of actual NOTEWORTHY code Dawkins has proven that FCSI and IC systems arise without a problem. You MUST be stupid or INSANE or both to think that Dawkins weasel does NOT account for something like the bacterial flagellum. Dawkins weasel; the best kept secret among Darwinists – code name: cumulative selection, get all that 007?

    Here is the sniveling Weasel in C:

    #include[stdio.h]
    #include[stdlib.h]
    #include[time.h]

    #define TARGET “METHINKS ITS LIKE A WEASEL”
    #define ALPHABET “ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ ”
    #define TARGET_SIZE 27
    #define ALPHA_SIZE 27

    char* mutate(char*, char*);
    int fitness(char *);
    int locked(char *curPtr);
    int randInt(int, int);

    int main(void) {

    char current_string[TARGET_SIZE];
    char *curPtr = current_string;

    int gen_count = 0;

    do {
    int i;
    char next_string[TARGET_SIZE];
    char* nString = next_string;

    char buffer[TARGET_SIZE]; char* bPtr = buffer;
    nString = mutate(curPtr, bPtr);

    if(fitness(nString) >= fitness(curPtr)) {
    for(i=0;i<TARGET_SIZE;i++) {
    *(curPtr + i) = *(nString + i);
    }
    }

    puts(curPtr);
    gen_count++;

    }while(locked(curPtr) != 1);

    printf("%d generations", gen_count);

    return 0;
    }

    int locked(char *curPtr) {
    int i;int count = 0; int state = 0;
    for(i=0;i<TARGET_SIZE;i++) {
    if(*(curPtr + i) == TARGET[i]) {
    count++;
    }
    }

    if(count == 27) {
    state = 1;
    }
    return state;
    }

    char* mutate(char* cPtr, char* bPtr) {
    int i;
    for(i=0;i<TARGET_SIZE;i++) {
    *(bPtr + i) = *(cPtr + i);
    }
    bPtr[randInt(0, (TARGET_SIZE - 1))] = ALPHABET[randInt(0,(ALPHA_SIZE - 1))];

    return bPtr;
    }

    int randInt(int min, int max) {
    static int kState = 0;
    int i;
    if(kState == 0) {
    srand(time(NULL));
    kState = 1;
    }
    i = (rand() % (max – min + 1) + min);
    return i;
    }

    int fitness(char *cString) {
    int i;int count = 0;
    for(i=0;i<TARGET_SIZE;i++) {
    if(*(cString + i) == TARGET[i]) {
    count++;
    }
    }
    return count;
    }

  11. 11

    Seversky,

    “He wanted to demonstrate the relative speed and efficiency of cumulative selection.”

    This was not the only purpose behind Dawkins’ Weasel program. Granted, he did show that a cumulative selection process is faster than a random selection process, but this is really very trivial and besides the point.

    Dawkins’ overall point in the program is to demonstrate cumulative selection as a feasible process for Darwinian evolution. You can’t deny this, and Dawkins’ program does not demonstrate that it is feasible – I think most of us will agree on this point. I understand that he stated “It’s a bit of a cheat,” and that’s the point we all seem to recognize. It is really the main point of the whole demonstration – unawares to Dawkins, and here is why:

    If you doubt me about his overall purpose in bringing up the program, consider Dawkins’ own words immediately following his Weasel demonstration:

    “There is a big difference, then, between cumulative selection in which each improvement, however slight, is used as a basis for future building, and single-step selection in which each new ‘try’ is a fresh one. If evolutionary progress had had to rely on single-step selection, it would never have got anywhere. If, however, there was any way in which the necessary conditions for cumulative selection could have been set up by the blind forces of nature, strange and wonderful might have been the consequences. As a matter of fact that is exactly what happened on this planet, and we ourselves are among the most recent, if not the strangest and most wonderful of these consequences.” (Dawkins R. – The Blind Watchmaker 1986 p. 49)

    So Dawkins is essentially saying (though not with so many words – and forgive me if I’m not in complete context with Dawkins’ larger argument for gradual selection, but space does not permit – perhaps others can expound on this), that a ‘natural version’ of his Weasel program was set up by the “blind forces of nature,” which got us to where we are.

    Now this might sound ridiculous if one does not consider that the issue here is: can cumulative selection occur without the cheat that Dawkins aknowledges in his program? I think this is the main point of contention between Darwinists and ID theorists on this issue. Dawkins thinks it can, but cannot really demonstrate how. Why? – because he really ignores the information that would be necessary to actualize each selective step in the process. He assumes that information is irrelevant – natural processes alone and without purpose can acheive the selection mechanism.

    He thinks that nature can simply conjure up the goal of the process by means of ‘fitness.’ But where in the Darwinian scheme of things did this fitness drive develop? These are legitimate questions that Darwinists aren’t answering, because they can’t. ID is on the right track in asking where the necessary information driving selection towards complexity originates – as well as questioning the whole Darwinian process of selection as a whole.

    Blind natural processes are lacking in their ability to explain this, and Dawkins should really be aware of this fact, rather than attempting to demonstrate Darwinian processes on the basis of a designed cheat.

    The only thing Dawkins’ program really demonstrates is that ‘fitness’ can only be a goal that is predetermined. Darwinism does not really work without the cheat. Dawkins’ program is really more in support of ID than it is of Darwinian evolution.

  12. Can someone please help me out here?

    I hadn’t heard of this WEASEL programme before, but I have no idea why people are calling evolution an ‘entropic process’ or that there is no ‘fitness drive’ in nature…

    ‘fitness’ surely just means ‘better suited to survive’? Imagine an animal lays a clutch of eggs. Nature is cruel and fiercely competative. Not all those young will hatch and live long enough to reproduce. Between disease, predators and finding and competing with others for food, territory and mates, each creature’s life is going to be a struggle for survival. So any adaptation, however small, which gives it an advantage over its rivals will increase its chances of surviving, reproducing, and thus passing on this mutated adaption to its young.

    This is not an entropic process. It is a cumulative one. And the fitness is simply another word for ‘most likely to survive’.

    Can someone point out where I’m going wrong here?

  13. With Dawkins’ weasel the beneficial result always survived. In nature the egg usually gets eaten before it reproduces.

  14. suckerspawn -

    But an embryo with an advantageous mutation/adaptation stands a better chance of reproducing than one that does not, surely?

  15. Ritchie:

    But an embryo with an advantageous mutation/adaptation stands a better chance of reproducing than one that does not, surely?

    Except that embryos don’t reproduce.

    Also “better suited to survive” can mean many things- not all related to genetics.

    Ya see “fitness” is measured by the number of viable offspring you have.

  16. Cabal:

    The point of interest here is that the target by itself is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is that from each generation, the best fit are selected.

    That doesn’t make any sense seeing that fitness is measured by the number of offspring one leaves behind.

  17. What we have learned from this is that if you design something to evolve you can evolve something to a target :-)

  18. Tribune7,

    Just to let you know I will be using that “saying”.

    It’s just beautiful Man!

    No royalties though…

  19. Joseph [from 11]

    “Except that embryos don’t reproduce.”

    As you wish, I’ll restate: embryos with an advantageous mutation stand a better chance of surviving until adulthood when they can reproduce.

    Imagine a cluch of eggs hatching. It is likely that some of these infants starting their journey through life will not survive to reproduce. Let’s say that speed is a very important selection pressure for the survival of these creatures. The individuals who are slightly faster than their siblings stand a better chance of surviving until adulthood, and thus more chance of passing on their genes, which will incude whatever genes made them slightly quicker than their fellows. So the quickest individuals are most likely to be the ones to reproduce, and the next generation will inherit these genes for speed.

    A rather simplistic example, perhaps, but I don’t see where the flaw is in the principle of it.

    “Also “better suited to survive” can mean many things- not all related to genetics.

    Ya see “fitness” is measured by the number of viable offspring you have.”

    I’m still not seeing the problem. The ‘fittest’ individuals (ie, most suited to surviving and reproducing) will tend to have the most offspring. So advantageous mutations in genes will tend to get passed on. Mutations which are not advantageous (disadvantageous???), will give the carrying individuals a handicap, and they will be LESS likely than their fellows to survive and pass on their genes.

    How is that entropic?

  20. Joseph, consider it GPL :-)

  21. Joseph, we have to give credit where credit is due!

    How about this:

    Richard Dawkins has firmly established that if you design something to evolve you can evolve something to a target.

    The ID community thanks him most profusely!

  22. Gil:

    These programs are just hideously inefficient means of printing out what could have been printed out when the program launched.

    If the only point of WEASEL was to display a phrase, you would have an excellent point.

    No search is required, because the solution has been provided in advance.

    Provided to whom? If we model the algorithm in terms of an oracle, a mutator, and a selector, then the mutator receives no information about the target phrase, and the selector receives very little information per generation. In the Darwinian model, a small amount of information is likewise transferred from the environment to each generation of biota.

    Once this is recognized, further conversation about the relevance of the programs to biological evolution is no more illuminating than conjecture about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

    If you think that the explicitly provided target is a point of disanalogy with biological evolution, then Dawkins agrees with you and takes the point even further. He says that any target, explicit or otherwise, is a point of disanalogy with biological evolution. Interestingly, the EIL disagrees with Dawkins on this, claiming that biological evolution does have a target. So the EIL actually imputes more biological relevance to WEASEL’s target than Dawkins does.

    And keep in mind that it is the EIL that brought up WEASEL in their recently published paper and their website. Dr. Dembski even offered the paper’s response to WEASEL as evidence that the paper is relevant to ID. So if you think WEASEL is irrelevant to the question of biological ID, you might tell the EIL (which includes yourself) to stop bringing it up.

    Also, you might note that most of discussion on WEASEL has centered on the EIL’s inaccurate depiction of WEASEL as a partitioned search. Correcting that error would go a long way toward retiring the subject.

  23. GilDodgen

    The Darwinian mechanism as an explanation for all of life is simply not credible. Most people have enough sense to recognize this, which is why the consensus “scientists” — with all their prestige, academic credentials, and incestuous self-congratulation — are having such a hard time convincing people that they have it all figured out, when they obviously don’t.

    Unless you believe that “most people” means only the United States, you would have a hard time supporting that argument.

    Public Acceptance of Evolution

  24. Gil,

    Your work is software development for avionics and missile guidance systems isn’t it? Weasel is a bit too easy for you. Now I have a challenge that seems to fit you much better:

    From your expertise propose plausible Darwinian mechanisms that will yield the code for a fully autonomous guidance system with visual and inertial navigation, flight control using real-time non-linear CFD models of aircraft and engine, visual friend-or-foe recognition plus anything that enables global positioning above sea.

    The hardware your code will run on must fit inside a few cubic millimetres with a power consumption of a few microwatts or less.

    You can find a working example mentioned here: Dragonflies cross the Indian Ocean

    Should you decline this challenge, our Darwinist friends “know” that there is a solution, because “after all, evolution is true so it has happened”. Now just out of curiosity, you, above of anybody else on UD, could judge the proposals on their ability to generate the functional information needed for the code.

    Alex

  25. Ritchie:

    As you wish, I’ll restate: embryos with an advantageous mutation stand a better chance of surviving until adulthood when they can reproduce.

    “Advantageous”, like “beneficial”, is a relative word.

    What is advantageous in one scenario isn’t in all scenarios.

    What about the egg that hatches last and lives because the predators already had their fill with its siblings? You know the ones who hatched first and rapidly ran right to the predators because they didn’t know.

    Also with sexual reproduction there isn’t any guarantee that even the most beneficial mutation will get passed down.

    You do understand how that works?

    “Fittest” is NOT defined by any measure of fitness.

    THAT is the whole problem with the idea.

    Also there could be many variations which provide the same amount of fitness.

    Also when put to the test we see cooperation more than competeion.

  26. Joseph [from 21]

    ““Advantageous”, like “beneficial”, is a relative word.

    What is advantageous in one scenario isn’t in all scenarios.”

    Yes. Absolutely. It might be ‘advantageous’ or ‘beneficial’ for individuals of one species of creature to be fast and agily, while for another species it might be ‘advantageous’ to be slow and and stealthy. It might be advantageous for one species to be bright and colourful, for another species it might be that being dull or camouflaged is best. For each species the selection pressures will be slightly different and will be rewarding slightly different attributes. The same process would be driving cheetahs to become faster, howler monkeys to be louder, cats to be more stealthy, etc. So yes, ‘advantageous’ is a relative term. But so what?

    “What about the egg that hatches last and lives because the predators already had their fill with its siblings?”

    That’s quite a tenuous example, don’t you think? It’s quite simple – imagine you have ten runners about to run a race. Generally the fastest one will win. Now there are no guarantees – the faster runner might fall, or suddenly sprain his ankle halfway through the race. Or, to find an equivalent to your example, every runner except the slowest might fall over! It’s possible I suppose (though horrendously unlikely). There are no guarantees in life. But generally the fasters runners do win races, just as the fittest individuals are generally the ones to survive to reproduce.

    “Also with sexual reproduction there isn’t any guarantee that even the most beneficial mutation will get passed down.

    You do understand how that works?”

    Yes thankyou. And again, there are no guarantees in life (apart from death), but that’s not the point. Any child of yours inherits precisely 50% of your genes. So roughly half the children you have will inherit any particular one of your genes. Now remember, that human beings are very unusual in that any individual generally doesn’t rear more than a couple of children. Most animals (the ones who are sucessful enough to mate) have lost of offspring, and generally half of them will inherit any particular gene a parent possesses. Yes it’s not guaranteed, but on balance that is how it will happen.

    ““Fittest” is NOT defined by any measure of fitness.

    THAT is the whole problem with the idea.”

    ??? What problem? If you are having trouble with the word ‘fittest’, just substitue it for ‘best suited to survive’. Will that cause you less confusion?

    “Also there could be many variations which provide the same amount of fitness.”

    Explain please.

    “Also when put to the test we see cooperation more than competeion.”

    You mean in nature? There is more co-operation between animals than there is competition? You’ve got to be kidding, right?

  27. Of course GilDodgen is right. Evolution is not teleological, has no target. Therefore simulation programs (as Weasel) that state a target in their initial declarations don’t simulate Darwinian evolution, rather target-oriented searches that have nothing to do with it. I wonder why Dawkins didn’t understand this simple concept.

    A simulation program of Darwinian evolution would be entirely different: one should create an adequate model of a population of organisms of a certain species; insert random mutations in the genomes of the individuals at a certain rate; write a fitness function simulating natural selection, which must verify whether some mutant individuals are better to survive. Eventually during the simulation one might verify if the process of RM+NS generates new species (with different macro-evolutionary characteristics).

    Unfortunately this simulator would be far more complex than the Dawkins’ Weasel program, and, aside from the programming skill necessary to write it (a minor problem), it would require knowledge of biology and genetics far more advanced than those available today. In other words the difficulty is almost entirely to provide a suitable modeling of the biological realities.

  28. GilDodgen @ 2

    My code works, and can be demonstrated to produce the results that are claimed for it. Such is not the case concerning the creative power of random errors filtered by natural selection to produce biological computational engines. It’s all wild speculation and grossly unsupported extrapolation that flies in the face of reason.

    You are fortunate enough that your code can be written and tested easily within the span of a human lifetime. According to evolutionary theory, if it is right, the generation of a new species of large animal could take hundreds of thousands or millions of years. Plainly, there is no way that can be tested in the laboratory.

    What paleontologists and biologists have to contend with are fragmentary clues that have survived from the distant past and what can be inferred from what is observed around us now.

    I would talk about random mutations rather than random “errors”. That suggests a mistake by an intelligent agent. Random mutations are changes that occur in the genome and which can be caused by radiation, chemicals, viruses or copying errors.

    Most mutations are neutral in that the have no measurable effect on the organism one way or another. This is to be expected if a large – or even the greater – part of the genome is non-functional or “junk” DNA because that is where most of them will happen.

    A smaller number of mutations will be detrimental to the survival of the organism. These will be larger than beneficial mutations if for no other reason than there are many ways thing can go wrong but only one or perhaps a few ways it can go right.

    Beneficial mutations, although very few in number compared with the two other categories, are significant because they tend to be preserved Thus there should be a tendency for them to accumulate over time.

    If that were not the case, if it were not possible to select from a range of mutations or variations those that are to be conserved then we would not be able to breed faster horses or dogs for different purposes or cattle which grow more meat or yield more milk.

    It is not wild speculation to note that animal husbandrists were doing this for centuries before Darwin formed his theory nor is it grossly unsupported extrapolation to hypothesize that if we can shape animals according to our needs then the same plasticity could be molded by the forces of nature

  29. 29

    Ritchie,

    Joseph: “Fittest” is NOT defined by any measure of fitness.

    THAT is the whole problem with the idea.”

    Ritchie: “??? What problem? If you are having trouble with the word ‘fittest’, just substitue it for ‘best suited to survive’. Will that cause you less confusion?”

    Joseph has a point. There is no measurable quality to ‘fittest’ or as you prefer “best suited to survive.” It’s a rather vague depiction of what Darwinists think is happening. As such, these concepts are quite simple to pick apart and show how they really don’t work for Darwinism. For the Darwinist, it’s imperative to keep these terms vague so they don’t appear to be purposeful or goal directed.

  30. “Evolution can be measured, but cannot be extrapolated. You cannot simply start with an ancestral organism (say, a bacterium four billion years ago) and morph it into a human being, a fish, a tree or what have you. You need to show that the intermediate forms are viable. Organisms cannot leave descendants if they are not viable. Continents don’t have that problem.”

    But . . . isn’t the fossil record proof that there were viable intermediates? Yeah? And we’ve got fossil after fossil after fossil of extinct forms that look like intermediates between other fossils. Why isn’t that showing that it IS possible? I mean, why isn’t that evidence good enough? I guess I’m confused: you’re saying that there’s no proof when the evolution model says there must be transitional forms and we have tons and tons of them. How fine a gradation do you need? And if an intelligent designer created all those forms and let them go extinct then . . . . it’s fair to ask why yeah? What purpose did they serve? Tests? Experiments? Was the designer tinkering here and there, letting things go for a while to see what worked and what didn’t work? Is that directed? Is there a purpose there? I am so confused.

    Why should there be boundaries around what descent with modification can do? Okay, maybe some steps are less probable than others but . . . . where did all those extinct fossils come from? I know what Dr Behe says but you can’t really prove a negative can you; you can’t really prove that something didn’t happen. And there are a lot of very bright people who disagree with him.

    You know, what I would like to see ID theorists do is come up with specific boundaries around existing creatures and groups of creatures. Really spell out which collections of living things are inviolate. Now that would be really, really interesting! And, I think, a fruitful avenue of research. Kind of a species map with boundaries.

  31. Can I also just say thanks for letting me ask questions! It is so helpful to be able to ask questions and get some very smart people to answer. :-) :-)

  32. CannuckianYankee @24

    “For the Darwinist, it’s imperative to keep these terms vague so they don’t appear to be purposeful or goal directed.”

    ‘What we mean by’ (insert vague, non-descriptive just-so story here).

    It’s no wonder we (layman) don’t understand the ToE. It’s not meant to be understood, but obeyed.

  33. “Your work is software development for avionics and missile guidance systems isn’t it?”

    No. Robot-controlled, smart parachute delivery systems, which is much more difficult, because of the lag time in control system response and the need for immediately reliable wind information. Our team has solved these problems — and it wasn’t easy.

    One of my several other software-engineering specialties is AI in games of logic. Click on my name for more information.

  34. ellazimm,

    The vast majority of the fossil record consists of marine invertebrates (>95%).

    In that vast majority there isn’t any evidence for universal common descent.

    Phenotypic plasticity can explain the appearance of transitionals.

    What a biological theory needs though is biological data- imagine that- which demonstrates the transformations required are possible.

    Something that tells us what determines form would also be nice.

  35. Ritchie:

    But generally the fasters runners do win races, just as the fittest individuals are generally the ones to survive to reproduce.

    Well, yeah if you define the “fittest” as those who leave behind the most viable offspring.

    You should read The Strength of Phenotypic Selection in Natural Populations.

    It doesn’t work in reality the way it works on paper.

    “Also there could be many variations which provide the same amount of fitness.”

    Explain please.

    Faster vs taller vs stronger vs smarter vs normal vs better climber vs better hider vs higher jumper

    “Also when put to the test we see cooperation more than competeion.”

    You mean in nature? There is more co-operation between animals than there is competition? You’ve got to be kidding, right?

    No cooperation seems to be the norm.

    We have bats giving up some of their food to neighbors who didn’t get any that night.

    We have ants giving up reproduction just to help out the colony- the same for termites, bees.

    Lions in their pride cooperate. Many (most?) mammals cooperate in some way.

    Then there are all those symbiotic relationships…

  36. Seversky,

    Do you have a response to CunnukianYankee at comment 11?

  37. Clive, please allow me to try.

    CY says, “Dawkins’ overall point in the program is to demonstrate cumulative selection as a feasible process for Darwinian evolution.” That’s not really true. He wants to demonstrate the enormous advantage that cumulative selection has over single-step selection and he does so very successfully.

    This is important to ID because all of the YEC/ID calculations of the incredible unlikelyhood of generating anything as complicated as a 100 base-pair gene are based on single step selection and Weasel shows how cumulative selection is so much more effective that single step selection that it eviscerates those claims.

    The “bit of a cheat” that Dawkins talks about is, IIRC, using a fixed target instead of a moving one, which was done to simplify the demonstration.

    Gazillions of “natural versions” of the Weasel program have been set up by nature and they are operating right now in every organism. Everytime DNA mutates during reproduction, that mutation of a tiny portion of the genome IS cumulative selection. Nature doesn’t change the whole genome at once, it passes the vast majority of it on unchanged and only mutates a tiny portion – like mutating only one or two letters of the sentence in Weasel.

    There’s no mystery about where CY’s “fitness drive” comes from. If the mutation really screws up the function of the DNA, your offspring dies and the new DNA pattern dies with it. If it screws it up a little, your offspring die more often and the mutation eventually goes extinct. And if the mutation makes your DNA operate more effectively, your offspring is a winner and it has more descendents and that new DNA pattern tends to increase.

    There’s no mystery there, natural selection is just shorthand for trying to make a living with a slightly new DNA pattern and seeing how it works out.

    To answer CY’s and Gil’s complaint about the fixed target, think of the sentences as being DNA patterns and “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” as being the best possible DNA pattern for the environment the organism is in. Every time a mutation creates another letter that matches the pattern, the DNA works better and the organism has more offspring than the unmutated DNA until finally every letter matches the best possible DNA phrase.

    If the environment changes, that is like changing “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” to some other sentence and evolution will home in on the new sentence via cumulative selection just like it homes in on “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL”.

  38. CannuckianYankee [from 29]

    and

    Joseph [from 35]

    “There is no measurable quality to ‘fittest’ or as you prefer “best suited to survive.” It’s a rather vague depiction of what Darwinists think is happening.”

    “Well, yeah if you define the “fittest” as those who leave behind the most viable offspring.”

    Oh right! I see what you’re saying now. Yes, that’s true, there is no objective way to measure ‘fittest’ in a general sense.

    This is kept vague, not to keep it from ever being tested, but because the definition of ‘fittest’ is different in each case. For example, if the habitat of a species becomes drier, the ‘fittest’ individuals are ones who adapt to these drier conditions. This is not measured by how many offspring they have. It is measured by the appearance of adaptive features to help them cope with these conditions. Generally, the creatures who possess genes which help them cope in drier climaes are the sucessful ones – the ones who live long enough to reproduce.

    “Faster vs taller vs stronger vs smarter vs normal vs better climber vs better hider vs higher jumper.”

    But not for any PARTICULAR species. Being fast (compared to its fellows) is good for a cheetah. A fast cheetah is one with an advantage. But a cheetah who is bigger than average is not. It is slightly more obvious when stalking and needs to eat more to maintain its body. So we can say that there is a selection pressure on cheetahs to be fast, but not to be big. Again, we need to consider each case individually.

    “No cooperation seems to be the norm.

    We have bats giving up some of their food to neighbors who didn’t get any that night.

    We have ants giving up reproduction just to help out the colony- the same for termites, bees.

    Lions in their pride cooperate. Many (most?) mammals cooperate in some way.

    Then there are all those symbiotic relationships…”

    All of these examples show animals who are doing what is best for THEIR OWN GENES. Bats share food because they themselves may be on the receiving end when they have found none. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still compete for mates and resources. They do.

    A pride of lions is more sucessful and can bring down bigger prey than a lone lion. But again, indiviuals within a pride still fight to establish themselves in the pecking order – for the right for mates and the ‘lion’s share’ of the food.

    Ants and bees are a very interesting example because it is so counter-intuitive. The bottom line is that any individual sterile worker/soldier ant or bee is more closely related to a sister worker/soldier than she would be to her own child (if she were to have any). From the perspective of the individual worker/soldier, she can better preserve and propagate her own genes by helping her sisters than by reproducing herself. It’s a little complicated, but I’m happy to explain this more thoroughly if you like.

    Animals may indeed co-operate, but that is in cases where co-operation is what is best for them as an individual! They are giving themselves an advantage by co-operating. Though they may be co-operating, they are still very much competing from an evolutionary point of view.

  39. Ritchie:

    For example, if the habitat of a species becomes drier, the ‘fittest’ individuals are ones who adapt to these drier conditions.

    Except that the fittest is determined by the number of viable offspring.

    Generally, the creatures who possess genes which help them cope in drier climaes are the sucessful ones – the ones who live long enough to reproduce.

    Not according to the paper I told you to read.

    “Faster vs taller vs stronger vs smarter vs normal vs better climber vs better hider vs higher jumper.”

    But not for any PARTICULAR species.

    Why not?

    A fast cheetah is one with an advantage.

    Prove it.

    But a cheetah who is bigger than average is not.

    Prove it.

    All the cheetah has to be is faster than its prey. And even that isn’t necessary.

    Ya see a bigger cheetah can just take the kill of the faster cheetah.

    All of these examples show animals who are doing what is best for THEIR OWN GENES.

    Not necessarily.

    Perhaps you could go an interview them.

    Bats share food because they themselves may be on the receiving end when they have found none.

    Keep grasping.

    But that doesn’t mean they don’t still compete for mates and resources. They do.

    Prove it.

  40. Joseph

    All the cheetah has to be is faster than its prey. And even that isn’t necessary.

    Ya see a bigger cheetah can just take the kill of the faster cheetah.

    Not only that, but intelligence could play a significant role too.

    The most intelligent cheetah might be the one that will wait for the prey to walk past and so does not even have to chase it!

  41. ellazimm

    Can I also just say thanks for letting me ask questions! It is so helpful to be able to ask questions and get some very smart people to answer.

    I’m new to this site also and I hope to be able to get the same response you’ve had here. There’s lots of useful information in this single thread alone!

  42. niwrad:

    Of course GilDodgen is right. Evolution is not teleological, has no target.

    If Gil’s position is that evolution has no target, then he is siding with Dawkins and against the Evolutionary Informatics Lab on the issue. Remember that the Evo Info Lab’s attempted contribution to ID is premised on modeling evolution as a search for a target.

  43. As a (hopefully clear-thinking) layman, I also struggle with the concept of fitness. It seems a bit circular, or at best, post facto. A population survives because it is more fit and it is more fit because it survives.

    The number of viable offspring left behind could provide a more concrete expression of fitness, but then we are left with the uncomfortable realization that bacteria are way more fit than humans.

    I suppose the objection would be that bacteria don’t compete with humans, and I can understand that. However, if gradualism is to be believed, then somewhere along the line, bacteria competed with something that was slightly closer to humans; that is to say, it was slightly more complex.

    While I have yet to see anyone describe a method for comparing bacteria and humans on a fitness continuum, it is trivial to compare them on a complexity continuum. In general, it also seems that movement toward complexity involves movement away from the number of viable offspring left behind. So, at the macro level, there appears to be a trend to less fitness.

    If evolution has a big arrow, that arrow seems to be pointing toward complexity moreso than toward fitness.

    Even if you set aside the more concrete method for calculating fitness and slide back to a muddier definition, it seems to me that there is an intuitive connection between simple and fit. In coding, the simpler solution is likely to introduce the fewest errors. Elegance is often preferred in design, not just for aesthetic reasons. This trend even shows up in Occam’s razor.

    Yet when we look around, something appears to be favoring complexity, either over fitness or without regard to it. And that doesn’t seem very Darwinian.

  44. R0b #39

    If Gil’s position is that evolution has no target, then he is siding with Dawkins and against the Evolutionary Informatics Lab on the issue. Remember that the Evo Info Lab’s attempted contribution to ID is premised on modeling evolution as a search for a target.

    Dawkins is correct if says that Darwinian evolution has no target. But then he cannot declare a target at the beginning of its evolution simulator as he did (this is Gil’s position).

    The Evolutionary Informatics Lab studies the relations between evolutionary systems and information. Besides its researchers study how much intelligent assistance is necessary to obtain a goal in a given type of search with certain efficiency. They deal also with Weasel ware but nowhere they write this target-oriented simulator is truly Darwinian.

  45. R0b:

    Remember that the Evo Info Lab’s attempted contribution to ID is premised on modeling evolution as a search for a target.

    A targeted search makes sense given what we know.

    What’s the option?

    Things just appeared and if useful were kept?

  46. Joseph, the Evo Info Lab models Darwinian evolution as a search for a target. Recall your disagreement with Dr. Dembski on the issue.

  47. Joseph [from 38]

    “Except that the fittest is determined by the number of viable offspring.”

    Where are you getting this idea that fittest is defined as ‘thouse who have the most offspring?’ The theory of evolution predicts that the fittest indiviuals WILL, on balance, have the most offspring, but that is not how it DEFINES the term. That would make the assertion totally circular. It would be to say, ‘the individuals who have most offspring have most offspring.’

    ‘Fittest’ is in fact defined as “better adapted for immediate, local environment.” Here is an essay by Stephen Jay Gould on this very misunderstanding by critics of evolution, from which I got this definition:

    http://www.stephenjaygould.org.....ology.html

    “Not according to the paper I told you to read.”

    I could not understand the paper you told me to read. It is very dense and I can’t really make head nor tail of it.

    Perhaps you could explain it to me a little more simply? Say we have 1,000 animals (let’s say lizards) who live on an island. If the climate starts to become significantly drier, it seems logical to me that the individuals who are best suited (however slightly) to a drier climate will be the most sucessful. Where is the flaw in that reasoning?

    ” -But not for any PARTICULAR species.

    -Why not?”

    Because there is variation in each generation of creature. Some will be bigger than most, some slightly smaller, some slightly faster, some slightly slower, etc. But not all of these traits will be an advantage. If the climate in which a group of creatures lives is becoming drier, then being well adapted for wetter conditions is not really an advantage, is it? It is a disadvantage.

    ” – A fast cheetah is one with an advantage.

    - Prove it.”

    Well, cheetahs rely on speed to hunt. So a cheetah who is slightly faster (than other cheetahs) may catch prey which could outrun a slightly slower cheetah. Thus, being faster is an advantage (over other cheetahs).

    ” – But a cheetah who is bigger than average is not.

    - Prove it.

    Ya see a bigger cheetah can just take the kill of the faster cheetah.”

    Good point! Yes, perhaps my example here isn’t very solid. A cheetah who is bigger than most may have an advantage in that it can bully other cheetahs for their kills. This cheetah would enjoy a different advantage to the cheetah who was faster than most, but an advantage nonetheless.

    However, it is difficult to see how, for example, being a slightly better digger than average would be an advantage for cheetahs – creatures who do not greatly rely on digging to survive. Yes we may imagine unlikely scenarios where digging might turn out to be a handy attribute, but the reality is that cheetahs do not often dig much (to my knowledge. If I’m wrong here, it is a flaw in my knowledge, not my argument). Being fast would be a much greater help to a cheetah than being good at digging.

    “Not necessarily.

    Perhaps you could go an interview them.”

    Obviously you are being facetious. Can you give me an example of an animal which co-operates in spite of it being disadvantageous to its genes to do so?

    ” – Bats share food because they themselves may be on the receiving end when they have found none.

    - Keep grasping.”

    You find this example tenuous? Why? In every act of sharing food there is a giver and a recipient. If you live in a group where, as a rule, individuals share food with those who have found none, then that means you have a very good chance of being fed on the nights that you have found no food.

    ” – But that doesn’t mean they don’t still compete for mates and resources. They do.

    - Prove it.”

    For which species?

  48. To Seversky (and others who share his enthusiasm for neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory).

    May we agree that in order for an explanation to be useful it must actually explain what needs to be explained?

    If we can agree on that then maybe we can also agree that, when it comes to life, information is what must be explained. Richard Dawkins says in River Out of Eden that “life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information.” For once he got something at least partially right so I will be happy to agree with him except for the word “just.” The prominent origin of life researcher Bernd-Olaf Küppers says in the introduction to his book Information and the Origin of Life that “To start with, a brief introduction to modern evolution theory is given. A central and fundamental concept of this theory is that of “biological information,…”

    This means that in order to have a good explanation for life, one must have a good explanation for information. So far so good? If not, please reflect on the essential difference between living and non-living things. DNA.

    So, if we want to explain life then we need to explain information. Now, if we want to explain information, we must explain language. For without language there is no information. This is a matter of definition. Languages are what encode information into physical substrates and enable it to be decoded on the receiving end. If you think that you, or anyone, or anything, can generate information apart from a language you just haven’t thought about it very hard.

    So now we have life, information, and language in our explanatory chain. But what about language? What is a language? Essentially, all languages consist of two things: symbols, and rules for the use of those symbols. To use English for example, we have a 26 character alphabet and a bunch of rules. The characters are combined in various ways to form words which are then combined in various ways to form sentences and paragraphs and so on in order to convey a message.

    So now our explanatory chain is life, information, language, symbols and rules. There is nothing beyond symbols and rules to explain. These are the rock bottom issue that must be dealt with. Are we still good?

    But now we must examine the explanatory resources of the competing explanations for life. On the one hand we have the materialist/naturalist story of neo-Darwinian evolution (by natural selection and genetic mutation) and we have this competing thesis of Intelligent Design.

    If you are a materialist, and all serious evolutionists are, then you understand that in your universe the intellectual commitment that you make is that all that exists is matter and energy in various combinations and that the various combinations that exist on this planet today, at any time, have come about without any intervention from “outside of nature,” that is, apart from the laws of physics just doing what they do over billions of years. This is materialism/evolution doctrine 101. This means that physics is all that you have to explain anything, which would include life which would include information which would include language which would include symbols and rules.

    But here’s your fatal problem. You can’t explain either symbols or rules with the laws of physics. Physics never can and never will be able to explain symbols and rules. Physics doesn’t even claim to address these issues. Physics is about the material world and since you deny the existence of the abstract world (which the laws of physics are a part of, by the way – they are themselves written in the language of mathematics, which has, you guessed it, its own set of symbols and rules) well then it would follow that physics is all you need. Right? It’s called in philosophical circles the idea that nature is “causally closed” and it means that all explanations boil down to the laws of physics and only the laws of physics. Oddly enough, many philosophers actually believe that our “minds” have no causal power in nature. Since materialism rejects minds apart from brains it follows that if minds don’t exist then how could they have causal power? This is obviously nonsense and I’ll leave that for another time. Meanwhile we were discussing the ability of physics to inform us about symbols and rules, thus language, thus information, thus life. Symbols being the representation of one thing for another and rules being the conventions that govern the manipulation of those symbols to encode, transmit, and decode information.

    Very unfortunately for the proponent of evolution, there is nothing in physics that tells us why “CAT” means a certain kind of mammal and why “ACT” means to do something, something done, or a segment of a play. Physics has NOTHING to say about either the symbols that comprise those words or the rules that govern their use and it NEVER WILL.

    The only thing that can account for symbols and rules, and thus language, and thus information, and thus life, is a mind. It takes something outside of quarks and leptons to be aware of quarks and leptons. We create information every day and we do it effortlessly. I will not attempt a formal proof here that it is our minds that are doing this since I’m sure your good sense has granted me that. If not, we can discuss it later.

    I will say that to defeat my argument what you need to do is attack either the structure of the argument or the truth of the premises. If you can’t successfully do that (you cannot) then the truth of Mind wins over the falsehood of matter creating life. When I make this argument I hear some pretty amazing things but for once if you could just stick to the argument itself and try to defeat that I’d appreciate it. Here’s a recap, sort of a study guide on what you need to do.

    - You can say that evolution makes use of “mind” to create information (or manipulate it once it’s created) BUT that’s not what evolution claims.

    - You can say that life and information aren’t inextricably linked together BUT there is a mountain range of empirical data (and rational arguments too) that say they are.

    - You can say that information is possible without language but I frankly don’t think you’ll be able to make that case without using language.

    - You can say that language does not consist of symbols and rules but that will be equally difficult since that’s what a language is.

    - Or perhaps you can tell me what law or laws of physics tell us about “CAT” and “ACT.” Why they mean what they do.

    I’ll be very interested in your reply because from where I sit, in this universe, where reason is supreme in matters of truth, not only is evolution not true, it’s not even possible for it to be true. I believe it’s the greatest intellectual scandal of human history. It’s shameful, actually, that so many otherwise intelligent people buy into such obvious hogwash.

    Cell theory even says that living cells only come from other living cells. So where did the first life come from? It had to come from some pre-existing intelligence (a Mind) that could create information, that is, life. (Thus Intelligent Design) The genetic code or language is the language of life and there is only one Author. Therefore I have a prediction. I’m throwing this one in for free. Mankind will never create life from non-life. We can’t write in that language. We may twist it and bend it and mutilate it but we will NEVER create it. If mankind does do that someday then I lose. I only hope I’m still here if that happens (it won’t) and it’s not too late to change my mind. Because if it did happen, I would be forced to do exactly that.

    What I have shown, until you defeat my argument, is that the explanatory power of evolution commits suicide. I don’t even have to argue with you. Your only remaining move is to deny the existence of information, but you must use information to do that. In the past, materialists/evolutionists have gotten away with denying all kinds of things. Everything from mind to purpose, design, morality, agency, blah, blah, blah. But now I’d like to see you deny, with a straight face, the existence of information. If you refuse to do that, then YOU MUST acknowledge that physics couldn’t have done it and that a Mind did. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Regards,

  49. To tgpeeler,
    The Jesuits would love you.

    What about a crystal ? There is ‘information’ ‘encoded’ somewhere, thats how crystals keep forming the way they do. Is there a ‘language’ here ? Do we need God to make crystals ?

  50. 50

    Ritchie,

    “Animals may indeed co-operate, but that is in cases where co-operation is what is best for them as an individual! They are giving themselves an advantage by co-operating. Though they may be co-operating, they are still very much competing from an evolutionary point of view.”

    Gee, that explanation throws altruism in the human species right out the window. The only reason Mother Theresa cooperated by sacrificing for the needs of Calcutta’s poorest, was to gain a survival advantage – even though she died in poverty.

    I’m sorry, but these just-so stories (which are typical Dariwnists) you’re giving us leave much that they cannot explain.

  51. ROb:

    Joseph, the Evo Info Lab models Darwinian evolution as a search for a target.

    Didn’t we agree “survival” was the target?

    I remember saying that we can’t search for what doesn’t yet exist- meaning tat there wasn’t a “search” for a flagellum.

  52. Ritchie,

    Fitness (biology):

    Fitness (often denoted w in population genetics models) is a central concept in evolutionary theory. It describes the capability of an individual of certain genotype to reproduce, and usually is equal to the proportion of the individual’s genes in all the genes of the next generation.

    fitness:

    In biology, fitness is the number of offspring of a particular organism which survive to reproductive age. In other words, fitness may be thought of as the ability of an organism to pass on its genes.

    I will find more references for tomorrow.

  53. 53

    Ritchie,

    “Can someone please help me out here?

    I hadn’t heard of this WEASEL programme before, but I have no idea why people are calling evolution an ‘entropic process’ or that there is no ‘fitness drive’ in nature…”

    The WEASEL argument originated from Richard Dawkins’ book “The Blind Watchmaker.”

    Dawkins was attempting to counter a common argument against evolution by creationists, such as: that a tornado going through a junkyard cannot produce a 747 – or other such arguments.

    Dawkins’ counter argument is that evolution doesn’t work that way, it works through cumulative selection. The WEASEL program was intended to show that cumulative selection is not random like a tornado going through a junkyard. Cumulative selection works faster and is more efficient than those types of scenarios.

    The whole problem with the WEASEL program in demonstrating Darwinian cumulative selection, is that it started with a goal – the Phrase from Shakespear’s ‘Hamlet’ “ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.” The program was designed to use random processes for the computer to eventually acquire the goal phrase. While this program demonstrated designed cumulative selection, and how it is faster and more efficient than designed blind selection, it did not demonstrate that Darwinian processes, which do not offer a goal or target, can work.

    ‘Fitness’ again is a vague term, and does not explain how Darwinian processes could at all be concerned with it other than for ‘survival.’ Survival itself is a goal, but why do blind consecutive selective processes desire or even require survival? Besides, Dawkins admitted that his WEASEL program was “a bit of a cheat,” because it started with a target phrase.

    This admission implies then, that Darwinism does not start with a target. So ‘fitness’ and ‘survival’ are then irrelevant. Survival implies a purpose, for which Darwinists are understandably vague. The only arguments we get concerning survival are non-rigorous just-so stories about how fitness and survival instincts work within a species – but such stories only beg the question. The question: why survival? Why not death, chaos and destruction? The Darwinian answer? Because death, chaos and destruction do not lead to survival. Do you see the circularity?

  54. 54

    Ritchie,

    “I hadn’t heard of this WEASEL programme before, but I have no idea why people are calling evolution an ‘entropic process’ or that there is no ‘fitness drive’ in nature…”

    I don’t think anybody is saying that there is no ‘fitness drive’ in nature. There is a fitness drive, but Darwinian rationalizations cannot account for it. As the WEASEL program demonstrated, cumulative selection does not work without a target. A target implies a purpose. A ‘fitness drive’ implies a purpose as well, but Darwinists are so vague about this in order to escape the realization that evolution has a goal. Why are they so opposed to a goal for evolution? Because methodological naturalism is their metaphysical assumption, and it postulates that only natural processes can account for complexity in nature. Natural processes cannot have a target or goal. Darwinism is non-goal directed, and as such, is self-refuting and circular.

  55. “What about a crystal ? There is ‘information’ ‘encoded’ somewhere, thats how crystals keep forming the way they do. Is there a ‘language’ here ? Do we need God to make crystals ?”

    Graham, I am not a crystal expert (or any other kind) but the way I understand it, crystals form strictly due to the laws of physics. It’s just how the lattices are created. There is no information involved in their formation. There is no language anywhere, thus no information. I just did a google search on crystal formation and none of the articles mentions anything about information being involved in their formation.

    Not to say that information could not be encoded somehow in a crystal. I suppose there is someone out there smart enough to do that. The answer to your question is, though, yes, we do need God to make crystals. Otherwise whence the stuff from which they are made? :-)

    It seems to me that reason is the ultimate authority regarding truth claims. It’s inescapable. To deny that is to confirm it. If I claim that reason is not the ultimate authority of truth, in order to defend that position, I must reason. We cannot get away from that. No one can. So I go where the reason and the facts go. I’m personally not interested in believing anything that’s not true. I’ve bought BS before, we all have, and in my experience, and I’ll bet yours too, it never did me any good. Meanwhile, back at the argument, do you agree or disagree? If so, why? Thanks.

  56. CY, you say: “A target implies a purpose. A ‘fitness drive’ implies a purpose as well, but Darwinists are so vague about this in order to escape the realization that evolution has a goal. Why are they so opposed to a goal for evolution? Because methodological naturalism is their metaphysical assumption, and it postulates that only natural processes can account for complexity in nature. Natural processes cannot have a target or goal. Darwinism is non-goal directed, and as such, is self-refuting and circular.”

    Exactly. Here’s a quote from my ‘favorite’ evangelist of evolution, Richard Dawkins. It’s from his book, River Out of Eden. He says: “The true process that has endowed wings and eyes, beaks, nesting instincts and everything else about life with the strong illusion of purposeful design is now well understood. It is Darwinian natural selection.”

    Note the “strong illusion” of design. So we have a process that is not forward looking, is not goal directed, cannot see into the future to know what will ‘work’ and what will not ‘work’ but somehow this mysterious force, that’s not recognized by physics, by the way, creates a “strong illusion” of design. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic. That kind of obstinacy in the face of so much evidence and reason.

    Or how’s this. I call this one “Dawkins on reason” and it’s from the same book. He says: “Evolution is very possibly not, in actual fact, always gradual. But it must be gradual when it is being used to explain the coming into existence of complicated, apparently designed objects, like eyes. For if it is not gradual in these cases, it ceases to have any explanatory power at all. Without gradualness in these cases, we are back to miracle, which is simply a synonym for the total absence of explanation.”

    So get this, in English, he’s just said that it isn’t always gradual (like the theory claims) but for it to be useful, it HAS to be gradual, therefore it IS gradual!!!! The real problem here is that we are attempting to reason with people who reject reason even as they accuse us of rejecting it. I have come to know what Alice in Wonderland felt like. :-)

  57. tgpeeler @ 56

    Or how’s this. I call this one “Dawkins on reason” and it’s from the same book. He says: “Evolution is very possibly not, in actual fact, always gradual. But it must be gradual when it is being used to explain the coming into existence of complicated, apparently designed objects, like eyes. For if it is not gradual in these cases, it ceases to have any explanatory power at all. Without gradualness in these cases, we are back to miracle, which is simply a synonym for the total absence of explanation.”

    So get this, in English, he’s just said that it isn’t always gradual (like the theory claims) but for it to be useful, it HAS to be gradual, therefore it IS gradual!!!!

    This is not hard. Think about it.

    Evolution can be gradual as in proceeding in small, incremental steps while still varying the rate at which things change between, say, incredibly slow and not-quite-so-incredibly slow.

    It’s all relative.

    To paleontologists, what happened in the Cambrian is an explosion. To you and I, something that takes 70 million years may be a lot of things – like really, really slow – but explosive it ain’t.

  58. To tgpeeler,

    And why isnt a rule information ? A rule contains information about how some action will proceed, eg: the crystal will be exactly hexagonal. If the rule didnt contain this information, it wouldnt be a rule.

    I think the real problem here is the theological hair-splitting about what ‘information’ means, what ‘language’ means etc etc.

    As I say, the Jesuits would love you.

  59. tgpeeler: “Therefore I have a prediction. I’m throwing this one in for free. Mankind will never create life from non-life.”

    Which individual parts of a cell are alive?

    tgpeeler: “I call this one “Dawkins on reason” and it’s from the same book. He says: “Evolution is very possibly not, in actual fact, always gradual. But it must be gradual when it is being used to explain the coming into existence of complicated, apparently designed objects, like eyes.”

    Complicated parts, like eyes, have to evolve gradually by cumulative selection. Trying to evolve them suddenly would be switching to ID-style single-step selection, which does not work.

    Once those complex parts have slowly evolved, a hit or two to regulatory genes can cause them to suddenly change size or number.

    That’s what Dawkins is talking about.

  60. CannuckianYankee: “As the WEASEL program demonstrated, cumulative selection does not work without a target.”

    The “target” is to reproduce as well as it is currently doing or better.

    As I said in yesterday’s response to one of your messages, Dawkins told us upfront that he wrote a specific target because he was just illustrating the fantastic difference between cumulative selection, as it is found in evolution, and single-step selection as it is found in ID complaints about evolution.

    The “target” in real life is a DNA pattern that reproduces better than the current pattern.

  61. Hey Sev, thanks for completely ignoring the real argument. What a gambit! I’ve never seen that one before. It’s called the ostrich maneuver. If I ignore his argument it will go away and I won’t ever have to deal with it. Come on, man, bring it on. Let’s go. Dueling ontologies. One that espouses materialism and one that claims Theism is true. It will be fun.

    After you finish not being able to explain life, information, or language by means of physics then you can not explain how physics tells us some things are wrong and others right. And then you can not explain how quarks and leptons can be self-aware and reason and choose. And then you can not explain how mathematics, a completely abstract enterprise, can communicate the deepest truths about the material universe. For extra credit you can not throw in how quarks and leptons, which are material, can interact with the immaterial world of mathematics. Oh, I forgot, mathematics must not exist in your universe either.

    Let me refresh the argument in case you forgot. If you are going to explain life then you must be able to explain information. If you are going to explain information you must be able to explain language. If you are going to explain language you must be able to explain symbols and rules. But physics (which is all the neo-Darwinian account has to explain anything) cannot explain, in fact, it can’t ever explain, either symbols or rules. Because those are acts of the MIND and physics pertains to the material world. So you have two choices. You can come over to the light and realize that there is more to it than Darwin and his minions would have you believe or you can deny that information really exists. Of course, that statement contradicts itself and thus commits logical suicide, but those are your options.

  62. Gee, that explanation throws altruism in the human species right out the window. The only reason Mother Theresa cooperated by sacrificing for the needs of Calcutta’s poorest, was to gain a survival advantage – even though she died in poverty.

    I won’t bother making an argument but it strikes me as somewhat on the too optimistic side for people without some background in psychology and studies of survival strategies as well as what are motivating behaviour – in all animal species; humans no exception – to make bold statements about the subject.

    It is not even about evolution; it is about strategies for survival – the conflict between what benefits an individual vs. what benefits the group, clan, species.

    Take sex: An individual want sex for personal ‘benefit’ but in the process also contribute to the survival of the species.

    In short: much more complicated than most people are aware of.

  63. tgpeeler at #56

    Or how’s this. I call this one “Dawkins on reason” and it’s from the same book. He says: “Evolution is very possibly not, in actual fact, always gradual. But it must be gradual when it is being used to explain the coming into existence of complicated, apparently designed objects, like eyes. For if it is not gradual in these cases, it ceases to have any explanatory power at all. Without gradualness in these cases, we are back to miracle, which is simply a synonym for the total absence of explanation.”

    So get this, in English, he’s just said that it isn’t always gradual (like the theory claims) but for it to be useful, it HAS to be gradual, therefore it IS gradual!!!!

    I see Seversky has made the point about gradual being relative. I would add that what Dawkins writes is that evolution may sometimes be gradual and sometimes not and when some types of things evolve (complicated, apparently designed things) it has to be gradual. For other types of things (simpler developments presumably) it may happen suddenly or very gradually. There is no contradiction in that.

    For example, duplication of chromosomes has lead to simple changes in some plant species in one generation (although it would take many generations for a population of the new species to become established). But duplication of chromosomes would never lead to a complex new organ. This would require gradual steps.

  64. 64

    djmullen,

    Thanks for responding to my comment at 11.

    First of all, Dawkins’ overall argument in Chapter 3 of his book is to demonstrate how cumulative selection works for Darwinism. In fact, the title of the chapter is ‘Accumulating Small Change.’ Now your contention that I was false in stating that Dawkins’ purpose in the WEASEL program was to demonstrate how cumulative selection is a feasible process for evolution does not take this fact into consideration. True, the main focus in the demonstration was to show the speed and efficiency of cumulative selection; but the presence of the ‘cheat,’ the fixed goal – which Dawkins’ aknowledged detracts from such a demonstration. He only demonstrated that a designed version of cumulative selection is faster and more efficient than single step selection, but as I stated in my original post; this is really very trivial if it can’t demonstrate that naturalistic cumulative selection is even possible.

    Dawkins relies on other arguments to state the case for cumulative selection, and all of those arguments fail.

    Dawkins attempts to simplify the ‘long-term goal’ problem for evolution by positing that cumulative selection focuses on what he terms ‘reproductive success.’ He states:

    “If after aeons, what looks like progress towards some distant goal seems, with hindsight, to have been achieved, this is always an incidental consequence of many generations of short-term selection. The ‘watchmaker’ that is cumulative natural selection is blind to the future and has no long-term goal.” (Dawkins, R. ‘The Blind Watchmaker,’ p. 50)

    Now you notice that Dawkins escapes long-term goals by another cheat – reproductive success. But cumulative selection even in biology has if not a long term goal, a short term goal. Dawkins still does not escape the purposeful design of having a goal towards reproductive success.

    The WEASEL program demonstrated that cumulative selection requires a goal, and Dawkins (forgive the term) ‘weasels’ his way around these facts, because there’s really no other way around them. Cumulative selection does not buy a blind naturalistic explanation that is viable for the ToE. Dawkins’ only real success is in countering a triviality.

    You state:

    “There’s no mystery about where CY’s “fitness drive” comes from. If the mutation really screws up the function of the DNA, your offspring dies and the new DNA pattern dies with it. If it screws it up a little, your offspring die more often and the mutation eventually goes extinct. And if the mutation makes your DNA operate more effectively, your offspring is a winner and it has more descendents and that new DNA pattern tends to increase.”

    It sounds simple enough, and it really sounds reasonable – but only from a Darwinian natural selection perspective, which is simply put; question begging. You assume that it is mutations, which affect DNA, and not the other way around. How do you know that it is not a faulty code in the DNA, which affects the mutation? How do you know that mutations occur randomly, which affect the DNA? How do you know that DNA is not the source of the mutation? I would think this is the case – DNA contains the necessary information, which if corrupted, would logically lead to a mutation. That makes more sense than random mutations affecting and thus building the purposeful and complex specified information contained in DNA.

    You seem to believe that naturalistic Darwinian processes are what selectively over time through a process of random and non-goal-directed mutation, produced the complex code in the DNA, but this is an assumption that ignores the evidence and logic. Why do blind naturalistic processes even require a code? Darwinian processes cannot even account for the origin of the information processing of DNA, let alone, account for how mutations can affect DNA. So the ‘fitness drive’ problem persists.

  65. 65

    Seversky,

    “What paleontologists and biologists have to contend with are fragmentary clues that have survived from the distant past and what can be inferred from what is observed around us now.”

    Agreed. However the problem is, Seversky, that Dawinian inferences require that Darwinism be true. How can we assure that Darwinism is true, as opposed to just a theory? Simple – state it as fact.

    You stated that the processes involved in Darwinian selection can take millions of years, and cannot be tested in the laboratory. As such, Darwinian evolution is not testable. Any argument for evolution can be shown to be true. Any evidence can be interpreted to support the theory. When counter evidences arise, the theory can simply be changed or the evidence reinterpreted to force it to conform to the theory, because it can’t be falsified.

    But I agree with Stephen Meyer, that an inference to the best explanation is more appropriate when dealing with historical scientific theories; not falsifiability, which is really more applicable to rigorous, lab-testable theories. However, when theorists understand that a theory cannot be falsified, I think there is a tendancey to exploit the situation such that any explanation will do, as long as the theory is not abandoned.

    Such a scenario is possible with ID as much as it is with ToE. However, it is more likely to occur with ToE, since there are exponentially more theorists in ToE than in ID. ID, due to the small number of theorists, is better able to govern itself than is ToE. I contend that many biologists and paleontologists are tempted to force the fragmentary clues in the fossil record to conform to Darwinian evolution, even though the evidence can be interpreted otherwise. The reason this is done is because Darwinian evolution is no longer questioned among these very same biologists and paleontologists. Such a dynamic has led to the verifiability problems with the theory. When the majority of Darwinian-evolution accepting biologists believe evolution to be fact and no longer provisional, the verifiability of the theory is even more suspect. This is a problem for Darwinain ToE more than other more rigorous scientific theories, because ToE relies on historical interpretation, rather than on lab-tested results.

    If ID theorists are not careful, a similar dynamic could happen to ID if it gains popularity among scientists, since ID’s strength is not in its falsifiability – (although I would argue that it presents more falsifiable evidence interpretation than ToE) but in being the better of two competing inferences (design vs. RM + NS) to the evidence at hand.

  66. 66

    Richie,

    “I have no idea why people are calling evolution an ‘entropic process’”

    I have no idea either. Darwinian evolution is not entropic – it defies the law of entropy. :) Another reason why we reject it.

    I think what they really mean is that we should view evolution as a truly entropic process. When viewed in this way, evolutionary processes should lead to more decay and less complexity, and not the other way around.

    The problem, others would say, is that the fossil record does not reflect this – but that’s just one interpretation of the fossil record that is loaded with Darwinian assumptions.

  67. CannuckianYankee

    I have no idea either. Darwinian evolution is not entropic – it defies the law of entropy. :) Another reason why we reject it.

    That sounds very interesting – can you expand on “the law of entropy” and biology?

    My understanding of such matters concurs with yours – without an external source of energy systems move to states of higher entropy.

    Have the Darwinists ever been able to point to such a source? Not that I know of.

  68. #62

    Falsifiability seems to come up very regularly here. May be worth hammering home the key points.

    If we define Darwinism as evolution through RM+NS then there is absolutely no question that it is falsifiable. Indeed it has been shown to be false in a minor way and been modified as a result (e.g. larmarkism has shown to be true in a small way). The following discoveries/outcomes would rule Darwinism out almost immediately and completely:

    * the mechanism for inheritance is blended and not particulate

    * the earth is only a few thousand years old

    * the repeated failure to get species to change at all with artificial selection

    * failure to observe any microevolutionary change under strong natural selection pressure

    The fossil record is a bit different. It is mainly evidence for common descent – not the whole shooting match. And common descent would not be rejected because a few fossils were anomalous, just as the modern theory of gravity would not be rejected if one or two heavenly bodies behaved oddly. However, if there were repeated large anomalies in the fossil record then that would be a real blow to common descent and Darwinism.

    Now describe a single observation that would be incompatible with a designer of undetermined motives and powers?

  69. CYankee at 61:

    Quoting djmullen:

    “There’s no mystery about where CY’s “fitness drive” comes from. If the mutation really screws up the function of the DNA, your offspring dies and the new DNA pattern dies with it. If it screws it up a little, your offspring die more often and the mutation eventually goes extinct. And if the mutation makes your DNA operate more effectively, your offspring is a winner and it has more descendents and that new DNA pattern tends to increase.”

    It sounds simple enough, and it really sounds reasonable – but only from a Darwinian natural selection perspective, which is simply put; question begging. You assume that it is mutations, which affect DNA, and not the other way around. How do you know that it is not a faulty code in the DNA, which affects the mutation? How do you know that mutations occur randomly, which affect the DNA? How do you know that DNA is not the source of the mutation? I would think this is the case – DNA contains the necessary information, which if corrupted, would logically lead to a mutation. That makes more sense than random mutations affecting and thus building the purposeful and complex specified information contained in DNA.

    I keep re-reading this paragraph, trying to find a subtle philosophical point – a reference to the existence of DNA repair genes or some such, switching “which” to “that” or “affect” to “effect”, but I keep coming back to the inescapable conclusion that you are unaware that a mutation is a change in the DNA sequence. And we understand where they come from.

    And Moseph @ 64-
    You make me hap-py when skies are grey. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.

    ;-)

  70. Mark Frank,

    Can you please provide a testable hypothesis based on RM & NS.

    That way we can see if it is really falsifiable by seeing if it is testable.

  71. Joseph,

    Can you please provide a testable hypothesis based on RM & NS.

    When you obtained your masters in biology you must have covered this sort of thing already?

    The fact is that such hypotheses are proposed daily and tested daily, just pick up any journal.

    Typically the abstact of any paper (the first bit) will explain what is being tested

    Host–parasite coevolution is often suggested as a mechanism for maintaining genetic diversity, but finding direct evidence has proven difficult. In the present study, we examine the process of coevolution using a freshwater New Zealand snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) and its common parasite (the sterilizing trematode, Microphallus sp.) Specifically, we test for changes in genotypic composition of clonal host populations in experimental populations evolving either with or without parasites for six generations. As predicted under the Red Queen model of coevolution, the initially most common host genotype decreased in frequency in the presence, but not the absence, of parasitism. Furthermore, the initially most common host genotype became more susceptible to infection by the coevolving parasite populations over the course of the experiment. These results are consistent with parasite-meditated selection leading to a rare advantage, and they indicate rapid coevolution at the genotypic level between a host and its parasite.

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.....7/abstract

    So here they are testing the hypothesis that coevolution is a mechanism for maintaining genetic diversity.

    Tell me Joseph, do you buy into the “Red Queen” model of coevolution? Or do you think it’s bunk?

  72. 72

    Mark,

    See, I think this is a problem with the concept of falsifiability as it pertains to historical sceintific theories, such as ID and ToE. Anything imaginable that is counter to the theory can prove whether it is falsifiable or not. You state that if the earth should prove to be a few thousand years old, that this falsifies evolution. True, but the earth hasn’t been proven to be a few thousand years old – so by that the theory still stands. On the other hand, there are some Darwinists who assert that ID is not falsifiable because it infers supernatural forces. I refer you to Philosopher of Science (and atheist) Bradley Monton on a podcast at ID The Future, who counters this argument quite well:

    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....9_59-07_00

    What really renders evolution unfalsifiable by scinetific standards, is the contention among its proponents that it is fact beyond provision. This assertion is based on the same kinds of criteria, which make more rigorous theories falsifiable – such as thermodynamics, but minus one important factor; that it can be tested in a lab.

    So by the assertaion that the Darwinian ToE is fact, not provisional theory, it is not falsifiable in the strictest scientific sense, because it is no longer subject to rigorous testing. Doesn’t make it not true though, and this is the important point. Falsifiability is less meaningful in dealing with historical scientific theories, than with more rigorous lab-testable theories, except in relation to the parts of those theories that can be lab-tested. This is why I stated that ID theory is more falsifiable by those standards than ToE. Again – it doesn’t make ID more factual than ToE (they’re vastly different theories), just that there are certain aspects of ID theory that can in principle be tested in the lab. You can’t test random mutation and natural selection in the lab because of the time constraints. You can test agency in the lab, it’s done all the time – although I don’t know how this might be beneficial for ID.

    My contention is that we should abandon falsifiability in relation to these theories (except with respect to those aspects of the theory that can be lab tested) and depend solely on inference to the best explanation. That way nobody is asserting fact where conjecture is present, and everybody has the opportunity for input and disagreement. – kind of what goes on here at UD. But I doubt if many of the over-confident yet worried Darwinists will oblige.

    “Now describe a single observation that would be incompatible with a designer of undetermined motives and powers?”

    A very superflous argument to what ID actually suggests, but several observations:

    If mutations presented bizarre and non-functional anomalies such that organisms eventually decay into disorderly blobs of mostly jelly.

    If the earth was bombarded every 100 or so years by space junk, causing the extinction of all life, and requiring evolution to start all over again.

    I could name a whole lot of other examples, but what would be the point? I can imagine a number of scenarios, which you could show does not falsify the theory, and I could imagine a number of other scenarios that show your theory is not falsifiable. Such imaginings do not make one lick of a difference to the explanatory power of either theory, and that’s my point. Let’s stick with what we can actually observe.

  73. Moseph,

    You didn’t provide a testable hypothesis based on RM & NS.

    EVOLUTION is NOT being debated.

    ID is NOT anti-evolution.

    But thank you for exposing your dishoesty and ignorance.

  74. Joseph

    You didn’t provide a testable hypothesis based on RM & NS.

    I did. That you choose not to see that it is is not my problem.

    Rather, your problem is that you want to play scientist but having found a lab coat your are left wondering what your should do next.

    All the cheetah has to be is faster than its prey. And even that isn’t necessary.

    Ya see a bigger cheetah can just take the kill of the faster cheetah.

    When you say things like this you are debating EVOLUTION, even if you don’t realize it.

    Now, about that organism that is not designed and one that is.

    You admitted that some are designed and some are not.

    Now when asked to name one of each you dissemble.

    I will allow you to retract your original statement however, to save face. Just please don’t repeat the claim again.

  75. Moseph,

    There wasn’t anything in your post that discussed random mutations and natural selection.

    Therefor it didn’t cover it.

    IOW you are a liar.

    All the cheetah has to be is faster than its prey. And even that isn’t necessary.

    Ya see a bigger cheetah can just take the kill of the faster cheetah.

    When you say things like this you are debating EVOLUTION, even if you don’t realize it.

    You are ignorant and don’t even know it.

    Evolution is not being debated.

    Even YECs accept that evolution occurs.

    Now, about that organism that is not designed and one that is.

    You admitted that some are designed and some are not.

    Another lie.

    I take it that is all you have- lies and nonsense.

    Why do you buttheads even bother if lies and nonsense are the best you have?

  76. Moseph,

    For example how can we test the premise that the bacterial flagellum “evolved” by random mutations and natural selection?

  77. TGP & CY:

    Good stuff. (I or others might want to debate minor points here or there, but that would just be distractive.)

    Keep it coming.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: For the curious, I have commented on the W1 and W2 Weasel code, here. Bottomline is that both exhibit targetted search omn mere proximity not with in-built requirement of first achieving complex function. (Observed life starts at ~ 600 – 1,000 k bits of algorithmically functional, specific, code beading, language based information. How many big bang universes — and we have to think of the varieties of physics possible . . . — would you have to run for how long to get to terrestrial planets or other credible environments that set up warm little ponds etc and on a reasonable odds, form FSCI-based first life spontaneously? How many Big bangs do we have evidence of? Then, sincve novel body plans run to something like 10 – 100+ millions of bits of additinal functionally specific informaiton, how many of these spontaneous life forming sub cosmi would get tot he sort of biodiversity we see here on earth? And, what is the evidence for a super-cosmos in which so many sub-cosmi could form to nmake it an observable experience? is not the alternative that we need only account for the observed cosmos, and the observed factt hat informaiton occurs as a product of mind, to get to a mind who created a cosmos habitable for life and formed life in it, including what we see?)

    PPS: On Crystals etc, cf Leslie Orgel 1973:

    ______________

    >> In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity. [ Leslie Orgel (1973). The Origins of Life, p. 189. HT Wikipedia] >>
    ________________

    –> Information in the relevant sense is highly contingent, not driven by forces of mechanical necessity

    –> Similarly, it is not merely stochastically contingent like tossing a die.

    –> it requries a contgext of rules, symbols and in the relevant case machines that serve as readers, and effectors.

    –> Worse, as he machines are in a self-replicating entity, we need blueprint or tapes storing the code for even the readers and effectors, we need existing readers and effectors, and we need sequential conrtrol and related physical-spatial organisation [right parts, right places and times . . . ] etc

    –> We have not yet created a self-replicating machine, by Von Neumann showed what was needed, and it is an extension of what we have done with info systems. So, we have good reason to see that mind can do it; but none to see that chance + blind mechanical forces can.

    –> hence the major gaps in OOL and body plan level macroevolution as explanations. “Chance of the gaps” and just-so stories backed up by a priori Lewontinian evolutionary materialism will no longer do.

  78. Joseph

    There wasn’t anything in your post that discussed random mutations and natural selection.

    Therefor it didn’t cover it.

    IOW you are a liar.

    No, because the Red Queen is nothing to do with random mutations and natural selection. I suggest you read more.

    You are ignorant and don’t even know it.

    From you I take that as a compliment of the highest order.

    Even YECs accept that evolution occurs.

    I did not realize you were a YEC. If I had I would not have started any conversation with you in the first place.

    Another lie.

    I take it that is all you have- lies and nonsense.

    Why do you buttheads even bother if lies and nonsense are the best you have?

    Another lie? Let me reproduce the exchange in full then.

    I asked

    But you’d agree that not every instance of apparent design is in fact an example of explicit design right?

    You responded

    True. However every instance of apparent design needs to be investigated to see what caused it.

    You said true. You agreed with me. You agreed that apparent design (design that simply looks designed by a intelligence) exists.

    And now, somehow, I am the liar.

    Interesting.

    I think it’s obvious to anybody who has read this thread and our exchange who is precisely what.

  79. Mosepf sed:

    Now, about that organism that is not designed and one that is.

    You admitted that some are designed and some are not.

    I called him a liar.

    To try to refute my claim he? posts:

    I asked

    But you’d agree that not every instance of apparent design is in fact an example of explicit design right?

    You responded

    True. However every instance of apparent design needs to be investigated to see what caused it.

    The two are not the same.

    So I thank you for proving that you are dishonest.

    Now how about telling us how to test the premise that the bacterial flagellum evolved via random mutations and natural selection or admit that you are a fraud.

  80. #69

    It is a struggle to keep these discussions within bounds so forgive some editing.

    I suggested a number of outcomes which if true would mean Darwinism was false. I am not sure if you accept or reject this? It is hardly relevant that in fact these outcomes are not true.

    You suggested these outcomes would falsify ID:

    If mutations presented bizarre and non-functional anomalies such that organisms eventually decay into disorderly blobs of mostly jelly.

    We know nothing of the motives of the designer. How do we know that this is not what it wants to achieve?

    If the earth was bombarded every 100 or so years by space junk, causing the extinction of all life, and requiring evolution to start all over again.

    I fail to say why this accident would falsify ID. We don’t know the designers motives or powers so we don’t know if this space junk was under its control and part of the design. If not, then that is just a fact the designer has to deal with. If it is under its control maybe that’s the effect it wants – rapid evolution and destruction. We know nothing of its motives. To do so would be a religious assumption (see Cornelius).

  81. @Mark Frank

    Are you asking how one goes about falsifying the Design Inference? That seems like a strange request. The inference only obtains after first giving chance and necessity the benefit of the doubt. If it is even remotely possible that chance could have accomplished it, then design is ruled out. Is there some other falsification you are seeking beyond this?

    If so, then I’m curious about the falsifiability of the common descent inference: the inference that two organisms that are similar (in DNA, morphology, viral insertions, whatever) are likely related. I don’t mean to imply that this is not a valid inference, only to point out that, to my mind, it shares quite a bit with the design inference.

  82. Re #78

    Are you asking how one goes about falsifying the Design Inference? That seems like a strange request. The inference only obtains after first giving chance and necessity the benefit of the doubt. If it is even remotely possible that chance could have accomplished it, then design is ruled out. Is there some other falsification you are seeking beyond this?

    Why would design be ruled out just because chance could accomplish it? The designer has undefined powers and motives and might have wanted to produce a solution which could also have occurred by chance.

    I’m curious about the falsifiability of the common descent inference: the inference that two organisms that are similar (in DNA, morphology, viral insertions, whatever) are likely related.

    Uhm – need to be precise here. Are you talking about the theory that all life is descended from a common ancestor? This could be falsified by repeated rabbits in the precambrian (one such episode would probably not be enough). Or are you talking about the specific hypothesis that two organisms with similar characteristics are closely related? This is falsified by studying the history and distribution of those characteristics.

  83. Mark @63

    “For example, duplication of chromosomes has lead to simple changes in some plant species in one generation (although it would take many generations for a population of the new species to become established). But duplication of chromosomes would never lead to a complex new organ. This would require gradual steps.”

    I regret bringing Dawkins’ inadequate reasoning skills into this. The conversation is not about how ‘evolution’ is or isn’t gradual (and I did not quote him out of context, he’s irrational and can’t even see it) but whether or not it is true. I am making the strongest possible claim about evolution and saying that not only is it not true, it’s impossible for it to be true.

    IT CAN’T ACCOUNT FOR INFORMATION. But information is what must be explained. All this talk about genetic drift, mutations, ‘natural selection,’ blah blah blah is irrelevant. It’s got nothing to do with the real issue. Any time “we” get pulled into a discussion about any of these things we have already given away the store. They CAN’T explain information. Case closed.

  84. Joseph [from 52]

    I realise you are having many conversations at once now, but still:

    “Fitness (biology):

    Fitness (often denoted w in population genetics models) is a central concept in evolutionary theory. It describes the capability of an individual of certain genotype to reproduce, and usually is equal to the proportion of the individual’s genes in all the genes of the next generation.

    fitness:

    In biology, fitness is the number of offspring of a particular organism which survive to reproductive age. In other words, fitness may be thought of as the ability of an organism to pass on its genes.”

    These do not fit your defintion of fitness. Look again. Neither one is saying that fitness is defined by the number of offspring an individual has! I cannot say how you could say otherwise. Perhaps reading the article I provided for you would help you to make sense of the confusion?

  85. CannuckianYankee [from 50]

    “Gee, that explanation throws altruism in the human species right out the window.”

    Not at all. I do not deny humans have a concept of morality and there are indeed Darwinian explainations, but for the moment I would like an example of true altruism from outside the human race. Can you give me an example of habitual behaviour from a species of non-human animal which is truly altristic?

    ” The only reason Mother Theresa cooperated by sacrificing for the needs of Calcutta’s poorest, was to gain a survival advantage – even though she died in poverty.”

    Human altruism is a different kettle of fish because we are both intelligent enough and comfortably shielded enough from the harsh realities of everyday natural selection to be able to ponder morality. I can go into it if you wish, but suffice to state here you have evaded my point.

    [from 53]

    Thankyou for the explaination, but one brief passage jumped out at me:

    “Fitness’ again is a vague term, and does not explain how Darwinian processes could at all be concerned with it other than for ’survival.’ Survival itself is a goal, but why do blind consecutive selective processes desire or even require survival?”

    Blind consecutive selection processes desire/require survival for genes to be passed on. The genes which do nothing to help their own survival will simply not have survived. Imagine the very first replicators bobbing around in the primordial soup. It simply logically follows that those that were slightly better at replicating themselves… well… replicated themselves better. They grew more populous and then as competition for food and resources heated up, those replicators that were better suited to compete were generally more sucessful. From then on started the struggle for survival that powers natural selection. So the instict to survive does not imply a divine purpose.

    [from 54]

    “Darwinists are so vague about this in order to escape the realization that evolution has a goal.”

    Does it really? What is this goal?

    [from 66]

    “Darwinian evolution is not entropic – it defies the law of entropy. Another reason why we reject it.”

    What is the law of entropy? I suspect you are about to quote the second law of thermodynamics, which does not apply to the natural world, because the planet is not a closed system – it is constantly recieving energy from the sun.

  86. Dawkins is correct if says that Darwinian evolution has no target. But then he cannot declare a target at the beginning of its evolution simulator as he did (this is Gil’s position).

    The intent of the program was to illustrate cumulative selection, which it did. Whether the cumulative selection in WEASEL is sufficiently analogous to the cumulative selection in natural evolution has been debated here. I personally think that the analogy is appropriate, although like all analogies, it has applicability.

    Besides its researchers study how much intelligent assistance is necessary to obtain a goal in a given type of search with certain efficiency.

    To my knowledge, they have not studied how much intelligent assistance is necessary to achieve a certain efficiency. They have claimed that active information comes only from intelligence, which is not the same as studying the question.

    My only point is that they see biological evolution as a search for a target, which they must in order to apply their active information measure to biological evolution.

  87. tgpeeler:

    For without language there is no information. This is a matter of definition.

    Can you tell us exactly what definition you’re referring to? Shannon, Kolmogorov, and even Dembski all define information in ways that don’t require language.

  88. R0b #86

    The intent of the [Weasel] program was to illustrate cumulative selection.

    Also cumulative selection has no target. (The target of “survival” is too unspecified and non complex to deserve the status of “target”.) Also a simulator of cumulative selection must not have the target declared in its first instruction. So the incoherence of Weasel program remains.

    When mutations happen in reptiles in the real word mutations don’t think: “we must concur to morph our host into a bird”. When cumulative selection cumulates on the same reptiles selection doesn’t think: “I must select these reptiles to morph them into birds”. So why does Weasel program specify the target of a “bird” in its initial declarations?

    My only point is that they [Evolutionary Informatics Lab] see biological evolution as a search for a target, which they must in order to apply their active information measure to biological evolution.

    The fact that they state a target to measure the active information needed to search it doesn’t imply they see evolution as teleological. Their reasoning is something like this: if evolution had a target T1, to reach it, it should generate I1 amount of information; if evolution had a target T2, to reach it, it should generate I2 amount of information, and so on. Of course they know that unguided evolution cannot generate new information but only scramble the old one.

  89. Correction in 86: “it has applicability” –> “it has limited applicability”

  90. tgpeeler:

    Essentially, all languages consist of two things: symbols, and rules for the use of those symbols. To use English for example, we have a 26 character alphabet and a bunch of rules. The characters are combined in various ways to form words which are then combined in various ways to form sentences and paragraphs and so on in order to convey a message.

    Not all languages have rules in the sense of syntax restrictions. In an optimally efficient language, any string of symbols is grammatical. The set of nonnegative decimal integers is an example, i.e. any string over the alphabet {0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9} is a valid number.

  91. Rob,

    Show us a credible case where active information sufficient to get to a case of 1,000 bits or so worth of functionally specific complex information arose by chance + necessity without mind.

    Every evo simulation and every GA composed by programmers stands in the other column as empirical evidence that mind creates active info.

    Then, apply an inference to best explanation on the empirical evidence.

    GEM of TKI

  92. Kairofocus

    Show us a credible case where active information sufficient to get to a case of 1,000 bits or so worth of functionally specific complex information arose by chance + necessity without mind.

    Can you show me a credible case of active information generation by your purported “intelligent designer”?

    Every evo simulation and every GA composed by programmers stands in the other column as empirical evidence that mind creates active info.

    Can you show me a credible case of GA creation or evo simulation by your purported “intelligent designer”?

    Then, apply an inference to best explanation on the empirical evidence.

    And, laughably, the flying spaghetti monster is equally probable under your inference to best explanation. Give his noodly appendage a kiss from me!

    Tell me Kariosfocus:

    What’s the theoretical limit on the amount of of FSCI (functionally specific complex information) that can be generated by natural processes operating freely?

    I can determine it to be from your previous statements only to be a number in the range 0 to 1000. What is it please?

  93. Re: Graham 58

    “and why isnt a rule information ? A rule contains information about how some action will proceed, eg: the crystal will be exactly hexagonal. If the rule didnt contain this information, it wouldnt be a rule.

    I think the real problem here is the theological hair-splitting about what ‘information’ means, what ‘language’ means etc etc.

    As I say, the Jesuits would love you.”

    Who says a rule isn’t information? And what does that have to do with anything. But it’s ONLY information within the context of life. Dear God in heaven what is so difficult about this to understand? Did I mince words in my definitions? Did I not make myself crystal clear? Yet in spite of that, you pick at nits rather than even try to come to grips with the argument. I doubt that the Jesuits would love me. They are far too irrational for my taste.

  94. Re: DJ Mullen #59

    “Complicated parts, like eyes, have to evolve gradually by cumulative selection. Trying to evolve them suddenly would be switching to ID-style single-step selection, which does not work.

    Once those complex parts have slowly evolved, a hit or two to regulatory genes can cause them to suddenly change size or number.

    That’s what Dawkins is talking about.”

    No kidding. Ya think? My whole point is that even though Dawkins is talking about that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. IT’S NOT THE COMPLEX PARTS THAT HAVE TO BE EXPLAINED. How often must this be said?

    Seriously, do you guys really not get this? That information and life are inseparable? Let me quote from the evolution side of the aisle just to prove that I’m not making this up. Sigh…

    First of all let me quote from a philosophy book or two to drive home, if that’s even possible out here, the point that neo-Darwinian evolution relies on physics and physics alone for its explanatory power. And would it be churlish of me to mention once again for an explanation to be worth the paper it’s written on that it must explain what needs explaining. Can we at least agree on that?????

    Naturalism:

    “The view, sometimes considered scientific (but an assumption rather than an argued theory) that all that there is, is spatiotemporal (a part of “nature”) and is only knowable through the methods of the sciences, is itself a metaphysics, namely metaphysical naturalism (not to be confused with natural philosophy).” This is from the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Second Edition. Page 563.

    “the twofold view that (1) everything is composed of natural entities – those studied in the sciences (on some versions, the natural sciences) – whose properties determine all the properties of things, persons included (abstracta like possibilia and mathematical objects, if they exist, being constructed of such abstract entities as the sciences allow); and (2) acceptable methods of justification and explanation are contiguous, in some sense, with those in science.” Same book. page 596.

    “An atheist in this sense of philosophical naturalist is somebody who believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe, no soul that outlasts the body and miracles – except in the sense of natural phenomena that we don’t yet understand.” The God Delusion, page 14. (By Richard Dawkins)

    Materialism:

    “Materialism is the naturalistic metaphysics that regards nature as consisting of matter in motion. Whatever is apparently not matter in motion is to be regarded as “mere appearances” of what is matter in motion. All explanation, therefore, in philosophy as well as in science, is to be phrased in terms of the laws now known or yet to be discovered concerning the relationships among the different kinds of matter and the laws of their motion with respect to each other.” (In other words, the laws of physics.) Philosophic Inquiry. Page 338.

    “Materialists deny that the world includes both mental and material substances. Every substance is a material substance. Minds are fashioned somehow from the same elementary components from which rocks, trees, and stars are made.” Philosophy of Mind. Page 51.

    “Nowadays, materialism of one stripe or another is more often than not taken for granted: in David Lewis’s words, materialism is nonnegotiable.” Philosophy of Mind. Page 51. David Lewis is a highly regarded contemporary philosopher. He has passed on.

    “The story may be apocryphal, but the answer is the only one that a consistent materialist could have given; everything is to be explained in terms of what occurs in nature, according to the laws of physics.” Philosophic Inquiry, page 392. (The apocryphal story is the famous one of Napoleon and LaPlace.)

    “All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way.” The Blind Watchmaker. Page 5. (Richard Dawkins. Although how physics is deployed in a “very special way” is something only Richard knows.)

    “The physical stance always works in principle, because everything ultimately obeys the laws of physics.” The God Delusion, Page 181. (More Richard)

    Physicalism:

    “in the widest sense of the term, materialism applied to the question of the nature of mind. So construed, physicalism is the thesis – call it ontological physicalism – that whatever exists or occurs is ultimately constituted out of physical entities. But sometimes ‘physicalism’ is used to refer to the thesis that whatever exists or occurs can be completely described in the vocabulary of physics.”

    The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Second Edition. Page 706.

    “One way of stating the principle of physical causal closure is this: If you pick any physical event and trace out its causal ancestry or posterity, that will never take you outside the physical domain. That is, no causal chain will ever cross the boundary between the physical and the nonphysical.” Mind in a Physical World. Page 40. (Jaegwon Kim, a highly regarded – well not by me – contemporary philosopher of mind.)

    “So all roads branching out of physicalism may in the end seem to converge at the same point, the irreality of the mental. This should come as no surprise: we should remember that physicalism, as an overarching metaphysical doctrine about all of reality, exacts a steep price.” Mind in a Physical World. Page 119.

    OK. Let me spell it out again. The “isms” above, hereafter I will use the word naturalism since it’s the broadest category, have a couple of common claims. They are that “nature” is all that there is. That “nature” is causally closed. That means the laws of physics govern without any pesky intervention from God, souls, minds, whatever. And they are all of a piece that the only way to knowledge is through “our” best construal of the scientific method. Now you can quibble around the edges, maybe, but this is what you sign up for if you are a neo-Darwinist. That being natural selection plus genetics as the story of life. It’s the naturalist story.

    Now some bludgeoning on life and information. I am quoting died in the wool evolutionists here who believe in a physico-chemical explanation for life. In other words, they think Darwin got it right.

    “To start with, a brief introduction to modern evolution theory is given (chapter 1). A central and fundamental concept of this theory is that of “biological information,” since the material order and the purposiveness characteristic of living systems are governed completely by information, which in turn has its foundations at the level of biological macromolecules (chapter 2). The question of the origin of life is thus equivalent to the question of the origin of biological information.” Information and the Origin of Life, from the introduction. By Bernd-Olaf Kuppers.

    “The term “biological information” requires clarification, and this is the purpose of part II. It will be shown that three dimensions of information can be distinguished: its syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic aspects.”

    “In contrast to this (syntactic), the semantic aspect is essential, since the elements of an organism that are governed by information have a special purpose and a meaning in the context of the maintenance of its life functions (chapter 4).” Information and the Origin of Life, From the introduction.

    “The structure and function of the hemoglobin molecule show that the purposiveness of living molecules pervades even the complex architecture of the molecule that possesses them.” Information and the Origin of Life. page 11.

    “The smallest catalytically active protein molecules of the living cell consist of at least a hundred amino acids. … This shows that already on the lowest level of complexity, that of the biological macromolecules, an almost unlimited variety of structures is possible. … It is therefore to be expected that the construction and the coordinated interplay in the cell of these molecular function-carriers is determined by a plan, that is to say, information.” Information and the Origin of Life. page 11.

    “In spite of our differences we all use a single chemical language, or, more precisely, as we shall see, two such languages, intimately related to each other.” Life Itself, page 39.

    “A protein is like a paragraph written in a twenty-letter language, the exact nature of the protein being determined by the exact order of the letters. With one trivial exception, this script never varies. Animals, plants, microorganisms and viruses all use the same set of twenty letters although, as far as we can tell, other similar letters could easily have been employed, just as other symbols could have been used to construct our own alphabet.” Life Itself. pages 44-45. (Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA)

    “You can treat the genetic code as a dictionary in which sixty-four words in one language (the sixty-four possible triplets of a four-letter alphabet) are mapped onto twenty-one words in another language (twenty amino acids plus a punctuation mark).” River Out of Eden. Page 11. (Richard Dawkins again)

    “Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information.” River Out of Eden. Page 19.

    “Indeed, the whole DNA/protein-based information technology is so sophisticated – high tech, it has been called by the chemist Graham Cairns-Smith – that you can scarcely imagine it arising by luck, without some other self-replicating system as a forerunner.” River Out of Eden. Page 150.

    “We have seen that DNA molecules are the centre of a spectacular information technology.” The Blind Watchmaker. Page 126.

    “…so that the language that is used in the nucleic acid polymers is universal.” Of Molecules and Men, page 10. (Francis Crick, again)

    “The existence of a genome and the genetic code divides the living organisms from nonliving matter. There is nothing in the physico-chemical world that remotely resembles reactions being determined by a sequence and codes between sequences.” Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life. Page 2. (By Hubert Yockey)

    “The belief of mechanist-reductionists that the chemical processes in living matter do not differ in principle from those in dead matter is incorrect. There is no trace of messages determining the results of chemical reactions in inanimate matter. If genetical processes were just complicated biochemistry, the laws of mass action and thermodynamics would govern the placement of amino acids in the protein sequences.” Page 5.

    “Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.” Page 6

    “The genetic information system is the software of life and, like the symbols in a computer, it is purely symbolic and independent of its environment. Of course, the genetic message, when expressed as a sequence of symbols, is nonmaterial but must be recorded in matter or energy.” Page 7.

    “Life is guided by information and inorganic processes are not.” Page 8.

    The Jesuits indeed. How much plainer can it get?????

    So now that we understand that life and information are connected and we understand that information and language are connected and we understand that language is a set of symbols and rules then you have to explain symbols and rules with physics. But you can’t. So you can’t explain language, or information, or life. It’s an easy system.

    You know, it strikes me as odd that I, a Christian, cite Dawkins, Crick, Kuppers, Kim, Yockey, and could quote Dennett, Ruse, Forrest, Coyne, Miller, Monod, Meyr, Gould, Eldridge, Dobzhansky, etal, ad nauseum and all I ever get back from “you guys” is: the Jesuits would love you. Or what is information? Come on. Don’t you people read? Let’s engage on this. Final offer.
    Regards,

  95. Re: Rob #87

    “Can you tell us exactly what definition you’re referring to? Shannon, Kolmogorov, and even Dembski all define information in ways that don’t require language.”

    See above. If that doesn’t do it for you I gracefully acknowledge my inability to penetrate your intellectual space.

    Regards,

  96. Moseph:

    Pardon some frank advice: you need to read the weak argument correctives, then come back to us; instead ofg prosing distractive side=-tracks. Recall, this is a rtherad about the credibility of Weasel as a model of the power of chance variation and natural selection off differential reproductive success of sub-populaitons.

    It turns out Weasel is based on rewarding increments in mere proximity to a distant target, and that the relevant reward is for fundamentally non-functional phrases. If a cell were to have a non-functional random 300k base pair DNA set substituted for its normal complement, it would stop working and stop replicating.

    Weasel is fundamentally dis-analogous to functional cell based life, much less to proposed mechanisms of cumulative evolutionary progress by chance variation and natural selection off differential reproductive success of sub populations. That is why the apparent original Weasels are not credible, as Gil has pointed out in the original post.

    On active information and intelligent designs, we see this all the time, and every genetic algorithm or evolutionary algorithm presented to date is a case in point. For, we actually do observe intelligent designers — there is no one “the” intelligent designer. Even the “missing link” level Weasel is an apt case in point.

    As for FSCI and its rule of thumb lower bound, you have adequate information in WAC 28.

    Further to these it seems to me that you are making an unconscious substitution of “supernatural” for “intelligent.” This is a misreading:

    1 –> The biosystems of cell-based life exhibit FSCI, on the grounds of being a Von Neumann self-replicator and using DNA of 600 k bits or more.

    2 –> From this — as, such highly contingent and functional, purposefully organised information and structures are not credible on either blind mechanical forces or blind undirected, stochastically controlled contingency, or both acting in concert — we may infer to techne, i.e. art as the most credible source.

    3 –> But if cell based life on earth is credibly a technology, the natural next question is whose?

    4 –> From the empirical evidence provided by reverse engineering the technology as observed here on earth, we may only infer to someone capable of organic polymer molecular nanomachine technologies that embed digital info systems.

    5 –> So, any civilisation or institution with a sufficiently advanced technology to do that is capable of creating such an entitty.

    6 –> To date, we have no means of empirically verifying that such entities do or do not exist in a sufficiently close galactic neighbourhood to be relevant.

    7 –> So, on reverse engineering the cell, we may only properly infer to intelligence, not to the specific identity or ontological status of said technician(s). Biological ID under current and reasonably foreseeable conditions is strictly irrelevant to issues over whether intelligences come from nature and supernature, however these may be defined. (Which is non-trivial.)

    8 –> There is however a branch of design theory that may have some bearing on the first origin of cell based life in our observed cosmos.

    9 –> For, our observed cosmos appears to manifest a life-friendly fine-tuning on sufficiently many parameters etc that it becomes credible that a candidate originator of the observed cosmos is an intelligence who intended to onward create life.

    10 –> Such a candidate intelligence of great power and wisdom is suggestive of many descriptions of what would be legitimately termed “supernatural.” [The originator of our natural world, plainly, is beyond and not unduly constrained by it. Nor is it plausible that such an entitty would be incapable of interacting with the cosmos and its components as a going concern.]

    11 –> in a world of rampant a priori Lewontinain style “scientific materialism,” that seems ultra vires to many. But, that has more to do with question-begging metaphysical a priorism than anything that is strictly scientific.

    12 –> But, coming back to the bottomline. (i) Intelligent is not to be equated with supernatural. And, (ii) the use of design inference on best explanation across empirically anchored observations of our world, we allow the evidence to speak for itself. So, (iii) materialistic a priorism is ultra vires.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: TGP, keep the good stuff coming.

  97. PPS: Moseph, you already have your answer on the lower bound on FSCI; including from 25 – 29 in the UD weak argument correctives. If you want more, try the discussion here on a heuristic, quantifying model with a cutoff at 500 – 1,000 bits; in my always linked. Do, try not to further side-track the thread.

  98. PPPS: TGP, my Jesuit educators at Campion College in Jamaica back in the 1970′s impressed this protestant boy for their logic, learning and clarity. They were notoriously rigorous, but that is not a bad thing if it is backed up by being able to communicate clearly. Their key educational trick was to use dramatic examples to clarify, and to back them up with oodles of worked exercises and associated readings etc. (That part I did not enjoy, when I was routinely finishing off homework at 10 pm, especially when we had really nasty geometry proofs — and their favoured tool for teaching logical reasoning was old fashioned Euclidean Geometry. they were the ones who made us do the Readak speed reading and study skills course, too. [Cf my onward stuff on that here.] Fr Ryan [saw him a few years back passing through Manley Airport, retired in his 90's and concerned for the need for good development of Agriculture . . . ] also loved to teach old fashioned — modified — Kellogg diagrams. Hated ‘em then, respect them now. He also taught me to appreciate all sorts of literatures, high brow and low brow. That stuff set me up nicely for reading Francis Schaeffer later on on my own, then deepening my knowledge of phil in the context of issues related to science and general worldview stuff. (Cf here.) Their edu intent was to create people capable of onward self-education. Tough, but it works.)

  99. tgpeeler in 94 & 95:

    Do you realize that information exists outside the human mind? If you have a molecule of RNA, that molecule embodies information in the atoms that make it, their arrangement, the bonds between the atoms, the electrical charges given off by different parts of the molecule and every thing else that goes to make up that molecule?

    The type of information you (and most other IDers) seem to be thinking of is the information inside the human brain. If you know the atoms that make up RNA, that is information in your brain. If you know the arrangement of the atoms in RNA, that is information in your brain. If you know the bonds between the atoms, that is more information in your brain. If you know the electrical charges of various parts of the RNA, that is more information that is in your brain.

    None of the information in your brain is necessary for RNA reproduction or helps the reproduction in any way. Only the information that is incorporated in the molecule helps reproduction.

    As you say, information and life are inseparable. And the information imbedded in living organisms is entirely natural and doesn’t depend in any way on any mind for its existence.

    When the first self-reproducing RNA molecule managed to copy the information in its sequence to more stable, longer lasting DNA, that was also entirely natural and didn’t depend on any mind for it to happen.

    When that information is copied out of the DNA and into RNA, the process is entirely natural and doesn’t need any mind to help it.

    But now you can change (mutate) the DNA and those changes will change the RNA and hence the proteins and other chemicals that make up life.

    If you change one or two DNA base-pairs at a time, you are practicing cumulative selection and you can slowly build up complex living things that way.

    And if you change one or two DNA base-pairs that affect a regulatory gene, you can cause noticible changes, like increases in size, very quickly.

    That is what Dawkins is saying and your many quotes miss the point entirely.

    Put in other words, the only information that counts for life is the physical information encorporated in the organism. It is sufficient to account for everything we’ve observed so far and no minds are necessary for its operation.

    You may not believe that, but what you and I believe is of very little importance to a cell busily growing and dividing. It is operating on its own internal information and doesn’t need either of us.

  100. Let me summarize my last message. When it comes to life, it doesn’t matter if materialism is true. What counts is that the information physically embedded in the organism seems to be enough to account for everything we observe about livng organisms and no minds are necessary, supernatural or otherwise.

  101. CannuckianYankee @ 64
    As I think I said somewhere else, cumulative selection is at work in every reproducing organism that uses DNA. If you only modify (mutate) one or a few bases at a time and pass the rest through unchanged, you’re utilizing cumulative selection. The other type of selection would have you modifying every DNA base every time the organism reproduces which will give you a dead organism 99.99999999999999999 % of the time.

    I don’t think Dawkins is really cheating with Weasel. First of all, he says right up front that Weasel is just to show the enormous increase in speed between cumulative and non-cumulative selection and he does that very well.

    Secondly, there is a “goal” in real life selection: the organism is trying to pass on an exact copy of its DNA to its offspring and if there is a mutation, it’s “hoping” that the mutation will produce offspring that reproduce at least as well as the original or better. If not, natural selection will kill off the new DNA when the organism tries to make a living with it.

    I think you’re a little confused on mutations and DNA. Any change to a piece of DNA is, by definition, a mutation. The only time that I know of when DNA actually affects mutations is in the immune system where error correction is turned off for some parts of white blood cells so they produce cells producing as many different types of antibodies as possible. When one of the cells latches onto an invader, it is made to reproduce accurately and accurately in order to overwhelm the infection.

    In all other cases, mutation is something that happens to DNA. It gets hit by a cosmic ray or reproduction is disrupted by a chemical or something else “goes wrong” and the copied DNA doesn’t quite match the original string.

    I think Darwinian evolution can account for the information processing capabilities of DNA. See my previous post to tgpeeler. The information necessary for the first life was embodied in the materials of the first living whatever, probably RNA. At some period early in the history of life, cells gradually managed to copy the information in the RNA to more stable DNA and the DNA “code” gradually evolved to our present very efficient code.

  102. “Fitness (biology):

    Fitness (often denoted w in population genetics models) is a central concept in evolutionary theory. It describes the capability of an individual of certain genotype to reproduce, and usually is equal to the proportion of the individual’s genes in all the genes of the next generation.

    fitness:

    In biology, fitness is the number of offspring of a particular organism which survive to reproductive age. In other words, fitness may be thought of as the ability of an organism to pass on its genes.”

    These do not fit your defintion of fitness.

    Yes they do.

    They both talk about leaving behind genes- that is reproduction.

    Not only that if you actually went and read both articles they spell it out.

  103. how can we test the premise that the bacterial flagellum “evolved” by random mutations and natural selection?

    Anybody?

  104. Red Queen Hypothesis-

    Notice it doesn’t have anything to say about random mutations.

    IOW Moseph was being dishonest when I asked for a testable hypothesis for his position and he provided one that doesn’t support his position.

  105. Kairosfocus,
    I’m afraid I do not see the answer to my question

    What’s the theoretical limit on the amount of of FSCI (functionally specific complex information) that can be generated by natural processes operating freely?
    On any of your links.

    Could you just provide the answer directly?

  106. Joseph

    how can we test the premise that the bacterial flagellum “evolved” by random mutations and natural selection?

    Anybody?

    Perhaps you would be better served by asking your question in a place where people believe that evolution can indeed produce bacterial flagellum.

    I mean, who are you asking?

    I understand there are several venues where scientists working in biology hang out who would be happy to talk about your questions.

    Are you willing to take the debate to a location where professional biologists hang out?

    If so, I can email you the location.

  107. kairosfocus – I was jesting about the Jesuits. I’ve looked into Ph.D. programs in philosophy and the Jesuit ones are always (yes, this is an inductive conclusion! :-) the most difficult, that is, the best. If I wasn’t so old and cranky and impatient I’d get one anyway but I can read faster than they can talk. :-) I have a friend who is getting a Ph.D. in philosophy at Texas A&M and the stuff he’s had to take. I just couldn’t sit through it.

  108. TGP

    That’s about my impression.

    They are notoriously rigorous.

    “Intellectual soldiers” is about right.

    GEM of TKI

  109. kairosfocus:

    Every evo simulation and every GA composed by programmers stands in the other column as empirical evidence that mind creates active info.

    If I remember correctly, we’ve discussed this claim before. Can you remind me how you go about determining that this active info is created as opposed to “reshuffled”? What is the higher-order search space?

  110. re djmullen #100

    “Let me summarize my last message. When it comes to life, it doesn’t matter if materialism is true. What counts is that the information physically embedded in the organism seems to be enough to account for everything we observe about living organisms and no minds are necessary, supernatural or otherwise.”

    Before I get started I’d like to know, as a matter of curiosity, if you actually read my last post?

    Please track along with me here. How does “it doesn’t matter if materialism is true” line up with “the information physically embedded in the organism”? If materialism is true, then there is no information. But there is information. Therefore it’s false. Therefore, there is something else that accounts for information. Therefore, God and minds are back on the table.

    “Seems to be enough” Really. What does that mean, exactly? How does it account for the fact that it’s wrong to take advantage of weaker people? How does it account for the fact that the material brain can interact with and manipulate abstractions (math) to describe the physical world?

    “no minds are necessary” Really. Then HOW do you account for information? Go ahead, tell me.

    I have a hard time believing that you believe this. On the one hand, in the post you were summarizing, you recognize that information exists apart from OUR minds. I have no problem with that. Indeed, THAT’S MY POINT. On the other hand, you completely ignore its origin. What’s the deal with that?

    Information requires a mind because the materialist ontology cannot supply an explanation for symbols and language. ALL INFORMATION requires a MIND. Guess Who is The Only One to write in the language of life?

    You said: “When the first self-reproducing RNA molecule managed to copy the information in its sequence to more stable, longer lasting DNA, that was also entirely natural and didn’t depend on any mind for it to happen.”

    Let’s examine that claim a little more closely. Then I’d like for you to actually reason through my argument. Where did the reproducing RNA molecule come from? Any idea? It takes symbols and rules, remember. How did it “copy” that information? Where did that information, imbedded in the physical structure of the RNA come from? How did the RNA know how to “copy” or that it should copy? Where did the “stable, longer lasting DNA” come from? Where did the information that it contains come from? What does “entirely natural” mean? It means the laws of physics. So tell me HOW physics creates information. That’s what you are claiming. But I proved that physics can’t do that. Did you read it or think about it at all?

    If I were you, I’d come back to me and tell me where the first RNA came from. How it transfers information. How that mechanism “arose.” Where the information came from in the first place. How the first DNA came to be. How the RNA came to be able to communicate to the DNA. You know. Stuff like that.

    We’re just about done here, I’m thinking. And you still haven’t addressed either the structure of my argument or any of the premises. Amazing. You spout the evolution “talking points” like they mean something or like they contain actual arguments or reasons to believe them. They don’t.

  111. Moseph:

    Perhaps you would be better served by asking your question in a place where people believe that evolution can indeed produce bacterial flagellum.

    Evolution isn’t being debated.

    Under ID the flagellum could have evolved- because it was part of a targeted search.

    The debate is about the mechanisms- undirected vs direceted; an accumulation of genetic accidents vs a targeted search.

    I mean, who are you asking?

    You, GIMI and any other anti-IDist who doesn’t have the sack to ante up.

    I understand there are several venues where scientists working in biology hang out who would be happy to talk about your questions.

    So YOU can’t answer the question.

    IOW you are just a blind follower.

    Got it.

    Are you willing to take the debate to a location where professional biologists hang out?

    Been there, done that.

    I was just seeing what kind of person you are.

    If you are here to attack without the responsibility to defend a position then there isn’t any need to respond to you any further.

    However I reserve the right to continue to expose your strawmen, and if possible get you to understand what ID is.

    Hint- It isn’t what you think it is.

  112. tgpeeler @ 110: “How does “it doesn’t matter if materialism is true” line up with “the information physically embedded in the organism”? If materialism is true, then there is no information.”

    You misunderstand “information”. It exists in the world entirely independent of minds. As I said in my previous message, it is in the atoms that make up a molecule (what type of atom, the quantum states of the atom, etc), the arrangement of the atoms (hydrogen connected to carbon connected to another carbon vs carbon connected to hydrogen connected to another carbon, for example), the electric charges of various portions of the molecule, etc. If there are molecules and no minds at all, that information still exists.

    Minds can also know the types of atoms, their quantum states, their arrangements, etc., but this information is separate from the information embedded in the molecules and doesn’t directly affect them.

    Symbols and language are separate bits of information inside minds. They’re used to order information in the mind, but they don’t directly affect the information in molecules outside those minds.

    It doesn’t take symbols to create RNA. RNA has been observed to form naturally. (“Naturally” as in “without the benefit of a mind”) The only “rules” required are the rules of physics and chemistry.

    Most of your questions on where RNA and DNA come from are historical questions about something that happened over three billion years ago at a sub-microscopic molecular level. Nobody has an answer to those questions, but science is at least looking for the answers. ID, to the best of my knowledge, is not.

    The information embedded in the physical structure of RNA (or any other molecule) comes from the atoms that attach together to make to make up the molecule, to the laws of physics that govern the attachments and to the random forces that bring the atoms together. That is how “physics creates information” and you haven’t proven anything to the contrary.

  113. Joseph:

    “how can we test the premise that the bacterial flagellum “evolved” by random mutations and natural selection?

    Anybody?”

    Since the flagellum probably evolved a billion or more years ago and all the action was at the sub microscopic level, there’s probably no evidence left to prove it evolved in a way that will satisfy you.

    But since evolution is very well established as a general proposition* and since we find precursors to most of the molecules in the flagellum as well as precursors to the flagellum itself (type III secretory apparatus, for instance), most of the scientific world that knows anything about the flagellum is pretty comfortable with the idea that it evolved.

    May I ask how ID accounts for the existence of the flagellum? I don’t mean, “It was designed”, but how and when did it appear? Was it created denovo or was some pre-existing structure modified into a flagellum? Anybody?

    * I realize that you and many others don’t believe this. That makes it hard to carry on an intelligent conversation on evolution with your side since you automatically gainsay every point we bring up. But I’m the same way when you bring up a supernatural creator, so the two sides can only try to explain themselves to each other as best they can and hope for the best.

  114. more to tgpeeler @ 110

    If information exists in material things and their makeup, arrangement, etc., then transferring that information to RNA is a material process and transferring the RNA information to DNA (and back again) is also a material process.

    That simplifies matters – you don’t have to bring in a mind or anything supernatural, just matter, energy and the laws of physics and chemistry.

  115. djmullen@113:

    May I ask how ID accounts for the existence of the flagellum? I don’t mean, “It was designed”, but how and when did it appear? Was it created denovo or was some pre-existing structure modified into a flagellum? Anybody?

    I wrote about it earlier but it seems like I have to do it again. ID is about detecting patterns typical to designs by intelligent agents and different from what natural processes can produce. Unlike Darwinism, it does not even attempt to produce a historical narrative. That is why lots of different views of natural history are present among the pro-ID participants at UD, ranging from acceptace of common descent to YEC.

    The lack of historical narrative is usually a stumbling block to Darwinists, who are willing to accept almost any unproven story as “scientific” that points to superficial similarity between body parts or proteins as evidence for emergence in small steps.

    It is because the historical narrative for life on Earth is the crucial point for the Darwinists, who need something to explain living nature around us without supernatural intervention. Compared to this the actual mechanism is unimportant, it is accepted even being largely untestable and has negligible evidence in the fossil record (i.e. ratio between the fossils interpreted to be transient and the amount predicted and required by Darwin is very, very small.)

    ID has a very different stab at natural history by showing that the increasing scientific and technological knowledge consistently increases the known complexity of living systems making them less and less probable to have emerged spontainously. That is why ID has much more solid evidence behind it, because it is undeniable that rotary engines can be a product of a designer while random processes have never been observed to produce anything like that.

    Now back to djmullen’s question:

    My answer is that the flagellum was designed de-novo. In spite of similarities and the alternative function for several, but not all components the machine itself is arguably a very sophisticated subunit of the bacterium, working as part of a larger system.

  116. djmullen:

    Since the flagellum probably evolved a billion or more years ago and all the action was at the sub microscopic level, there’s probably no evidence left to prove it evolved in a way that will satisfy you.

    So you are saying the theory of evolution belongs in a history class, not science.

    Thank you fopr admitting that.

    But anyway I don’t require “proof”. Just some science.

    Obviously you can’t provide any.

    But since evolution is very well established as a general proposition* and since we find precursors to most of the molecules in the flagellum as well as precursors to the flagellum itself (type III secretory apparatus, for instance), most of the scientific world that knows anything about the flagellum is pretty comfortable with the idea that it evolved.

    Yet evolution isn’t being debated.

    The MECHANISMS are.

    Thank you for proving that you don’t even understand the debate.

    BTW the TTSS is also IC.

    IOW no one has a clue as to how it “evolved”.

    But again thank you for admitting your position cannot be tested and belongs in a history class- imagined history that is.

  117. djmullen:
    May I ask how ID accounts for the existence of the flagellum?

    A targeted search.

  118. Rob:

    I cannot force you to acknowledge the facts, but I can highlight that further fact.

    Again: every Genetic Algorithm program, and every Evolutionary Algorithm implementing program we see was composed by a programmer, who is of coruse intelligent.

    GEM of TKI

  119. Joseph [from 102]

    “These do not fit your defintion of fitness.

    Yes they do.

    They both talk about leaving behind genes- that is reproduction.

    Not only that if you actually went and read both articles they spell it out.”

    That is not enough. Read them. Don’t just will them to say what you want them to say, but READ them:

    “Fitness (biology):

    Fitness (often denoted w in population genetics models) is a central concept in evolutionary theory…”

    Fair enough so far.

    “It describes the capability of an individual of certain genotype to reproduce…”

    That is what it describes! The COMPATABILITY of an individual to reproduce, not the reproductive sucess of an individual!

    “…and usually is equal to the proportion of the individual’s genes in all the genes of the next generation.”

    And is usually equal to BUT NOT DEFINED BY its offspring! The number of offspring an indiviual has is usually a good expression of its fitness, because the more ‘fitter’ a creature is the more children it usually has, but this is not how the term is defined!

    The article I gave you explained this distinction admirably. Did you read it?

  120. kairosfocus:

    I cannot force you to acknowledge the facts, but I can highlight that further fact.

    Again: every Genetic Algorithm program, and every Evolutionary Algorithm implementing program we see was composed by a programmer, who is of coruse intelligent.

    And asserting something as fact does not make it a fact.

    To say that every program was composed by an intelligent programmer is not the same as saying that intelligent programmers create active information. You have not applied Marks and Dembski’s accounting system to the scenario, so your claim that active info is created is unfounded.

    And if you try to do the accounting, which I highly recommend, you’ll immediately see problems in Marks and Dembski’s framework. I ask you again: What is the higher-order search space?

  121. tgpeeler:

    “Can you tell us exactly what definition you’re referring to? Shannon, Kolmogorov, and even Dembski all define information in ways that don’t require language.”

    See above. If that doesn’t do it for you I gracefully acknowledge my inability to penetrate your intellectual space.

    As there is no definition of information in the above, obviously that doesn’t do it for me, and I gracefully accept your acknowledgement.

  122. ROb, you are welcome. Feel free to actually read the post anytime.
    Regards,

  123. Hello Rob,

    It seems that there is a point you make that I agree with, but first …

    kf stated:
    “Again: every Genetic Algorithm program, and every Evolutionary Algorithm implementing program we see was composed by a programmer, who is of coruse intelligent.”

    … and you [ROb] respond with:
    “And asserting something as fact does not make it a fact.”

    Are you saying that you dispute what kf just pointed out? Unless I’m not following correctly, you could easily prove kf wrong by pointing to one evolutionary algorithm which wasn’t programmed by an intelligence. Until then, it does seem that kf has provided us with factual data … ie: a “fact.”

    And now on to the point with which I somewhat agree.

    ROb states:
    “To say that every program was composed by an intelligent programmer is not the same as saying that intelligent programmers create active information.”

    I agree with that statement fully. It may be that intelligent systems do not generate information either. They may also only shuffle information from one state to another. This, however, does nothing to defeat the hypothesis of ID which states that certain patterns require previous intelligence as a necessary condition. IOW law, chance, and previous information *must* be compiled through an intelligent system in order for those specific types of patterns to be realized. So, as long as chance and law absent previous intelligence do not create intelligence, then either there is an infinite regress of intelligence or else intelligence is at least as fundamental as law and chance.

    ROb:
    “You have not applied Marks and Dembski’s accounting system to the scenario, so your claim that active info is created is unfounded.”

    Mark’s and Dembski’s accounting system actually does not address the creation of active info, it only addresses the existence of active info. According to what they have presented, there are two options …

    1. Active information can never be created … it just keeps getting pushed back to higher level searches. The only other possibility within this option, other than infinite regress, as I pointed to above is to accept intelligence as being fundamental alongside law and chance since intelligence itself can be stated in terms of CSI or active information thus providing all the active info necessary for further CSI or active info generation or transformation. That is, unless it can be shown that active information can result from the interplay of law and chance absent previous intelligence.

    Option #2. Intelligence actually can create active information through a process not yet understood … may have something to do with consciousness … who knows? It’s just an observation so far that everywhere active info is generated, intelligence is responsible and no one has shown law and chance absent intelligence to be anything other than impotent at generating active info.

    ROb:
    “And if you try to do the accounting, which I highly recommend, you’ll immediately see problems in Marks and Dembski’s framework.”

    I went through the basic accounting above and I see no problems whatsoever with either Marks and Dembski’s framework or the fundamental hypothesis of ID.

    ROb:
    “I ask you again: What is the higher-order search space?”

    If our laws of nature, initial conditions, and boundary conditions emerge from quantum interactions, then the higher level search would reside within the quantum search space from which our laws emerged.

  124. A simple answer to “What is the higher-order search space?” is …

    “That system of law and chance which caused our universal laws, initial and boundary conditions.”

  125. ROb:
    “As there is no definition of information in the above,”

    Actually, this is what tgpeeler wrote…

    tgpeeler:
    “… information which would include language which would include symbols and rules.”

    I think it is sufficiently clear that, for the purpose of this discussion, tgpeeler is defining information in terms of language and language in terms of symbols and rules. Especially since he later states, in his argument, that nothing need be explained but “symbols and rules.” That is what it all comes down to. From whence come symbols and the rules to organize and utilize those symbols? Here’s a hint. It has nothing to do with the physical properties of material. In neither human language, computer language, nor the language of life is the arrangement of the units/symbols the result of any physical properties of the materials used.

  126. Re: djmullen #112

    “The information embedded in the physical structure of RNA (or any other molecule) comes from the atoms that attach together to make to make up the molecule, to the laws of physics that govern the attachments and to the random forces that bring the atoms together. That is how “physics creates information” and you haven’t proven anything to the contrary.”

    The information does not “come from the atoms that attach together.” What universe do you live in? The information is ENCODED in the atoms. For there to be information requires symbols and rules. In other words there has to be language to encode the information and there has to be language to transmit the information and there has to be language to decode the information. Now if you think that some inanimate atoms are encoding and transmitting to other inanimate atoms that are then decoding you don’t need further explanation, you need help.

    Maybe this will help. Try this thought experiment, it won’t take long. Let’s imagine two inanimate objects (rocks will do) trying to communicate. Some questions come to mind. How does one rock encode information and communicate it to the other rock? How does the receiving rock decode it? Will the rocks ever be able to communicate? Or not? If not, why not? HINT: Might it have something to do with the existence of life? Might information not be even a coherent concept absent living things? Imagine a completely lifeless universe. Does information exist? If so, prove it.
    Regards,

    p.s. Regarding RNA, you may want to consider why any certain string of nucleotides means anything in the first place. That is the issue. Not that some very, very short and non-functional chain of RNA can “spontaneously” form in a laboratory, i.e. in a controlled environment that is set up and monitored by intelligent agents.

    p.p.s. Do you understand basic deductive logic? If not, I recommend Copi’s Introduction to Logic for starters. It’s a classic. In the meantime, it works like this. Arguments can be constructed in such a way that if the argument is “built” correctly (it is valid) and if the premises are true, THEN the conclusion is necessarily true. For example, let’s take a simple categorical syllogism. I won’t go into the rules here for how to build one but take my word for it or read the book but this is valid. That is, the premises necessarily lead to the conclusion. And if the premises are true, the conclusion is necessarily true.

    Major Premise: All cats are mammals.
    Minor Premise: Felix is a cat.
    Conclusion: Felix is a mammal.

    Since part of being a cat is being a mammal, that is true by definition. (Law of Identity – always good to ground your major premise in a first principle or law of physics if possible. That way you know that nothing has been smuggled in from before the argument starts.)

    Felix is a cat. Empirically true. Felix is indeed a cat.
    Since the argument is valid and the premises are true, the argument is sound. That means the conclusion is necessarily true. That means that it is impossible for it to be false. Not even God can make that conclusion not be true.

    OK. Here’s another kind called modus tollens. It’s of the form If P, Q. ~Q. Therefore, ~P.

    Here’s an example. If it rains heavily, the sidewalks will get wet. But the sidewalks aren’t wet. So it didn’t rain. Do you see how this works? If “this” is true, then “that” is true. But “that” is not true. So “this is not true.” This is also called denying the consequent and it is a valid form of argument. So if the premises are true blah blah blah.

    OK. Now for my argument, which is an extended form of modus tollens or denying the consequent.

    So here we go.

    If the naturalist story of life (neo-Darwinian evolution) is true, then physics can explain life. But physics cannot explain symbols and rules, and therefore physics cannot explain language, and therefore physics cannot explain life. Therefore, the naturalist story of life (neo-Darwinian evolution) is not true.

    In fact, it’s not even possible for it to be true.

    Now since this is a valid form of argument, all you can really do to defeat it is attack the premises.

    The first premise is that evolution relies upon physics for its explanatory power. Naturalism entails physics as the only explanatory agent in nature. It’s part of the definition of naturalism and since neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory is the naturalistic story, well, there you go.

    The next premise is that physics cannot explain symbols and rules. This is the empirical claim. It’s a universal observation that although physics does an amazing job of explaining the material world it has absolutely nothing to say about the abstract world, the world of information (and mathematics, and the laws of physics themselves, and the laws of reason and economic laws and so on). Ask any physicist. He will tell you this is so. Physics deals with quarks and leptons and forces and stuff like that. But as far as why a certain arrangement of atoms or molecules “means” something, not happening. Not now. Not ever.

    You have attempted to refute this but have not done so. You have merely asserted that since the laws of physics govern the attachment of atoms that means that physics generates information. This betrays a complete lack of understanding of both the argument and physics. Information is not “naturally” encoded in atoms. That’s the whole point. When information is encoded in a physical substrate there is more to the substrate than the substrate. Get it? The physics can account for the substrate but not for the specific arrangement of atoms that encode and convey information. A message if you will. A reduction of uncertainty if you will.

    Let me give you another example. What if you were to leave work this afternoon and when you looked up in the sky you saw this: SURRENDER DOROTHY. What would you immediately think? Well, if you’ve never seen the Wizard of Oz you might think some sky writer was trying to scare Dorothy. But most of us would immediately know that the Wicked Witch of the West did it. Immediately we know that physics cannot account for either the symbols themselves, that they can have meaning, nor the specific arrangement of the symbols such that they communicate a message. We instantly know that. Even a child knows that.

    If you came home from work and walked into the kitchen and a box of cheerios had been tipped over, and you saw this on the counter: Take out the trash Honey, Thanks. Each letter comprised of cheerios, would you think that was an accident? Or that physics could somehow explain that? I don’t think so. Physics can explain why the cheerios are cheerios but it has NOTHING to say about why, when they are arranged a certain way, they mean something.

    Physics cannot account for the “meaning” of certain arrangements of atoms (symbols) that are organized in certain specified ways (rules) to mean something. Life, in this case. Life is the message. It’s like a book, only better. Since physics cannot explain this meaning apart from the physical substrate, it cannot explain why ATCGGCTACT (the “letters” of the DNA molecule) means something, or not. i.e. codes for a functional protein or not. For that to be happening you need a language that governs the placement of the nucleotides (the symbols) into certain codons (words) etc… to create living things. Physics doesn’t do it.

    Since physics can’t account for symbols and rules, and since symbols and rules are necessary for language, and language is necessary for information, and information is necessary for life, physics can’t explain life. That means…….. that anyone who thinks it can is wrong. It’s not that difficult. I suspect you get this perfectly but maybe are unwilling to come to terms with the implications. Not my business. But that’s how you need to attack this argument or any other argument. Point out the flaws in the structure or the falsity of one or both of the premises. Again, in this case that means explaining how thermodynamics or general relativity or quantum physics or the standard model or the four forces in nature somehow relate some atoms to other atoms in a meaningful way. It can’t be done because the relationship of one thing for another is outside the bounds of physics. It will never be true. It can’t possibly be true. I hope this helps.

  127. ROb, what CJYman said in 125. :-)

  128. Joseph, the history of life on earth is certainly a matter for history, but the theory of evolution is a scientific theory.

    The mechanism of Darwinian evolution is the combination of variation and natural selection. Variation has since been shown to be mutation of DNA.

    What is the mechanism of ID?

    Until ID comes up with one, a debate is impossible because it takes two sides.

  129. I posted too soon. Add sexual selection and genetic drift to the mechanisms of evolution. The ID mechanism remains unknown.

  130. tgpeeler, thanks for the lessons on logic. It takes me back to my college logic class, with “There are no Toklus and all of them live in caves.” Which, according to my instructor and text book was supposed to be true. Those were the days! However, logic is no good unless you have a grasp of the physical problem you’re trying to apply it to. I’ll try to explain it as best I can without being able to draw pictures.

    You’re probably familiar with the process by which RNA produces proteins. RNA is a long stringy molecule made of a backbone which carries four different “base” molecules on it in different combinations. To make a protein, a portion of an RNA molecule is “read” three bases at a time by molecules called Transfer RNA or tRNA for short.

    Simplifying somewhat, there are twenty different types of tRNA molecules and each has a different amino acid attached to one end. The other ends have three chemicals attached to it, side by side in what is called an anticodon loop. There are four kinds of chemicals that can be a part of that anticodon loop and each of them is attracted to one and only one of the bases of a RNA molecule.

    When making proteins, the RNA is exposed three bases at a time and all of the tRNA molecules floating around in solution bump up against the exposed bases. If all three of the molecules in an anticodon loop are attracted to the bases in the RNA, the amino acid on the other end of the tRNA molecule is attached to the protein that is being constructed. If they aren’t all attracted to the bases, the tRNA is bumped off and another one is allowed to come near the RNA molecule. These trials continue until one of the tRNAs finally matches the RNA bases and its amino acid is added to the protein under construction.

    Now here’s where the information comes in: Suppose the bases in the RNA molecule are, for instance, C, U and G, reading left to right and a tRNA molecules comes up to it. If the leftmost molecule in the anticodon is attracted to the C base and the middle molecule is attracted to the U base and the rightmost molecule is attracted to the G base, then there’s a match and the amino acid at the other end of the tRNA, leucine, is added to the protein.

    But suppose you switch two of the bases on the RNA so that the bases uncovered are UCG. Now the leucine tRNA isn’t attracted to the RNA base pairs. Instead, another tRNA, with an anticodon loop that is attracted to the UCG sequence snicks into place and the amino acid serine is added to the protein.

    The information encoded in the sequence of base pairs in the RNA molecule has just been transferred to the protein by way of the tRNA molecules. But no symbols were utilized in transferring it and the only rules invoked were the rules of electrostatic attraction and atomic bonds.

    As I said in another message, I think you (and most of the people in ID and, for all I know, most of the rest of the world) are confusing information in itself with information within the human mind. The mind does definitely use symbols. It doesn’t have any tRNA available for inspection and has to use some kind of symbol to represent it and everything else we know. But raw information exists outside the mind and has existed since long before humans arrived.

    Finally, as to how the information got into the RNA in the first place, I don’t know. As I said before, the Origin Of Life took place billions of years ago at a submicroscopic level. We have no samples of this early life to examine, which makes figuring out life’s history difficult. Science is working on figuring out how it happened. ID, so far as I know, isn’t.

  131. KairosFocus:

    “Again: every Genetic Algorithm program, and every Evolutionary Algorithm implementing program we see was composed by a programmer, who is of coruse intelligent.”

    This is not original with me, but “Every weather simulation is composed by a programmer who is of course intelligent. Hence the Wind blows by Design.”

  132. djmullen,

    According to the standard and accepted definitions of both “design” and “mechanism” design is a mechanism.

    Also a targeted search is a specific design mechanism.

    And if you knew anything about the debate it is whether or not ALL mutations are genetic accidents or are at least some the result of “built-in response to environmental cues” that Dr Spetner wrote about twelve years ago.

    IOW dj your ignorance pertaining to ID and mechanisms is duly noted.

    And if the ToE is scientific we should be able to test it to see if an accumulation of genetic accidents can account for the transformations required.

    But heck you can’t even provide a testable hypothesis based on the mechanisms.

  133. Ritchie obviously you didn’t read the articles I linked to.

    One even talks about VIABLE OFFSPRING.

  134. However, since the fitness of the genotype is an averaged quantity, it will reflect the reproductive outcomes of all individuals with that genotype.

    As fitness measures the quantity of the copies of the genes of an individual in the next generation, it doesn’t really matter how the genes arrive in the next generation.

    Then we have:

    Reproductive success is part of the calculation for fitness and a key element in the theories of natural selection and evolution.

    fitness biology online:

    (1) (biology) A biological condition in which a competing variant is increasing in frequency relative to other competing variants in a population.

    (2) A relative measure of reproductive success of an organism in passing its genes to the next generation.

    (3) The relative ability of an individual (or population) to survive, reproduce and propagate genes in an environment.

    (4) The state or quality of being fit, e.g. physically or mentally; being in shape, good health or well-being.

    (5) The capability to perform a function.

  135. djmullen:
    The mechanism of Darwinian evolution is the combination of variation and natural selection. Variation has since been shown to be mutation of DNA.

    What is the mechanism of ID?

    I posted too soon. Add sexual selection and genetic drift to the mechanisms of evolution.

    There’s also recombinance and epigenetic inheritance.

    Darwinism offers a “grab bag” of mechanisms and causes, but rarely attempts to explain specifically which are responsible for any given outcome. And then, when it does, it offers no specifics – what was the series of mutations that led from A to B, how were they selected and fixed, etc.

    The explanation that a given evolutionary change was caused by a vague, undefined combination of causes isn’t an explanation at all.

    If evolution explains the neck of the giraffe, for example, then what is the explanation? Something mutated, something was selected, and maybe something else that we don’t know about yet?

    Darwinism does not provide the mechanisms for anything it proposes to explain.

  136. Actually, this is what tgpeeler wrote…

    tgpeeler:
    “… information which would include language which would include symbols and rules.”

    My request for tgpeeler’s definition of information was in response to his statement: “For without language there is no information. This is a matter of definition.”

    So I’m aware that he defines information in a way that entails the presence of language. But I still don’t know what that definition is.

  137. 137

    tgpeeler @126

    Very nice!

    *High five*

  138. tgpeeler:

    Even a child knows that.

    Just a couple of days ago I explained to my kids that as far as we know, life is essentially information. Then something dawned on me: This same thing has already been confidently asserted by a carpenter and His fishermen pals around 30AD…

    tgpeeler: Well done!

  139. ROb:
    “So I’m aware that he defines information in a way that entails the presence of language. But I still don’t know what that definition is.”

    I’m not sure where you are getting hung up, since according to tgpeeler “information = (is defined as) language = (is defined as) symbols and rules.” Is it the definition of symbols and rules that you are unsure of? It appears to me that, if you continue reading the rest of tgpeeler’s comment, he explains “symbols and rules.”

  140. CJYman, if information is synonymous with language, then statements like the following don’t make much sense: “Languages are what encode information into physical substrates and enable it to be decoded on the receiving end.”

  141. djmullen:
    “You’re probably familiar with the process by which RNA produces proteins. RNA is a long stringy molecule made of a backbone which carries four different “base” molecules on it in different combinations.”

    … exactly! And it is this combination/organization of “bases” in a DNA string which does not emerge from any mathematical description of regularity (law) or the physical properties of the “base” molecules. This is the point that tgpeeler is attempting to get across when he speaks of symbols, rules, and the laws of physics — a point which I believe he has stated quite well; I’m honestly not sure why some people here seem to be refusing to actually listen to what he is saying.

    Given the laws of physics — the laws of regular attraction/repulsion based on physical properties of matter and energy — we could not predict any arrangement of nucleotides because their arrangement as I just explained is not defined by those laws of physics.

    Furthermore, there is no physical law which can be used to calculate whether a stretch of DNA is “meaningful” or not. This idea of “meaningfulness” or “function” is wholly dependent on a context of further organization of groups of proteins again not defined by the laws of physics. The groups of proteins are defined by the DNA which is not defined by the laws of physics.

    Yes, it is true that the mechanism for copying and constructing from DNA obey the laws of physics, however, these laws merely provide boundary conditions from which that organization can operate. It is the organization itself that is not defined by the laws of physics.

    An analogy would be a child placing magnetic letters on the fridge. He is violating no laws of nature in doing so. In fact, the laws of nature are what allow and indeed cause the magnets to stick to the fridge when they are in close enough proximity. However, when the child begins to spell out “I Love you Mommy,” we are seeing a meaningful pattern in which the meaning/function and organization of the pattern is not defined by the laws of physics or any physical properties of the magnets. There is no law which states that the letter “I” must come before the letter “L,” nor is there any law which states that the symbol “I” must be a reference to the person using it.

    Likewise, there is no law which states that the nucleotide “A” must come before “C” nor is there a law which states that a string of nucleotides must provide function. It is only the further “not-defined-by-law” organization of the molecules in a cell which provide the rest of the context and rules which determine whether a given string of DNA will provide function. That is why if you take all the constituents of a cell and mix them in a test tube, they will not organize themselves into a functioning cell. There is no law based on the material used to define such an organization. That is why a slow stepwise evolutionary process, involving processes which may “appear random” when considered on their own, is necessary to build up the “not-defined-by-law” functional information.

    Another analogy would be to look at your computer. Neither its creation nor its operation violate any physical laws. In fact, your computer operates according to physical laws *once it is sufficiently organized* and that is the clincher. The computer’s organization is not defined by any physical properties of the materials utilized, nor is there a law of physics (as a mathematical description of regularities) which states that given the material to build a computer and our physical laws, a computer will self-organize. If such a process occurred it would look completely random until we realize that a computer was forming. At that moment, we would suspect some intelligence behind the process.

    Michael Polonyi stated it quite well when he wrote:
    “A shaping of boundaries may be said to go beyond a mere fixing of boundaries and establishes a ‘controlling principle.’ It achieves control of the boundaries by imprinting a significant pattern on the boundaries of the system. Or, to use information language, we may say that it puts the system under the control of a *non-physical-chemical principle* by a profoundly informative intervention.” [asterix added]

    –Michael Polanyi, “Life Transcending Physics and Chemistry,” Chemical & Engineering News (21 August 1967): 64.

    Basically, once life is sufficiently organized its rules and language referencing how the symbols are to be processed is then created. The language of life comes from the organization of life (including its symbols/units) and the organization of life is not defined by laws of physics — mathematical descriptions of regularities emerging from physical properties of matter and energy.

  142. ROb:
    “CJYman, if information is synonymous with language, then statements like the following don’t make much sense: “Languages are what encode information into physical substrates and enable it to be decoded on the receiving end.”

    I see what you mean now. I read through tgpeeler’s comment again, and I see I have slightly simplified and in doing so mischaracterized what he said in that specific case. “Language” would be a system of rules and symbols. “Symbols” themselves, when operating within a set of rules would be considered as “information.”

  143. niwrad @ 88:

    Also cumulative selection has no target. (The target of “survival” is too unspecified and non complex to deserve the status of “target”.) Also a simulator of cumulative selection must not have the target declared in its first instruction.

    Cumulative selection, as Dawkins uses the term, can act with or without a long-term target.

    Dawkins explains his usage of the term thusly:

    The essential difference between single-step selection and cumulative selection is this. In single-step selection the entities selected or sorted, pebbles or whatever they are, are sorted once and for all. In cumulative selection, on the other hand, they ‘reproduce’; or in some other way the results of one sieving process are fed into a subsequent sieving, which is fed into into…and so on. The entities are subjected to selection or sorting over many ‘generations’ in succession. The end-product of one generation of selection is the starting point for the next generation of selection, and so on for many generations.
    Note that there is nothing in there on whether the selection is based on a long-term target or on immediate criteria.

    The fact that they state a target to measure the active information needed to search it doesn’t imply they see evolution as teleological.

    Of course they don’t, and nobody in their right mind would say such a thing. But since evolution must have a target in order for the concept of active info to apply, M&D came up with the concept of “intrinsic targets” to describe targets that are divorced from teleology.

  144. ROb:
    “Cumulative selection, as Dawkins uses the term, can act with or without a long-term target.”

    Evidence please. I propose that Darwinian evolution (if defined as cumulative selection without a target) does not exist.

    ROb:
    “But since evolution must have a target in order for the concept of active info to apply, M&D came up with the concept of “intrinsic targets” to describe targets that are divorced from teleology.”

    No, not targets divorced from teleology. These targets are merely intrinsic because they must exist in the structure of the universe in order for evolution to operate. The question then becomes, how does one determine the existence of targets, which patterns are indeed targets, and are they attainable without teleology?

    As to determining the targets, this is where IC and CSI come in to play. I’m actually quite surprised that D&M seem to have not explicitly connected targets with CSI in relation to active info.

  145. CJYman @ 123:

    Are you saying that you dispute what kf just pointed out?

    Actually kairosfocus was declaring as fact the claim that I challenged in 109, namely, “Every evo simulation and every GA composed by programmers stands in the other column as empirical evidence that mind creates active info.”

    I agree with that statement fully. It may be that intelligent systems do not generate information either.

    I’m glad we’re in agreement on that. But M&D’s LCI-based argument for ID is that active information, including the active info manifest in evolution, was ultimately created by intelligence. They make the claim repeatedly here. For instance:

    Likewise, the LCI Regress, as noted in the last bullet point, suggests that intelligence is ultimately the source of the information that accounts for successful search.

    and

    Nature is a matrix for expressing already existent information. But the ultimate source of that information resides in an intelligence not reducible to nature.

    and

    Active information is to informational accounting what the balance sheet is to financial accounting. Just as the balance sheet keeps track of credits and debits, so active information keeps track of inputs and outputs of information, making sure that they receive their proper due. Information does not magically materialize. It can be created by intelligence or it can be shunted around by natural forces. But natural forces, and Darwinian processes in particular, do not create information.

    They do make one mention of the possibility of infinite regress, as you do, but their argument for ID is based on the assumption that information is in fact created by intelligence.

    I went through the basic accounting above and I see no problems whatsoever with either Marks and Dembski’s framework or the fundamental hypothesis of ID.

    By accounting, I mean tracking the input and output of information, as D&M say in the above quote, to show that information is actually created. To support kairosfocus’s claim that programming is empirical evidence of mind creating active info, we need to crunch the numbers. To do this, we have to define our search spaces, and that’s where the accounting system runs into problems. On what basis do we non-arbitrarily define these spaces?

  146. CJYMan @ 124:

    A simple answer to “What is the higher-order search space?” is …

    “That system of law and chance which caused our universal laws, initial and boundary conditions.”

    When I asked kf that question, I was referring to the higher-order search space in his example of someone writing a program. It needs to be defined explicitly in order to determine whether the LCI holds or information is created.

    So how do we define the higher-order space? D&M don’t answer that question explicitly, but they offer three examples in their three Conservation of Information (COI) theorems, which we can examine mathematically. (Pardon the obscure math that follows.)

    In each example, they define the higher-order space as a set F of functions f : Ω -> Z, where Z is different in each example. In their function-theoretic COI, Z is an alternate space Ω’. In their measure-theoretic COI, Z is the set of possible probability values (real numbers from 0 to 1). And in their fitness-theoretic COI, Z is a set of fitness values.

    Given a higher-order space consisting of a set of functions F, here is a key observation:

    If F is closed under permutation, and if the higher-order search over F is blind, then the combined search over Ω is also blind.*

    From this observation, it can be shown through simple math that the LCI holds for any case in which F is closed under permutation. Since D&M always define F such that it’s closed under permutation, the LCI holds in all of their examples.

    So D&M need to present and justify a non-arbitrary way for defining the higher-order space, such that F is closed under permutation for nature but not for intelligence. Until they do so, their claim that intelligence creates active info, while nature does not, is unfounded.

    * l use the term blind to indicate that a selection is uniformly random. I use the term combined search to denote the end-to-end process of first selecting a search, and then using that search to search for the target.

  147. ROb #145,

    The two options re: active info is the infinite regress or we can place intelligence on the same level as matter and energy and say that all active info measured from that point on resulted from that first intelligent system.

    The main point is that intelligence is a necessary cause of active info. Whether the intelligence “creates it from scratch” or not is another question.

    To say that all active info results from the first intelligent system, which is as fundamental as matter and energy, still doesn’t necessarily equate with that intelligence creating active info “from scratch” since that intelligence itself, if it indeed requires some sort of sufficient organization not defined by law or chance as intelligence has indeed been observed to require, would be measurable in terms of active info. IOW, it takes the measure of active info associated with itself and transforms that into the rest of the active info and CSI that we observe.

    But, of course that is only one option. It could be that the original intelligence does indeed generate active info from scratch in a process that we don’t yet understand … may have something to do with consciousness … who knows??

    So there are different options to consider as to “how” intelligence is the source of active information, but the point still stands that, barring an infinite regress, active information requires intelligence.

  148. ROb:
    “but their argument for ID is based on the assumption that information is in fact created by intelligence.”

    … you mean observation that intelligence is required for the generation of active info and that law and chance absent an intelligent system has never been shown to generate active info.

    Their assumption that intelligence actually creates active info is not the actual basis for the argument that intelligence is a necessary condition for the generation of active info.

  149. ROb:
    “Cumulative selection, as Dawkins uses the term, can act with or without a long-term target.”

    Evidence please. I propose that Darwinian evolution (if defined as cumulative selection without a target) does not exist.

    I’m not talking about Darwinian evolution, I’m talking about Dawkins’ usage of the term “cumulative selection”. His usage applies to cases in which selection is based on immediate criteria as well as cases in which selection is based on a long-term target. My evidence is the description of the term that I quoted from Dawkins, which applies to both cases.

    This was in response to niwrad’s statement the cumulative selection has no target, and that a simulator of cumulative selection must not have a target. [Sidenote: WEASEL is an instance of cumulative selection, not a simulation of it.]

    No, not targets divorced from teleology.

    According to my understand of D&M’s terminology, a target that is purposed by a telic agent is an extrinsic target. If that’s correct, then intrinsic targets must not be purposed by a telic agent.

  150. ROb:
    “So D&M need to present and justify a non-arbitrary way for defining the higher-order space, such that F is closed under permutation for nature but not for intelligence. Until they do so, their claim that intelligence creates active info, while nature does not, is unfounded.”

    It depends on what you mean by “create.” Obviously, if humans and their intelligence is a part of an evolutionary scheme, then they are the result of previous active info. Similarly, a human intelligence can only produce information that he has gained through learning … another instance of information combination and transfer.

    So, yes, human intelligence is required for the generation of certain patterns and further active info. However, active information existed before human intelligence.

    So, we have a little loop here …

    active info — intelligence — active info — intelligence

    Now, what is active info. It is merely a measurement of a deviation from a uniform search space and the matching of a search procedure with that search space.

    So, where does a search space come from? If it comes from a chance assemblage of law, there is no reason to suppose that the space will be anything other than uniform — it is the result of chance/randomness after all. Furthermore, the matching of search space to search algorithm is just as improbable as the targets that matching produces, given a uniform probability distribution. So, given only law and chance, it is just as improbable for a brain to randomly self-organize out of its constituent materials as it is improbable for the evolutionary pathway which finds the brain to also randomly be generated.

    So, you ask, what is the difference between intelligence and law+chance. Intelligence has a component that law+chance does not possess. That is foresight. An intelligent system operates by modeling the future, generating a target (based on information available), and then engineering a pathway to that target. Law+chance on the other hand, only operates by, you guessed it … law+chance. “Law” describes an algorithm which produces mathematically describable regularities and “chance” describes statistically random, unspecified patterns.

    So, the answer to your question is that, as far as I understand, there is no justification necessary. Active info is merely a measurement taken from a base of a uniform probability distribution — a base which is defined by chance.

    Their claim is based on how intelligence operates as opposed to how law+chance operates, and the observed capabilities of each.

  151. CJYMan @ 147 & 148,

    We may be understanding the terms “create”, “generate”, “from scratch”, etc. differently, so let me use other terms.

    Are you floating the idea that intelligence can increase the amount of active info, but not increase it from zero? Or are you saying that, according to the LCI, intelligence can’t actually increase the amount of active info? Or are you saying something else?

    Here’s my understanding: D&M claim that, according to the LCI, nature cannot increase the amount of active info. And they claim that intelligence is not like nature in this respect. Is that your understanding as well?

    If so, then my point is that D&M, as well as kairosfocus, have not justified the claim that intelligence can increase the amount of active information. And they can’t demonstrate it using their accounting method until they present and justify a principled way to define the higher-order space.

  152. ROb:
    “His usage applies to cases in which selection is based on immediate criteria as well as cases in which selection is based on a long-term target. My evidence is the description of the term that I quoted from Dawkins, which applies to both cases.”

    The problem is that no one has yet provided evidence that such a thing as “selection based on immediate criteria” without a long-term target will produce anything.

    ROb:
    “This was in response to niwrad’s statement the cumulative selection has no target, and that a simulator of cumulative selection must not have a target. [Sidenote: WEASEL is an instance of cumulative selection, not a simulation of it.]”

    Of course. But, I’m not arguing against cumulative selection. I’m arguing that cumulative selection *without a target* doesn’t exist. IOW, even immediate selection criteria is derived from a future target. How long will cumulative selection without a future target take us?

    ROb:
    “According to my understand of D&M’s terminology, a target that is purposed by a telic agent is an extrinsic target. If that’s correct, then intrinsic targets must not be purposed by a telic agent.”

    I highly doubt it since that would defeat their argument by mere definition of the terms. More, likely, they refer to extrinsic targets as targets “within the mind” and intrinsic targets as targets within the organization of the search space and search algorithm. The purpose is to investigate if intrinsic targets are derived from extrinsic targets.

  153. CJYman:

    If it comes from a chance assemblage of law, there is no reason to suppose that the space will be anything other than uniform — it is the result of chance/randomness after all.

    Granted, we a assume a uniform distribution over the higher-order space (the LCI is defined in terms of the endogenous info of the higher-order search), but that still doesn’t tell us what the space is. It’s possible to define this space such that the LCI doesn’t hold. If we’re restricted to defining it in a way that the LCI does hold, then not even intelligence can increase active info. Maybe that’s not a problem, according to your understanding of the LCI-base ID argument. I’ll wait for your response to 151.

  154. ROb:
    “Or are you saying something else?”

    I’m saying that intelligence must follow the LCI as well. Intelligence only generates as much information as it contains itself. Same with law+chance.

    Active information doesn’t concern itself with intelligence. Active information only measures the difference between uniform probability and the matching of non-uniform search space with a search algorithm to perform “better than chance search.”

    The LCI then takes over and shows that the probability of that matching which produces “better than chance” performance must be accounted for.

    Intelligence is a candidate for the generation of this active info for three reasons.

    1. Because of how it operates with foresight.

    2. Because we have seen that certain patterns (ie: car, essay, this comment) which are measurable in terms of active info require intelligence as a necessary condition.

    3. Since an intelligent system can also be measured in terms of active info.

    However, law+chance is not a candidate for three main reasons:

    1. No one has shown that law+chance absent intelligence can produce active info.

    2. If the pattern is not defined by law and if it is discovered at “better than chance” performance, then law and chance are ruled out.

    3. Law+chance would produce what you would expect from law and chance — a uniform probability distribution (max. randomness) and mere regularities — the opposite of what measurement constitutes active info.

  155. The problem is that no one has yet provided evidence that such a thing as “selection based on immediate criteria” without a long-term target will produce anything.

    That’s a separate issue, which I’m happy to discuss when I have more time. A lot more time. But the question at issue is whether Dawkins’ usage of the term “cumulative selection” implies the absence of a long-term target. It doesn’t, so WEASEL is a valid instance of cumulative selection.

    I’m arguing that cumulative selection *without a target* doesn’t exist.

    It’s easy to code an instance of cumulative selection that has no long-term target. Whether it does anything interesting is a separate issue.

    IOW, even immediate selection criteria is derived from a future target.

    I’m using the term immediate to indicate that the selection criteria is not derived from a future target.

    How long will cumulative selection without a future target take us?

    How long will it take us to do what?

    More, likely, they refer to extrinsic targets as targets “within the mind” and intrinsic targets as targets within the organization of the search space and search algorithm.

    I think we agree on the concepts, but I’m tripping over words. In my mind, an extrinsic target and an intrinsic target can specify the same subset of the same config space, with the extrinsic target being purposed and the intrinsic target being unpurposed.

  156. CJYman:

    I’m saying that intelligence must follow the LCI as well.

    To that I can only say that I interpret D&M completely differently. I’d be willing to bet that D&M would tell us that their LCI-based ID argument hinges on the LCI not applying to intelligence.

    It would be nice if the whole argument were laid out somewhere, complete with assumptions, logic, and conclusions. But it isn’t, so I don’t know if a concise case can be made for any given interpretation.

  157. OK wait- without any target how can one differentiate between cumulative selection and a random walk?

    Does cumulative selection come with some criteria such as a second mutation adding to the effect of a previous mutation? And then some subsequent mutation adding to that effect- and so on?

    Or is it just used in place of “abbra-cadabra” because “abbra-cadabra” is just too obvious as to what is being counted on to do the trick?

  158. re. Alex 73 @ 138

    In the beginning was the Word. :-)

    I hope to be able to post tomorrow.

    Thanks CJYman for some food for thought. Perhaps I can be clearer and more specific tomorrow.

  159. Joseph [from 133]

    “Ritchie obviously you didn’t read the articles I linked to.

    One even talks about VIABLE OFFSPRING.”

    I assure you I have. And they are NOT saying what you think they are saying.

    Again I ask, have you showed me the same curtesy and read the article I gave you the link to in post 47?

  160. Ritchie,

    If you read the articles you didn’t understand them.

    And yes I have read Gould’s essay.

    How does he measure fitness?

  161. CannuckianYankee @ 11

    I apologize for taking so long to reply.

    “He wanted to demonstrate the relative speed and efficiency of cumulative selection.”

    This was not the only purpose behind Dawkins’ Weasel program. Granted, he did show that a cumulative selection process is faster than a random selection process, but this is really very trivial and besides the point.

    So you agree that cumulative selection is an essential mechanism in evolutionary theory and concede that Weasel demonstrates that it is faster than a random selection process. That is hardly trivial or beside the point.

    In fact, one measure of how good a point Dawkins made with Weasel is the inordinate amount of effort being expended by its Intelligent Design and creationist critics to debunk it. If it is really so trivial and irrelevant, why bother?

    Dawkins’ overall point in the program is to demonstrate cumulative selection as a feasible process for Darwinian evolution. You can’t deny this, and Dawkins’ program does not demonstrate that it is feasible – I think most of us will agree on this point

    In The Blind Watchmaker Dawkins argued for the sufficiency of the theory of evolution through natural selection as an explanation of how life has emerged. As noted above, cumulative selection is a key part of that theory. Weasel was written to illustrate why it is important.

    “There is a big difference, then, between cumulative selection in which each improvement, however slight, is used as a basis for future building, and single-step selection in which each new ‘try’ is a fresh one. If evolutionary progress had had to rely on single-step selection, it would never have got anywhere. If, however, there was any way in which the necessary conditions for cumulative selection could have been set up by the blind forces of nature, strange and wonderful might have been the consequences. As a matter of fact that is exactly what happened on this planet, and we ourselves are among the most recent, if not the strangest and most wonderful of these consequences.” (Dawkins R. – The Blind Watchmaker 1986 p. 49)

    So Dawkins is essentially saying (though not with so many words – and forgive me if I’m not in complete context with Dawkins’ larger argument for gradual selection, but space does not permit – perhaps others can expound on this), that a ‘natural version’ of his Weasel program was set up by the “blind forces of nature,” which got us to where we are.

    Dawkins is saying that evolution – and certainly adaptive evolution – could not have taken place without a process of natural, cumulative selection. In the absence of a Creator or Intelligent Designer, that process must have been set in motion by natural forces. We do not know yet how this happened, only that in some way it must have happened.

    And in this we see the reason why this little program has been under such sustained attack. Although it is only an illustration of an evolutionary process rather than evidence for it, it does demonstrate that, within the constraints of the program’s environment, cumulative selection can reach a target far faster than random selection. For ID proponents and creationists, even this little program cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged because it is only when any possible naturalistic explanation has been utterly discredited or disproven will Intelligent Design be left to occupy a battlefield where it has, hitherto, largely preferred to mock other combatants from the sidelines.

    Now this might sound ridiculous if one does not consider that the issue here is: can cumulative selection occur without the cheat that Dawkins aknowledges in his program? I think this is the main point of contention between Darwinists and ID theorists on this issue. Dawkins thinks it can, but cannot really demonstrate how. Why? – because he really ignores the information that would be necessary to actualize each selective step in the process. He assumes that information is irrelevant – natural processes alone and without purpose can acheive the selection mechanism

    The only “cheat” – if you can call it that – is that Dawkins supplied the target sentence in the original Weasel. In nature the target or targets are set by the environment in which organisms find themselves. The targets are not words or phrases but a variety of ecological niches into which organisms are slowly shaped and fitted by fortuitous adaptive mutations. That environment is also changing over time so it presents a range of shifting target or targets and, of course, it is comprised in part of other organisms that are also, if they are lucky, adapting rather moving towards extinction.

    He thinks that nature can simply conjure up the goal of the process by means of ‘fitness.’ But where in the Darwinian scheme of things did this fitness drive develop?

    Again, you are being misled by an assumption that such things can only come about by the purposeful actions of some intelligent agent. There need not have been any “fitness drive” as such. All that would have been required were replicators making imperfect copies of themselves in an environment, rather than a vacuum, in which a few of the random mutations increased the chances of continued replication. You can certainly point out that we have no real knowledge of what these very early replicators were and I would agree. You could even speculate that they were created and ‘seeded’ on the early Earth by some extraterrestrial intelligent designer and I would agree that it is possible. But it would make no difference to the process of evolution which followed.

    These are legitimate questions that Darwinists aren’t answering, because they can’t. ID is on the right track in asking where the necessary information driving selection towards complexity originates – as well as questioning the whole Darwinian process of selection as a whole.

    The information challenge, in my view, is misleading and based on a fallacy. Information theory is undoubtedly useful as a tool for studying some aspects of biological systems, although there is some equivocation in ID over what is actually meant by ‘information’. The fallacy is that of reification or misplaced concreteness: in this case, of infering that information as a property of the model is also a property of that which is being modeled. It is as if scientists of earlier centuries, having found clockwork mechanisms to be a useful analogy for how the Universe works, inferred that it was actually constructed in some way of cogs and gears and springs.

  162. Joseph [from 160]

    “If you read the articles you didn’t understand them.”

    Odd, I’d say exactly the same to you. It seems we’ll just have to agree to clock horns here.

    “And yes I have read Gould’s essay.

    How does he measure fitness?”

    It seems strange having to point it out to someone who has read it, but as you wish:

    “The fittest are not defined by their survival. They are, rather, allowed to survive because they possess desired traits…

    “We must be able, like the pigeon fancier, to identify the fittest beforehand, not only by their subsequent survival. But nature is not an animal breeder; no preordained purpose regulates the history of life. In nature, any traits possessed by survivors must be counted as “more evolved”; in artificial selection, “superior” traits are defined before breeding even begins.

    “In nature, A’s “superiority” over B will be expressed as differential survival, but it is not defined by it

    “In nature, Darwinian evolution is also a response to changing environments. Now, the key point: certain morphological, physiological, and behavioral traits should be superior a priori as designs for living in new environments. These traits confer fitness by an engineer’s criterion on a good design, not by the empirical fact of their survival and spread. It got colder before the woolly mammoth evolved its shaggy coat.”

    I hope it is clear from the above quotes, particularly the last one, that we may measure ‘fitness’ by considering the changing environment the particular organism lives in. If, for example, the environment is getting colder, we may expect individuals with features better suited for cold weather to be the ‘fittest’ (slightly thicker coats than most, slightly more blubber than most, slightly paler – if the growing cold is to bring snow).”

    This we can deduce just by noting how the environment is changing, and we can predict these features to be more successful before the individual animals we are studying have even been born.

  163. ROb:
    “So I’m aware that he defines information in a way that entails the presence of language. But I still don’t know what that definition is.”

    CJYman:
    I’m not sure where you are getting hung up, since according to tgpeeler “information = (is defined as) language = (is defined as) symbols and rules.” Is it the definition of symbols and rules that you are unsure of? It appears to me that, if you continue reading the rest of tgpeeler’s comment, he explains “symbols and rules.”

    If I may be allowed some further clarification. First, to CJYman. I am not saying that information is = to symbols and rules. I am saying that language is = to symbols and rules. The language is used to encode information, which may then be transmitted, and then decoded on the other end.

    To ROb. It appears that there is still some question about the definition of information. As you know, information can be defined in several different ways. To Shannon, for example, it was the reduction of uncertainty. He dealt with the statistical level of information and not with the syntactic or semantic content. I use the term as the many evolutionary writers use the word, whom I’ve quoted above, by the way, including Dawkins, Crick, Yockey, and Kuppers. There’s an umlaut over the “u” in Kuppers but I don’t believe this site supports umlauts.

    For crying out loud, Dawkins says that “life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information” or did you miss that one? Why don’t you ask him: Well Richard, what do you mean by that?? Huh??? Well out with it. Otherwise we’ll know you are a fraud. Why don’t you ask Crick what he means? Or any of them. What it means is that if there is no information, there is no life. Show me something living that doesn’t have DNA or RNA (some viruses). Can you? No. So how can a theory that purports to explain everything about life not even be able to explain the most fundamental thing about life??? How is that? Don’t you find that a little odd?? I do.

    Information is an abstract, that is to say immaterial MESSAGE that is encoded by one living thing in matter and energy for delivery to another living thing. In the case of life, one may well ask who the original Sender is. You can guess my philosophical deduction from the capital “S” in Sender. Be that as it may, and that is not the focus of my argument here tonight, it seems to me to be straining at gnats and swallowing camels as some famous person from the ancient world once said, to go on and on about, sniff sniff, he hasn’t said what information is…

    Perhaps this has helped clear it up for you. That and CJYman’s excellent illustration of magnets on a refrigerator. All information has something living on the front end and all information is encoded in a material substrate. That could be ink, 1s and 0s in a computer, chalk, scents, noises, chemicals, pencil, and so on. I’m sure you understand this. But the information contained in the arrangement of symbols cannot possibly be explained by the chemistry or physics of the symbols themselves. Surely this is not hard to comprehend. You could explain the existence of these letters on this web site down to the electron and still, in order to really explain them, you would have to result to the rules of the English language. It is the rules of English, applied to the symbols of English, that enable the communication of information, a message from me to you in this instance.

    Not only that, but there isn’t an origin of life researcher on the planet that I’m aware of that wouldn’t tell you the same thing that I am about information and life. You can’t have one without the other. And “whatever” you want to call information, that special something that gives life, or whatever it is in the DNA of every living thing, or something that no non-living thing ever originates, or sends, or receives, it is inextricably tied up with life. These are “your people” that are saying that the question of the origin of life is the question of the origin of information. Of course, “my people” say this too. I have only been trying to point out that “your people” logically contradict themselves by saying that physics, or more euphemistically, natural causes, can account for information. I have proven that it is impossible for physics to account for the symbols and rules which encode the information therefore physics cannot account for the information. What is so difficult about this? Other than your whole world view collapsing in a heap of irrationality. I suppose that could take some getting used to.

    Let me put it even more simply. Physics is about the material world, which is all “you people” claim exists. But you also recognize that information exists. But information isn’t matter or energy. It’s apart from them even as it is encoded in them. So you commit a fundamental logical error known as a category mistake. You try to explain the immaterial in terms of the material, even as you deny the existence of the material!!!! And turn around and call me the irrational one!!! Did I actually write that? You try to explain the immaterial (information) in terms of the material (physics) while denying the existence of the immaterial (naturalism)!!!! Well, good luck selling that to people who can think.

    One last thing before I go. If you can answer this question for me, I will fly to wherever you are at my own expense and publicly proclaim loudly and clearly that you are right and I am wrong and I will become an atheist and an evangelist for evolutionary theory.

    You said in the beginning quote of this post that I define information in a way that entails the presence of language. No? Yes.

    So tell me, i.e. exchange information with me, without using a language, how I could have avoided that apparently egregious error? You know, defining information in a way that demands a language.

    Tap, tap, tap, …

    I await your response. (Think about this and it will all be clear.)

    p.s. In a related thread about methinks it is like a weasel, there was much going on about this same subject. Indeed, this thread may have started with that. Whatever. Let me attempt to show you that EVEN IF I spotted you the language you still couldn’t come up with information according to physical laws.

    Quickly, let’s say that we have an information generating algorithm (like the program that wrote “weasel”). This algorithm is physics powered. That means either the physics of the “large” world where general relativity and fine structure constants, in other words, certainty, rules (you drop an object, it falls). Or at the sub-atomic level quantum physics seems to be the order of the day. So you have two possible drivers in physics, certainty and chance. So far so good?

    It’s intuitively obvious that an algorithm based on certainty has no hope of ever creating information. Why? Because I have to be able, or someone does, to be able to choose from among various symbols and arrange them in a specific way to get information.

    Let’s try a thought experiment. Let’s say my algorithm says this:
    1. Drop object.
    2. If object falls, type “A”.
    3. If object does anything else, type any letter on keyboard at random. (notice that I am spotting you the symbols and rules which is quite generous and gracious of me but still won’t matter)
    4. Repeat indefinitely.

    What does our algorithm generate? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…

    OK. Was that overkill? So how do you encode information in that? You cannot.

    OK. So let’s give chance (quantum physics) a shot.
    Let’s say that we could develop an algorithm based on some quantum event like radioactive decay. A subject that I know impossibly little about other than that it’s impossible to tell when that next proton will come shooting out of the nucleus. Or whatever shoots out of whatever. So let’s map a time interval to the decay of the element and for each event we map it to ASCII code, 128 characters if memory serves.

    Now I did a handy dandy word count with MS Word on the two programs, Weasel1 and Weasel2. In Weasel 1 there are 1,311 characters that comprise that teensy weensy bit of code that generates “methinks it is like a weasel” or something like that. Hamlet, I think. Anyway, what are the odds of that particular string of code being arrived at by chance?

    Well, the denominator is all of the possible strings of characters and the numerator is 1, the string we want. But I’m going to be generous and say that every atom in the observable universe contained the code. So you have 10 to the 80th (I can’t do exponents either and this damn iMac doesn’t have the carat that I know of so the exponents will be clumsy.) as the numerator. Which is wildly impossible but I’m just being fair by improving your chances. So the numerator is 10 to the 80th.

    What is the denominator? Well it’s 128 raised to the 1,311 power. That’s clumsy so we’ll convert to scientific notation by taking the log of both sides and we have 1,311 x log 128 = 2,762 and change. I think I did the math right. So your denominator is 10 to the 2,762 power. Wow. That’s an impressively large number. So large that it is literally incomprehensible by a human mind. You couldn’t write it out in denary notation (I read Roger Penrose use that term, I have no idea what it means but you will still get the point) if you counted to a trillion on every atom in the universe.

    So your probability looks like 10 to 80 divided by 10 to 2,762 which means the odds of getting this short string of ASCII code is 1 in 10 to 2,682. Now even if you whip some Bayesian statistics on me or say that some combinations are more likely to occur than others I still say fat chance. If we give you not only every atom in the universe but every atom at Planck time (10 to minus 43) for every second the universe has been in existence (10 to 18) you still only have 10 to 141 possible combinations of code and your search space (I think they call it that – I’ve seen people talk about it out here) is 10 to 2762. So minus 141 to give you a fighting chance and the odds are: drum roll ………… 1 in 10 to 2,621. Would you not grant me that we could say this is “wildly improbable” at least? :-)

    Remember, this is giving you the symbols and rules, which you really don’t have. So stop with the “physics or natural causes can create meaningful information.” And let’s not get tied up in “meaningful.” Crick did this same calculation for a short protein string of 200 amino acids long. You guessed it. 1 in 10 to 260. So Crick deduced that life came from outer space. How original. Of course, it kinda sorta still leaves the ORIGINAL QUESTION unanswered but it was good enough for him. He even has a chapter in his book Life Itself on what the spaceship would have been like. Too freaking funny. Anyway, now I am done. If this doesn’t cause you to rethink in spite of what a snot I am sometimes (but “you people” just NEVER GET IT) then I can’t help.

    p.p.s. Weasel2 has 2,210 characters. You can do the math.

  164. What happened? Did I enter another universe? Did they close down the posting to this thread?

  165. Tom,

    Perhaps they are waiting for you to shut up. Or, perghaps its the clarifying effect of logic.

    In either case, congratulations.

  166. tgpeeler @ 164: What happened was the weekend. You appear to be debating with people who have lives.

    tgpeeler from 59: You never answered my question: Which individual parts of a cell are alive? Just askin.

    tgpeeler @ 110: Yes, I read your message. “It doesn’t matter if materialism is true” lines up with “the information physically embedded in the organism” because even if there is a non-material aspect to the universe, life as we know it appears to do just fine with the information physically imbedded in it and with evolution as a material means of adding to that information.

    TGP: “If materialism is true, then there is no information.”

    I say that’s nonsense. Information is material in nature. In cells it exists as the physical patterns in DNA, RNA, methylation, etc. In your brain, information exists as various types of memory which in turn is made from the actual wiring of the brain, firing potentials of different synapses and stuff we are still learning about. But there’s no trace of any intelligences hiding amongst your neurons.

    TGP: “Seems to be enough” Really. What does that mean, exactly?
    It means that we know of no instance in which the information physically encoded in cells plus environmental inputs are insufficient to account for life as we know it. There appears to not only be no need for a supernatural entity to create and operate a cell, there is no place to put such an entity if one existed.

    tgp: “How does it account for the fact that it’s wrong to take advantage of weaker people?” What does that have to do with cells?

    tgp: “How does it account for the fact that the material brain can interact with and manipulate abstractions (math) to describe the physical world?” Because your material brain has information imbedded in it (in its various forms of memory) to enable your material brain to communicate with the physical world through physical nerve transmissions which actuate and recieve information from your physical hands, lips, eyes, etc.

    tgp: “’no minds are necessary’ Really. Then HOW do you account for information? Go ahead, tell me.”

    Haven’t you been reading all the Weasel threads? Or have you been concentrating on all the “latched – non latched” silliness and ignoring the information transfer? Let me explain Weasel to you in short, simple sentences:

    Remember the “target”, “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL”? Pretend that’s an exotic form of DNA with 27 different bases. Further assume that that particular pattern is the best possible DNA of length 28. Finally, assume that the original starting DNA is “ABCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ” and that this pattern will just barely run the cell. It will grow, but slowly, and it will divide, but slowly. Finally, assume no combinations will work except the original “ABCD…” and “METHINKS…”

    Now run the Weasel program (or mutation and natural selection as it’s called in the case of a cell) and assume, strictly for the purposes of illustration, that the first changes are all to the left-most position, so that we get these successive tries:

    “ABCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ”
    “BBCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ”
    “ZBCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ”
    “GBCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ”

    “A”, “B”, “Z” and “G” all work more poorly in the first position than “A” or “M”, so natural selection discards them. Then we get this on the next try:

    “MBCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ”

    Whoops! That “M” in the first position is more fit than the original “A”, so we keep it. We have now gone from our original DNA, which was

    “ABCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ” to
    “MBCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ” which works better than the original. That “M” in the first position does its job better than the original “A”.

    Do you realize what we’ve done here? We’ve added information to the genome! Not only that, but it’s SPECIFIED information – it meets the specification of running a cell successfully and it does it better than the original “A”.

    Did you notice that it was a two-step process to add this new Specified Information? The first four times we added new information to the left-most position, but it wasn’t good information, so we threw it away. That is, when we tried to run the resulting new cell, it didn’t do as well as the original and the cell died out and took that DNA pattern with it.

    Then, the fifth time, we hit paydirt. We changed the left-most position AND when we attempted to run the new cell with the new DNA pattern it ran BETTER than the original and replaced it. Evolution in action!

    Did you notice that you can’t even feed a two-step process like RM+NS into the Explanitory Filter? Maybe that’s why you’ve all been overlooking it for twenty years.

    Everything I described above is material in nature. Natural mistakes copying the DNA, natural attempts to run the cell with it, natural disposal of the inferior pattern and finally natural selection when a better pattern appeared.

    Do this twenty eight times and you wind up with “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL”. Know what that is? It’s COMPLEX SPECIFIED INFORMATION! Exactly what ID says only an intelligent mind can produce, except there was no mind involved here whatsoever!

    This whole argument you have all been obsessing over about The One True Program and latching / non latching has been effective mainly in keeping any of you from noticing that:

    1: Weasel (and hence evolution) adds information to the genome and

    2: Cumulative selection utterly demolishes ALL of the ID arguments about how it will take umteen gazillion megayears to create a 100 amino acid protein. The correct formula turns out not to be P(A) X P(B). It’s more like P(A) + P(B).
    (See here: http://www.arn.org/docs/dembski/wd_idtheory.htm)

    That is the true meaning of the Weasel program. ID is going to have to stop wasting their time on latching foolishness and deal with the fact that variation and natural selection CAN add Complex Specified Information to the genome AND do it in reasonable lengths of time.

  167. Joseph: ” How can we test the premise that the bacterial flagellum “evolved” by random mutations and natural selection?”

    That’s a question I’d like to ask of ID. How can we test the premise that the bacterial flagellum was created by an intelligent designer?

    Can you tell us who the designer was? Can you tell us when it was created? Can you tell us how it was created? Can you tell us the mechanism of its creation? (“Poof” vs supernatural microtweezers, for instance.) Can you tell us what it was made out of?

    I’m betting you can’t, since ID doesn’t have any evidence of how it occurred.

    Evolutionists, on the other hand, have a mechanism (RM + NS) along with precursor molecules that were the likely building blocks for the flagellum.

    It would be nice if ID people stopped demanding answers that they themselves cannot give until they could offer at least as much evidence as evolutionists.

  168. tgpeeler @ 126: “The information does not “come from the atoms that attach together.” What universe do you live in? The information is ENCODED in the atoms. For there to be information requires symbols and rules.”

    That’s a very basic mistake you’re making. Every arrangement of atoms, every arrangement of anything, contains information. The information, as I’ve said, includes what kind of atoms, their internal states, their arrangement, their orientation – anything that can be measured or observed.

    Another way to look at it is that every group of atoms contains the information that would be needed to duplicate that group of atoms.

    Say you’ve got Michaelangelo’s statue of David and you want to make an exact duplicate of it. You could scan the statue and use the information from that scan to sculpt another block of marble into the same form as David.

    But it wouldn’t be exact because the atoms of the second block wouldn’t be in exactly the same positions as the atoms in the original and some of the atoms would be in a different atomic state and so on. To truly duplicate the original statue, you’d need every bit of information in the original and that would be an enormous amount.

    But at no time would any language be necessary. Languages are much higher level than anything you’ll find in a statue or a cell. It takes more than a look-up table and a start and a stop codon to make a language.

  169. Joseph @ 132 If the Spetner you’re talking about is Lee Spetner, then there’s no hope for an intelligent conversation here.

    If you have any evidence that mutations are non-random with respect to fitness, please present it.

    “And if the ToE is scientific we should be able to test it to see if an accumulation of genetic accidents can account for the transformations required.”

    How about converting a grass to corn? Is that enough of a transformation for you?

  170. ScottAndrews @ 135: “Darwinism offers a “grab bag” of mechanisms and causes, but rarely attempts to explain specifically which are responsible for any given outcome.”

    What? What’s responsible for the peacock’s tail? A: Sexual selection. What’s responsible for the hummingbird’s bill? A: Natural selection. I can go on like this for hundreds of examples. What’s the ID explanation for those examples? Be specific, please.

    “And then, when it does, it offers no specifics – what was the series of mutations that led from A to B, how were they selected and fixed, etc.”

    Nor does ID. Not surprising in either case for something that happened over a long period of time a long time ago at the sub microscopic level. When ID can come up with a list of the mutations that their designer designed to go from A to B, ID advocates will have earned the right to ask questions like the one you just asked.

    And saying that ID is only interested in detecting design is NOT an answer.

  171. CJYman @ 141: “… exactly! And it is this combination/organization of “bases” in a DNA string which does not emerge from any mathematical description of regularity (law) or the physical properties of the “base” molecules. This is the point that tgpeeler is attempting to get across when he speaks of symbols, rules, and the laws of physics — a point which I believe he has stated quite well; I’m honestly not sure why some people here seem to be refusing to actually listen to what he is saying.”

    Because he then muddies the water by including symbols, rules and language. Symbols and rules are parts of language, not information. Language uses information, but it’s not identical to it.

    The data gets into the DNA/RNA or whatever through mutation and all the non-specified information is tossed out by natural selection. Language and symbols have nothing to do with it.

    CJYMan: “Furthermore, there is no physical law which can be used to calculate whether a stretch of DNA is “meaningful” or not.”

    Nope. To do that, you try to use the new DNA pattern to run the new cell. If it works as well as or better than the original, it’s meaningful and natural selection keeps it. If not, it’s noise and natural selection destroys it (along with the poor cell that got stuck with it.)

    Your example of the child placing magnetic letter on the fridge corresponds to mutations creating new patterns in the DNA. Mom looking at the letters and deciding whether they make sense or not is equivalent to natural selection seeing if they can operate a cell or not.

  172. CJYman @ 142 ““Language” would be a system of rules and symbols. “Symbols” themselves, when operating within a set of rules would be considered as “information.””

    Now you’ve got it!

  173. CYJman @ 154 “3. Law+chance would produce what you would expect from law and chance — a uniform probability distribution (max. randomness) and mere regularities — the opposite of what measurement constitutes active info.”

    But law + chance + environment can produce a very non-uniform distribution. It can produce the CSI that is necessary to run a cell in that particular environment.

    You can also think of it as extracting the information from the environment and putting it into the DNA if you wish.

  174. joseph @ 157 “OK wait- without any target how can one differentiate between cumulative selection and a random walk?”

    Because RM + NS + Environment produces the CSI necessary to operate a cell in the environment the CSI is extracted from.

    A random walk produces random information that is not related to running a cell in any way.

  175. tgpeeler @ 163 “Information is an abstract, that is to say immaterial MESSAGE that is encoded by one living thing in matter and energy for delivery to another living thing.”

    I say that ALL language is MATERIAL. Please show me any language that is not material.

    And good luck with showing anybody anything that is not material.

  176. tgpeeler, my only interest was finding out your definition of information, which I now take to be the following:

    Information is an abstract, that is to say immaterial MESSAGE that is encoded by one living thing in matter and energy for delivery to another living thing.

    Thank you.

  177. djmullen,

    I say that ALL language is MATERIAL. Please show me any language that is not material.

    And good luck with showing anybody anything that is not material.

    Then you’re saying that the text in a book, it’s actual chemical composition is what makes up the message, not the metaphysical understanding of symbols.

  178. djmullen:
    “Your example of the child placing magnetic letter on the fridge corresponds to mutations creating new patterns in the DNA. Mom looking at the letters and deciding whether they make sense or not is equivalent to natural selection seeing if they can operate a cell or not.”

    You will definitely want to read my comment #141 again, since your response has nothing to do with the point I was making which I stated quite clearly. I was in no way attacking any theory of evolution or even “Darwinism.”

  179. djmullen,

    Clive #177 understands the point quite clearly. The point is that the organization of the information we are discussing is not defined by laws of physics — mathematical descriptions of regularities emerging from the physical properties of matter/energy.

  180. ROb @176

    You are welcome.

  181. Clive Hayden @ 177 “Then you’re saying that the text in a book, it’s actual chemical composition is what makes up the message, not the metaphysical understanding of symbols.”

    The text in a book AND the metaphysical understandinig of symbols. Your mind and the knowledge and memories that make it up as well as the information processing it does are as material as the ink and paper of a book.

  182. djmullen @ 175

    “I say that ALL language is MATERIAL. Please show me any language that is not material.

    And good luck with showing anybody anything that is not material.”

    The symbols part of all languages is material. That could be ink on paper, smoke in the sky, etc… I think I already made that point but maybe not. The RULES which govern the use of the symbols are immaterial. They are abstract. What am I missing here? Are you being deliberately obtuse? Is that the game? Oh, I get it. You really agree with me but you are pretending that you don’t so I can demolish all of these feeble objections. Thanks. I appreciate it.

    As far as showing anybody anything that is not material, how’s this for good luck? What about the laws of physics AND the mathematics, the language in which they are written????? Do we really have to do this? Do I have to describe matter and energy and then go down the list and show you that the laws of physics (or the laws of anything, for that matter) or the language of mathematics are not material? OK. Just this one time, in case you haven’t figured this out.

    Matter has: mass, inertia, is subject to gravity (so are photons even though they are massless), is locatable in space/time, is empirically detectable, and can be converted to energy. Energy can move or heat matter and is empirically detectable. Although necessarily brief, I believe this just about covers it.

    Let’s run mathematics down this list. Does math have mass? NO. Does math have inertia? NO. Is math subject to gravity? NO. Is math locatable in space/time? NO. (It’s not in your closet, is it?) Is math empirically detectable? NO. You cannot smell it, touch it, taste it, see it, or hear it. Can math be converted to energy? NO. Can math heat matter? NO. Can math move matter? NO.

    Trick question coming now. Is math nevertheless real? YES.

    I’ll stop here so we can deal with one thing at a time. Defeating your materialism seems like a good place to start. I await your reply.

    p.s. Extra credit question. How is it that a material mind (in your construal of mind, apparently) can comprehend completely abstract things like math? How does that work? How are quarks and leptons able to “get outside of themselves” and contemplate abstract things?

  183. CJYman @ 178 Having re-read your message # 141, I’m going to stick with my answer.

    Forming the “letters” in DNA is a random process – like the child putting letters on fridge. However, to continue the analogy, there is already a message on the fridge that “does something” – specifically it operates the cell. Each additional letter must contribute to that operation or it is rejected.

    There is never a time when we see the haze of “random” letters clear to reveal a functioning cell. That’s there from the get-go, or at least as far back as we have DNA.

    That’s something that seems to escape all ID enthusiasts. Since the first super simple self-reproducing whatever, we always have a functioning organism. All mutations either add to that function or they are discarded and we go back to the original function. Since mutation rates are reasonably low, we never mutate all organisms at once. We just take a chance on changing a few and discard them and go back to the unmodified DNA if they aren’t an improvement.

    Also, if you study the functioning of a cell closely, I think you will be less likely to say “That is why if you take all the constituents of a cell and mix them in a test tube, they will not organize themselves into a functioning cell.”

    It turns out that how a lot of real cell chemistry actually works. Although there are elaborate transportation mechanisms in cells, most of the work of getting small chemicals to where they are needed is done by having them float around in the cell, being pushed around randomly until they connect with some place that needs them and they are consumed on the spot.

    Also, Craig Ventor is hard at work building an artifical cell right now and I think he plans to more or less pour the ingredients into an empty cell wall and have it start working. With his track record, we should know within a year.

  184. CJYman @ 179 Nobody claims that the organization of the base-pairs in DNA is defined by the laws of physics. It’s randomly changed by mutation and then tested and either selected or rejected by natural selection.

    Clive in 177 doesn’t believe that metaphysical understanding is material in nature. I maintain that it’s as material as the neurons, synapses, memory and signals of Clive’s brain.

  185. djmullen,

    Metaphysical means not physical. If you think the reasoning process is physical, then you should be able to centrally locate the philosophy which claims this, and remove it, or change its composition to the point that you will begin to believe something else instead. This is the logical and metaphysical end to your mind=matter paradigm.

  186. djmullen @ 171

    “Because he then muddies the water by including symbols, rules and language. Symbols and rules are parts of language, not information. Language uses information, but it’s not identical to it.”

    Have you actually read anything I’ve written? It’s not apparent from this comment. Symbols and rules comprise language – they enable the encoding, transmission, and decoding of information. They are not information. How much clearer can it get. I’ve said that at least a million times already.

  187. Clive @ 185
    “Metaphysical” is an idea found in the human mind. Our minds contain imperfect models of the outside world. The idea of metaphysics is one of those imperfections. If there is anything in reality (or superreality) that corresponds to this idea, you’ll have to show us.

    The IDEA of “metaphysical” undoubtedly does exist in your mind and it is possible, in principle, to find the information in your brain that corresponds to your belief in metaphysics and change it to make you believe with just as much certainty in a ten foot tall fire-breathing corduroy duck quacking, “Webcor, webcor!” and make this feel completely real and as obvious as metaphysics to you. Because there’s a part of your brain that generates that feeling of obviousness and, like your belief in metaphysics, it’s material and thus susceptible to manipulation.

    And if you don’t believe me, I can introduce you to some people who will sell you some drugs that will do just that, or something just as weird.

    And that is the logical and physical end of your material illusions about metaphysics.

  188. djmullen @ 166

    “tgpeeler from 59: You never answered my question: Which individual parts of a cell are alive? Just askin.”

    The entire cell is alive. The cell is the smallest unit of life. See cell theory. And this bears on what? How?

    “Haven’t you been reading all the Weasel threads? Or have you been concentrating on all the “latched – non latched” silliness and ignoring the information transfer? Let me explain Weasel to you in short, simple sentences:

    Remember the “target”, “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL”? Pretend that’s an exotic form of DNA with 27 different bases. Further assume that that particular pattern is the best possible DNA of length 28. Finally, assume that the original starting DNA is “ABCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ” and that this pattern will just barely run the cell. It will grow, but slowly, and it will divide, but slowly. Finally, assume no combinations will work except the original “ABCD…” and “METHINKS…”

    Are you serious? You think this passes for rational discourse? Assume, assume, assume. That’s a big part of your problem. You assume that you have resources that your ontology denies. The weasel program only illustrates two things. One is that it takes intelligence to generate information, in this case, instructions written in code, and two, that it is completely irrelevant to evolution by blind natural selection because Dawkins provides the target. How asinine is this to claim that this proves or even demonstrates anything? What, are you a college freshman taking his first evolutionary biology class and you are just regurgitating the talking points without any understanding of the logical fallacies they contain? This is a ridiculous claim, even by evo standards.

    “Do you realize what we’ve done here? We’ve added information to the genome! Not only that, but it’s SPECIFIED information – it meets the specification of running a cell successfully and it does it better than the original “A””

    YES!! I do realize what we’ve done here!!! We’ve intelligently designed a process to generate information!!!!!! I’m so excited!!!!! Wait, you think this proves that evolution somehow did it, don’t you? Oh well. Back to the drawing board. C’mon man. Get serious.

    “Did you notice that it was a two-step process to add this new Specified Information? The first four times we added new information to the left-most position, but it wasn’t good information, so we threw it away. That is, when we tried to run the resulting new cell, it didn’t do as well as the original and the cell died out and took that DNA pattern with it.

    Then, the fifth time, we hit paydirt. We changed the left-most position AND when we attempted to run the new cell with the new DNA pattern it ran BETTER than the original and replaced it. Evolution in action!”

    NO. Designed process in action. I cannot believe I am having this conversation again. “Weasel” is a fraud. Just like evolution. Try dealing with the argument. I would give up but it just annoys the hell out of me that some people can be so, so dense.

    “That is the true meaning of the Weasel program. ID is going to have to stop wasting their time on latching foolishness and deal with the fact that variation and natural selection CAN add Complex Specified Information to the genome AND do it in reasonable lengths of time.”

    We’ve already seen what the true meaning of the weasel program is. It’s intelligent design. It doesn’t even begin to model evolution by ‘natural selection.’ What a crock. And I was so looking forward to having actual arguments to engage with.

  189. djmullen @168

    “That’s a very basic mistake you’re making. Every arrangement of atoms, every arrangement of anything, contains information. The information, as I’ve said, includes what kind of atoms, their internal states, their arrangement, their orientation – anything that can be measured or observed.”

    That is complete and utter nonsense. So tell me, what kind of information is encoded in a crystal? Or a stone? Or a clump of dirt? And information to whom? You really just don’t get it, I’m thinking.

    “Another way to look at it is that every group of atoms contains the information that would be needed to duplicate that group of atoms.”

    You are joking? Right? How does the group of atoms that makes up a rock contain the information needed to duplicate that rock?? This isn’t even coherent.

    “But at no time would any language be necessary. Languages are much higher level than anything you’ll find in a statue or a cell. It takes more than a look-up table and a start and a stop codon to make a language.”

    Your ignorance of the cell exceeds even mine and I’m not even a biologist. Higher level than you’ll find in a cell? Are you kidding? The cell contains a spectacular information technology that humans could only dream of reverse engineering. A strand of human DNA has 3.3 BILLION base pairs (letters) or so in it and it specifies the structure of an entire organism. It’s about 6 meters long and is only visible under the most powerful microscopes. Yeah, I guess it takes more than a look up table and a start and stop codon to make a language. It takes symbols and rules, neither of which can be explained by physics. I wish I could be finished with this. My patience runs short. A serious failing of mine. But I know you are going to come back with something irrelevant or irrational and I won’t be able to let it go. What is my problem??? (That’s rhetorical. I know the answer.)

  190. tgpeeler @ 188:
    Glad you understand that every individual part of the cell is dead. Just checking.

    Yes, my description of Weasel is rational. (Except my line about “Finally, assume no combinations will work except the original ‘ABCD…’ and ‘METHINKS…’” is mistaken. So long as no combinations work better than “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL”, the simulation will work.)

    It may not seem rational to you, but people on this site have a well known (and very entertaining) lack of understanding of how models work. See the various claims about having to modify the computer hardware to really simulate evolution for examples of this misunderstanding.

    Yes, Weasel is intelligently designed. It’s a SIMULATION of a natural phenomena and it takes intelligence to produce a simulation. That’s what modeling is all about, whether you’re modelling the weather, the stock market or evolution.

    Given that our intelligently designed simulation is modifying its data just like in the real world – random mutations and natural selection saving any improvements, then it is creating information without intelligence and so is the real-world process that it’s modeling. And if you’re wondering where that information comes from, in the model it comes from the target phrase and in the real world it comes from the environment the modeled cell is living in.

    “What, are you a college freshman taking his first evolutionary biology class and you are just regurgitating the talking points without any understanding of the logical fallacies they contain?”

    You know, argument by insult is one thing, but when the insulter first shows that he doesn’t understand the most basic things about information and modeling, it looks a little … like standard UD blogging.

  191. tgpeeler @ 189 “So tell me, what kind of information is encoded in a crystal? Or a stone? Or a clump of dirt?”

    Information on the types of atoms, their states, their locations, their orientations – all the data you’d need to make a duplicate of that crystal, stone or clump of dirt.

    “And information to whom?”

    To nobody. Quit thinking of communications when you think of information. 99.99999+ percent of all information in the universe has nothing to do with communication.

    ” “Another way to look at it is that every group of atoms contains the information that would be needed to duplicate that group of atoms.”

    You are joking? Right? How does the group of atoms that makes up a rock contain the information needed to duplicate that rock?? This isn’t even coherent.”

    In the same way that tRNA has to measure the 3-d shape and electrical charges of a triplet of RNA bases and select the correct amino acid accordingly, you have to measure the type of atoms, the position, orientation and internal quantum states they’re in and then build the duplicate with that information.

    Don’t think so? How would you build a duplicate without that information? If a previously unknown statue, The Rutabaga by Michelangelo, was discovered, could you sculpt a duplicate without examining the original? Of course not, you need the information contained in the original statue to duplicate it.

    “Your ignorance of the cell exceeds even mine and I’m not even a biologist.”

    No it doesn’t and I believe you about not being a biologist.

    “A strand of human DNA … specifies the structure of an entire organism.”

    Only partially. There are no instructions for making a cell wall in the DNA, for instance, just the various parts that go into one. These parts require a pre-existing cell wall to fit themselves into. You can actually remove the cell wall from a living cell, leaving just the gossamer membrane under it and the cell will live, but it will never replace the cell wall because it hasn’t got a template to fit replacment pieces into and there are no instructions in the DNA for building such a template.

    Likewise, your DNA required an initial chemical gradient in your mother’s egg cell to define the original orientation of your developing body. Without it, you would never have been born.

    These aren’t serious mistakes and most people don’t know about them, but I do and you apparently don’t.

    “Yeah, I guess it takes more than a look up table and a start and stop codon to make a language. It takes symbols and rules, neither of which can be explained by physics.”

    You’ve got more than just physics at work here. You’ve got the creation of information by random mutation and you’ve got natural selection vetting that information against the cell’s existing operation and the environment it’s living in. And that’s all it takes to generate the information in the DNA as well as the symbols and rules that concern you.

  192. DJM:

    1] It has already been pointed out (and linked onward), on the observations of the OOL researchers from the 1960′s – 80′s, that organised, specified, functional complexity is different from the sort of order found in crystals, and from the sort of tangled random patterns that are found in organic tars, etc. (Darwin’s warm little pond struck by lightning, or other scenarios, would be drastically more likely to create at most some organic muck, than organised cell-based life.)

    2] Also, we do not have observed cases of origin of functional information apart from purposefully directed, meaningful, code-bearing contingency — as the use of ASCII characters to communicate English text or program source code illustrate; algorithmic code and associated data structures being very closely analogous — indeed, both instantiate digital algorithmic information — to what we have discovered in DNA and associated molecules.

    3] Note the “definitions” of information, intelligence, design and intelligent design, from the UD Glossary, courtesy Wikipedia etc:

    Information — Wikipedia, with some reorganization, is apt: “ . . that which would be communicated by a message if it were sent from a sender to a receiver capable of understanding the message . . . . In terms of data, it can be defined as a collection of facts [i.e. as represented or sensed in some format] from which conclusions may be drawn [and on which decisions and actions may be taken].”

    Intelligence – Wikipedia aptly and succinctly defines: “capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn.”

    Design — purposefully directed contingency. That is, the intelligent, creative manipulation of possible outcomes (and usually of objects, forces, materials, processes and trends) towards goals. (E.g. 1: writing a meaningful sentence or a functional computer program. E.g. 2: loading of a die to produce biased, often advantageous, outcomes. E.g. 3: the creation of a complex object such as a statue, or a stone arrow-head, or a computer, or a pocket knife.)

    Intelligent design [ID] – Dr William A Dembski, a leading design theorist, has defined ID as “the science that studies signs of intelligence.” That is, as we ourselves instantiate [thus exemplify as opposed to “exhaust”], intelligent designers act into the world, and create artifacts. When such argents act, there are certain characteristics that commonly appear, and that – per massive experience — reliably mark such artifacts. It it therefore a reasonable and useful scientific project to study such signs and identify how we may credibly reliably infer from empirical sign to the signified causal factor: purposefully directed contingency or intelligent design . . .

    4] Weasel inadvertently demonstrates the power of intelligent design using a set “target” [!] and a hill-climbing algorithm that rewards non-functional “nonsense phrases” [!!] on mere increments in proximity to target. It thus illustrates artificial selection, across randomised non-functional phrases (with come constraints — thus that tangential debate on latching and ratcheting . . . initiated and sustained by Darwinist objectors BTW, TGP) in light of knowledge of target, distance to target metric and comparative measures, i.e. highly intelligent design. (This general pattern of problems, with variations, hampers evolutionary algorithms in general.)

    _________________

    I suggest a perusal of the Weak arguments correctives as well.

    GEM of TKI

  193. PS: AmHDict:

    lan·guage (lnggwj)
    n.
    1.
    a. Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.
    b. Such a system including its rules for combining its components, such as words.
    c. Such a system as used by a nation, people, or other distinct community; often contrasted with dialect.
    2.
    a. A system of signs, symbols, gestures, or rules used in communicating: the language of algebra.
    b. Computer Science A system of symbols and rules used for communication with or between computers.

  194. PPS: AmHSci Dict:

    language (lnggwj)
    1. A system of objects or symbols, such as sounds or character sequences, that can be combined in various ways following a set of rules, especially to communicate thoughts, feelings, or instructions. See also machine languageprogramming language
    2. The set of patterns or structures produced by such a system.

    The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

  195. PPPS: AmhDict:

    met·a·phys·ics (mt-fzks)
    n.
    1. (used with a sing. verb) Philosophy The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.
    2. (used with a pl. verb) The theoretical or first principles of a particular discipline: the metaphysics of law.

  196. Look djm. I will admit to having let you annoy me and thus I made some intemperate and rude remarks. This goes for ROb, and Seversky, too. To you all, I apologize. Really. That said, let’s seriously deal with this issue because it matters. It makes all the difference in the world whether or not we are created beings in the image of God or whether we are just, and only just, random collections of sub-atomic particles organized by time and the laws of physics into really cool bags of water that can do remarkable things, i.e. have the capacity to reason and make moral choices. And play golf.

    The question of the origin of life, as has been stated by origin of life researchers from decades ago until today, is the question of the origin of biological information.

    I would really like for someone on the other side of this to actually engage the argument I have made.

    The argument starts out with a broad definition of naturalism and thus includes the more restrictive ontologies of materialism and physicalism. In other words, I have given naturalism its most generous construal, which allows for mathematics and “other abstracta.” (None of said abstracta, of course, have causal power.) So if naturalists are committed to the metaphysical view that all that exists is nature (roughly the physical world and the properties of the physical things) and they are, and if naturalists are committed to the principle of causal closure, and they are, then nothing save physics can possibly have any explanatory power in nature.

    Therefore, my first premise is: If naturalism is true, then physics can explain life.

    This is the first part of what will be a modus tollens argument which is a valid form of argument.

    I could have made the stronger statement that: If naturalism is true, then physics can explain everything.

    This would also be a true premise but I want to narrow the focus to the purported explanation of life by naturalist means. In other words,
    If physics can explain everything, and if life is a subset of everything, then physics can explain life. Thus I arrive at the first premise: If naturalism is true, then physics can explain life.

    So can we agree just to this point that if you hold to a neo-Darwinian view of life, i.e. the naturalist story of life, that you embrace the philosophical constructs that form the basis for the theory? And that you agree that the first premise is true because naturalism entails that only physics has explanatory powers?

    Let’s start there and hash this out and then we can move on.

  197. kairosfocus

    Thanks for the definitions. They will come in handy. I’ll use them next time so people won’t think I just made this stuff up. :-)

  198. kairosfocus: From the Wikipedia entry on information:

    “Information as a concept has a diversity of meanings, from everyday usage to technical settings. Generally speaking, the concept of information is closely related to notions of constraint, communication, control, >>>data<<<, form, instruction, knowledge, meaning, mental stimulus, pattern, perception, and representation.” (My emphasis)

    Let me give another illustration. Suppose you own the GEM Boat Builders Company and I come up to you and say, “I’d like you to build me a boat.” And you say, “Certainly. What kind of a boat?” And I give you a bunch of plans for a boat. You look at the plans and they tell you what materials to use, what shape to cut them into, what orientation to attach them in, how to attach them and all the other information you need to build a nice wooden rowboat. So you take the information from the plans and use it to build me the row boat I desire. No problems here?

    Ok, now suppose I say, “I’d like you to build me a boat.” And you say, “Certainly, what kind of boat?” And I point to the wooden row boat on the trailer behind my car and say, “One just like that.”

    So you examine the boat to see what materials it’s made of and you measure the boat to see what shape to cut the materials into and what orientation they’re attached in and how they’re attached and you use that information to build me a nice wooden rowboat, just like the one I showed you.

    No plans involved, no written information at all. No language needed. You took the information you needed to build the boat directly from the first boat.

    But how could you do that unless all of the information you needed to build the second boat already existed in the first boat? Existed in the materials used, the shapes of the materials, their orientation, the way they were attached, etc?

    Same-same molecules in the cell. (And in tgpeeler’s rock.)

    Does that make things clearer?

  199. tgpeeler @ 196 First things first: it really doesn’t matter how you came to exist. You are what you are. If you suddenly realized you evolved, it wouldn’t change a hair on your head or a thought in your brain. (Excepting those thoughts that concern your origin and maybe your religion.)

    Ditto if you suddenly realized you were created by space aliens in their PoofOMatic Organic Realizer. Your hair would stay the same, ditto your eye color, your height, weight, IQ and everything else that is important.

    As far as being made in the image of God, having read the Bible and examined the world He is alleged to have made, I would not want to be anything like the God of Abraham, at least as far as morals are concerned.

    The only way your behavior would change if you turned out to be created would be if you were some sort of a psycho who was only holding himself back from committing murder and mayhem by the thought that God was watching him. You don’t seem to be any kind of a psycho, so you would still be the same loveable tgpeeler, even if you have evolved or been poofed into existence by space aliens.

    On the origin of life. It’s not just the laws of physics that determine everything. Without matter, time and space, the laws of physics have nothing to work on and are ineffective.

    What we need for the first life is something that reproduces itself and is simple enough to form by chance. That first something has to be material and it has to form under the laws of physics. Once we have reproduction, Darwinian evolution can begin and ratchet new data in to the genome (or whatever passes for a genome in the first reproducing thing.)

    Three billion base-pairs in the human genome and at least 3.8 billion years since life began. That’s less than one pase-pair to be added each year. Less than two bits of data per year. Easy.

    I’ll write more when I see your reaction to my boat-builder explanation of embedded information.

  200. djmullen:
    “But how could you do that unless all of the information you needed to build the second boat already existed in the first boat? Existed in the materials used, the shapes of the materials, their orientation, the way they were attached, etc?”

    … which doesn’t arise (isn’t defined) from any of the physical properties of the materials used. In fact, Aristotle utilized this exact illustration to make a very similar point about the effects of intelligence.

    The “the materials used, the shapes of the materials, their orientation, the way they were attached” does not result from any law of physics — mathematical descriptions of regularities emerging from the physical properties of the materials used. Thus, the information about the organization existing in the first boat is not defined by and does not result from the laws of physics. From here, we can carry on with the rest of tgpeeler’s argument.

    Are you seriously not getting this yet?!?!?!?

  201. djmullen,

    Can you provide any evidence that the “the materials used, the shapes of the materials, their orientation, the way they were attached” in the above example will arise from law+chance absent any intellignce?

    Why would we expect that if those properties are neither defined by law nor randomness (chance). Simply put, the same goes for life.

  202. djmullen,

    The information from the first boat was put there by its designer(s) and builder(s).

    All the third party is doing is trying to extract THAT information in order to make the requested boat.

    IOW the boat’s information isn’t the materials.

  203. So you examine the boat to see what materials it’s made of and you measure the boat to see what shape to cut the materials into and what orientation they’re attached in and how they’re attached and you use that information to build me a nice wooden rowboat, just like the one I showed you.
    No plans involved, no written information at all. No language needed. You took the information you needed to build the boat directly from the first boat.

    How do you measure without numbers or some sort of measuring device? How do you distinguish between one material and another? Is the replication process the same as the initial construction, or would you have to also design and create new tools? By what sort of trial and error do you determine the order of assembly? As you proceed in that trial-and-error process, how do you record the failed attempts so as to improve upon them?
    If it’s plausible that this could be done without language, then perhaps we could get a monkey to do it.

  204. djmullen @199

    I don’t believe I have much to add to the other responses concerning the boat copying thought experiment except to say that this line of argument is illustrative of what I and others are trying to argue against. You smuggled in design by “hiding” it in the first boat and pretending that no information would be required in building the copy. But this is clearly false.

    This is a typical move that I find very frustrating because it’s intellectually dishonest. When we argue from premises to conclusion we need to start our arguments at the BEGINNING. Otherwise, as I’ll show you in a moment, you sneak things in that you don’t really have (design, purpose, intelligence) but that your argument requires that you have. So since you deny those things, but you need those things, you hide them by starting in the middle.

    You said: “What we need for the first life is something that reproduces itself and is simple enough to form by chance. That first something has to be material and it has to form under the laws of physics. Once we have reproduction, Darwinian evolution can begin and ratchet new data in to the genome (or whatever passes for a genome in the first reproducing thing.)

    Three billion base-pairs in the human genome and at least 3.8 billion years since life began. That’s less than one pase-pair to be added each year. Less than two bits of data per year. Easy.”

    Let’s take a look and see if I can make my point with what you wrote here. You say that what we need (indicating that your theory cannot stand on evidence and reason alone, but that you need something else) is something that reproduces itself. This is vintage Dawkins. You then assert, without argument, that it has to be material and it has to form under the laws of physics. But I and others have spent tens of thousands of words showing you how physics cannot account for life because it can’t account for information. It’s impossible because information is abstract and physics deals with the material world. Physics will never explain information because that’s not what physics does. If I had to explain the rules of tennis to you but all I had access to was the rules of golf then could I ever explain tennis? Of course not. The materialists are in that same predicament.

    You say that once things get going (another perfect example of starting in the middle – just assume what you need to have without any justification) THEN evolution can kick in and “rachet new information into the genome (or whatever passes for a genome…). You see, it’s things like this that used to, as of two days ago, make crazy with anger because it’s so, so, stupid. My God djm, think about it. Please. There is so much lacking in this “explanation” that it tires me to even think of identifying every error. But here are a couple. You say that the first life needs to be “simple enough to form by chance.” But there is no such thing as simple life. Let me say that again. There is no such thing as simple life. Do an internet search and you will find that the simplest possible form of life still needs around (estimates vary) 300 or so genes. That’s genes, each of which can be anywhere from several hundred to thousands of base pairs long. The odds of getting those base pairs in just the right order are impossible to overcome. If we say that each gene is only 100 base pairs long then times 300 genes we have 30,000 base pairs that need to be lined up just right. Since each base pair can be one of four nucleotides, A,T,C, or G, that is 4 ^ 30,000 power possible combinations of base pairs. You can convert that to scientific notation by taking the log of both sides and then you have 30,000 x .6 (which is the log of 4) or 24,000. So there are 10^24,000 power possible combinations of base pairs and you think you are going to get one right by chance???? Even if every atom in the universe was a nucleotide that is only 10^80th power and if they combined at Planck speed 10^43 for the entire time the universe has been in existence 10^17 you only have 10^140 possible “correct” answers. So you are still talking odds of .000 plus over 23,000 more zeroes before you get to your 1. Seriously man, are you kidding me? There’s no way that CAN HAPPEN. Yet you blithely dismiss that by saying “all we need is simple life” and then you move right along with the rest of your argument as if you’d actually gotten somewhere.

    Then you say that the human genome has 3 billion base pairs but we have 3.8 billion years so that’s less than one base pair a year – EASY. Deep breath. Relax. (Not you, me.) This, again, completely demonstrates that you have zero grasp of the issues that you are trying to explain. Quite honestly I am really surprised by this post since I thought you knew better. A lot better. Anyway, you make no reference to the mechanism that is allegedly adding these base pairs. You make no mention of WHY “nature” would add base pairs. You make no mention of the fact that the base pairs have to be FUNCTIONAL for the organism to survive. So you just can’t add a base pair, wait a year, add another, and so on. It takes thousands of base pairs to build a protein, much less a human being.

    Anyway, man, I’m really just kind of sad about this. And the “funny” thing is, you’ve STILL never addressed even one part of my argument. Not one. Of course, I started at the beginning, reasoned impeccably if I do say so myself, with a universally agreed to scientific truth, that life and information are inseparable. You have dodged that and dodged that and now are reduced to the vaguest sort of hand waving explanations that only expose the vacuity of your position. I’d either go after my argument or give it up, if it was me.

  205. CJYman @ 200
    djmullen: “But how could you do that unless all of the information you needed to build the second boat already existed in the first boat? Existed in the materials used, the shapes of the materials, their orientation, the way they were attached, etc?”

    … which doesn’t arise (isn’t defined) from any of the physical properties of the materials used.

    I’m not talking about how the information arose, I’m trying to get past the ‘you need language and symbols to transfer information’ fallacy.

    CJYman @ 201
    “Can you provide any evidence that the “the materials used, the shapes of the materials, their orientation, the way they were attached” in the above example will arise from law+chance absent any intellignce?”

    This whole min-thread was set off by tgpeeler’s message # 48:

    “So, if we want to explain life then we need to explain information. Now, if we want to explain information, we must explain language. For without language there is no information. This is a matter of definition. Languages are what encode information into physical substrates and enable it to be decoded on the receiving end. If you think that you, or anyone, or anything, can generate information apart from a language you just haven’t thought about it very hard.”

    My point is that language is in no way necessary for information. You can have information without language, you can use it without language, you can copy it into a physical substrate and you can copy it into another device or cell without language. I think the boat example makes that clear.

    The boat example isn’t about generating information because rowboats are obviously intelligently designed. Information is generated by mutation, however, and natural selection discards the non-useful info.

    Dembski actually covers generating information in his first book, which I have somewhere, but it’s on the bottom of a very large pile. He copied the relevant paragraphs and put them on line somewhere, but I haven’t had enough time to find them yet.

    Basically, he says something like this: Suppose you have a string, such as “ABCDEFG”. If you copy that string, so you have

    ABCDEFG
    ABCDEFG

    you haven’t made any extra information, you’ve just made two copies of what you had. (Some people who know more about information theory than I do dispute this, by the way, but I’m going with Dembski’s definition here.)

    But if you change one of the strings as you copy it, like this:

    ABCDEFG
    AACDEFG

    you’ve generated new information because you never had the string “AACDEFG” before.

    That’s what I mean when I say that mutation creates new information. If you have a chunk of DNA that goes

    CATGCAT and mutation changes it to
    CATTCAT you have new information

    because CATTCAT didn’t exist before.

    And as I’ve said before, natural selection tests this new information by trying to use it to run a cell. If the cell runs ok, the new information is complex specified information. If it doesn’t run as well or doesn’t run at all, the new information is just noise and it’s discarded.

    I’m not sure what you mean by, “if those properties are neither defined by law nor randomness (chance).” In the DNA example, the new information is manufactured by chance (mutation) and then tested by law (natural selection).

    joseph @ 202: See above.

  206. ScottAndrews @ 203:

    “How do you measure without numbers or some sort of measuring device?”

    You can use a measuring device. Calipers and and one of those adjustable angle thingies should do the work without language.

    “How do you distinguish between one material and another?”
    By looking at it. You can compare it to various materials if you want to.

    “Is the replication process the same as the initial construction, or would you have to also design and create new tools?”

    Replication is easier since you don’t have to design it too. If you need to make some new tools, you can do it without language or symbols. At least apes and birds design tools and birds, at least, aren’t supposed to have symbols.

    “By what sort of trial and error do you determine the order of assembly?”

    I’d start with the keel, but if you have the time, start anywhere. You’ll get it right eventually.

    “As you proceed in that trial-and-error process, how do you record the failed attempts so as to improve upon them?”

    No need to, if you’ve got plenty of time. Otherwise, record them by not destroying the failed attempts.

    “If it’s plausible that this could be done without language, then perhaps we could get a monkey to do it.”

    Probably.

  207. tgpeeler @ 204:
    “You smuggled in design by “hiding” it in the first boat and pretending that no information would be required in building the copy. But this is clearly false.”

    See my message # 205. I wasn’t trying to illustrate the generation of information, I’m concerned with your claims that language is necessary for information. I think I’ve shown that it isn’t.

    “This is a typical move that I find very frustrating because it’s intellectually dishonest.”

    A common complaint from people who don’t understand the subject under discussion. If what I say doesn’t conform to your misunderstanding, it seems false. You are certainly not the only person on UD who does this and you’re much more polite than some.

    “You say that what we need (indicating that your theory cannot stand on evidence and reason alone, but that you need something else) is something that reproduces itself. This is vintage Dawkins.”

    It’s vintage evolutionary theory. Evolution absolutely requires a reproducing group or at least a single organism that reproduces faster than the environment kills it and its offspring. Without that, it cannot possibly work. You have to have reproduction because defects in reproduction (mutations) feed new information into the organisms. You have to have a very fast reproducer or a group of reproducers because many mutations are going to kill the offspring and if you don’t have a second offspring to take its place or can’t produce a second offspring to take its place before you get killed, that’s it. There’s nothing left to reproduce. This principle goes back to Darwin and has been a bedrock portion of evolutionary theory for the last 150 years.

    “You then assert, without argument, that it has to be material …”

    Since all life is material, I think we can assume the first living thing was material.

    “… and it has to form under the laws of physics. But I and others have spent tens of thousands of words showing you how physics cannot account for life because it can’t account for information.”

    You say that because you have a very restricted view of what information is. It’s much more than thoughts, symbols or language. It exists independently of all of them and it existed long before any of them. Language and symbols are a way human minds represent information that is in the external world. There is information in that rowboat and you can copy it into another boat.

    “It’s impossible because information is abstract and physics deals with the material world.”

    The information in your mind and in books and electronic messages is abstract, but there’s much more information than that.

    “Physics will never explain information because that’s not what physics does.”

    Agreed. The “explanations” are found in the organisms that embody the information. Is a new DNA pattern meaningful or just noise? All of the physics in the world can’t tell you. You have to try it out in an organism to see what it does.

    “You say that the first life needs to be “simple enough to form by chance.” But there is no such thing as simple life. Let me say that again. There is no such thing as simple life. Do an internet search and you will find that the simplest possible form of life still needs around (estimates vary) 300 or so genes.”

    This is where evolutionists start grinding their teeth in frustration. EVERY thing alive today, from the simplest cell to a blue whale is the product of at least 3.8 billion years of evolution.

    It just gripes us no end when somebody points at a cell under a microscope and says, “That’s way too complicted to have formed by chance.” It is! Hooray! We agree on something!

    When a biologist, evolutionist or any other person familiar with the subject talks about the first living thing, we are talking about something dirt simple, something that can do only one thing: copy itself at least a little bit faster than the environment breaks it down.

    No metabolism, no enzymes to speed up the reactions, possibly no cell wall and just a simple oily bubble if there is one. Dirt simple. Very possibly a single molecule, if not then a collection of just a few molecules. Dirt. Simple. Low Information. One single skill: reproduction. So little information embedded in it that it can form by chance.

    Once you’ve got a population of these dirt simple reproducers, Darwinian evolution can start ratcheting improvements into them.

    “Anyway, you make no reference to the mechanism that is allegedly adding these base pairs.”

    Darwin named it: Variation and Natural Selection. Mutations of DNA and Natural Selection in modern life.

    “Anyway, you make no reference to the mechanism that is allegedly adding these base pairs.”

    Copying errors (mutations) add them.

    ” You make no mention of the fact that the base pairs have to be FUNCTIONAL for the organism to survive.”

    Natural selection tests every single added base pair as soon as it’s added. If they don’t have a useful function, then they’re outta the genome.

    “Anyway, man, I’m really just kind of sad about this. And the “funny” thing is, you’ve STILL never addressed even one part of my argument. Not one. Of course, I started at the beginning, reasoned impeccably if I do say so myself, with a universally agreed to scientific truth, that life and information are inseparable. You have dodged that and dodged that and now are reduced to the vaguest sort of hand waving explanations that only expose the vacuity of your position. I’d either go after my argument or give it up, if it was me.”

    It seems that way to you because you don’t understand the argument. You’re wrong about too many things, so my explanations don’t jibe with the rest of your “knowledge”, so it sounds false to you. That’s a very, very common thing in ID.

  208. djmullen, I will get back to you on this. too many other irons right now. i hope by Sunday evening.

  209. Fine with me.

  210. Let’s do this your way. You tell me, one thing at a time, what I am wrong about and I will explain myself. That way we will stay focused on one thing and one thing only until it gets resolved and we can move on to the next thing. Right now we are all over the map and there are too many issues on the table to deal with them all at once. If this is ok with you then that’s what we’ll do.

  211. Or not. :-)

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