“The Front-Loading Fiction”
|July 1, 2009||Posted by William Dembski under Intelligent Design, Science|
Here’s a neat article on front-loading:
The Front-loading Fiction
Posted by Rob on Wednesday, July 01, 2009 5:49:41 PM
SOURCE: The Procrustean — A Blog of Townhall.com
In responding to an email about “front-loading” as a Deistic solution to the universe that does not require an interventionist (theist) God, I replied that I have some philosophical problems with the phrase “front-loading”. It is a concession to Deism that doesn’t have to be made. Trying to describe a “front-loaded algorithm” highlights the problem with the philosophical solution.
Historically, the argument for front-loading came from Laplacian determinism based on a Newtonian or mechanical universe–if one could control all the initial conditions, then the outcome was predetermined. First quantum mechanics, and then chaos-theory has basically destroyed it, since no amount of precision can control the outcome far in the future. (The exponential nature of the precision required to predetermine the outcome exceeds the information storage of the medium.)
But “front-loading” permitted Deists to say that God designed the Universe, and then stepped back and let “natural” forces operate, thereby removing any “supernatural” interference of the sort that Lucretius fumed about in 50BC. So if Newtonian determinism was now impossible, perhaps there could be some sort of algorithmic determinism (which I’ll call Turing determinism) which could step in and permit a Deist to avoid the supernatural. That is, God doesn’t have to create the oak from the acorn anymore, but the biological program He inserted in the acorn can handle all the intermediate steps. So perhaps, God didn’t have to create humans, but the biological program in the first living cell He created, started the ecosystem that eventually evolved humans.
This remains, of course, the principle argument of theistic evolutionists, and was Howard Van Till’s favored method before he stopped teaching at Calvin College and gave up on theism.
But this argument assumes that one can separate algorithms from the machinery that executes them, the information from the storage medium, the supernaturally contingent from the naturally necessary. The Newtonian revolution was to view the universe as a complicated machine where “natural” laws were the function of the machinery, and “supernatural” interference was information not incorporated into the gears. The fact that a watch tells time was “natural”, whereas the setting to Eastern Standard Time was “supernatural” because it was contingent.
ID (Intelligent Design) makes the argument that the gears are just as supernatural as the time zone, because they are designed to function in a certain way. But such an argument doesn’t escape the TE (Theistic Evolutionist) defense that the time zone setting is just as “natural” as the gears, because there were no laws of nature broken. This would all be semantics, if it were not for the corollary, that ID claims to probe the character of the designer by studying the design, whereas TE claims that front-loading is indistinguishable from chance, making the designer inscrutable. (Which keeps his faith transcendentally Kantian, and science a-theistically independent of God.)
But is it true that algorithmic front-loading can be naturalistic, independent of God, Turing-deterministic, and thus incapable of revealing anything about a living God?
I’d like to make the argument that Turing determinism is impossible for several reasons, and therefore front-loading is indistinguishable from the supernatural, from the actions of God intervening in history.