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The Odds That End: Stephen Meyer’s Rebuttal Of The Chance Hypothesis

The Andes mountains opened up on both sides of us as we drove on one July afternoon along a highway that links Quito, the capital of Ecuador, with the smaller town of Ambato almost three hours further south. The setting sun shone head-on upon two volcanic giants- Tungurahua and Cotopaxi with its snow covered peak just visible through the cordillera. I had traveled along this road many times in previous years and had been repeatedly awe-struck by the sheer beauty of the surrounding land. Today fields extend as far as the eye can see, with the lights of small communities and villages illuminating the mountain slopes.

Volcanoes that periodically eject dangerous lava flows are a rich source of soil nutrients for Ecuadorian farmers. Still, in the eyes of organic chemists such as Claudia Huber and Guenter Wachtershauser there exists a more pressing reason for studying the world’s ‘lava spewers’- one that has everything to do with the unguided manufacture of prebiotic compounds (1). Huber and Wachtershauser’s 2006 Science write-up on the synthesis of amino acids using potassium cyanide and carbon monoxide mixtures was heralded as groundbreaking primarily because of the ‘multiplicity of pathways’ through which biotic components could be made using these simple volcanic compounds (1).

Others have similarly weighed in with their own thoughts on volcanic origins (2-6). In the words of one notable Russian research team “the opportunity to define the pressure and temperature limits of [volcanic] microbiological activity as well as constrain its rate of evolution in a primordial environment is an exciting one, with implications for the origin of life on earth and existence of life elsewhere in the solar system” (3).

Whether it be Darwin’s warm little pond or contemporary speculations over life-seeding environments we see in both a search for continuity from the non-living to the living- a search that was exemplified in Walt Disney’s color and sound extravaganza Fantasia almost seventy years ago. Disney popularized origin of life theories by artistically proclaiming that volcanoes exploding and comets colliding were all that were needed to get life under way. According to such a portrayal the evolution of more complex multi-cellular forms would then naturally follow (7). Disney enthusiasts will no doubt find comfort in the decade-old New York Times prescription for a life-yielding brew:

“Drop a handful of fool’s gold (the mineral iron pyrites) and a sprinkle of nickel into water, stir in a strong whiff of rotten eggs (caused by the gas hydrogen sulfide) and carbon monoxide, heat mixture near the crackle and hiss of a volcano and let simmer for an eon.” (8)

Along a similar thread, journalist Tony Fitzpatrick cavalierly asserted that “conditions favorable for hydrocarbon synthesis also could be favorable for other life ingredients and complex organic polymers, leading…eventually to all sorts of cells and diverse organisms” (9). Of course skeptics of such depictions have their own armory of scientifically-valid reasons for denying that naturalistic earth models could have given us anything more than a geothermal sludge.

Perhaps the most persuasive of these comes from philosopher Stephen Meyer who in his most recent book Signature In The Cell supplied a mathematical treatise on the synthesis of bio-molecules (10). Following in the footsteps of fellow ID advocate William Dembski, Meyer has done us all a great service by showing how the chance assembly of a 150 amino-acid protein (1 in 10exp164) pales in front of the available probabilistic resources of our universe (10exp139 is the maximum number of events that could have occurred since the big bang) (10). In other words, we are stopped dead in our tracks by a probabilistic impasse of the highest order before we have even begun assessing the geological plausibility of competing origin of life scenarios.

The scientific method commits us to finding the best explanation for the phenomena we observe. Drawing from the opinions of NIH biologist Peter Mora, Meyer shows us how the chance hypothesis- that purports to explain how life arose without recourse to design or necessity- has been found wanting particularly in light of the ever-growing picture of the complexity of the cell (10). But the debate-clincher in Meyer’s expose comes from his comprehensive summarization of the bellyaches associated with chemist Stanley Miller’s controversial spark discharge apparatus (10).

Former colleagues of Miller concede that the highly reducing conditions he used in his experiments could not have been the mainstay of prebiotic earth (4). Nevertheless they further posit that localized atmospheric conditions around volcanic plums may have been reducing after all and that these could have given rise to life-seeding compounds (4). In their assessment:

“Even if the overall atmosphere was not reducing, localized prebiotic synthesis could have been effective. Reduced gases and lightning associated with volcanic eruptions in hot spots or island arc-type systems could have been prevalent on the early Earth before extensive continents formed. In these volcanic plumes, HCN, aldehydes, and ketones may have been produced, which, after washing out of the atmosphere, could have become involved in the synthesis of organic molecules. Amino acids formed in volcanic island systems could have accumulated in tidal areas, where they could be polymerized by carbonyl sulfide, a simple volcanic gas that has been shown to form peptides under mild conditions.” (4)

Of course with so many ‘could-haves’ and ‘may-haves’ such a picture leaves us sitting on a vacuous flow of speculation rather than on a substantive bedrock of firm evidence. For seasoned biologist David Deamer the realization of implausibility, at least for a direct volcanic origin, comes from his own direct observations:

“Deamer carried with him a version of the “primordial soup”- a mixture of compounds like those a meteorite could have delivered to the early Earth, including a fatty acid, amino acids, phosphate, glycerol, and the building blocks of nucleic acids. Finding a promising-looking boiling pool on the flanks of an active volcano, he poured the mixture in and then took samples from the pool at various intervals for analysis back in the lab at UCSC. The results were strikingly negative: life did not emerge, no membranes assembled themselves, and no amino acids combined into proteins. Instead, the added chemicals quickly vanished, mostly absorbed by clay particles in the pool. Instead of supporting life, the bubbling pool had snuffed it out before it began.” (6)

Not only has Meyer’s probabilistic analysis supplied us with the odds that end the discussion for ‘chance-philes’, but contemporary extravagations over prebiotic earth have done nothing to bolster their credibility. We are left with little choice but to discard chance as a serious contender in the ‘life origins’ debate.

Literature Cited
1. Claudia Huber and Guenter Wachtersheuser (2006) a-Hydroxy and a-Amino Acids Under Possible Hadean, Volcanic Origin-of-Life Conditions, Science, Vol 314, pp. 630-632

2. A.J Teague, T.M Seward, A.P Gize, T. Hall (2005) The Organic Chemistry of Volcanoes: Case Studies at Cerro Negro, Nicaragua and Oldoinyo Lengai, Tanzania, American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2005, abstract #B23D-04

3.John Eichelberger, Alexey Kiryukhin, and Adam Simon (2009) The Magma-Hydrothermal System at Mutnovsky Volcano, Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, Scientific Drilling, No. 7, March , 2009, pp. 54-59

4. Adam Johnson, H. James Cleaves, Jason Dworkin, Daniel Glavin, Antonio Lazcano, Jeffrey L. Bada (2008) The Miller Volcanic Spark Discharge Experiment. Science 17 October 2008: Vol. 322, p. 404

5. David Grinspoon (2009) This Volcano Loves You, Denver Museum Of Nature & Science, COMMunity Blogs, See http://community.dmns.org/blogs/planetwaves/archive/2009/03/19/this-volcano-loves-you.aspx

6.Chandra Shekhar (2006) Chemist explores the membranous origins of the first living cell, UC Santa Cruz, Currents Online, See http://currents.ucsc.edu/05-06/04-03/deamer.asp

7.Fantasia, Walt Disney Home Video, Copyright by the Walt Disney Company, 1940

8. Nicholas Wade (1999) Evidence Backs Theory Linking Origins of Life to Volcanoes, New York Times, Friday, April 11, 1997

9.Tony Fitzpatrick (2000) Life’s origins: Researchers find intriguing possibility in volcanic gases, http://record.wustl.edu/archive/2000/04-20-00/articles/origins.html

10. Stephen Meyer (2009) Signature In The Cell: DNA And The Evidence For Intelligent Design, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, pp. 215-228

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400 Responses to The Odds That End: Stephen Meyer’s Rebuttal Of The Chance Hypothesis

  1. Mr Deyes,

    What a pity that Dr Deamer was noot working under more controlled conditions in that vignette of him pouring chemicals into a volcanic pool. All that the story teaches us is that the clays have to be saturated, which would have been likely if an eruption was dumping these chemicals into the environment, not a scientist with a test tube!

    BTW, you were awe-struck by the sheer beauty of the mountains, not awe-stricken by their shear beauty, unless someone had recently given them a haircut.

  2. A haircut that made you ill:

    Stricken: Seriously affected by an undesirable condition or unpleasant feeling.

  3. Not only has Meyer’s probabilistic analysis supplied us with the odds that end the discussion for ‘chance-philes’, but contemporary extravagations over prebiotic earth have done nothing to bolster their credibility. We are left with little choice but to discard chance as a serious contender in the ‘life origins’ debate.

    That would be premature.

    Dr Deamer’s little experiment provides useful evidence for the hypothesis that it is extremely difficult for pre-biotic chemicals to form viable proteins over a very short timescale in one or a few volcanic pools. We should be cautious about extrapolating from that to the outcome of uncounted billions of such ‘experiments’ conducted by Nature over long periods of geologic time.

    As for the “probabilistic resources” of the Universe, apart from being wary of the Hoyle fallacy or of being Dazzled by Very Big Numbers, we should remember what is being said by an estimate of probability.

    If the odds of my winning a state lottery are calculated at 1 in 15 million, it means that in order to be certain of winning any one draw I would have to buy 15 million tickets. However, people have won such lotteries after having bought only a few tickets or even just one ticket on their very first try.

    The same is true of protein formation in primordial volcanic pools. If it is even possible for them to form and survive in such conditions, then it might have occurred very early in the Earth’s history or, more probably, it took much more time.

    In any event, even if that particular source of abiogenesis is ruled out, we should not proceed to invoke some sort of extraterrestrial or divine intelligence as a cause until we have excluded all other possible naturalistic origins.

  4. Robert Deyes: For seasoned biologist David Deamer the realization of implausibility, at least for a direct volcanic origin, comes from his own direct observations …

    This is what Deamer said:

    J. P. Dworkin, D. W. Deamer, S. A. Sandford, and L. J. Allamandola. 2001. Self-assembling amphiphilic molecules: Synthesis in simulated interstellar/precometary ices. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA

    we report here that a complex mixture of molecules is produced by UV photolysis of realistic, interstellar ice analogs, and that some of the components have properties relevant to the origin of life, including the ability to self-assemble into vesicular structures

    And:

    Deamer D, Dworkin JP, Sandford SA, Bernstein MP, Allamandola LJ. The first cell membranes. 2002. Astrobiology.

    The first forms of cellular life required self-assembled membranes that were likely to have been produced from amphiphilic compounds on the prebiotic Earth. Laboratory simulations show that such vesicles readily encapsulate functional macromolecules, including nucleic acids and polymerases.

    In other words, vesicles *can* spontaneously assemble, but not in ionic pools. You were saying that they can’t assemble *here* while ignoring that they can assemble *there*.

    Robert Deyes: Whether it be Darwin’s warm little pond or contemporary speculations over life-seeding environments we see in both a search for continuity from the non-living to the living- a search that was exemplified in Walt Disney’s color and sound extravaganza Fantasia almost seventy years ago.

    I believe Disney et al.’s results have been superceded; however, their field work on wildlife is still considered seminal.

  5. If the odds of my winning a state lottery are calculated at 1 in 15 million, it means that in order to be certain of winning any one draw I would have to buy 15 million tickets.

    You would have to buy 15 million tickets with 15 million different numbers. Good luck doing that without using an intelligent agent.

  6. You would have to buy 15 million tickets with 15 million different numbers. Good luck doing that without using an intelligent agent.

    If we are talking about a lottery where you choose the numbers, then it is up to you. If you are thinking of a lottery with scratch off tickets, the first patent for designing them to insure that feature is held by John Koza, who also invented the evolutionary algorithm genetic programming.

  7. Seversky:

    It’s not unusual for a lottery, having a one-in-millions chance of winning, to be won by someone who only purchased a handful of tickets, because millions of other people purchase tickets as well. We hear about the winner, and not about the losers, and we don’t hear much about the weeks in which nobody wins.

    The spontaneous transition of non-life to life is more like a lottery with a 10^164 chance of winning, for which only 10^139 tickets have been sold. Those odds are many billions of times slimmer than any lottery now in operation.

  8. The spontaneous transition of non-life to life is more like a lottery with a 10^164 chance of winning, for which only 10^139 tickets have been sold. Those odds are many billions of times slimmer than any lottery now in operation.

    Are these numbers just pulled from the air, or do you have any basis for them?

  9. Heinrich, see the original post above:

    Meyer has done us all a great service by showing how the chance assembly of a 150 amino-acid protein (1 in 10exp164) pales in front of the available probabilistic resources of our universe (10exp139 is the maximum number of events that could have occurred since the big bang) (10)

    Chance assembly of a 150 amino sequenced protein: 1 in 10^164 (20 acid residues in a 150 residue chain, minus varietal mitigating factors such as multiple targets).

    Number of trials in the universe since the beginning of time: 10^139 (probably something like (planck time) * (age of universe) * (atoms in universe)).

    Remaining for a chance assembly of a viable chain: 1 in 10^25 or ten trillion trillion. This assumes extremely favorable conditions.

  10. Are these numbers just pulled from the air, or do you have any basis for them?

    These are the numbers pulled from the post on which you are commenting:

    Following in the footsteps of fellow ID advocate William Dembski, Meyer has done us all a great service by showing how the chance assembly of a 150 amino-acid protein (1 in 10exp164) pales in front of the available probabilistic resources of our universe (10exp139 is the maximum number of events that could have occurred since the big bang) (10).

    Under (10) in the references, we have 10. Stephen Meyer (2009) Signature In The Cell: DNA And The Evidence For Intelligent Design, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, pp. 215-228

    That’s where I would start looking for the basis for these numbers…

  11. In other words, vesicles *can* spontaneously assemble, but not in ionic pools. You were saying that they can’t assemble *here* while ignoring that they can assemble *there*.

    The fact that a vesicle *can* spontaneously assemble, whether *here* or *there* misses just a few important points.

    What point is there to vesicle formation if it doesn’t contribute the overall “project” of the OOL. Vesicles by themselves are useless.

    So what would be required to makea vesicle “useful” in the quest for life, and what is it that brings about the appropriate conditions whereby vesicles begin to server a purpose or function, rather than just existing as a mere vesicle?

    This doesn’t even take into consideration just how *unlike* a cell membrane a vesicle is.

    http://www.godandscience.org/e.....rXQTf2T8y3

    http://www.reasons.org/biotic-.....r-scrutiny

  12. Robert Deyes: Following in the footsteps of fellow ID advocate William Dembski, Meyer has done us all a great service by showing how the chance assembly of a 150 amino-acid protein (1 in 10exp164) pales in front of the available probabilistic resources of our universe (10exp139 is the maximum number of events that could have occurred since the big bang).

    That makes a number of erroneous assumptions:

    * Protein-first abiogenesis (rejected by nearly everyone in the field).
    * Exactly one possible 150 aa protein.
    * No possible intermediate steps.

  13. Mr Heinrich,

    Are these numbers just pulled from the air, or do you have any basis for them?

    10^-164 is broken down by Dr Meyer as
    10^-74 – the probability of functionality in the AA sequence
    10^-45 – the probability of the AAs only forming peptide bonds
    10^-45 – the probability of only using one chirality for all 150 AAs

    The important point is that this is a calculation, not an experiment.

  14. I have newer understood the intermediate steps argument when it comes to OOL could someone explain briefly what it means to me? Thanks.

  15. @Zachriel: That makes a number of erroneous assumptions:

    * Protein-first abiogenesis (rejected by nearly everyone in the field).

    But then, every abiogenesis hypothesis that has been developed into any detail is rejected by nearly everyone who’s willing to look at it realistically. Yet the field remains. If Meyer helps to accurately point out the hopelessness of one hypothesis, he has done the field a service.

    * Exactly one possible 150 aa protein.

    According to Nakashima, Meyer’s numbers claim to represent the probability of *any* functional (AA) protein.

    * No possible intermediate steps.

    In order for intermediate steps to help, they have to first be preserved so that they can be built upon. Meyer points out in his book that the minimal mechanisms for preserving intermediate steps require many, many complex specified proteins to be present in the correct proportions and properly assembled. Thus intermediate steps do not help abiogenesis.

  16. Oops, I meant “of *any* functional (150 AA) protein.”

  17. Mr lars,

    Mr Zachriel and I agree, Dr Meyer is assuming that only one 150 AA protein has that function.

  18. The probability argument is so daunting that any attempt to get to the current system of life is impossible. A trillion to the trillionth power of universes or time is not enough (maybe a little hyperbole here but I bet not much.) The only possible salvation is that the system we have is just one amongst an incredibly large number of other possible systems.

    Then the fact that we are here is that the luck of the dice just led to this system out of the incredibly large number of possibilities. The new daunting task is to show that there are other independent systems that would produce sentient life or at least a cell type replicating system. Then one can say well someone has to win the lottery if it is played often enough and we are the happy winners. But they could not say that if we are the only one or only one of a few possibilities.

    But if the research shows that the universe is set up in such a way to produce this form of life then I am afraid this will be an inconvenient finding for Nakashima and all the other Darwinist crew, because such a happenstance will not be too sanguine for the no God crowd. No their only chance is that we are just one of a zillion possible ways of doing it. As I said it is a daunting task.

    Meanwhile Nakashima is busy searching the internet for things that dictate our way not knowing if he will find anything or if he does find it, the information will probably produce a coffin for his dream

  19. Zachriel:

    That makes a number of erroneous assumptions:

    * Protein-first abiogenesis (rejected by nearly everyone in the field).

    You probably haven’t read the book, so this mistake on your part is understandable.

    Meyer is not assuming protein-first abiogenesis. His argument is more nuanced than that.

    His argument has to do with information content, and is equally applicable to any information-bearing macro-molecule, of which a protein is just used as an example. The information in the proteins had to come from somewhere. Pick any conformation of whatever molecules you want, the problem is the same.

  20. Mr Jerry,

    But if the research shows that the universe is set up in such a way to produce this form of life then I am afraid this will be an inconvenient finding for Nakashima and all the other Darwinist crew, because such a happenstance will not be too sanguine for the no God crowd.

    I don’t think so. Knowing that our universe’s physics and chemistry makes life inevitable in certain contexts would energize the search for the parameters that make life inevitable across different choices of parameters. We could easily learn that life is inevitable across many choices of parameters. We’ve already seen this at the level of star formation.

  21. “We could easily learn that life is inevitable across many choices of parameters.”

    Calculations rather than experiments, eh?

    The presence of any life or mind at all is problematic on naturalistic accounts. Determining the “likelihood” of any parameters likely kicks the question out of science and into metaphysics.

    Jerry’s right. Naturalists fight a losing battle on multiple fronts – in the end, some form of theism/deism is the most reasonable conclusion. Some kind of atheism is always possible in a technical sense. But then, so is solipsism.

  22. Mr Nullasalus,

    That depends on your views. For example, when I run a CA, am I starting and stopping a universe of a particular physics and chemistry? I agree that there are limits to computational chemistry, but every experiment with a different atmosphere for the early earth is actually testing the reality of some alternate universe! ;)

  23. nullasalus:

    Jerry’s right. Naturalists fight a losing battle on multiple fronts – in the end, some form of theism/deism is the most reasonable conclusion.

    Monty Python’s black knight couldn’t have said it any better.

  24. Nakashima,

    “That depends on your views. For example, when I run a CA, am I starting and stopping a universe of a particular physics and chemistry?”

    You tell me. If you are literally ‘starting and stopping a universe’ every time you run a computer simulation, then the evidence for “intelligently designed” universes becomes shockingly abundant – every simulation counts as one.

  25. I’ve wanted to go to Quito ever since I read a great biography about Manuela Saenz and Bolivar, The four seasons of Manuela. I recommend it, you’ll want to go to Quito, it really gets romanticized.

  26. Mr Nullasalus,

    I’d be happy with using CAs, especially ones that support self reproducing forms, as examples of intelligently designed universes. An interesting follow-on question is whether the denizens of any such universe could reason to that conclusion.

    I’m not sure why this idea does not get more discussion in the ID community.

  27. Mung: His argument has to do with information content, and is equally applicable to any information-bearing macro-molecule, of which a protein is just used as an example.

    Scientists regularly find ribozymes (catalytic RNA) in random sequence libraries.

  28. lars: But then, every abiogenesis hypothesis that has been developed into any detail is rejected by nearly everyone who’s willing to look at it realistically.

    When one argues against a position no one holds, it’s called a strawman argument.

    lars: Meyer’s numbers claim to represent the probability of *any* functional (AA) protein.

    You are correct. He is actually using Axe’s flawed 2004 study indicating a ratio of functional proteins of 10^-74 or so. We know it’s flawed because we can find functional enzymes in much smaller random sequence libraries.

    The other numbers, for the probability of the formation of peptide bonds and chirality, depend the circumstance of their formation and can’t be relied upon for such an estimate.

    lars: In order for intermediate steps to help, they have to first be preserved so that they can be built upon. Meyer points out in his book that the minimal mechanisms for preserving intermediate steps require many, many complex specified proteins to be present in the correct proportions and properly assembled.

    That wasn’t the claim at issue.

  29. “I don’t think so. Knowing that our universe’s physics and chemistry makes life inevitable in certain contexts would energize the search for the parameters that make life inevitable across different choices of parameters. We could easily learn that life is inevitable across many choices of parameters. We’ve already seen this at the level of star formation.”

    It is nice to see how irrational Nakashima’s faith is. He knows his star formation comment is meaningless. A telling comment. Interesting phenomena. What would drive such illogical behavior when there isn’t any payout for it. I find that that the most extraordinary part of this debate. For the Christian, who sees a reason he is here and a long term goal, faith in something without empirical support is understandable. But an unwavering belief in nothing but randomness without empirical support or logic.

    What would drive such a thing.

  30. jerry: It is nice to see how irrational Nakashima’s faith is.

    Of course, that’s not an actual argument. Let’s try this:

    -
    The first life form on Earth may have been a lucky accident, a natural property of carbon and liquid water, a unique circumstance, seeded by comets, or even a Divine Miracle. But this we do know.

    * Life did not always exist on Earth.
    * Once life began, it evolved and diversified from a primitive, common ancestral population.
    * Living processes are due to chemical interactions.
    * Complex organic molecules can spontaneously assemble under a variety of conditions.

    Much of the earliest history of life is shrouded by the intervening eons and left few physical clues other than life itself. A variety of testable scientific hypothesis have been proposed for aspects of natural abiogenesis, but no complete and satisfactory theory has been proposed. No positive evidence of telic intervention has ever been discovered.

  31. IrynaB –

    Monty Python’s black knight couldn’t have said it any better.

    You should check out this classic post from a few years back.

  32. Life did not always exist on Earth.

    Since we don’t have a definition of life, I’m not sure how we know this.

    I guess you could always argue that the earth has not always existed, therefore it follows that life has not always existed on earth, but even that would not stand up, because it does not at all follow that life has not always existed on earth for as long as the earth has existed.

    Living processes are due to chemical interactions.

    I have no idea what this means.

    Complex organic molecules can spontaneously assemble under a variety of conditions.

    Well, if you ask me, organic molecules are only produced by living systems, so what you have there may look like an organic molecule but may not actually be an organic molecule.

    Scientists regularly find ribozymes (catalytic RNA) in random sequence libraries.

    How large is the library, how complex is the ribozyme, and how specific is the does the sequence have to be?

  33. re. Mung @ 19
    “His argument has to do with information content, and is equally applicable to any information-bearing macro-molecule, of which a protein is just used as an example. The information in the proteins had to come from somewhere. Pick any conformation of whatever molecules you want, the problem is the same.”

    Indeed. This is the problem of information. It seems to me that this is the fatal flaw, both from a logical and an empirical point of view, for the materialist enterprise of trying to account for life.

    If, as Küppers (1990), says, the problem of the origin of life is the problem of the origin of information, and it is, then WHATEVER the proposed explanation, it seems that it is necessary for it to explain what must be explained, that is, information.

    But here lies the rub. If a materialist is intellectually committed (in my experience they have no real intellectual commitments) to the idea that all that is real is material, that is matter and energy, or the physical world, or the natural world, or the things described by the natural sciences, or whatever the latest version of the nonsense is, THEN, the only explanatory resources they have are the laws of physics.

    This is entailed by the very definition of materialism or naturalism. If all that exists is material, then all that exists must be explainable by the laws of physics. (Which are themselves immaterial but that’s another rant for another time – I’ll grant them their insanity on this point for the sake of my argument.) This seems abundantly clear to me.

    But how to explain information (life) when one’s only recourse is to resort to the Standard Model, General Relativity, Quantum Physics, Thermodynamics, String Theory, and so on? The short answer is that physics can never explain information because that’s not what physics addresses. Physics addresses the MATERIAL world. But information is IMMATERIAL, even though it is encoded into a physical substrate. This is the logical problem. We have physics, which explains the material world (quite nicely, if incompletely, so far) but that’s NOT WHAT NEEDS TO BE EXPLAINED. (Sorry for shouting but I can’t help it.) So it looks to me like a category error of Biblical proportions has been made by the materialist. Trying to explain the existence of something they deny exists.

    (This is a typical gambit, to deny the existence of what clearly exists. Design, for instance. Or the moral law. Now design and the moral law may be denied without self-contradiction but in the case of information, it is pretty hard to deny the existence of it even as you use it to deny it.)

    So how does one encode information, anyway? With language, of course. And what is a language? Why it’s a set of symbols accompanied by a set of rules for the arrangement of those symbols. So the chain is now complete. Life – information – language – symbols and rules.

    Now when I say that physics must explain life we can see that what physics must really explain are symbols (the representation of one thing for another) and rules (agreed upon conventions for the arrangement of those symbols) so that information can be encoded in a physical substrate. This substrate can be virtually anything physical from elecrical states in switches in a computer REPRESENTED by 1s and 0s to chemical compounds called nucleic acids and amino acids.

    The argument about whether physics is competent to account for information almost always degenerates into a “yes it can” – “no it can’t” scenario that revolves around various probability calculations.

    I say that this misses the more fundamental point. If one is inclined to make these calculations, then one has already assumed the existence of a set of symbols (DNA/RNA) and a set of rules (genetic code/language). But I think that gives away too much. Before we can even bother with the calculations don’t we have to account for the symbols and the rules? This is the real question.

    So how is it reducible to, or explainable by physics that certain combinations of codons describe and build meaningful, i.e. functional, proteins? There is no physical explanation for why the genetic code is the way it is. It cannot be explained, it is impossible for it to be explained, by reference to physical laws. As Yockey said (2005) “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.” But they don’t.

    Oddly enough, in human experience, information is always and easily explained by “mind.” Which, of course, is another thing that is routinely denied by materialist philosophers of mind. In their case I suspect it may be true.

    In any event, the whole neo-Darwinian thing is not even wrong. Darwin purported to explain the existence of physical structures but that is not what needs to be explained. His explanation, ‘natural selection,’ allegedly did this. With the discovery of genetics in the late 19th and early 20th century the Darwinists realized that they needed to incorporate genetics into the theory and this they did in the latter part of the first half of the twentieth century. The “new and improved” version, called neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory or sometimes the ‘modern synthesis’ still doesn’t even pretend, as far as I can tell, to address the salient issue, information. Ah well, the choir gets it and the others apparently never will so I put this out again with the minimal hope that I will get a rational discussion of this argument instead of the usual ‘well what is information, really?’ or ‘you don’t need language for information’ (really, and how did you even phrase that question then?) or some other nonsense. I could be surprised.

    The empirical problem, which is rendered moot by the logical problem, is that no one can create an algorithm based on physical law that can create meaningful information anyway. Yockey, again, says: “The reason that there are principles of biology that cannot be derived from the laws of physics and chemistry lies simply in the fact that the genetic information content of the genome for constructing even the simplest organisms is much larger than the information content of these laws.”

    The choices with physics are two. There is the analog world of general relativity governed by law and there is the digital and probabilistic world of quantum physics (also governed by law but in a different way). So we have two “ways” to create information with physics. We can do it with law or chance. Law is immediately out since contingency is required for the creation of information. I have to be able to choose from among the letters on my keyboard to encode information. If an algorithm based on physical law, say gravity, drives my selection of letters, it will always be the same letter selected. Therefore no information. If governed by chance, say if there were some way to associate the decay of a radioactive element with various times that could then be associated with a symbol set, then we could theoretically use that method to see if we could get information. But the odds are impossible to overcome. If we assume the ASCII character set which is, I believe, 128 characters, less the 33 non-printing control characters, that gives us 94 printable charactes plus a space. Let’s call it 100 just to simplify the math. So the odds of getting a 500 character string of meaningful information can be calculated by taking the number of possible strings of meaningful characters divided by the number of possible strings. Let’s do the denominator first.

    There are 100^500 possibilities for the denominator. In scientific notation that is 10^5000. Let’s say, to be as generous as possible, that EVERY atom in the observable universe represents a meaningful string of characters. That would be 10^80 meaningful strings. So the calculation is now 10^80 divided by 10^5000 which equals 10^-4920. This number is not even comprehensible by human minds. Yet some people will INSIST that not only is it “possible” but they also insist that it is “scientific” and “intellectually respectable” to necessarily rely on such odds. hee hee. This is not about the intellect, sports fans, its about the rebellion of the will. It’s about the denial of God in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Aaah, the futile enterprise of reasoning with people who reject the authority of reason. Why DO we do it???

  34. Zachriel: Life did not always exist on Earth.

    Mung: Since we don’t have a definition of life, I’m not sure how we know this.

    Just because there are equivocal cases doesn’t mean that life has no definition. Indeed, the fact that there are plausible intermediates is what is expected if life emerged in steps from a prebiotic existence. For some time after the Earth’s formation, it was too hot for life to exist.

    Mung: Well, if you ask me, organic molecules are only produced by living systems, so what you have there may look like an organic molecule but may not actually be an organic molecule.

    “Organic molecule” has a peculiar definition.

    Mung: How large is the library, how complex is the ribozyme, and how specific is the does the sequence have to be?

    A typical random sequence library of a few quadrillion (10^15) nucleotide or amino acid sequences of length 80-100 will contain a number of catalytically active molecules.

  35. Mr tgpeeler,

    100^500 = 10^1000, but that is trivial compared to the irrelevance of this kind of argument. Why, indeed, do we do it?

  36. tgpeeler:

    If a materialist is intellectually committed (in my experience they have no real intellectual commitments)

    Why should any materialist take you seriously after an insult like that?

    The rest of your post doesn’t make much more sense. Consider this:

    Physics addresses the MATERIAL world. But information is IMMATERIAL, even though it is encoded into a physical substrate.

    Please give us an example of immaterial information. If it is always encoded into a physical substrate, how do you know there is immaterial information?

  37. Zachriel makes a statement:
    “Scientists regularly find ribozymes (catalytic RNA) in random sequence libraries.”

    Mung asks a very relevant and important question:
    “How large is the library, how complex is the ribozyme, and how specific is the does the sequence have to be?”

    … and Zachriel provides (as I have seen him do many times before) a non-answer by, in effect, simply re-phrasing his initial statement:
    “A typical random sequence library of a few quadrillion (10^15) nucleotide or amino acid sequences of length 80-100 will contain a number of catalytically active molecules.”

    Zachriel, do you do this just so you can have the “last word.” I seriously want to know.

  38. @33

    If all that exists is material, then all that exists must be explainable by the laws of physics.

    Not true! We are well aware that at every level of organisation and complexity new laws emerge that are not readily explained by the laws of the lower level in the hierarchy. Hence, as Anderson points out, each level breaks the ‘symmetry’ of the laws of the previous.

    As Anderson points out, this includes the jump from particle physics to many-body physics, let alone straight to DNA.

    Emergent properties are the basis of the anti-reductionist viewpoint of development biologists in response to the genetic determinism in the evolutionary thought of those such as Dawkins.

    There is no physical explanation for why the genetic code is the way it is. It cannot be explained, it is impossible for it to be explained, by reference to physical laws.

    Again, not true. There is a physical explanation for why the genetic code is the way it is. Codons are not some abstract language but are literally physically related to the amino acids they “code” for – in the case of DNA via mRNA and tRNA. To refer to DNA as abstract or immaterial information in is misleading. It is tempting to look at DNA as a language – after all we use C, G, A and T/U to represent the bases – this is purely a human abstraction of their physical reality.

  39. Mr CJYman,

    I’m not sure what you are objecting to in Mr Zachriel’s response. Mr Mung asked 3 questions and the response was somewhat informative on all three.

    Here’s one of the classic papers on the subject, from almost 20 years ago, now.

  40. Nakashima @39,

    That’s the problem. Zachriel’s response was only somewhat informative and he left out the answer to the more important question — the last one. It seems that he does that to sound like he’s providing an answer, yet upon closer inspection no answer has truly been given.

    Excellent paper. In fact, I’ve used the calculation in that paper to roughly measure the CSI of the protein Titin.

    Furthermore, I’m also partial to some type of RNA first abiogenetical scenario.

  41. Nakashima, it also seems that at the end of the paper you posted, the authors imply that it should be easy to find “functional” RNA in a small random pool of RNAs 22 amino acids long. But does this make the problem any “easier.” Has anyone shown that under realistic prebiotic conditions, a sufficiently sized pool of amino acids will form and then string together into any type of catalytic RNA?

  42. M CJYman,

    I think you mean nucleic acids. Here is an article on function and short RNAs of about 20-mer in length.

  43. IrynaB @ 36

    Sigh, as I predicted. My “insult” was based on my experiences and you will end up proving my point, I’m sure. You say: “Please give us an example of immaterial information. If it is always encoded into a physical substrate, how do you know there is immaterial information?”

    You are joking, right? The fact that you recognize that it is encoded in a material substrate should be proof enough. How do you not understand that? Do I really need to explain to you that the information, although encoded in a material substrate, is not the same thing as that substrate? All information is immaterial. We know it’s immaterial because it doesn’t have mass or inertia, it is not affected by gravity, it can’t be converted to energy, it can’t be used to heat or move matter, and so on. We can’t weigh it, smell it, see it, hear it, touch it, or taste it yet we know it exists. And before you go off and say you can “see” information, I remind you that you see the physical letters that encode the information but you do not “see” the information itself. That’s how I know that information is immaterial. Plus, committed darwinists also recognize that so I know it MUST be true. ha ha. See Yockey (2005). OK. So here is the quote: “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, Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life. I trust this will help clear things up. By the way, Yockey thinks this proves Darwinian evolution. He’s wrong, of course, it proves that Darwinian evolution cannot possibly be true.

    But just in case I haven’t made my case, try this little thought experiment on for size. Consider “IrynaB” as opposed to “BIaynr.” Same letters. Same physics account for their representation on a computer screen. But something seems different. Hmmm. I’ll leave it to you to figure out the implications.

  44. paulmc @ 38
    “Again, not true. There is a physical explanation for why the genetic code is the way it is. Codons are not some abstract language but are literally physically related to the amino acids they “code” for – in the case of DNA via mRNA and tRNA. To refer to DNA as abstract or immaterial information in is misleading. It is tempting to look at DNA as a language – after all we use C, G, A and T/U to represent the bases – this is purely a human abstraction of their physical reality.”

    I only refer you to Kuppers, Yockey, Crick, Dawkins, etal, not to mention Meyer and Dembski, who absolutely understand that DNA does contain biological information and that it is information in every sense of the word. Your assertion that it is “purely a human abstraction” is hardly relevant as all information seems to fall into that category and so what of it? Just because it’s abstract means it isn’t real? Just because mathematics is abstract means it isn’t real?

    Let me cite Yockey again although I’m sure you will pay him no mind either.

    “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) So maybe you tell me how DNA does NOT contain biological information and that there is no real language involved.

    Oh what the hell, I’ve got my notes out now so let me give you a couple of other quotes that suggest that information and biology are, um, linked…

    Yockey p.2 “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.”

    Yockey p.3 “The genetical information system, because it is segregated, linear, and digital, resembles the algorithmic language by which a computer completes its logical operation.”

    Sanford (2005) p.1 “The genome is the instruction manual which specifies life. (An organism’s genome is the sum total of all its genetic parts, including all its chromosomes, genes, and nucleotides.”

    Dawkins (1995) p.19 “Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information.”

    And Francis Crick seems to think something of this idea in Of Molecules and Men, p.43 “…we have, in effect, to translate the information from a four-letter language into a twenty-letter language, and this is by no means easy.”

  45. IrynaB @36 (again)

    I’ll take up the gauntlet you have thrown down. Tell me what your intellectual commitments are and I will change my mind.

  46. #45

    tgpeeler

    I am fascinated – can you explain what an intellectual committment is? Perhaps with an example?

    Mark

  47. I think that information is a label we stick on certain configurations of matter. Some configurations correspond to a lot of information, others to very little, but without a concrete configuration (of ‘things’) there exists no demonstrable information at all.

    The reason configurations can ‘contain information’, as we say, is that in our universe, matter can and does react to other matter in variable ways. Sometimes not in very significant or interesting ways, at other times in more complicated and more consequential ways.

    What we call ‘information’ is a label we stick to that subset of configurations that cause reactions, events, that strike us as remarkable and/or interesting.

    In this essence ‘information’ is not different from ‘beauty’. It is all in the eye of the beholder.

    fG

  48. CJYman: Zachriel makes a statement:
    “Scientists regularly find ribozymes (catalytic RNA) in random sequence libraries.”

    Mung asks a very relevant and important question:
    “How large is the library, how complex is the ribozyme, and how specific is the does the sequence have to be?”

    … and Zachriel provides (as I have seen him do many times before) a non-answer by, in effect, simply re-phrasing his initial statement:
    “A typical random sequence library of a few quadrillion (10^15) nucleotide or amino acid sequences of length 80-100 will contain a number of catalytically active molecules.”

    The comment quantified the qualitative statement, which is much more than a mere restatement. The exchange has to do with the claim that chance assembly of long proteins “pales in front of the available probabilistic resources of our universe.” In fact, given a reasonable pool of random sequences, many will be functional.

    The information I provided gives us a rough idea of the *minimum* frequency of functional sequences in such a random pool. We know the specificity is relaxed as artificial evolution can increase their activity significantly. Indeed, that’s the very crux.

    CSI is an ambiguous measure. This is Dembski’s formula for specified complexity:

    ? = –log2 [ BIGNUM · ?S(T) · P(T|H) ]

    Notice that the calculation depends on the background knowledge of the Semiotic Agent, hence it depends on the Agent’s ignorance.

    -

    We apologize for the long, and heretofore unexplained moderation delay. Perhaps it is due to magnetic storms in the vicinity.

  49. Hmm. Apparently this blog doesn’t handle Greek letters.

    Oddly enough, the calculation also depends on the wordiness of the Semiotic Agent as it is the class of shortest descriptions that are used in Dembski’s formula.

  50. Mark @ 46

    “I am fascinated – can you explain what an intellectual committment is? Perhaps with an example?”

    Sure. I’d be delighted to. Intellectual COMMITMENTS are essentially one’s first principles. For example, my primary epistemological commitment is that reason is the ultimate authority of what is true and what is not true. I take this position because its denial involves a self-contradiction. (This is a clue to identifying first principles. The denial of a first principle alwasy involves a self-contradiction.) If you reject that principle, then, since the original claim does not involve a self-contradiction, you would have to argue (reason) for your denial. Which puts anyone who disagrees with the original claim in the position of using reason to deny the efficacy of reason. (And thus the self-contradiction) Another one would be that the truth about reality can be known. That is also undeniable (that is if one is wedded to reason) since to claim that the truth about reality cannot be known is to make a truth claim about reality. Another one is that opposing truth claims cannot both be true. This is called the law of non-contradiction. For example, it is impossible for it to be true that God exists and does not exist. He either does or does not. (Law of excluded middle) And there is also the law of identity. A thing is what it is (Aristotle was the first, as far as I know, thinker to describe these first principles of logic.) The law of identity is abused by writers like Dawkins all the time. He’s very fond of saying things like there is no design in nature because what we think is design is really only “apparent design.” hee hee. So my immediate question is how in the hell does he know the difference between apparent design and real design unless there really is design in the first place? This isn’t rocket science, which is why it appeals to me, your basic garden variety simpleton. So Dawkins’ assertion that there is no such thing as real design in nature is just nonsense, literally. He opens “The Blind Watchmaker” with this hilarious sentence: Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Oh really? And how would he know that? And this one, this is one of my all-time faves, it’s from “River Out of Eden” where he says: The illusion of purpose is so powerful that biologists themselves use the assumption of good design as a working tool. Is that too funny or what?? Biologists themselves. Those paragons of reason and intellectual integrity. hee hee. Talk about being blind to reality.

    Oh, and one other thing. An intellectual commitment, as I think of it, is something you don’t get to change when you think it’s inconvenient or it’s leading you down a path you’d rather not walk. Let’s say, for example, when the exercise of reason points you directly to Reason. :-)

    Does this help?

  51. fG @47
    “In this essence ‘information’ is not different from ‘beauty’. It is all in the eye of the beholder.”

    I think this is the point. There is a “beholder” that is apart from the matter that is reacting in interesting ways. This is what any naturalistic story of life cannot do and will never do – account for the “beholder.” It can’t do this because it rejects the existence of the “beholder” in the first place. Mind = brain. There is no mind apart from the neurons. This is what the naturalistic enterprise is all about – explaining things solely in terms of natural, i.e. physical laws. But there is an impenetrable circularity here. Nothing outside of nature exists (the primary intellectual commitment of the naturalist/materialist) therefore whatever MAY be real that we would think is part of nature but is not material MUST BE, THEN, only an illusion, since our primary commitment is that only the natural world exists. That means our conclusions are already determined by our premise, which premise is not based on reason or evidence. Thus the position of Dawkins and his ilk that design and purpose are only “apparent.” How could he say otherwise? But why does he say otherwise? Simply because he’s declared real design and purpose off limits from the beginning. How rational is that? Not very. “They’ve” been able to get away with this (my speculation) because to deny design, say, does not involve an internal contradiction. If I say design does not exist then I am not saying something that contradicts itself. Unlike, for example, if I said that: I do not exist. That involves a logical contradiction. I have to exist in order to deny my existence. In cases like this, then, that involve no internal contradictions, one has to, in my view, then weigh the piles of evidence for either side and make a determination on that basis. But the problem of information, which is an abstract entity, is different because they cannot deny the existence of information without using information. And they certainly cannot explain information without resorting to “mind” which they are unwilling to do because it’s not part of the decreed ontology. And now we’re back to the beginning of saying that “we” (not me) can explain information/design/purpose/agency/moral law/etc… in terms of physical laws. But clearly they cannot, so the only move left is to deny the actual existence of those things and declare them “apparent.” Whether that is intellectually responsible is a choice everyone has to make for himself.

    At the most fundamental level, how can quarks and leptons, in any combination, be self-aware? And how can that possibly be explained by reference to physical laws? It’s a fool’s errand. To reject the very existence of what you are trying to explain. Dawkins doesn’t not believe in God. Who would write a book about “The Klingon Delusion” for instance? Dawkins just doesn’t like the God of the Bible and he desperately hopes that He is not real. Well, He either is or he is not. My advice is to treat that question with the respect that it demands if for no other reason than the consequences for getting it wrong are potentially terrifying. Being a true blue coward myself, that is all the motivation I need to investigate this honestly. It’s not a justification for believing anything, but I think it’s a good reason to take the investigation seriously. IMO.

  52. 52

    CJYman at 40,

    In fact, I’ve used the calculation in that paper to roughly measure the CSI of the protein Titin.

    Could you please share that with us? As discussed in another thread here, there are apparently no available worked examples of a CSI calculation, as described in No Free Lunch, for an actual biological component, let alone any that take into account known evolutionary mechanisms.

    My interest in this is that I would like to understand CSI well enough to write software to quantify it. Thus far I haven’t been able to get sufficient detail to do so.

  53. #50 tgpeeler

    Thanks.

    Would it be fair to describe intellectual committments as metaphysical beliefs that you assume to be true rather than seek to demonstrate their truth – as StephenB puts it – what you argue from as opposed to what you argue to?

    If so, I would agree that atheists and indeed scientists in general have few intellectual commitments. It is part of the intellectual stance of an atheist and a scientist to be prepared to challenge even the deepest assumption. It is really hard to challenge logical laws but metaphysical beliefs such as “every event has a cause” can be challenged and indeed I hold them to be false. I think this is a good thing. After all 200 years ago many people would include in their intellectual committments such things as Euclidian geometry and a Newtonian vision of space time.

  54. Zachriel:
    “The information I provided gives us a rough idea of the *minimum* frequency of functional sequences in such a random pool.”

    It is possible that I missed the relevant material in another comment of yours, but the information you provided that I quoted does no such thing. You left out answering how constrained is the functional pattern.

    You merely replaced “Scientists regularly find ribozymes (catalytic RNA) in random sequence libraries.” with “… will contain a number of catalytically active molecules.” You did not answer the question of “specificity.” What is that number of catalytically active molecules and how many of those are relevant to living systems? Furthermore, how many will work at a specific cite, providing function which at least does not decrease survivability?

    Zachriel:
    “We know the specificity is relaxed as artificial evolution can increase their activity significantly. Indeed, that’s the very crux.”

    Where is specificity relaxed? Artificial evolution increases what activity? Can you give an example using the English language, since that is what you have used to model evolution is the past. Thanks.

    Zachriel:
    “CSI is an ambiguous measure. This is Dembski’s formula for specified complexity:

    ? = –log2 [ BIGNUM · ?S(T) · P(T|H) ]

    Notice that the calculation depends on the background knowledge of the Semiotic Agent, hence it depends on the Agent’s ignorance. ”

    … as is the case with every function. It is dependent on the data collected. Garbage in, garbage out. If that were the reason for “disqualifying” CSI from scientific consideration, then we’d also have to disqualify measurements of the age and size of the universe from scientific consideration, since they are open to being either revised for accuracy (making the numbers or percentage of error slightly larger or smaller) or completely changed (discovering that the numbers are wrong by orders of magnitude) as new data comes in.

    There is nothing any more ambiguous about measuring for CSI than for any equation. Every variable is based on real-world measurements that actually have a non-ambiguous value. Of course, some of the variables are based on complex measurements themselves and we may only be able to provide estimated values, but this doesn’t stop any other scientific endeavor such as measuring for the age and size of the universe, so why should it stop us measuring for CSI?

    And, just in case you didn’t hear me during our last conversation or indeed in this one, *ALL MEASUREMENTS ARE BASED ON OUR IGNORANCE.* IOW, all measurements are amenable to being updated based on our ignorance being removed.

    We will always be ignorant of something and even in our knowledge we could be incorrect — which again adds to our ignorance. That is why science is open to change and that is why CSI is rightfully a part of science.

    Zachriel, how many ways do I have to spell it out for you to understand that very simple point?

    Zachriel:
    “Oddly enough, the calculation also depends on the wordiness of the Semiotic Agent as it is the class of shortest descriptions that are used in Dembski’s formula.”

    … which is also the basis of K-Complexity. What’s the problem? Furthermore, in life, there is a completely objective description, f(pattern)=event, flowing from DNA to protein complex, the translation and transcription mechanisms (information processor) being the semiotic agent.

  55. Nakashima @42,

    It doesn’t seem that the question I asked would be answered in the paper that you directed me to since right at the opening they state, “The RNA World model for prebiotic evolution posits the selection of catalytic/template RNAs from random populations. The mechanisms by which these random populations could be generated de novo are unclear.”

    The question I asked: “Has anyone shown that under realistic prebiotic conditions, a sufficiently sized pool of amino acids will form and then string together into any type of catalytic RNA?” [edit: "amino acids" should be nucleic acids]

  56. Mustella @ 52,

    I’m trying to find that post in which I measured CSI of Titin. I was following it on another computer and I don’t remember which thread it is in. Zachriel, if you see this, perhaps you can help out. Where were we discussing the CSI of Titin?

  57. Mr CJYman,

    Keep reading! Those sentences are the abstract of the problem, not the abstract of the solution. :)

  58. Mark @ 53
    “Would it be fair to describe intellectual committments as metaphysical beliefs that you assume to be true rather than seek to demonstrate their truth – as StephenB puts it – what you argue from as opposed to what you argue to?”

    I think that is a very fair description. The question then immediately arises: What metaphysical beliefs are we justified to “assume to be true?” Or to have without question? i.e. What are our first principles? For myself, I think only those that are undeniable. Only those that by their negation create a logical contradiction. (e.g. existence, or being, previously mentioned.) In my view, God is a conclusion, not an assumption, for example. It creates no logical contradiction to say god does not exist or that He does. And in this case, as it is in all matters of opposing truth claims (as distinct from ‘different’ truth claims where both may be true or false), it is certain that one or the other is true and the other false. In those cases (without self-contradiction), I think we can only decide what is true by reason applied to the empirical evidence that we have. In other words, who has the biggest pile of evidence? One of the frustrating (all too obviously frustrating, I’m sure) things to me about the design/information conversation is that this particular discussion almost inevitably degenerates into “can to” “cannot.” Are odds of 10^-100 possible? How about 10^1500? Well you see my point.

    But somewhere along the line it occurred to me (and still very few, if any, others) if the question of the origin of life is the question of the origin of information then what has to be explained in order for information to be explained? In other words, I think that to start computing the odds of information being created by accident or by law are premature because we haven’t yet explained how information arises in the first place. What are the pre-existing conditions for having information? So that’s when I made the (now) obvious (to me) connection between information and language and what language, at it’s most fundamental level, is. Now as far as I can tell, it is entirely reasonable to ask this question of the naturalist/materialist: How do you account for the existence of information (life) when your only explanatory tool is the laws of physics or what the laws of physics might look like in the future?

    One thing seems certain. Since physics deals with the material world of forces and particles no matter how much more advanced the discipline may get, it will still always and only deal with the physical world. And since information is abstract, it is not now nor will it ever be something physics will speak to. So that right there seals the deal for me. It’s conceptually impossible for physics to have these answers. It’s as if you were searching for the rules of tennis in a golf rule book. It’s never going to happen. But as an added bonus, I broke it down to what I think is the most fundamental level of language, the essence of language, all language, and that is symbols and rules. And then I asked the same question. How does physics account for the existence of symbols? How does physics inform the rules of grammar and syntax of any language, including the language of mathematics, in which the laws of physics are written? Again, the short answer is that it does not and it will not and it cannot because that’s not what physics is about. And this gets back to the guts of the issue. The materialists deny the existence of things that obviously exist. It’s a mystery to me why it has such a hold on so many otherwise bright people. At any rate, that’s pretty much how I came to view this question, the question of the origin and propagation of life.

    If you’ll allow me one quibble. I think that saying “assume to be true rather than seek to demonstrate their truth” is a pejorative way to say that. It implies, or rather, I at least, infer from that statement that somehow these beliefs are not actually true (they are) or that they are somehow inferior to empirical (scientific) “truth.” Perhaps I am being overly sensitive but I typically find that reason gets short-changed with regard to empirical data and I think that is a huge error. The scientific method uses both reason and empirical data to arrive at (provisional, mostly) truth. I haven’t worked out a way to say this exactly but I think that reason is the ultimate authority or sovereign of truth. In other words, nothing can contradict reason and be true. But what about facts? What about empirical data? Here comes the tricky part – facts aren’t subject to reason – facts are just facts. But it’s the story that the facts tell that involve the use of reason. It’s making the best inference from the data. Science by necessity does both but sometimes, it seems to me, reason (or metaphysics) doesn’t get its rightful due.

  59. Mark Frank @53 again:
    ” It is part of the intellectual stance of an atheist and a scientist to be prepared to challenge even the deepest assumption. It is really hard to challenge logical laws but metaphysical beliefs such as “every event has a cause” can be challenged and indeed I hold them to be false.”

    I’m fine with challenging assumptions as that’s what I’ve been doing non-stop for about the last 8 or 9 years, but that’s not what atheists (granted, in my limited experience, it should go without saying) typically do. It seems to me, from the theistic side of the fence, that atheism starts with an unfounded, unexamined assumption and then draws an inviolable conclusion from that. i.e. If naturalism is true then God does not exist. But is naturalism true? Atheists seem to be reluctant to seriously engage on that front.

    Challenging first principles doesn’t seem intellectually bold or daring to me as much as foolish. How can one argue against the law of identity, that something is not what it is, and have a shred of intellectual credibility? Communication can’t take place unless words mean what they say and that they REPRESENT things, even imaginary things, in the universe. How can you challenge the principle of causality, for example? Are you saying that things happen, in this universe, outside of the bounds of physics (and I would add living agency)? That seems very intellectually ‘mushy’ to me. Mystical, almost. Anyway, I’d be seriously interested in your refutation of causality.

    p.s. You might find Causal Asymmetries (Cambridge Studies in Probability, Induction and Decision Theory) interesting.

  60. tgpeeler @ 44:
    In your response you have disregarded both of my arguments.

    Firstly, I said that you are incorrect to state that the laws of physics should be sufficient to a materialist to explain everything.

    This is patently incorrect, as I have explained via the concept of emergent properties. This is not trivial – you claim this ‘problem’ is central:

    But here lies the rub. If a materialist is intellectually committed … to the idea that all that is real is material, that is matter and energy, or the physical world, or the natural world, or the things described by the natural sciences, or whatever the latest version of the nonsense is, THEN, the only explanatory resources they have are the laws of physics.

    You quote Yockey in the same post and later claim I ignore him, but Yockey, like yourself, does not consider the concept of emergent properties. To reject this concept is to accept reductionism of the type that Dawkins was frequently guilty of in his scientitic writings.

    Secondly I took issue with you saying that:

    There is no physical explanation for why the genetic code is the way it is. It cannot be explained, it is impossible for it to be explained, by reference to physical laws.

    My point is that there is absolutely a physical basis, as I explained. Denying its physical basis is patently incorrect.

  61. How can you challenge the principle of causality, for example? Are you saying that things happen, in this universe, outside of the bounds of physics (and I would add living agency)?

    No – I am saying the bounds of physics includes events that do not have causes. Inconceivable? More inconceivable than the idea that space might be bent by matter? Or that the interior angles of a triangle might have more or less than 180 degrees?

  62. paulmc @ 60
    “Firstly, I said that you are incorrect to state that the laws of physics should be sufficient to a materialist to explain everything.

    This is patently incorrect, as I have explained via the concept of emergent properties. This is not trivial – you claim this ‘problem’ is central:”

    Perhaps you would be so kind as to show how information is an emergent property of the random or lawful arrangement of matter. “Emergent” properties are the refuge of the one who is unable to account for what needs to be accounted for. Information? Oh, it’s “emergent.” O.K. I’ll bite. Show me. Show me how the laws of physics can begin to account for the symbols and rules that are necessary to encode information and thus explain life. The symbols are emergent? The rules are emergent? The arrangement of nucleotides is governed by the laws of physics? I don’t think so. I’m not 100% sure but I don’t think I’m the one missing the point here.

    And this: “My point is that there is absolutely a physical basis, as I explained.”

    Here is that explanation: “There is a physical explanation for why the genetic code is the way it is. Codons are not some abstract language but are literally physically related to the amino acids they “code” for – in the case of DNA via mRNA and tRNA. To refer to DNA as abstract or immaterial information in is misleading. It is tempting to look at DNA as a language – after all we use C, G, A and T/U to represent the bases – this is purely a human abstraction of their physical reality.”

    This is actually kind of funny as you are making my point for me. I know that codons are literally related to the amino acids they code for. Why do you suppose that is? Why is one string of codons meaningful and another meaningless? The human abstraction (what other kind is there?) to recognize that the language and information exist does not mean that the language and information isn’t real. What you need to do is show how certain arrangements of codons code for certain amino acids and ultimately proteins based upon what physical law(s). This was Yockey’s point. I will repeat it. “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.” And I will repeat again. They don’t. To claim that “emergence” conquers this problem without providing further details doesn’t do it for me.

    Speaking of intellectual commitments, I notice that I’m still the only one who’s made them. What are yours??

  63. Mark Frank @ 61
    “No – I am saying the bounds of physics includes events that do not have causes. Inconceivable? More inconceivable than the idea that space might be bent by matter? Or that the interior angles of a triangle might have more or less than 180 degrees?”

    And I am saying give me some empirical evidence. Anything that is not logically contradictory is conceivable. And where did you come up with “the bounds of physics includes events that do not have causes”? And what does that have to do with anything that is under discussion anyway? I know I asked the question but it was in the context of denying first principles, of which sufficient cause is one. So more stuff out of thin air that doesn’t really mean or explain anything. I might as well say that physics embodies the idea of one hand clapping.

  64. tgpeeler:

    But somewhere along the line it occurred to me (and still very few, if any, others) if the question of the origin of life is the question of the origin of information then what has to be explained in order for information to be explained?

    If you’ll pardon me, perhaps it didn’t occur to many because it doesn’t seem to make sense. At the very least you need to define your terms first before I can even try to make more sense of it: information and life.

    As far as I know, life is a slippery concept and all definitions are somewhat arbitrary. Ergo, your claim implies that the same must hold for the concept of information.

    Also:

    Are you saying there was no information before life first appeared?

    What about your earlier claim that there can be no information without reference to a mind? When life first appeared there were no minds around as far as I know. If true, does that imply that information first appeared when the first mind arrived at the scene?

    By the way, here is one of my intellectual commitments: to further our knowledge (information – ho ho) of the natural world.

  65. Zachriel: The information I provided gives us a rough idea of the *minimum* frequency of functional sequences in such a random pool.

    CJYman: It is possible that I missed the relevant material in another comment of yours but the information you provided that I quoted does no such thing.

    My comments have concerned the claim in the original post that chance assembly of long proteins “pales in front of the available probabilistic resources of our universe.

    Of course it provides a minimum. We can take a random library and consistently find functional sequences.

    CJYman: You left out answering how constrained is the functional pattern.

    The original sequences have weak activity, and then are optimized by selection. You may want to reread Szostak’s paper. It follows that of the 10^60 possibles sequences, ~10^50 can bind to a given ligand. They also provide a rough estimate that, for a given function, there are probably only a few hundred different sequence families for a given binding site.

    CJYman: What is that number of catalytically active molecules and how many of those are relevant to living systems? Furthermore, how many will work at a specific cite, providing function which at least does not decrease survivability?

    That wasn’t the issue raised.

    CJYman: Where is specificity relaxed? Artificial evolution increases what activity?

    These experiments start with weakly interacting enzymes that are then optimized through rounds of amplification and selection. The function is defined by the experiment, and is usually of biological or medical significance.

    The original experiments were directly related to ideas about abiogenesis.

    CJYman: *ALL MEASUREMENTS ARE BASED ON OUR IGNORANCE.*

    Measurements are meant to reduce our ignorance, not be directly proportional to it. A tree doesn’t get larger the more ignorant we are, but CSI does.

    Zachriel: Oddly enough, the calculation also depends on the wordiness of the Semiotic Agent as it is the class of shortest descriptions that are used in Dembski’s formula.

    CJYman: … which is also the basis of K-Complexity. What’s the problem?

    K is noncomputable. It explicitly depends on the description language. And it doesn’t make pseudo-scientific claims.

  66. CJYman: Where were we discussing the CSI of Titin?

    Here:

    CJYmanCJYman: – So, let’s look at Titin (34,350 amino acids [aa]). I am going to give as much of the benefit of the doubt to the critics when calculating probabilites.

    The problem is that you use probability figures that are quite possibly wrong, but clearly believe the argument to be so strong as to overthrow well-established and strongly supported science. Specifically, you are substituting a random variable wherever there is a gap in human scientific knowledge. For instance, a plausible mechanism for chirality changes your calculation by a factor of a mere 2^34350.

  67. IrynaB

    You misunderstand me. Many people try to hide behind the “what is information, really?” curtain. It’s a flimsy one indeed. You can’t read about life/evolution/intelligent design without understanding that all writers agree that life and information are inextricably linked. It’s a brute fact. Do you want me to cite a bunch of authors from both sides of the debate? Will that help?

    There can be no information apart from a mind. I think that’s pretty clear. When life first appeared in the universe it came from a pre-existing and eternal life. Even modern cell theory says that life only comes from life. All you have to do is take that to its logical conclusion. Since the first life could not come from non-life, the first life had to be eternal. It’s quite rational, really. It’s either that or you can create life from non-life and prove me (and Pasteur) wrong. Good luck.

    As far as your intellectual commitment to further your knowledge of the natural world that’s not what I meant either and I suspect that you know that. I am speaking of ontological (what exists), epistemological (how do we know), logical (first principles and part of epistemology, actually), and ethical (moral law, right/wrong – exists or not, if so why? if so based on what?) commitments. What is non-negotiable for you in this sense? I think I’ve been pretty clear about it from my side.

  68. IrynaB re 64

    You say: “If you’ll pardon me, perhaps it didn’t occur to many because it doesn’t seem to make sense. At the very least you need to define your terms first before I can even try to make more sense of it: information and life.

    As far as I know, life is a slippery concept and all definitions are somewhat arbitrary. Ergo, your claim implies that the same must hold for the concept of information.”

    Regarding your confusion concerning my assertions about information and life that “do not make sense” here are some popular citations that may shed some light on this subject for you.

    Francis Crick, Of Molecules and Men: “…we have, in effect, to translate the information from a four-letter language into a twenty-letter language, and this is by no means easy.” speaking of the genetic code/language.

    FC, OMM: “…so that the language that is used in the nucleic acid polymers is universal.”

    Francis Crick, Life Itself: “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.”

    FC, LI: “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.”

    Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: “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).”

    RD, ROE: “… we know that genes themselves, within their minute internal structure, are long strings of pure digital information. What is more, they are truly digital, in the full and strong sense of computers and compact disks, not in the weak sense of the nervous system. … The machine code of the gene is uncannily computerlike …”

    RD, ROE: “Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information.”

    RD, ROE: “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.”

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

    Bernd-Olaf Kuppers, Information and the Origin of Life: “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.”

    BOK, IOL: “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.”

    BOK, IOL: “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.”

    Hubert Yockey, Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life:

    “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.”

    “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.”

    “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.”

    “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.”

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

    Perhaps this will help clarify that information and life are related and how they are related. If you want all of the details, of course, you should read the books. There are many more but I have a tennis match tomorrow and need my rest. :-)

  69. 69

    Zachriel (and CJYman) at 66,

    Hey, that was my first delurking at UD! I should have remembered you were talking about Titin.

    CJYman, I’d very much like to continue the discussion of my questions about your calculation:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-341846

    Perhaps we can get to a sufficient level of detail to code this thing.

  70. 70

    tgpeeler at 67,

    Many people try to hide behind the “what is information, really?” curtain. It’s a flimsy one indeed.

    I strongly disagree. If we don’t have an explicit, rigorous definition of the term, we quite literally don’t know what we’re talking about.

    I’ve read your posts on this thread and find them interesting, but in order to discuss them rationally I do need to know: What exactly is your definition of “information”?

  71. #67 tgpeeler

    Many people try to hide behind the “what is information, really?” curtain. It’s a flimsy one indeed. You can’t read about life/evolution/intelligent design without understanding that all writers agree that life and information are inextricably linked. It’s a brute fact. …..

    There can be no information apart from a mind. I think that’s pretty clear.

    The whole point is that information can take on a wide range of meanings. When e.g Dawkins is talking about information he means it in a way that can be produced without any living thing. There are meanings of information that require not just minds, but human minds. But they are different meanings.

    Hence the importance of settling on a definition.

  72. This is from M-W online:

    facts, data b : the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects c (1) : a signal or character (as in a communication system or computer) representing data (2) : something (as a message, experimental data, or a picture) which justifies change in a construct (as a plan or theory) that represents physical or mental experience or another construct

    By golly, I think M-W nailed it.

  73. Message based on algorithm driven by General Relativity (gravity).
    1. Drop object.
    2. If object falls, type A
    3. If object does anything else, type any key at random on keyboard.
    4. Repeat until you get something different than A.

    Result:
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…

  74. 74

    tgpeeler at 73,

    Hmm, I just dropped a helium balloon….

  75. 75

    tgpeeler at 72,

    You left out one of the definitions that’s important in science:

    d : a quantitative measure of the content of information; specifically : a numerical quantity that measures the uncertainty in the outcome of an experiment to be performed

    The quantitative aspect is essential. If the definition we’re using doesn’t allow us to explicitly identify information and measure the amount of it, we can’t use the tools of science to investigate it.

  76. “Message” based on quantum event – decay of a radioactive element.

    (This is assuming that it’s possible to map the time between the decay of individual particles to the characters of the English alphebet, say. In other words, T1 = a, T2 = b, etc… We can safely ignore punctuation marks and numbers for the purposes of this thought experiment.)

    (Hypothetical, obviously) Result:
    jaoiuasovuiavoizoauvoiutouizoiuoavaofgsazleriu

    So what conclusions, if any, can we draw from these two thought experiments??

  77. Mustela, tgpeeler has given the definition, and CSI is the perfect type of measurement for that type of information.

  78. “Hmm, I just dropped a helium balloon….”

    OK. Fair enough. So we have this algorithm when our object is a helium-filled balloon.

    1. Let go of object.
    2. If object rises, type A.
    3. If object does anything else, type any key at random on keyboard.
    4. Repeat until you get something different than A.

    Result:
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…

  79. 79

    CJYman at 77,

    tgpeeler has given the definition, and CSI is the perfect type of measurement for that type of information.

    That definition is completely subjective, as demonstrated by tgpeeler at 78 where he changes the definition based on the type of the object. It is not useful for scientific measurement.

  80. Mustela @ 75
    “The quantitative aspect is essential. If the definition we’re using doesn’t allow us to explicitly identify information and measure the amount of it, we can’t use the tools of science to investigate it.”

    This is precisely what is at issue. I say the quantitative aspect is not necessary because, from a logical point of view, information cannot be created solely by physical law IN THE FIRST PLACE. So why do I have to measure what can’t be created? I am talking about a conceptual flaw here (in the naturalistic/materialist argument) that has, as far as I know, not been discussed and I think it needs to be. Granted, I’m nobody but so what? It’s the merit (or not) of the idea that counts.

    It’s as if you say we can’t determine the possibility of building a perpetual motion machine because we can’t measure the energy consumed in running it and reconcile it with the energy created by the running of it (the math wouldn’t work because it’s impossible to do, say). The fact that some aspect of a PMM can’t be measured is irrelevant because thermodynamics says it’s impossible for one to exist in the first place. This isn’t an exact analogy but it’s essentially what I’m saying.

    Let me try again. You can’t create information with physical law (I argue) so your objection that you can’t measure what can’t be created is not relevant. If you want to seriously object, show me an algorithm based on physical law that creates information. Just one will do and I’m out of Schlitz, as we used to say. If I’m wildly off base here (FOS) then it should be really easy to falsify my claim.

  81. Mustela @ 79
    “That definition is completely subjective, as demonstrated by tgpeeler at 78 where he changes the definition based on the type of the object. It is not useful for scientific measurement.”

    I did no such thing! This is pretty funny. I either have ZERO communication skills (entirely possible) or YOU are not really thinking about what we’re discussing.

    What my examples showed, both of them, is that information cannot be created by an algorithm based on physical law. That’s all. I changed no definition of information. Besides that, my previous point addresses your concerns anyway.

  82. tgpeeler: Result: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…

    Are you saying that a repetitive pattern only conveys a trivial amount of information, and therefore, physical laws can’t generate information? Is that correct?

    Intervals between solar eclipses as viewed from a given location are not regular. Weather is a chaotic system that is based on physical laws. Even a leaky faucet can create a chaotic pattern.

  83. Zachriel,

    Intervals between solar eclipses as viewed from a given location are not regular. Weather is a chaotic system that is based on physical laws. Even a leaky faucet can create a chaotic pattern.

    You have two options, either the information is a static pattern, as we see in chemistry, where no real information is given, or you have chaos, where no real information is given. I say “real” information, as in the kind of information in DNA, which is not a static pattern nor is it chaotic, but actually conveys information like I’m writing now. Neither of which will you get from AAAAAAAAA or chaos.

  84. Clive Hayden: You have two options, either the information is a static pattern, as we see in chemistry, where no real information is given, or you have chaos, where no real information is given.

    That didn’t seem to be tgpeeler’s position, which is what I was attempting to clarify.

    “Real information” as opposed to “not real information”. What you are referring to is usually called semantic information. Semantic information is very difficult to unambiguously quantify, except within very limited situations.

    Clive Hayden: Neither of which will you get from AAAAAAAAA or chaos.

    People have often thought that chaotic patterns conveyed semantic information.

  85. 85

    tgpeeler at 81,

    What my examples showed, both of them, is that information cannot be created by an algorithm based on physical law. That’s all. I changed no definition of information. Besides that, my previous point addresses your concerns anyway.

    Ah, I see the point you were trying to make. My apologies for my part in the confusion.

    Now, I still disagree with you, for reasons that Zachriel has pointed out already, but I think I at least understand your point.

  86. Mustela @ 84

    Bless you for understanding! Now let’s continue to argue!! I’ll respond to Z here in a little while.

  87. 87

    tgpeeler at 80,

    Mustela @ 75
    “The quantitative aspect is essential. If the definition we’re using doesn’t allow us to explicitly identify information and measure the amount of it, we can’t use the tools of science to investigate it.”

    This is precisely what is at issue. I say the quantitative aspect is not necessary because, from a logical point of view, information cannot be created solely by physical law IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    We need a rigorous definition of “information” before this discussion can bear fruit. Shannon information, for example, can be shown to be generated by physical processes, so if we use that definition your claim is refuted.

    How would one go about identifying “information” according to your definition?

  88. Zachriel,

    People have often thought that chaotic patterns conveyed semantic information.

    You mean like seeing the Virgin Mary in some burned toast? Is that what you mean? What “people” and what “semantic” information are you referring to? Do your “people” see semantic information supplied by chaos on the level of these few sentences I have written here?

  89. —tgpeeler: “If you’ll allow me one quibble. I think that saying “assume to be true rather than seek to demonstrate their truth” is a pejorative way to say that. It implies, or rather, I at least, infer from that statement that somehow these beliefs are not actually true (they are) or that they are somehow inferior to empirical (scientific) “truth.” Perhaps I am being overly sensitive but I typically find that reason gets short-changed with regard to empirical data and I think that is a huge error.”

    This is absolutely, spectacularly, and decisively true—and well stated. Evidence doesn’t point to first principles; evidence is interpreted in their light. As important as evidence is, reason’s first principles are more important still, because it is only through them that evidence can be reasonably interpreted. Yet Darwinists who visit this site typically question those very same principles, often after having being informed about them for the first time.

    As a result, they muddy the debate waters in their discussions about science by allowing their skepticism about the non-negotiable nature of causality to leak into their analysis. If one pushes their claims about what naturalistic forces can do to the limit [and their skepticism about design to the limit], one finds, more often than not, that most of their errors can be traced back to their implicit denials of causality.

    We notice, for example, their proclivity to appeal to the quantum phenomenon in an attempt to show that some physical events can come into existence without causes, as if such a thing were logically possible—as if the principles of quantum mechanics themselves could have been established on such an irrational basis.

    Apparently, it never occurs to them that the evidence from quantum mechanics, like all other scientific approaches, depends as much on the law of causality as any other kind of evidence. Yet it is that same evidence that they point to in an attempt to show that causality is negotiable. Remarkable. [That there are so many popular scientists who fall into that same trap is yet more evidence of the sad state of their incomplete and one-sided education.]

    If one follows the reasoning of the Darwinists who post here, one comes to realize that it is this denial of the law of causality that informs almost everything that they write. Explain to them that “something cannot come from nothing,” and you will get responses like these:

    “Why can’t something come from nothing?”

    “Who says that physical events cannot come into existence without a cause?”

    “Provide me with some empirical evidence to show me that YOUR principles of right reason are valid.”

    “The law of causality is “trivial” or is a “tautology.”

    “Causality has not been properly defined?” [This after having stated categorically that it isn’t always needed]

    “Reason’s first principles do not apply to the real world.”

    “Why can’t matter investigate itself?”

    …and so it goes.

    How does one argue science with a mind set like that?

  90. Mustela @ 87

    “We need a rigorous definition of “information” before this discussion can bear fruit. Shannon information, for example, can be shown to be generated by physical processes, so if we use that definition your claim is refuted.”

    Aha, another miscommunication on my part. Physical “processes” are necessarily involved in the creation of information but that’s not what I am talking about. What I’m talking about is the manipulation of the physical world (or, as you say, processes) by the mental world (which a materialist denies the existence of) as opposed to the world of physics, to create information. That’s the distinction I mean to make.

    Shannon information, BTW, as I understand it, only deals with information at the statistical level. His concepts are used to cram data through pipes but really have little, if anything, to say about syntax or semantics (meaning). Any string of zero’s and one’s can contain “information” but that information is still contingent upon there being IN PLACE, between the sender and the receiver, a language. Otherwise, no communication. That language (symbols and rules) is what physics is unable to account for. Thus, the materialist enterprise fails. Or so I say. More later…

  91. Zachriel: People have often thought that chaotic patterns conveyed semantic information.

    Clive Hayden: You mean like seeing the Virgin Mary in some burned toast? Is that what you mean? What “people” and what “semantic” information are you referring to? Do your “people” see semantic information supplied by chaos on the level of these few sentences I have written here?

    This is tangential to the problem of quantifying semantic information. But people often ascribe semantic information to the positions of the planets, coincidence, catastrophic events, lottery numbers.

    Clive Hayden: Do your “people” see semantic information supplied by chaos on the level of these few sentences I have written here?

    Some clearly do.

  92. StephenB: How does one argue science with a mind set like that?

    By carefully considering their arguments and determining the base assumptions that often underly such disagreements. For instance,

    StephenB: We notice, for example, their proclivity to appeal to the quantum phenomenon in an attempt to show that some physical events can come into existence without causes, as if such a thing were logically possible—as if the principles of quantum mechanics themselves could have been established on such an irrational basis.

    You are assuming here that rationality requires the acceptance of cause-and-effect, but that depend on your definition of rationality. If by rationality you mean deductive reasoning from stated premises, then that would not encompass cause-and-effect, which is an experiential finding. If your use of terminology is unclear or simply different from how others use the term (or worse, if you slide between meanings unconsciously), then the argument will be frustrated.

    As for quantum phenomena, there is no particular reason that a particular lepton spontaneously pops into existence. If we have a lump of radium, there is no particular reason why this atom rather than that atom should decay at a particular time. In this sense, quantum events are contrary to naïve notions of cause-and-effect.

    Apparently material objects do just pop into existence, just like they appear to tunnel across impenetrable barriers. That doesn’t make quantum mechanics irrational. It just follows different rules than common sense would dictate.

  93. tgpeeler: What I’m talking about is the manipulation of the physical world (or, as you say, processes) by the mental world (which a materialist denies the existence of) as opposed to the world of physics, to create information.

    Your definition is unclear and contains what you are trying to define. Are you saying that the pattern planets trace in the sky is not information independent of the observer? Is it only information if you write it down?

  94. “Explain to them that “something cannot come from nothing,” and you will get responses like these: ”

    Hi Stephen,

    Furthermore when we analyze their responses we find they are doing two things. 1) Thay are giving their REASONS why REASON does not apply. 2) One can further breakdown their responses as a list of causes why causality need not be absolute. Cannot one say that alll their resposes can be reduced to “we reject the principle of causality beCAUSE…”

    So they use reason to argue that reason can be abandoned and causality to argue that there need not be causality. Talk about nonsense!!! And they do all this with a straight face.

    This would be laughable except they are putting a stake in the heart of science, the very thing they value so highly. Which means BTW they they are the ones who are anti science.

    Vivid

  95. —vividbleau: “Furthermore when we analyze their responses we find they are doing two things. 1) Thay are giving their REASONS why REASON does not apply. 2) One can further breakdown their responses as a list of causes why causality need not be absolute.”

    Vivid: Well stated, and not overstated.

  96. StephenB @ 89

    Thanks for a breath of fresh air. One really can’t argue science (or anything else, I’ve tried) with people who refuse to make fundamental intellectual commitments and stick with them, or change them when reason and evidence show them the light of day. That’s why I called them out in my original post (#33) on this thread. And I notice that IrynaB, who reacted to my “insult” STILL hasn’t had the stones to do what I said they/she wouldn’t do in the first place!! TFF. Of course, the fact that she (?) would give an insult as a reason not to engage in a discussion of truth shows where her reasoning skills are. I call anyone who rejects reason an intellectual degenerate. Granted, that’s harsh, but I think we need to be harsh. OMG, just look around. The national insanity is so pervasive on so many fronts. Sigh… what’s a reasonable person to do?

  97. Zachriel @ 82

    “Are you saying that a repetitive pattern only conveys a trivial amount of information, and therefore, physical laws can’t generate information? Is that correct?

    Intervals between solar eclipses as viewed from a given location are not regular. Weather is a chaotic system that is based on physical laws. Even a leaky faucet can create a chaotic pattern.”

    That’s not exactly what I’m saying. Although it is true that a repetitive pattern can only convey a limited amount of information (what kind of message could be encoded into a sequence of As?) that’s not what I’m arguing because that’s not the point. To even ask that question assumes a sender, a channel, a symbol set and rules for governing the use of those symbols to encode information, and a receiver who understands the symbols and rules to decode the message.

    I am not arguing that since physical laws can only produce rigid order (think crystals or snowflakes) or chaos (think volcano eruption) they can’t produce information, although THAT IS TRUE. I am saying that physical law cannot account for or produce or create or explain information because it has nothing to say about symbols and rules, that is, language. And since all information is encoded in a language of one kind or another that means physics can’t explain, create, or account for information.

    How do you know that “cat” refers to a certain kind of mammal? How do you know that “act” refers to something done, to do something, or a segment of a play? Well you know because a set of symbols exists, in this case, the English alphabet (alpha beta from the Greek) and the rules that govern the use of these symbols exist, and you and I both know those symbols and those rules. But physics has NOTHING TO SAY about these (or any) symbols or the rules.

    I agree that physics can produce order and chaos but it requires a mind (Mind) to produce information. This is really a quite simple argument. But since it drives a stake in heart of naturalism and overturns any naturalistic evolutionary story, well let’s just say that people resist that. They don’t argue effectively against it. They don’t falsify my claims by creating an algorithm based on physical law that can create information. They don’t give counter-examples or even make counter-arguments. Read this thread and you can see that.

  98. Zachriel @ 84

    “People have often thought that chaotic patterns conveyed semantic information.”

    And how would this happen? Could you give us an example of what this would look like? Who are these “people”? Do they live around here? I’d like to meet them. Good luck. If I had a million dollars to bet this would be the one I’d make. That you can’t demonstrate this in any coherent way, shape, or form.

  99. Zachriel,

    Clive Hayden: Do your “people” see semantic information supplied by chaos on the level of these few sentences I have written here?

    Some clearly do.

    So what? Some clearly see a lot of things that you would be the first to attribute to ignorance, such as meaningful signs and wonders (semantic information they would assume) from a higher being. What are you trying to prove with what some people see?

    Are you one of those people?

  100. #97 tgpeeler

    I am saying that physical law cannot account for or produce or create or explain information because it has nothing to say about symbols and rules, that is, language. And since all information is encoded in a language of one kind or another that means physics can’t explain, create, or account for information.

    ….

    How do you know that “cat” refers to a certain kind of mammal? How do you know that “act” refers to something done, to do something, or a segment of a play? Well you know because a set of symbols exists, in this case, the English alphabet (alpha beta from the Greek) and the rules that govern the use of these symbols exist, and you and I both know those symbols and those rules. But physics has NOTHING TO SAY about these (or any) symbols or the rules.

    It is absolutely true that language requires a mind. So if you want to define information as something requiring language then information requires a mind. But that simply moves the question to “is DNA a language” (I don’t mean it is like a language – to me “language of the genes” is like “language of the rocks” – a metaphor).

    For example, what does a string of DNA refer to?

    What does a string of DNA refer to? It may create a protein – but it doesn’t refer to that protein.

  101. Scattered throughout this thread is an argument that appears to go like this.

    1) I believe certain things to be self-evidently true e.g. everything has a cause.

    2) Anyone who does not believe these things is irrational.

    3) Therefore, any requests they may make for evidence or clarification of these beliefs is irrational.

    4) Furthermore they are intellectual wimps for not putting forward their own set of self-evident beliefs.

  102. —-”Scattered throughout this thread is an argument that appears to go like this.

    —-”1) I believe certain things to be self-evidently true e.g. everything has a cause.”

    Translation: I don’t accept the law of causality. It limits my options.

    —-”2) Anyone who does not believe these things is irrational.”

    Translation: Anyone who calls attention to that fact that I reject reason’s first principles is using ad hominem arguments

    —-”3) Therefore, any requests they may make for evidence or clarification of these beliefs is irrational.”

    Translation: Evidence need not be interpreted according to reason’s first principles.

    —-”4) Furthermore they are intellectual wimps for not putting forward their own set of self-evident beliefs.”

    Translation: I wish there was another set of first principles that would allow me to accept causality when it serves my purpose and dismiss it when it doesn’t.

  103. Hi Steve, TGP, Jerry (et al):

    Passing through. (Needed to borrow a handy defn of ID. Busy elsewhere.)

    I see the issues of utter implausible and the problem of first principles are still around. Looks like there is another problem at work: on the part of our Darwinist friends!

    I note, en pasant, that the real issues to be explained are not just he existence of complex interlocking collaborating biomolecules, but the system as a whole. Cf the Int’l Union of Biochem and Molecular Bio’s integrated reaction scheme of cellular metabolism and the integrated, purposeful complexity of a petrochem plant; which last is actually SIMPLER!

    Both easily surpass the info content of a chain of 1,000 yes/no decisions to get to such delicately specific integrated functionality! (If you doubt me, ask your friendly local chemical engineer –Hi Dr J-S, if you are out there watching! (You are as brilliant as you are lovely) — to estimate the price for a design of a plant to do each of these reaction networks, and the onward cost to build.)

    But the whole observed cosmos across its thermodynamic lifespan would not credibly be able to go through more than 10^150 Quantum states (or 10^139 on Meyer’s more exact estimate). 1,000 bits — the info capacity [Shannon metric is about this] of 1,000 y/n decisions — specifies a config space of 1.07*10^301 states. So, the cosmos viewed as a search would not be able to scan 1 in 10^150 of the accessible states, i.e the search rounds down to zero scope. So, odds of finding islands of such funciton are not materially different from zero. (Cf Shapiro and Orgel’s recent exchange on this in the OOL context, here! Boiled down: NEITHER RNA world nor metabolism are reasonably explicable on chance + necessity only, so the persistence in dismissing the obvious design inference is because of a priori materialism under false colours of science, not evidence.)

    This is the meat on the bones of the inference from FSCI to ART-ificial or intelligent — as opposed to supernatural! — causal action in the context of observed life forms from the cell on up.

    Further, TGP is right to highlight that DNA and the associated processing system are a flexible program [think viruses . . . ], digital information system, one in the context of a self-replicating automaton. So, algorithms, instructional and data structure codes, and thus language PRECEDE the origin of cell based life, i.e. are causally foundational to it. Thence, symbols and rules of meaning.

    On inductive inference to the best and only observationally known explanation, such originates in intelligence, i.e. mind.

    So, on evidence, we are back where Plato saw ever so long ago in The Laws, Book X, back in 360 BC: Mind is prior to and the basic cause of the living body.

    Extending to the evidence on the multidimensionally fine tuned integrated complexity of the cosmos to facilitate such C-chemistry based life [cf. simple PPT show here], Mind is causally prior to the cosmos we live in too.

    And, those who reject and resist predictably end up in reductio ad absurdum, as the above thread abundantly demonstrates. (“Daddy: De emperor struttin’ ’bout buck nakkid! Why he doin’ dat for?”)

    G’day all

    Have fun!

    GEM of TKI

  104. PS: Expanding through another instructive exchange of thoughts:

    __________

    A: Lewontin, NYRB, Jan 1997:

    >> . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth . . . . Sagan’s argument is straightforward. We exist as material beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of physical relations among material entities. The vast majority of us do not have control of the intellectual apparatus needed to explain manifest reality in material terms, so in place of scientific (i.e., correct material) explanations, we substitute demons . . . . Most of the chapters of The Demon-Haunted World are taken up with exhortations to the reader to cease whoring after false gods and to accept the scientific method as the unique pathway to a correct understanding of the natural world. To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test . . . .

    Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. >>

    B: Johnson, First Things, Nov 1997:

    >>For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” 

    . . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. When the public understands this clearly, Lewontin’s Darwinism will start to move out of the science curriculum and into the department of intellectual history, where it can gather dust on the shelf next to Lewontin’s Marxism. [The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77, pp. 22 – 25.] >>

    _______________

    See wot I’se mean bout de emperor?

    So long . . .

  105. vividbleau: Furthermore when we analyze their responses we find they are doing two things. 1) Thay are giving their REASONS why REASON does not apply. 2) One can further breakdown their responses as a list of causes why causality need not be absolute.

    It’s not clear who “they” are, but evolutionary biology is well within the norms of cause-and-effect relationships, so it’s rather a moot point.

    Zachriel: People have often thought that chaotic patterns conveyed semantic information.

    tgpeeler: And how would this happen? Could you give us an example of what this would look like? Who are these “people”? Do they live around here? I’d like to meet them. Good luck. If I had a million dollars to bet this would be the one I’d make. That you can’t demonstrate this in any coherent way, shape, or form.

    Astrology. Divination.

    Your local currency is of no value to us, so you may keep your million dollars. Or spend it on your poor brethren.

    Clive Hayden: Do your “people” see semantic information supplied by chaos on the level of these few sentences I have written here?

    Zachriel: Some clearly do.

    Clive Hayden: So what?

    As mentioned, it was tangential, and meant to show the difficulty of quantifying semantic information. People can find meaning in almost anything! It’s one of their most endearing traits. Frankly, it’s surprising that anyone took issue with the statement.

    tgpeeler: Of course, the fact that she (?) would give an insult as a reason not to engage in a discussion of truth shows where her reasoning skills are. I call anyone who rejects reason an intellectual degenerate.

    Heh. Quite. You are being ironic, right?

    -

    We've checked the DeSnark® desnarkification device, and it seems to be working within norms. We're still unsure why Zachriel's comments are being delayed. Please accept our apologies.

  106. tgpeeler: But physics has NOTHING TO SAY about these (or any) symbols or the rules.

    Mark Frank: It is absolutely true that language requires a mind. So if you want to define information as something requiring language then information requires a mind. But that simply moves the question to “is DNA a language”

    What Mark Frank said. The entire argument is semantics and just shifts the burden of proof.

  107. tgpeeler: I am not arguing that since physical laws can only produce rigid order (think crystals or snowflakes) or chaos (think volcano eruption) they can’t produce information, although THAT IS TRUE.

    I am saying that physical law cannot account for or produce or create or explain information because it has nothing to say about symbols and rules, that is, language.

    If we jot down the pattern that planets trace across the sky, we call that information. That’s fine. The same with the patterns in DNA or anything else. That only tells us the source of our tittles. It does nothing to help us determine whether the patterns the planets trace are the result of a mind or just due to contingent circumstance.

  108. kairosfocus: Both easily surpass the info content of a chain of 1,000 yes/no decisions to get to such delicately specific integrated functionality!

    {snip extensive quote-minds}

    It’s well-established that evolutionary processes can integrate information from the environment. Nor do such processes have to explore all 4^gazillion sequences, but can find complex solutions by incremental change.

  109. 109

    tgpeeler at 90,

    Mustela @ 87

    “We need a rigorous definition of ‘information’ before this discussion can bear fruit. Shannon information, for example, can be shown to be generated by physical processes, so if we use that definition your claim is refuted.”

    Aha, another miscommunication on my part. Physical “processes” are necessarily involved in the creation of information but that’s not what I am talking about. What I’m talking about is the manipulation of the physical world (or, as you say, processes) by the mental world (which a materialist denies the existence of) as opposed to the world of physics, to create information. That’s the distinction I mean to make.

    Hmm, I need a rigorous definition of what you mean by “information” even more now. ;-)

    All mental processes of which I am aware take place in a physical substrate, namely a brain. You seem to be skipping ahead to the end game, asserting the existence of a disembodied mind that affects the physical world. Long before that point you need to define what you mean by “information”, show that it exists in real biological organisms, and show clearly that it cannot be generated by known evolutionary mechanisms.

    Shannon information, BTW, as I understand it, only deals with information at the statistical level. His concepts are used to cram data through pipes but really have little, if anything, to say about syntax or semantics (meaning). Any string of zero’s and one’s can contain “information” but that information is still contingent upon there being IN PLACE, between the sender and the receiver, a language.

    Are you defining information to exist only when a mind comprehends something about the physical world? There’s probably a valid definition that can be generated from that basis, but I don’t see how it would suggest that known physical processes can’t generate the physical structures that are interpreted by our minds.

    Otherwise, no communication. That language (symbols and rules) is what physics is unable to account for. Thus, the materialist enterprise fails. Or so I say. More later…

    I look forward to it.

  110. GEM of TKI

    Great to “see” you. I enjoy your way with words and look forward to following the links you provided. A cogent summary of “things.” Thanks.

    p.s. The Lewontin quote is one of my all time “favorites.”

  111. Mark Frank @ 100

    “It is absolutely true that language requires a mind. So if you want to define information as something requiring language then information requires a mind. But that simply moves the question to “is DNA a language” (I don’t mean it is like a language – to me “language of the genes” is like “language of the rocks” – a metaphor).”

    Let me get more specific: “So if you want to define information as something requiring language then information requires a mind.”

    If “I” want to?? How about Crick, Dawkins, Kuppers, Yockey, to name a few? There is no question about this. See post #68. What about language being symbols and rules do you not understand? This is the thing, it’s called the law of identity. A thing is what it is. Language is language and you can’t change the definition when it suits you so you don’t have to abandon an intellectually untenable position. DNA expresses a language. Sorry about that.

  112. Mark Frank @ 100

    “It is absolutely true that language requires a mind. So if you want to define information as something requiring language then information requires a mind. But that simply moves the question to “is DNA a language” (I don’t mean it is like a language – to me “language of the genes” is like “language of the rocks” – a metaphor).”

    Let me get more specific: “So if you want to define information as something requiring language then information requires a mind.”

    If “I” want to?? How about Crick, Dawkins, Kuppers, Yockey, to name a few? How about Merriam-Webster (on-line)? “(5): a formal system of signs and symbols (as FORTRAN or a calculus in logic) including rules for the formation and transformation of admissible expressions” There is no question about this. This is fundamental to ALL languages because that is what a language IS. Symbols and rules. See post #68 for other opinions about DNA being language and biological information being information. What about language being symbols and rules do you not understand? This is the thing, it’s called the law of identity. A thing is what it is. Language is language and you can’t change the definition when it suits you so you don’t have to abandon an intellectually untenable position. (Well, you CAN but then you remain mired in a lie rather than coming to the truth.) DNA expresses a language. Sorry about that. If you think that there can be information apart from language then be my guest to provide an instance of that. You’ll quickly see the inanity of attempting to communicate information apart from a language.

  113. Hi Mustela Nivalis:

    Try the UD Glossary and the Discussion of weak arguments and their correctives (top of the page, RH column).

    From the Glossary:

    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].”

    So-called Shannon Information is in reality a measure instead of information storage or carrying capacity; bearing in mind the relative frequency of symbols, noise and the related probabilities.

    In the functional sense of messages, information indeed involves:

    1 –> symbols [such as ASCII and alphanumeric characters used in this post], where per Wiki again (quoting the opposition to show inconsistencies in their thinking as well as set a good baseline for communicating never hurts . . . ):

    A symbol is something such as an object, picture, written word, sound, or particular mark that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for “STOP”. On maps, crossed sabres may indicate a battlefield. Numerals are symbols for numbers. All language consists of symbols. The word “cat” is not a cat, but is an arbitrary symbol representing the idea of a cat. A certain symbol might represent a town, city or a village of some sort.

    2 –> The physical expression of such symbols by modulating a contingent phenomenon [air pressure, frequency of light, patterns of light and darkness or colour on a sheet of paper of computer screen, voltages etc]

    3 –> Rules of patterning the symbols for syntax and semantics . . . i.e. good grammar or the equivalent and meaningfulness.

    4 –> Difference-making, i.e. the particular state of the signals makes a difference to some activity or process. [e.g. this message responds to a context of discussion and carries a meaning that makes sense to both the machines involved in the internet at one level and at the human level it is a meaningful English language communication.]

    It is a well demonstrated point that the only known observed source of functionally specific complex information [FSCI, the relevant subset of Orgel's Complex Specified Information (1973)] is intelligences. On grounds discussed above, it is an inductively strong inference that FSCI is a signature or characteristic sign of intelligence.

    So, on seeing FSCI manifested in the DNA of life forms, and digital, algorithmic and data structure information, we have excellent reason — apart from Lewontinian a priori materialism (and read the rest of what Phillip Johnson had to say!) — to conclude that life is designed. Moreover, there is related excellent reason to infer from the empirical evidence of FSCI increments to get to the basis for the major body plans, these too are designed.

    G’day.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: TGP, thanks for the kind words. You have raised a significant emphasis in pointing to the nature of information as embracing symbols and associated rules that facilitate communication.

    PPS: MN, I use examples due to the clarifying power of concrete examples; i.e I am appealing to the power of significant family resemblance [definition by example], and onward to the relevance of analogy to all serious human reasoning; never mind selctively hyperskeptical huffing and puffing against such analogies when they are inconvenient to evolutionary materialists. Cf Wiki’s discussion of analogy.

    PPPS: Onlookers, I trust the above shows some of why I have usually taken time to develop remarks in some details, to anticipate and address common misunderstandings and objections.

  114. #107

    See post #68. What about language being symbols and rules do you not understand? This is the thing, it’s called the law of identity. A thing is what it is. Language is language and you can’t change the definition when it suits you so you don’t have to abandon an intellectually untenable position. DNA expresses a language. Sorry about that.

    Words such as sign, language, information, symbol, have much more elastic meanings than you give them credit for. That’s why we keep on asking for more rigorous definitions which you refuse to be drawn into.

    Consider

    Sign

    Clouds are a sign of rain
    This is the first sign of madness
    This sign must mean roadworks

    Symbol

    The clenched fist is the symbol of the Black Panther movement
    The use of troops is a symbol of the government’s determination to win the miners’ strike
    + is the symbol for addition

    Language
    Only an experienced tracker can read the language of the bush
    Computers only understand machine code
    The dance of the bees is a simple language for conveying where honey is

    A concept can refer to multiple overlapping threads none of which are essential and different ones apply at the same time. Read Wittgenstein on Family Resemblance

  115. tgpeeler: Let me get more specific: “So if you want to define information as something requiring language then information requires a mind.”

    If “I” want to?? How about Crick, Dawkins, Kuppers, Yockey, to name a few?

    Francis Crick, Of Molecules and Men: “…we have, in effect, to translate the information from a four-letter language into a twenty-letter language

    FC, LI: “A protein is like a paragraph written in a twenty-letter language

    Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: “You can treat the genetic code as a dictionary

    And so on (with qualifiers emphasized). More importantly, we *know* that Crick and Dawkins do not mean that a mind is involved in genes or proteins, so it is *you* who is clearly misreading their intent.

  116. 116

    tgpeeler at 108,

    I think we may be closing in on your definition of “information” based on an implied equivalence in your response to Mark Frank. He said:

    It is absolutely true that language requires a mind. So if you want to define information as something requiring language then information requires a mind. But that simply moves the question to “is DNA a language” (I don’t mean it is like a language – to me “language of the genes” is like “language of the rocks” – a metaphor).

    Let me get more specific: So if you want to define information as something requiring language then information requires a mind.

    Your response included:

    This is fundamental to ALL languages because that is what a language IS. Symbols and rules. See post #68 for other opinions about DNA being language and biological information being information.

    DNA is not made up of symbols and rules. It is made up of chemicals that operate according to known natural processes. Humans can use the metaphor (as Mark Frank points out) of language to aid in understanding some aspects of its behavior, but the map is not the territory and the metaphor is not the process.

    You can’t logically go from “Human languages are made up of symbols and rules.” to “Since we can represent some aspects of genetics with symbols and rules, DNA is a language.” You certainly can’t build on that analogy to assert that since human languages are used by human minds, DNA is a product of a mind.

    If we can agree on a rigorous definition of “information” then we can probably make some progress in the discussion.

  117. 117

    kairosfocus at 109,

    While I find your FSCI interesting, I’m focusing now on trying to understand CSI, as described in No Free Lunch, to a sufficient level of detail that I can implement it in software.

    Do you have an example of a calculation of CSI for a biological artifact that takes into consideration known evolutionary mechanisms?

  118. Mustela @ 105

    “Hmm, I need a rigorous definition of what you mean by “information” even more now.”

    Hmm, I need a rigorous definition of what you mean by “rigorous” even more now. No, really. How long can you continue to play the “define information” game? We’re not Bill Clinton here. We know what is “is.”

    “All mental processes of which I am aware take place in a physical substrate, namely a brain.” True.

    “You seem to be skipping ahead to the end game, asserting the existence of a disembodied mind that affects the physical world.”

    No. I am starting from the BEGINNING, as first principles demand, and reasoning to a conclusion. The argument is valid and the premises are true therefore the argument is sound. That is to say, the conclusion is NECESSARILY true.

    “Long before that point you need to define what you mean by “information”,”

    Asked and answered.

    “show that it exists in real biological organisms,”

    What will suffice for evidence for you? I’ve explained it rationally. I’ve cited evolutionary biologists (and a physicist who specialized in information theory). No one on the planet who knows a thing about DNA would argue that it doesn’t contain information, i.e. expresses a language. That is until the real implications of what that means are pointed out, then the scramble begins to redefine information and language so as to accomodate the intellectually bankrupt assumptions of naturalism.

    “and show clearly that it cannot be generated by known evolutionary mechanisms.”

    Done. Multiple times. But here’s a quick review. There are only two evolutionary mechanisms. One, ‘natural selection,’ and two, genetic mutation. ‘Natural selection’ is merely physics, according to evolutionists and according to a rigorous analysis of what it claims to be. But it’s not physics because you’ll find that physicists never talk about “natural selection” as being a force in nature. (Go ahead, ask one.) There are four forces that physicists talk about (EM, gravity, strong, and weak) and ‘natural selection’ is not one of them. So that makes me wonder, what IS IT exactly, then?? Dawkins realizes that “ns” is merely physics. He says in “The Blind Watchmaker” that “All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way.” Well, WTF is that “very special way”? He never says because he can’t say. And what does that actually mean, anyway? How does nothing deploy anything? So if one carefully examines ‘ns’ then one clearly sees that it is merely one of the biggest smoke screens of all time. If the naturalist assumption that all can be explained by physics is true (it isn’t, as I’ve argued) then ‘ns’ should be a part of physics. But it isn’t. So what is it? It’s a lie is what it is. I’d be happy to expound further on this but it’s sort of irrelevant to the point at hand. The second “mechanism” of evolution is genetic mutation. So they assume language, they assume information, and they assume (most hilariously of all) that accidents can improve the existence of information, whose origin they have been completely unable to come to terms with in the first place. It’s as if they seriously think that a bunch of random typographical errors can improve a dissertation. I mean, how RIDICULOUS is that??? Very. This is “intellectually respectable”? Not where I come from.

    Let me make another comment or two about “ns.” When Darwin, one of the greatest intellectual frauds in history (along with Marx and Keynes but those are other stories) was dreaming up “natural selection” as a way to avoid recognizing the obvious, that living things are designed (refer back to the Dawkins quote above, despite “All appearances to the contrary”) he was trying to explain the existence of physical structures. Wings, beaks, eyes, etc… But by 1953 or whenever it was that the structure of DNA was discovered, biologists SHOULD HAVE immediately recognized that physical structures didn’t need to be explained. Nay, it is the INFORMATION that is contained in the genome of every living thing that accounts for those structures that screams out for explanation. WHENCE the source of all this information???? “Natural selection,” even if it was a real phenomenon that exercised causal power in nature, is irrelevant. The entire Darwinian/naturalist enterprise to explain life in terms of physics is literally a fool’s errand. It will end badly, as all fool’s errands do, for those who stubbornly cling to the lie.

    If you are so sure that I’m wrong, just provide one counter-example. It should be easy to do. Here’s hoping for your “ah ha” moment. The moment when you realize that you’ve been fed a bill of goods for how ever many years you’ve been studying/thinking about this.

  119. Mark Frank @ 110

    “Words such as sign, language, information, symbol, have much more elastic meanings than you give them credit for. That’s why we keep on asking for more rigorous definitions which you refuse to be drawn into.”

    I am not refusing to be “drawn” into this. No kidding that words have elastic meanings. But I’m not changing the meaning of “information” or “language” or any other word. I have defined those terms and I use them consistently and more importantly, in their appropriate sense for this conversation. To use words (terms) equivocally is to commit a logical fallacy and that is destructive to the search for the truth.

    “Consider

    Sign

    Clouds are a sign of rain
    This is the first sign of madness
    This sign must mean roadworks”

    Consider: that what I have claimed and argued for is in no way affected by your example. So what that different words can be used to refer to the same thing or that the same word can be used in a different context? That is trivially true but it misses the point.

    “Symbol

    The clenched fist is the symbol of the Black Panther movement
    The use of troops is a symbol of the government’s determination to win the miners’ strike
    + is the symbol for addition”

    OK. And your point is? In each of these cases, I GET YOUR POINT. And what that means is that you have just used a set of symbols in accordance with a set of rules to communicate a message and that I understand that symbol set and those rules so that I can “get it.”

    “Language
    Only an experienced tracker can read the language of the bush
    Computers only understand machine code
    The dance of the bees is a simple language for conveying where honey is”

    EXACTLY. In each of these cases, my point remains. The language of the bush, which I certainly couldn’t read, because I don’t understand what a bent blade of grass (a symbol) may represent (the direction my quarry is taking) is because I don’t KNOW THE LANGUAGE. But the language has symbols (bent grass, footprints, etc…) and rules (those things mean different things in context) else information would not be communicated. It’s the same thing with the honey bee dance. There are symbols (various “dance steps”) and rules (certain steps in combination mean go here or go there) so that communication can take place. Nothing you’ve said impacts any of the arguments I’ve made. Indeed, you’ve merely pointed out some particulars of the generality I’ve been arguing for. Thanks.

    “A concept can refer to multiple overlapping threads none of which are essential and different ones apply at the same time. Read Wittgenstein on Family Resemblance.”

    Granted. So what?

  120. 120

    tgpeeler at 113,

    How long can you continue to play the “define information” game?

    It’s not a game. Until you define your terms, this discussion is literally meaningless. Please make explicit your definition of “information” so that we can determine whether or not it exists in biological organisms and whether or not it can be generated by known evolutionary mechanisms.

    “Long before that point you need to define what you mean by “information”,”

    Asked and answered.

    No, it hasn’t been answered. If it had been, you could simply restate the definition.

    “and show clearly that it cannot be generated by known evolutionary mechanisms.”

    Done. Multiple times.

    Again, no you haven’t. First, since you have not yet defined what you mean by “information”, it is logically impossible for you to show that it couldn’t be generated by known evolutionary mechanisms. Second, you haven’t actually tried to do so in any of the posts I’ve seen.

    The rest of your 113 ignores previous comments by other posters about emergent properties and the limitations of reductionism, so I’ll leave those until I understand your definition of “information”.

  121. tgpeeler: So how does one encode information, anyway? With language, of course. And what is a language? Why it’s a set of symbols accompanied by a set of rules for the arrangement of those symbols. So the chain is now complete. Life – information – language – symbols and rules.

    There is a correspondence between codons and amino acids. We might call this a code (or symbol or language), but the use of the term doesn’t imply a secret Intelligent Agency. It simply refers to the correspondence itself.

    tgpeeler: No one on the planet who knows a thing about DNA would argue that it doesn’t contain information, i.e. expresses a language.

    Information already has a precise definition and metric in mathematics. Instead, you are equating information with language.

    If we record the intervals between drips of a leaky faucet, is this information? What is the leaky faucet saying?

    -
    Interesting. The moderation intervals have a similar fractal dimension to the leaky faucet. Hmmm.

  122. Mustela @ 112:
    “Do you have an example of a calculation of CSI for a biological artifact that takes into consideration known evolutionary mechanisms?”

    I have some time for a quick comment to hopefully help set a bit of the record straight.

    In the equation for CSI, P(T|H) is the probability of arriving at the event given the chance hypothesis. I do understand that originally, Dembski stated that this would include evolutionary processes. However, this is where I disagree with what Dembski has said and it seems that his position on the matter has also changed during his research with Dr. Marks. I (and possibly Dembski himself, now) disagree with his original statement that P(T|H) can include evolutionary mechanisms since it is now hypothesized that chance will not produce evolutionary algorithms. If you disagree, then merely provide an example of an EA in which all conditions where produced absent any intelligent bias toward a target or the solution to a specific problem. IOW, random inputs controlled the variables of the laws and conditions, with no possibility of foresight to a goal of form or function being utilized.

    That is the reason why I have equated P(T|H) with a uniform probability distribution — statistical randomness is the best characterization of chance. Of course, you can throw some random laws into the mix and get localized order and thus highly ordered CSI, which is why the explanatory filter must also be used in conjunction with CSI to weed out law — “mathematical descriptions of regularities that emerge from the physical/material/measurable properties of matter and energy.”

    I discuss this some more in the thread “Polonyi and Ontogenetic Emergence” starting at comment #8.

    In the end, organized (as opposed to merely ordered — defined by law) CSI is a reliable indicator of intelligence.

    The difference between “order” and “organization” is also discussed at the thread mentioned above in comment #8.

  123. Information: The attribute inherent in and communicated by alternative sequences or arrangements of something that produce specific effects.

  124. CJYman: merely provide an example of an EA in which all conditions where produced absent any intelligent bias toward a target or the solution to a specific problem. IOW, random inputs controlled the variables of the laws and conditions, with no possibility of foresight to a goal of form or function being utilized.

    An evolutionary algorithm presupposes an environment (e.g. a fitness landscape) and replicators competing for limited resources—by definition. Consequently, saying “random inputs control the variables of the laws and conditions” doesn’t make sense.

  125. 125

    CJYman at 116,

    Mustela @ 112:
    “Do you have an example of a calculation of CSI for a biological artifact that takes into consideration known evolutionary mechanisms?”

    I have some time for a quick comment to hopefully help set a bit of the record straight.

    In the equation for CSI, P(T|H) is the probability of arriving at the event given the chance hypothesis. I do understand that originally, Dembski stated that this would include evolutionary processes. However, this is where I disagree with what Dembski has said and it seems that his position on the matter has also changed during his research with Dr. Marks. I (and possibly Dembski himself, now) disagree with his original statement that P(T|H) can include evolutionary mechanisms since it is now hypothesized that chance will not produce evolutionary algorithms.

    Hypothesized by whom, and on what basis?

    If known evolutionary mechanisms are not taken into account, CSI is not relevant to biology and hence cannot disprove modern evolutionary theory.

    If you disagree, then merely provide an example of an EA in which all conditions where produced absent any intelligent bias toward a target or the solution to a specific problem. IOW, random inputs controlled the variables of the laws and conditions, with no possibility of foresight to a goal of form or function being utilized.

    You can’t shift the burden of proof that easily. We know something about the laws of physics and chemistry in our universe and we have observed a number of natural mechanisms that result in evolution (that is, a change in allele frequency in populations over time). If CSI is to be applicable to biology, it must take known physics, chemistry, and evolutionary mechanisms into account.

    That is the reason why I have equated P(T|H) with a uniform probability distribution — statistical randomness is the best characterization of chance.

    Actually, it’s a reflection of lack of knowledge, and in this case it’s knowledge that we actually have about the domain under consideration (biology). Since I come from a software background, I’ll offer you a famous AI koan by way of explanation:

    Sussman attains enlightenment
    In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP-6.

    “What are you doing?”, asked Minsky.

    “I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-Tac-Toe” Sussman replied.

    “Why is the net wired randomly?”, asked Minsky.

    “I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play”, Sussman said.

    Minsky then shut his eyes.

    “Why do you close your eyes?”, Sussman asked his teacher.

    “So that the room will be empty.”

    At that moment, Sussman was enlightened.

    We know enough about evolutionary mechanisms that we don’t need to close our eyes.

    Of course, you can throw some random laws into the mix and get localized order and thus highly ordered CSI, which is why the explanatory filter must also be used in conjunction with CSI to weed out law — “mathematical descriptions of regularities that emerge from the physical/material/measurable properties of matter and energy.”

    The laws aren’t random, though, they’re the physics and chemistry of our universe. They can’t be ignored if CSI is to be biologically relevant.

  126. 126

    StephenB at 117,

    Information: The attribute inherent in and communicated by alternative sequences or arrangements of something that produce specific effects.

    Thanks for taking a first stab at a rigorous definition.

    This has a couple of unfortunate problems. The first is the phrase “inherent in and communicated by”. This combines too many concepts that could result in assuming a conclusion. If information is inherent in a sequence, it can be measured without actively communicating with the entity doing the measurement. The whole notion of communication almost presumes the existence of a sender and receiver, which is one of the issues under contention.

    The second problem is that this definition gives no way to measure information. I’m looking for a definition that would please Lord Kelvin:

    I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.

    Can we beat this definition into something mutually agreeable?

  127. Language abstractly describes concepts and entities separate from the medium of the language itself.
    For example, how many characters do you see here in quotes: “9″

    There’s one character, not nine. But it represents the abstract concept of nine. Not nine of any literal thing, but the idea of it. So does “2 + 7.” How is the concept of “nine” embodied in that character? It isn’t. There’s no connection, except that we define it.

    The descriptions encoded in language are information.

    This handful of characters

    Only an experienced tracker can read the language of the bush

    only contain information about an experienced tracker if you understand the language. Otherwise there is absolutely nothing to connect the words to the concepts. They are not physically embodied in the medium or the symbols.

    The insurmountable challenge for Darwinism is there is no natural law or process that produces the abstraction of information through language. I’m sure if there were an example someone would have coughed it up by now.

    The answer to that challenge? Wave it away by splitting hairs over the meaning of “language” and “information,” or producing sentences that use irrelevant dictionary definitions.

    It’s nothing but evasion.

  128. Zachriel:
    “An evolutionary algorithm presupposes an environment (e.g. a fitness landscape) and replicators competing for limited resources—by definition. Consequently, saying “random inputs control the variables of the laws and conditions” doesn’t make sense.”

    Of course it does, if you are attempting to get from no EA to an evolutionary algorithm. Your statement is equivalent to saying that trying to put the components together to make a car makes no sense since a car is by definition composed of its specific components.

  129. Mustala:
    “If known evolutionary mechanisms are not taken into account, CSI is not relevant to biology and hence cannot disprove modern evolutionary theory.”

    Where in my comments have I ever attempted to disprove modern evolutionary theory? Every one of my comments here assume it as a given.

  130. Mustela:
    “We know enough about evolutionary mechanisms that we don’t need to close our eyes.”

    Uhuh … we know that there is not a single example that you can provide that shows an evolutionary algorithm resulting from only law and chance absent the foresight to tune initial conditions toward a target of form or function. Remember, as it pertains to life and evolution I am in no way an interventionist, I assume (although I and many non-ID scientists do not agree with) a darwinian type of evolution, and I believe that some type of abiogenesis must have happened in the past.

    Please utilize this information as you read through my comments again. If you are unclear on what I mean about something please ask.

  131. #119

    The language of the bush, which I certainly couldn’t read, because I don’t understand what a bent blade of grass (a symbol) may represent (the direction my quarry is taking) is because I don’t KNOW THE LANGUAGE. But the language has symbols (bent grass, footprints, etc…) and rules (those things mean different things in context) else information would not be communicated.

    But that language is not created by a mind. It is created by the unconscious movements of an animal. So if language includes that sense of language – language does not require a mind after all.

  132. 132

    CJYman at 129,

    Mustala:
    “If known evolutionary mechanisms are not taken into account, CSI is not relevant to biology and hence cannot disprove modern evolutionary theory.”

    Where in my comments have I ever attempted to disprove modern evolutionary theory? Every one of my comments here assume it as a given.

    The point of CSI is to demonstrate that a particular construct could not exist without intelligent intervention. Proving that CSI exists and that it unequivocally indicates intelligent intervention would overturn much if not all of modern evolutionary theory.

    If you don’t think that CSI would do so, what is your view on it?

  133. 133

    CJYman at 130,

    Mustela:
    “We know enough about evolutionary mechanisms that we don’t need to close our eyes.”

    Uhuh … we know that there is not a single example that you can provide that shows an evolutionary algorithm resulting from only law and chance absent the foresight to tune initial conditions toward a target of form or function.

    I don’t understand this statement. One interpretation I can come up with is that you seem to be assuming your conclusion, namely that evolutionary mechanisms are not natural processes. Another is that you are reasserting the “search for a search” claims, which ignore the fact that we are dealing with only one “search space” (leaving aside for now whether or not that is a valid way of modeling reality).

    Evolution happens when you have imperfect replicators and limited resources. Those conditions will lead to differential reproductive success. The mechanisms identified by modern evolutionary theory do not contradict what we know about physics and chemistry. Unless you’re using “law and chance” in some idiosyncratic way, we’ve observed numerous examples of what you say we haven’t.

    Remember, as it pertains to life and evolution I am in no way an interventionist, I assume (although I and many non-ID scientists do not agree with) a darwinian type of evolution, and I believe that some type of abiogenesis must have happened in the past.

    I’m confused about your support for ID, then. What do you think happened?

    Please utilize this information as you read through my comments again. If you are unclear on what I mean about something please ask.

    I’m asking!

  134. The “language” of the bush is not a language. If an blade of grass is bent by an animal, the bent blade of grass is a physical effect of the animal’s action.

    If I write or say that an animal bent a blade of grass, that is language. There is no physical connection between my words and the bent blade of grass. There doesn’t even need to be an actual blade of grass, only the idea of one and that it might be bent. The words only represent that because I know they do.

    The notion that unintelligent things formulate abstract languages to describe themselves or other things or write instructions, and then store them, communicate them, or carry them out is too preposterous to be taken seriously unless someone has some seriously impressive hard evidence.

  135. Z @ 105

    “Astrology. Divination.

    Your local currency is of no value to us, so you may keep your million dollars. Or spend it on your poor brethren.”

    Hee hee. Too bad, though. I said “coherent.” The prize hasn’t been awarded yet. Astrology and divination are about as rational as evolutionary theory. You’re right about a million US dollars though. Hardly worth anything these days and still headed south.

  136. #134

    The “language” of the bush is not a language. If an blade of grass is bent by an animal, the bent blade of grass is a physical effect of the animal’s action.

    I guess that proves the importance of defining these things. tgpeeler thinks it is a language. You don’t.

  137. Zachriel: People have often thought that chaotic patterns conveyed semantic information.

    tgpeeler: And how would this happen? Could you give us an example of what this would look like? Who are these “people”? Do they live around here? I’d like to meet them. Good luck. If I had a million dollars to bet this would be the one I’d make. That you can’t demonstrate this in any coherent way, shape, or form.

    Zachriel: Astrology.

    tgpeeler: I said “coherent.”

    And it’s clear from context you were questioning whether people believed such things, your use of the word “coherent” referring to the *demonstration* of the existence of people who hold such beliefs. In what should be unnecessary detail:

    tgpeeler: And how would this happen?

    People tend to perceive patterns even when presented with randomness.

    tgpeeler: Could you give us an example of what this would look like?

    Astrology.

    tgpeeler: Who are these “people”?

    People throughout the history of civilization.

    tgpeeler: Do they live around here?

    Your local newspaper probably publishes a horoscope.

    tgpeeler: I’d like to meet them. Good luck.

    And so on, clearly waving your hands about whether “People have often thought that chaotic patterns conveyed semantic information.” Clearly they have and do.

  138. Mustela Nivalis

    I am not really taking part in a blow by blow discussion.

    I suggest that you note FSCI is easily measured in functional bits, the familiar form we see all around us: bits at work.

    It is easy to show the number of bits of information capacity in the DNA chain, and to see that the 300 – 500 K minimum addresses a config space so vastly beyond the search capacity of the observed universe that origin of life is not a credible product of chance + necessity in whatever form of Darwin’s warm little pond you please.

    Furthermore, the increments to get to main body plans easily go beyond the 1,000 bit threshold discussed above so these too are not credibly due to chance + necessity without intelligence.

    Debates on how to address Dembski’s generic models of CSI to life forms then become moot. (But note that he Durston et al group have come up with some metrics that do relate to living forms, in FITS, based on the H-metric of average info per symbol applied to proteins etc.)

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  139. Mark Frank: I guess that proves the importance of defining these things. tgpeeler thinks it is a language. You don’t.

    Tgpeeler claims that mind is entailed in the definition of information, a deduction. The usual ID argument is inductive, that of any sources of “information” we can discover, they are invariably due to mind. Therefore, the unexplained case is probably also due to mind. This argument is specious, of course, but it enough to note that StephenB and tgpeeler are using different definitions, so the existence of semantic confusion on this point is not due to “intellectual degeneration” or “pervasive insanity.”

  140. MF:

    You know full well the import of the use of symbols; as opposed to physical consequences of activities or events.

    Rocks tumble down hillsides all the time. Such rocks do not credibly fall into patterns that read; Welcome to Wales, on the border of Wales. (Cf. here — again.)

    In short, kindly stop indulging in (inevitably self-referentially incoherent) selective hyperskepticism; even as you use symbolic information systems to argue your case.

    GEM of TKI

  141. Zachriel,

    Your local newspaper probably publishes a horoscope.
    And so on, clearly waving your hands about whether “People have often thought that chaotic patterns conveyed semantic information.” Clearly they have and do.

    This is your answer to how either AAAAAAAAAAAA or chaos produces semantic information? That some folks see information in something like astrology? Do you think these people valid? I mean, you would have to in order to support your position that semantic information can come about by a static or chaotic system. But you would be the first to declare this pseudo-scientific. But now you’re asserting that pseudo-science is valid as long as semantic information can be “seen” in a static or chaotic system? You can’t have it both ways. I’m sorry, but you can’t. tgpeeler is exactly correct when he says that neither AAAAAAAAA nor chaos produces the information necessary. Your argument that some people see otherwise hinges on those people and what they see as being valid. But you don’t think they or what they see, such as astrology, is valid. So your argument has become very incoherent.

  142. PS: There is an actual definition of information up-thread, which addresses the issues, by excerpting the Glossary. Predictably it was ignored by objectors.

  143. CJYman: Of course it does, if you are attempting to get from no EA to an evolutionary algorithm.

    Okay. We’ll reread the comment.

    CJYman: … it is now hypothesized that chance will not produce evolutionary algorithms. If you disagree, then merely provide an example of {the origin of} an EA in which all conditions where produced absent any intelligent bias toward a target or the solution to a specific problem. IOW, random inputs controlled the variables of the laws and conditions, with no possibility of foresight to a goal of form or function being utilized.

    As no one claims that the origin of natural evolutionary mechanisms are due to chance alone, I’m not sure your point. Evolutionary algorithms are abstract models. As such, they are *constructed* to simulate various abstractions of evolutionary processes. Natural replicators are posited to be the result of complex relationships between constituents.

  144. Clive Hayden: This is your answer to how either AAAAAAAAAAAA or chaos produces semantic information? That some folks see information in something like astrology?

    People ascribe meaning to all sorts of things. People often believe they won the lottery because they were picked by fate. Let’s reread my original statement.

    Semantic information is very difficult to unambiguously quantify, except within very limited situations.

    That’s because the quality and quantity of information being conveyed varies by observer and by what is being conveyed. Astrology makes empirical claims that have been shown to be unreliable.

    Clive Hayden: Do you think these people valid?

    If they believe they survived a catastrophe for a greater purpose, who are we to disagree? But suffice it to say that from a scientific vantage, their survival is just a statistic. If they say they can predict lottery numbers by studying the entrails of birds, I rather doubt it.

    Clive Hayden: I mean, you would have to in order to support your position that semantic information can come about by a static or chaotic system.

    Valid how? What does valid mean? Someone may pass a tree where they once picked apples with their father, long since dead, and that tree may evoke a reservoir of memories, regrets, love, aspirations. That meaning has validity to them. To most anyone else, it’s just an old tree.

  145. Zachriel,

    Valid how? What does valid mean? Someone may pass a tree where they once picked apples with their father, long since dead, and that tree may evoke a reservoir of memories, regrets, love, aspirations. That meaning has validity to them. To most anyone else, it’s just an old tree.

    You’re arguments are like water, they flow to the path of least resistance with no regard for steady movement in any one direction that actually promotes and furthers the argument. The question was how does static or chaotic systems create semantic information?

  146. tgpeeler:

    And I notice that IrynaB, who reacted to my “insult” STILL hasn’t had the stones to do what I said they/she wouldn’t do in the first place!! TFF. Of course, the fact that she (?) would give an insult as a reason not to engage in a discussion of truth shows where her reasoning skills are. I call anyone who rejects reason an intellectual degenerate.

    Your macho posturing doesn’t impress me. Does it ever work for you? In my experience it is mostly men with fragile egos who resort to it. It’s very unattractive.

    I notice you still haven’t supplied a definition of information such that you can actually back up your claims. Please do so, and then let me ask you again:

    (a) Why is information immaterial?

    (b) Why was there no information before the emergence of life?

    By the way, did you win your tennis match?

  147. Zachriel:
    People ascribe meaning to all sorts of things. People often believe they won the lottery because they were picked by fate.

    We’re not discussing something hypothetical. Are you actually suggesting that there is no information in DNA, but we make it up? How do you think the components of cells are manufactured, and, by extension, the systems that make up living creatures? Frogs and birds are just lumps of clay, but we stare at them until we see animals?

    Or are you ducking and weaving, bending over backwards to avoid addressing what every middle-school biology student knows, that DNA contains information encoded in a language?

    Sometimes I think this is pointless. But for the moment, I’m curious to see how long this denial can go on. And it’s great for any onlookers to observe.

  148. Why is information immaterial?

    The lyrics to Hey JudeThe instructions for creating a specific proteinThe largest known prime numberHow to jump start a car

    What are they made of?

  149. ScottAndrews @ 147

    Or are you ducking and weaving, bending over backwards to avoid addressing what every middle-school biology student knows, that DNA contains information encoded in a language?

    Or are you and tgpeeler ducking and diving and bending over backwards to avoid committing to one definition of information?

    You difficulty is understandable since there is an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. Perhaps you remember a post from William Dembski on October 9th in which he quoted a non-exhaustive list, compiled by Seth Lloyd, of over forty definitions or measures of information and complexity?

    Which one of those is being discussed here?

  150. The lyrics to Hey JudeThe instructions for creating a specific proteinThe largest known prime numberHow to jump start a car

    What are they made of?

    The lyrics are written down or on CD’s or on hard disks or in people’s brains or encoded in electromagnetic waves that are leaving the earth at the speed of light. If you destroy all copies of the lyrics and kill all the people with the lyrics in their memory and wipe out the radio waves, do the lyrics still exist? I don’t think so.

  151. 151

    lyrna argues that information is the product of a mind:

    The lyrics are written down or on CD’s or on hard disks or in people’s brains or encoded in electromagnetic waves that are leaving the earth at the speed of light. If you destroy all copies of the lyrics and kill all the people with the lyrics in their memory and wipe out the radio waves, do the lyrics still exist? I don’t think so.

    No mind, then no writing them down.

    No mind, then no CDs or hard disks.

    No mind, then no broadcast waves.

    No mind, then no lyrics to begin with.

  152. ScottAndrews: Are you actually suggesting that there is no information in DNA, but we make it up?

    The problem is that there are several definitions of information being used on this thread, so there is no way to answer that question unambiguously. However, there is certainly Shannon Information. And this information is copied and translated within cells.

    ScottAndrews: Or are you ducking and weaving, bending over backwards to avoid addressing what every middle-school biology student knows, that DNA contains information encoded in a language?

    One definition given above is that information is the representation in symbols. That’s fine. But that says nothing about the telic origin of what is being represented by those symbols. We can write down the content of DNA, or we can write down the pattern of a leaky faucet. They are both information.

  153. Clive Hayden: The question was how does static or chaotic systems create semantic information?

    Meanings are *ascribed* to patterns. That’s why I suggested (#64) the term “semantic information” for how you were using the unqualified term “information”—to avoid confusion with other such uses.

    Semantic information is difficult to rigorously define, much less measure, and is often subjective.

  154. Z @ 107

    “If we jot down the pattern that planets trace across the sky, we call that information. That’s fine. The same with the patterns in DNA or anything else. That only tells us the source of our tittles. It does nothing to help us determine whether the patterns the planets trace are the result of a mind or just due to contingent circumstance.”

    You completely miss the point. You ASSUME life in the first place before the “pattern of planets” or anything else can determine information. You are assuming what we are trying to explain. Let’s put it this way. If there was no life of any kind in a universe, would information exist in that universe? The answer is no. If all you have is matter in motion and physics you have no information. If you have no one to generate or to understand that information then you have no information. If you have no language that the originator can use to encode information and that the receiver can use to decode then you have no information. Does this help?

    Let me put it this way. In any model of communication of information, you at least have a sender, a channel, and a receiver. If you don’t have those things you don’t have the communication of information. What I am talking about is the sender, or originator, part of this model. The discussion is about what is required to create information in the FIRST place. The naturalist/materialist says that physics plus eons of time is sufficient to do that. The “logic” goes like this. All that exists is natural/material. The laws of physics govern the behavior of all material entities (sub-atomic particles in energy fields). Life exists. Therefore, physics must have done it. This is flawed because the basic premise is false. The material world is NOT all that exists. The very fact that we speak of information being encoded into a physical substrate proves that. Otherwise we are encoding material into material. The information in these posts is encoded in the letters we type but it is not THE LETTERS we type. Until people grasp that fundamental point this is pretty pointless. If you insist that physical laws can generate information then just give me an example. Construct some simple algorithm based on the analog world of general relativity or the digital world of quantum physics that will create a meaningful paragraph or even a sentence. Then when you can’t do that, because you can’t do that without using some sort of symbol set and having rules about using those symbols, and physics has nothing to say about either of those things, then you may reflect on the fact that the “simplest” forms of life are more complex and information rich than anything mankind has ever built and wonder how that came to be merely through the operation of physical laws on matter and energy. Oh, and you may also want to consider where the physical laws originated and how is it that they are so finely tuned so that the chemistry and biology can work so that we can have this or any other conversation in the first place.

  155. tgpeeler: You ASSUME life in the first place before the “pattern of planets” or anything else can determine information. You are assuming what we are trying to explain.

    I’m not trying to explain anything. I’m trying to get you to state a clear definition of how you are using the term “information.”

    tgpeeler: If there was no life of any kind in a universe, would information exist in that universe? The answer is no… If you have no one to generate or to understand that information then you have no information.

    Of course, the problem is that you have pushed the definition back to the concept of “understanding.” At the least, this means an observer.

    tgpeeler: The discussion is about what is required to create information in the FIRST place.

    The rest of your argument is circular. You *define* information as the relationship between an observer and patterns in the universe. The patterns found in primordial life may be comprised of carbon chemistry, replication, trees falling in the wood, but they don’t meet the definition of Tgpeeler Information.

    So? The origin of information occurs whenever you allow it in your definition. Indeed, primordial life has no Tgpeeler Information. There is no scientific mystery about meeting an arbitrary definition.

  156. Mustela @ 120

    I refer you to post # 72. Reading on from there, I see you think I left something out, about information being measurable. I replied that it’s not about being measurable it’s about what is required to create it (post #72) in the first place. There are many ways to measure information, see Shannon. But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is the origination of information. I’ve made it abundantly clear what is required to generate information and neither the laws of physics nor any emergent properties that may arise from physical laws (hydrogen and oxygen are both gases but in combination they are liquid – the “wetness” being an emergent property) can do that. What is necessary, conceptually, to create information is a language and a language, at it’s most basic, is a system of symbols and rules. All information needs a language to be encoded else it can’t be encoded. And the receiver needs to understand that language else it can’t be decoded. This doesn’t really seem all that difficult, actually.

    Clearly, biological information exists. If it does not, then modern biology is hopelessly lost even more so than I think it is. If biological information exists then there must be a biological language. And indeed there is. Or are, actually. There are at least two sets of codes (see Crick) and truth be told, I suspect that there is so much more going on that no one has figured out yet but at any rate, we have a genetic language. It’s not a metaphor, it’s a real language. And such, by definition, by the law of identity, since that what a language IS, it has symbols and rules.

    But if that doesn’t do it for you, you tell me what information is and where it comes from and we’ll go from there. I’ll be seriously impressed if you can do that without resorting to symbols and rules that I understand.

  157. tgpeeler: If biological information exists then there must be a biological language.

    Tgpeeler information exists in biology, just like it exists in planetary orbits or in the number of grains of sand on the beach—because there are patterns that observers can perceive. Tgpeeler Information of biology existed before the discovery of DNA, even before the discovery of evolution and common descent.

  158. OT-

    New peer-reviewed ID friendly paper from (non-ID) origins theorist, David Abel.

    The Universal Plausibility Metric (UPM) & Principle (UPP) Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 2009, 6:27 doi:10.1186/1742-4682-6-27

    The paper attempts to establish a metric at which Life Origins just-so-stories can be commited to the dustbin where they belong.

    Wow, a scientist applying discipline to imagination. How refreshing.

  159. Exerpt from new Abel paper:

    “Our skepticism about defining a precise, objective Universal Plausibility Metric (UPM) stems from a healthy realization of our finiteness [1], subjectivity [2], presuppositional biases [3, 4], and epistemological problem [5]. We are rightly wary of absolutism. The very nature of probability theory emphasizes gray-scales more than the black and white extremes of p = 0 or 1.0. Our problem is that extremely low probabilities can only asymptotically approach impossibility. An extremely unlikely event’s probability always remains at least slightly > 0. No matter how many orders of magnitude is the negative exponent of an event’s probability, that event or scenario technically cannot be considered impossible. Not even a Universal Probability Bound [6-8] seems to establish absolute theoretical impossibility. The fanatical pursuit of absoluteness by finite subjective knowers is considered counterproductive in post modern science. Openmindedness to all possibilities is encouraged [9].

    But at some point our reluctance to exclude any possibility becomes stultifying to operational science [10]. Falsification is critical to narrowing down the list of serious possibilities [11]. Almost all hypotheses are possible. Few of them wind up being helpful and scientifically productive. Just because a hypothesis is possible should not grant that hypothesis scientific respectability.”

    - – - – - –

    And what are the sources of citations 6-8 given above??

    Dembski- No Free Lunch

    Dembski – Design Inference

    Meyer- Signature in the Cell

    David Abel must be a brave man. :) Just making such citations could be the end of his publishing career.

    - – - – - -

    Apparently sensing the danger to come from the materialist priesthood, Dr Abel adds a disclaimer to try and save himself from being tarred and feathered:

    “Citing a few mathematical technical contributions found in prior peer-reviewed literature does not constitute an endorsement of the cited authors’ personal metaphysical belief systems. Philosophic and especially religious perspectives have no place in scientific literature, and are irrelevant to the technical UPM calculation and UPP presented in this paper.”

  160. tgpeeler @ 155

    Clearly, biological information exists. If it does not, then modern biology is hopelessly lost even more so than I think it is.

    Biology got along very well before information theory came along and no, it is not at all clear that biological information exists.

    Calling everything information is massive projection, or even anthropomorphism. It takes something that exists as a semantic or cognitive property and projects it out to all that exists. It makes observers the sole reality. In biology, the concept of information has been abused in just this way, but it’s a peculiarly twentieth century phenomenon. And that’s not coincidental – in 1948, Shannon and Weiner both presented radical and influential conceptions of information – one based on communication [1], and the other on control [2]. Previously, in the 1930s, Alan Turing had developed the notion of a computer, and in 1950 [3] he started the ongoing interest in computation as a form of cognition. So, three senses of “information” got conflated in popular (and technical) imagination, and shortly afterwards, the term was applied to genes, but (and this is often forgotten) just in terms of causal specificity – genes “coded for” proteins by a physical process of templating.

    But people have gotten all enthusiastic for “information” (bearing in mind the etymology of enthusiast as “in-godded one”), and as a result lots of rather silly claims has been made – not all by physicists by any means – about information in biology.

    It is even less clear what you mean by “biological information” since you have consistently avoided giving us the definition you are using. Is it Shannon’s, Kolmogorov complexity or one of the forty-odd other meanings listed by Seth Lloyd?

    First let’s point out that what is information depends very much on the model of information that you employ – Shannon, Weiner or Turing. That is, do we mean communication (in bits) or control, or computation? Each of these has a useful sense in which we can talk about genes. We can say genes are transmitted (with error rates, or mutations) because we can apply the Shannon model with some degree of fit. We can say that genes are cybernetic (the sense in which “evolutionary gene” was proposed by George Williams in 1966 [4]) because to some extent they control phenotypes in a feedforward way. We can say the genes are “computers” in… well in what way at all? Turing showed, for example, that with a gradient of diffusion you could explain patterns in development, but the fact that he did this on a computer (if he did – he might just have done it by hand, the smart bugger) doesn’t mean the embryo computes. The embryo just does what its genes, environment and epigenetic properties “tells” it to, that is to say, causes.

    But merely because we can employ a model or a formalisation doesn’t mean that the system we are modeling or formalising is a formal system itself. Consider game theory – nobody thinks that genes rationally assess their interests and then make choices in interactions with other genes. It just happens that the math is useful to model the evolution of fitnesses irrespective of the cognitive abilities of genes and organisms. So we had better set up some close and clear criteria before we start projecting to ensure we do it legitimately.

    As for this:

    If biological information exists then there must be a biological language. And indeed there is.

    Is there?

    What most non-specialist people think of as information is the semantic information we are exchanging on this blog. That involves intelligent agents who send and receive information about subjective mental concepts and constructs via a shared language of symbols.

    Whatever is in the genome is not like this. There are no intelligent agents talking back and forth in GATCs and those biological molecules are not symbols for anything, they are functional.

    Nor is there any need for a language to convey or acquire information. Since the blogs are full of Climategate, think of tree-rings. I can look at the rings on the cross-section of a tree-trunk and see – tree-rings. A dendrochronologist can look at those same rings and learn a great deal from them. Is the information in the tree-rings themselves or in the change of mental states produced by them in the mind of the observer?

    If anything, information theory is useful as an analogy or model for some of what happens in the genome but to argue that information is an intrinsic property of genes is arguably a map/territory conflation.

    If you want another analogy think of keys on a keyring. In old heist movies, the bad guys would sometimes need to copy a key to get into some building or a safe. One of them would manage to take an impression of the original key in clay and a copy would be made from the impression. That’s what happens to our genes. An RNA “impression” of the DNA original is used to make copies.

    So, do we get rid of the “watchmaker” analogy and think of the designer as a master locksmith?

    Or are the watchmaker, locksmith and information models just that: useful analogies in their way but not the same as what is actually happening at the genetic level which is functionally distinct and unique to itself?

  161. I got overwhelmed by all the different definitions or features of information floating around I wrote a small piece trying to pull them altogether.

    Maybe that will help.

  162. Zachriel,

    When we talk about information in the DNA, the DNA code, the arrangement of the ATCG’s, that arrangement, that code, is inexplicable on the hypothesis of chemical static reactions, in which it wouldn’t be a semantic code, and on the hypothesis of chaos you have the same problem. So how do you explain the code in DNA? If you say that there is actually no code, that whatever we take for a code is “read-in” to the otherwise static pattern, I’ll assume you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  163. Clive Hayden: When we talk about information in the DNA …

    Until we agree as to what the term “information” means, it doesn’t advance the discussion to constantly refer back to it.

    Clive Hayden: the hypothesis of chemical static reactions …

    I have no idea what that means.

    Clive Hayden: So how do you explain the code in DNA?

    There is currently no comletely satisfactory scientific answer to that question.

    Clive Hayden: If you say that there is actually no code, …

    Substituting another word with multiple meanings doesn’t resolve the confusion.

    What we have is a *correspondence* between codons and amino acids. There are a number plausible theories as to how this correspondence evolved, but because the evidence is tenuous and shrouded in the distant past, there is as yet no definitive answer. However, stereochemical affinities for some codon assignments is supported.

  164. So how do you explain the code in DNA?

    Experimental evidence tells us that the “code in DNA” is a reflection of the affinity of particular RNA sequences for their corresponding amino acids.

    In other words, Meyer is wrong when he asserts that there is no possible, let alone experimentally-supported, “naturalistic” explanation for the genetic code.

  165. Bravo to Seversky @ 160! The question is not whether physical system X contains information. Rather, the question is whether it’s useful to model X in terms of information. Such models can provide insight in some cases, but may be misleading in others.

    To John Wilkins’ comments cited by Seversky, I add Peter Godfrey-Smith:

    We think that the reification of “the informational gene” is problematic; it is a mistake to suppose that there is both a physical entity — a string of bases — and an informational entity, a message. It is true that for evolutionary (and many other) purposes genes are often best thought of in terms of their base sequence (the sequence of C, A, T and G), not in terms of their full set of material properties. This way of thinking is essentially a piece of abstraction (Griesemer 2005). We rightly ignore some properties of DNA and focus on others. But it is a mistake of reification to treat this abstraction as an extra entity, with mysterious relations to the physical domain.

    Godfrey-Smith surveys the issues surrounding informational modeling of biology here, showing, if nothing else, that subject is fraught with semantic and logical pitfalls.

  166. Mark Frank:

    “So if you want to define information as something requiring language then information requires a mind. But that simply moves the question to “is DNA a language”

    Mark do written messages require language?

    Vivid

  167. #166

    Do written messages require a language?

    No. For example, they might comprise a series of improvised drawings.

    So what?

  168. #167

    From Webster defining language

    “2)a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings”

    How would your example not fall under this defintion?

    Vivid

  169. 169

    Mark,

    I read your paper. I think you are completely mistaken.

    All the information we have of our cosmos is the product of perception.

    If you look at a common source for the definition of information, you are likely to find the post-modern description that “information” is the state of a thing of interest. This description is completely misleading and demonstrably false. In an apparent attempt to capture the essence of what information is, this description completely removes it instead.

    Information is NOT “the state of something of interest.” If information is the state of something of interest, then it must be materially contained within that something. Yet, there is no information in an atom of carbon. There is the structure of its nucleus, the orbits, and the various subatomic particles – but there is no information. I looked on the periodic table; information is not listed.

    It is an unnecessary reduction to say that information is the state of something of interest. The state of something is simply the existence or reality of that thing. It is incorrect to suggest that existence and information are the same; x is not y. Existence could be one thing and information could be another. One is dependant on the other, but they are not the same.

    So, if information is not the state of something of interest, then (in a bold return to former logic) information is instead about the state of something of interest. It does not exist materially within the thing of interest, but does quite obviously exist.

    This leads to the origin of information.

    If information does not exist materially within in the atoms of the universe, then it must come to exist by some another means. And if information is then understood to be about something of interest, then it seems beyond debate that it comes into being as the product of perception. The only reason we are informed about the atomic structure of a carbon atom (or anything else) is because we first perceived it, and then we used our ability to reason in order to test those perceptions for their dependability.

    So, I think it is completely reasonable and defensible to say that information is the product of perception. However, I think that the very act of perception brings its own realities into the picture, and that the definition of information is incomplete without addressing those issues.

    Every bit of the information we have of our material universe was first perceived and then converted to symbols. This premise follows somewhat obvious reasoning. If I observe something in the material universe, say a raincloud, and I then remember it even a moment later, it should become quite obvious that there are a couple of things that have taken place. I have a sensory organ that perceived the raincloud. That sensory organ then transmitted to my brain a signal to be recorded within my memory. That signal was sent and recorded by some manner of symbolic means (because it certainly wasn’t stored in my brain in the form of a water-laden gaseous cloud). This simple observation, given in whatever specific vernacular one chooses to use, is self-evident.

    This is how living organisms perceive the material world around them. This is how information about the reality of the universe is created – whether that means a human discovering the geological layers of mountains, or an earthworm finding its way off the edge of a concrete sidewalk.

    Information is created when it is perceived and transformed to symbols. Living agents are the only thing to have this capacity.

    So the premises are these:

    a) information is not a material constituent in the matter of the cosmos

    b) information comes into existence only through perception

    c) perception occurs by means of symbols

    e) universal experience indicates that perception and symbols are associated with only a single phenomena, a living agent

  170. Listen to all these “poof there it is” arguments. Unaccepted definitions notwithstanding, an information “code” is the only reasonable explanation for the entity that translates the DNA’s four character sequences into the twenty character language of proteins.

  171. Upright Biped:

    Information is created when it is perceived and transformed to symbols. Living agents are the only thing to have this capacity.

    So we finally have an answer to the question whether a falling tree makes noise when there is nobody around to hear it.

    Speaking of trees. Plants also perceive information and transform to symbols. Do plants have minds? According to some religions they do, but I disagree with them there.

    One more question: if all life on earth is wiped out tomorrow at noon, does the Hubble space telescope suddenly stop storing information about its observations?

    Just trying to use reductio ad adsurbum to show how strange your ideas are to me.

  172. StephenB:

    Unaccepted definitions notwithstanding, an information “code” is the only reasonable explanation for the entity that translates the DNA’s four character sequences into the twenty character language of proteins.

    It’s not an explanation, it’s a description.

  173. 173

    lyrna,

    “So we finally have an answer to the question whether a falling tree makes noise when there is nobody around to hear it.

    If we know that a falling tree makes noise, it would be because we have perceived experience of it.

    Plants also perceive information and transform to symbols. Do plants have minds? According to some religions they do, but I disagree with them there.

    The common denominator is the one I addressed. They are all agents.

    One more question: if all life on earth is wiped out tomorrow at noon, does the Hubble space telescope suddenly stop storing information about its observations?

    Hubble is a product of the information man recorded and used to build it. It would have never come into being if man had not perceived and recorded informat5ion of the cosmos, and used that information to manipulate matter into a telescope in orbit.

    Just trying to use reductio ad adsurbum to show how strange your ideas are to me.

    No, I believe you are not using reducio ad adsubum, but are reduced to it.

    I take my clue from the fact you did not address any of my argument in a forthright manner.

    Your first comment was a joke about a joke (about trees). Your second comment was strawman. Your third comment was the by-product of uncritical thinking.

    And your final comment was an excuse.

  174. —-Iryna: “It’s not an explanation, it’s a description.”

    No, it’s an explanation. The description resides in the word, “translate,” not in the word “code.” An information “code” is the only reasonable explanation for the entity that translates the DNA’s four character sequences into the twenty character language of proteins, and that transformation is real. Darwinists have no answer for this phenomenon so they fuss all day long over definitions of the word, “information.” That way they can evade the issue by pretending that information doesn’t exist at all. It’s either an information code or “poof.” Darwinists prefer the latter explanation.

  175. Upright BiPed, is it really that hard to spell my Christian name correctly? It’s Iryna.

    I am taking exception to your claims:

    a) information is not a material constituent in the matter of the cosmos

    b) information comes into existence only through perception

    c) perception occurs by means of symbols

    e) universal experience indicates that perception and symbols are associated with only a single phenomena, a living agent

    What happened to d) by the way?

    My biggest problem is with your a). As far as I know, all information is material. Where is this non-material information you speak of?

    b) This seems like a bizarre claim. When exactly does information start to exist in the perception process?

    c) Perception only occurs by means of symbols? What does that even mean? What’s your definition of symbols?

    e) Tautology. Experience is defined as a property of living agents, so no surprise there.

    You know, I have the feeling that you are entirely unexperienced in the quantitative aspects of science. Otherwise you wouldn’t come up with such naive ideas about information.

  176. StephenB:

    No, it’s an explanation. The description resides in the word, “translate,” not in the word “code.” An information “code” is the only reasonable explanation for the entity that translates the DNA’s four character sequences into the twenty character language of proteins, and that transformation is real.

    No, it’s not an explanation.It’s just a description of how sequences of nucleotide triplets are converted into sequences of amino acids.

    Darwinists have no answer for this phenomenon so they fuss all day long over definitions of the word, “information.” That way they can evade the issue by pretending that information doesn’t exist at all. It’s either an information code or “poof.” Darwinists prefer the latter explanation.

    I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here, but to claim that Darwinists deny the existence of information is a ridiculous lie. Shame on you.

  177. 177

    lryna,

    My biggest problem is with your a). As far as I know, all information is material. Where is this non-material information you speak of?

    We know that an atom of carbon has a certain number of sub-atomic particles in a certain structure. We have this information because we perceived it, and then tested those perceptions to be a dependable reflection of the realities of carbon. This is the information that informs us as to the nature of a carbon atom. If information is a material constituent part of the carbon atom, then where is it? If the information is not a material constituent part of the carbon atom, then information must be about the carbon atom instead.

    As I said, to equate existence with information is an incorrect reduction. If we hadn’t tested our perception of a carbon atom, and instead had it all wrong, we would then be pressed to say that the “information was wrong”. But if information is a material part of the existence of the atom in reality, then how could the information be wrong? It couldn’t be. Instead, it would be our perception which was wrong. If that is the case, then is the source of information come from the reality of the atom, or from our perception?

    This seems like a bizarre claim. When exactly does information start to exist in the perception process?

    I stated that information comes into existence only through perception. Perception is when. Is this then a “when within when” question?

    If it is, then it’s probably a fair question. I do not personally know.

    Perception only occurs by means of symbols? What does that even mean? What’s your definition of symbols?

    Did you see the World Trade Center being attacked? Do you think you have a pair of big tall buildings in your head, or a symbolic representation of them imprinted in your memory? One represents the other; there is no way around it (even if we don’t fully understand how it works).

    Tautology. Experience is defined as a property of living agents, so no surprise there.

    My claim is that universal experience tells us that perception and symbols are associated only with single phenomena, a living agent. You may falsify that claim by presented evidence to the contrary.

  178. —-IrynaB: “No, it’s not an explanation. It’s just a description of how sequences of nucleotide triplets are converted into sequences of amino acids.”

    I know that you are used to accepting the fantasy that transformations like that just happen without a cause, but here is a clue–they don’t.

    —”I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here, but to claim that Darwinists deny the existence of information is a ridiculous lie. Shame on you.

    I thought it was obvious that I was using information in the context of an information code. The question, as characterized by Stephen Myers, is as follows: “How does the sequence of bases on the the DNA direct the construction of protein molecules. How do specific sequences in a four-character alphabet generate specific sequences in a twenty-character alphabet?” Francis Crick concluded that the cell is using some kind of code.

    That is the point I have been making, and it couldn’t be simpler. Do you agree with it or not? If not, then please provide your own explanation.

  179. #168 Vivid

    From Webster defining language

    “2)a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings”

    How would your example not fall under this defintion?

    I think of a language as a system of signs which is in common use by a group of people. My example was of one-off signs made up on the spot. If you wish to define “language” as any sign, symbol, gesture or mark which is used intentionally then I agree that written messages require a language.

    Maybe you are going to argue that DNA is a language? As I tried to explain in my short document “language”, “sign” and “symbol” all share a common ambiguity in their meaning. They may or may not include unintentional communication. The key question is: is the proposed information medium intentional? A written message by a person is. DNA is not.

    Mark

  180. #179

    Was it Yockey who stated that DNA and a written message is not an analogy but the two were matematically identical? Anyone know what I am referring to? That there is no difference between a written message and DNA?

    BTW how do you know that the written message in DNA is not intentional?

    Vivid

  181. #180

    Was it Yockey who stated that DNA and a written message is not an analogy but the two were matematically identical?

    He may have said it. But was he right?

    BTW how do you know that the written message in DNA is not intentional?

    Because I don’t have to know anything about the intention of the creator of the message (if there is one) to understand the message. All I need to understand is how it correlates with amino acids, proteins etc. Contrast this with any piece of text which by itself tells us nothing – it might be part of a fictional story – we have to understand the context and why the author wrote the text.

  182. 182

    “Because I don’t have to know anything about the intention of the creator of the message (if there is one) to understand the message.”

    well said…

  183. If I may:

    Mark Frank:

    Because I don’t have to know anything about the intention of the creator of the message (if there is one) to understand the message. All I need to understand is how it correlates with amino acids, proteins etc. Contrast this with any piece of text which by itself tells us nothing – it might be part of a fictional story – we have to understand the context and why the author wrote the text.

    Mark is absolutely correct in underscoring this disanalogy between transcription of DNA into proteins and the operation of language. As described by Paul Grice, the discernment of speaker intent by the listener is a crucial component of human langauges and symbol systems. Searle succinctly captured Grice’s insight:

    Grice saw correctly that when we communicate to people, we succeed in producing understanding in them by getting them to recognize our intention to produce that understanding. Communication is peculiar among human actions in that we succeed in producing an intended effect on the hearer by getting the hearer to recognize the intention to produce that very effect….I can, for example, tell them that it is raining just by getting them to recognize my intention to tell them that it is raining. (Searle, “Mind, Language and Society” pp. 144-145)

    This passage underscores the intimate relationship between human communication and human theory of mind. Nothing in the operation of DNA is analogous to this dimension of human communication, and for that reason (among many others) the analogy is inappropriate and misleading.

  184. Vivid is right @180, and, as an added point, Mark’s response @181 is not logical. Vivid asked Mark how he could know that the written message was not intentional. Mark responded by saying that he can understand the message without knowing the creator’s intent. So what? First, and most obvious, understanding the message does not rule out the apriori intent of the author. That was Vivid’s point. Second, if part of the author’s message was, “this is evidence of my handiwork,” then the reader can hardly understand the message without acknowledging the reality of the messenger, whose apriori intent was to be acknowledged as the messenger.

    By the way, UD readers might be interested to know that the postmodernist movement, in conjunction with the Darwinists’ war on reason and tradition, holds that a reader can reject an author’s intent even in a piece of literature by “deconstructing” the text and injecting his own meaning and preferences into the author’s words. Does that sound familiar? It should. That is exactly what Darwinists do with the evidence for design—they deconstruct it. When reason’s first principles are abandoned, all hell breaks loose.

  185. —-Voice Coil: “This passage ][from the atheist John Searle] underscores the intimate relationship between human communication and human theory of mind. Nothing in the operation of DNA is analogous to this dimension of human communication, and for that reason (among many others) the analogy is inappropriate and misleading.”

    Quite the contrary. The operation of DNA say’s MORE than human communiction could ever say. There are at least two distinct messages: [A] To the reader of nature, the message says, “observe the evidence of my handiwork.” [B] To the organism, it says, “Here is what I want you to do, here is how I want you to do it, here is when I want you to do it, and here is how I want you to coordinate your activities with those of other elements, all of which have had their instructions communicated to them as well.

  186. Re #181

    In retrospect I realise my response was too hasty. I was using “intentional” in a slightly specialist sense and did not stop to think that there was no way Vivid could know that. I apologise.

    Of course we cannot know for certain that any phenomenon including DNA is unintentional. It is always possible that an omnipotent force of unspecified motives made things that way for reasons of their own. I meant “intentional” in the sense that the meaning arises from the intention of the creator of the message. This is what Paul Grice famously wrote about and what Voicecoil rightly refers to in #183. It is the fundamental distinction between meaning that derives simply because of a correlation between message and subject matter (clouds mean rain) and meaning that derives from recognising the sender’s intentions. DNA has meaning in the first sense but not the second.

  187. StephenB:

    By the way, UD readers might be interested to know that the postmodernist movement…

    This has no bearing upon Grice’s insight. Indeed, Grice characterized speaker and listener as engaged in a cooperative activity by means of which the speaker assists the listener in recovering speaker intent. That speaker intent may, at times, depart from the meanings of the actual words uttered, but be recoverable nonetheless. Grice offered the example of a philosophy professor sending a letter of recommendation on behalf of a student that says, merely, “The candidate is prompt and has excellent penmanship.” The recipient, who assumes that the writer is being cooperative and therefore intends to communicate something about the candidate’s abilities, begins a search for meaning and rightly concludes that the message conveys something other than the literal meaning of the words, namely that the candidate is bad at philosophy. The comprehension of ordinary utterances similarly assumes that speakers are being appropriately brief, perspicuous, relevant, and truthful, and utilizes those assumptions to recover meaning that is otherwise often underdetermined.

    This has nothing to do with post-modern deconstructions of texts. And nothing remotely resembling this recovery of speaker intent is evident in the transcription of DNA into proteins. Hence the analogy to human language and human communication is inappropriate.

    To the organism, it says, “Here is what I want you to do, here is how I want you to do it, here is when I want you to do it, and here is how I want you to coordinate your activities with those of other elements, all of which have had their instructions communicated to them as well.

    It would follow from this analogy with human language that defects in embryological development may arise because the organism has misconstrued the intentions that lie behind a sequence of information contained in the DNA. A rather bizarre anthropomorphization.

  188. I did a google search and got this.

    “There is an identity of structure between DNA
    (and protein) and written linguistic messages.
    Since we know by experience that intelligence
    produces written messages, and no other cause is
    known, the implication, according to the abductive
    method, is that intelligent cause produced DNA and
    protein.
    The significance of this result lies in the security
    of it, for it is much stronger than if the structures
    were merely similar.
    We are not dealing with anything like a superficial
    resemblance between DNA and a written text.
    We are not saying DNA is like a message. Rather, DNA
    is a message. True design thus returns to biology.
    (Hubert P. Yockey, Journal of Theoretic Biology)”

    If the above was actually stated by Yockey ( I did get it from the internet) then DNA, like a written text, is a message. It is not analogous to a message it is a message. This brings me back to my question can a message be transmitted without language?

    Mark in # 179

    “If you wish to define “language” as any sign, symbol, gesture or mark which is used intentionally then I agree that written messages require a language.”

    It is not necessarily my wish how to define language evidently it was Websters wish to define it in that way.

    Mark in #181

    “Because I don’t have to know anything about the intention of the creator of the message (if there is one) to understand the message”

    Wow this is the ID position. I am sure further clarification will be forthcoming.

    Voice in #183

    “Mark is absolutely correct in underscoring this disanalogy between transcription of DNA into proteins and the operation of language As described by Paul Grice, the discernment of speaker intent by the listener is a crucial component of human langauges and symbol systems. Searle succinctly captured Grice’s insight:”

    Two things. If Yockey is right DNA is no different than a written message and makes the point that it is not an analogy. As to “the discernment of speaker intent by the listener is a crucial component of human langauges and symbol systems.”

    Is it not evident that if something is a written message there must be intent? And can we not discern the intent of the message produced by DNA? I mean the intent of the message is to direct the molecular machinery of the cell. Can there be any clearer intent?

    Voice #183

    “Nothing in the operation of DNA is analogous to this dimension of human communication, and for that reason (among many others) the analogy is inappropriate and misleading.”

    According to Yockey the above is correct since we are not talking about analogies. :)

    Vivid

  189. #188

    Yockey is wrong.

  190. There is a useful study of the improbability of life arguments and their leading proponents
    here.
    It includes a discussion of Hubert Yockey’s claims which includes the following:

    Of course, even Yockey’s other assumptions are questionable. He argues for a 4-bit code. Yet he himself admits that replicating proteins are known that function on a 3-bit code (p. 19), and he admits that, after all is said and done, a replicating protein chain as large as 100,000 amino-acids long could be hit upon in the known age and expanse of the universe, if we assume a 2-bit proto-gene (p. 22). [My emphasis]

  191. vividbleau: I did a google search and got this.

    We are not dealing with anything like a superficial resemblance between DNA and a written text. We are not saying DNA is like a message. Rather, DNA
    is a message. True design thus returns to biology. (Hubert P. Yockey, Journal of Theoretic Biology)

    That’s Charles Thaxton. He quote-mines and mangles Yockey’s intended meaning.

    Yockey: It is important to understand that we are not reasoning by analogy. The sequence hypothesis [that the exact order of symbols records the information] applies directly to the protein and the genetic text as well as to written language and therefore the treatment is mathematically identical.

    Yockey is referring to Shannon Information.

    Yockey has also saidIntroducing a requirement for an Intelligent Designer is ad hoc and invalid.

  192. Yockey believes he has proven that “the origin of life is unsolvable as a scientific problem.” He is right that any theory which depends on extreme improbabilities should be rejected. He is wrong that lack of clear intermediaries between chemistry and life means that a scientific solution is impossible.

  193. —-Voice Call: “It would follow from this analogy with human language that defects in embryological development may arise because the organism has misconstrued the intentions that lie behind a sequence of information contained in the DNA. A rather bizarre anthropomorphization.”

    This is just another version of the bad design = no design argument. It doesn’t work for a number of reasons. There is no reason to believe that the transformations involved reflect perfect communication or perfect design. Consult the FAQ.

  194. —Voice Coil @187: ” This has no bearing upon Grice’s insight.”

    Are you sure you are following this discussion. My response @184 had nothing to do with Grice, which can be found @185.

  195. Zach #191

    Thanks Zach. When I saw the part about the ID part that made me suspect because I knew Yockey is not an ID’st. I would not take Thaxton to task since I was the one that put the two together in order to not be quote mining LOL.

    I take it that this part is Yockey correct?

    “It is important to understand that we are not reasoning by analogy. The sequence hypothesis [that the exact order of symbols records the information] applies directly to the protein and the genetic text as well as to written language and therefore the treatment is mathematically identical.”

    Vivid

  196. StephenB:

    This is just another version of the bad design = no design argument.

    Not so.

    By “defects in embryological development” I mean in a single individual, such as non-genetic developmental misfires (cleft palate, spina bifida, etc.) I am not saying anything about the quality of the (imaginary) “design” of a species.

    If you are going to analogize the transcription of DNA to human communication by means of language, then you must allow that some failures of transcription are analogous to human misunderstandings.

    Ergo, in the instance of such developmental defects, to apply your analogy, DNA may “tell” the organism “Here is what I want you to do,” but the organism misconstrues the intentions of DNA in making particular that particular utterance.

    Which is ridiculous – and illustrates a crucially important breakdown of the analogy between the transcription of DNA into proteins and human speakers communicating by means of language. There is nothing analogous to speaker intent, because there is no speaker, there is no speaker intent, and there is no listener who attempts to discern speaker intent in the process of transcribing DNA into developmental events.

  197. #191

    “Yockey is referring to Shannon Information.”

    And this is a bad thing? Not accurate according to Shannon Information? Contradicted by Fisher Information?

    Vivid

  198. vividbleau: When I saw the part about the ID part that made me suspect because I knew Yockey is not an ID’st.

    Yes, you did qualify your citation. The other quoted section is attributed correctly.

    Hubert P. Yockey, Self Organization Origin of Life Scenarios and Information Theory, Journal of Theoretical Biology, 1981.

    But just because Yockey expresses a view, doesn’t necessarily mean the conclusion should be accepted on its face, especially when it is contrary to most other researchers in the field. That “the origin of life is unsolvable as a scientific problem,” is simply not a reasonable conclusion. Yockey’s proof depends on premises subject to empirical revision.

  199. #198

    FWIW my interest in Yockey on this thread has nothing to do with his position that the origin of life is unsolvable as a scientific problem.

    Thanks for your reply.

    Vivid

  200. Zachriel: Yockey is referring to Shannon Information.

    vividbleau: And this is a bad thing?

    Not at all. It can be a very useful model. It just means that the term “message” has a precise mathematical definition.

    Thaxton’s abduction depends on equivocation of “message” when he says, “intelligence produces written messages, and no other cause is known.” Furthermore, he is rejecting the alternative explanation a priori, the very thing he is attempting to show. Finally, it is directly contrary to Yockey’s view—Yockey finds objections to the evolution of information in genomes to be without merit—so, Thaxton is clearly quote-mining.

  201. In any case, Thaxton can abduct whatever he wants. But it still has to be verified by independent means. The hypothesis has to entail specific and distinguishing empirical predictions.

  202. —Voice Coil: “By “defects in embryological development” I mean in a single individual, such as non-genetic developmental misfires (cleft palate, spina bifida, etc.) I am not saying anything about the quality of the (imaginary) “design” of a species.”

    Again, that it is a bad-design = no design argument all dressed up as a bad communication = no communication argument.

    —”If you are going to analogize the transcription of DNA to human communication by means of language, then you must allow that some failures of transcription are analogous to human misunderstandings.”

    You seem to forget that humam communication is a derivative and less perfect type of communication than that passed on to nature from the creator. The former is completely dependent on the latter. Of course, you don’t agree that the latter is a fact, but we are discussing logical and likely possibilities, not agreed upon facts.

    —-”Ergo, in the instance of such developmental defects, to apply your analogy, DNA may “tell” the organism “Here is what I want you to do,” but the organism misconstrues the intentions of DNA in making particular that particular utterance.”

    Bad design = no design strikes again.

    —-”There is nothing analogous to speaker intent, because there is no speaker, there is no speaker intent, and there is no listener who attempts to discern speaker intent in the process of transcribing DNA into developmental events.”

    The discernment, so to speak, is built in. If it wasn’t, the instructions for building the proteins would not be followed. Besides, you are depending solely on Searles analogy which I don’t agree with. He [and Grice] have not covered all the different types of human communication, especially those that mimic the creator’s communication with nature. That is because, as atheists, they are looking for ways to dismiss the similarities.

    Also, you have completely ignored the point about the creator wanting to reveal himself in his handiwork. That, too, is communciation.

  203. Sorry, I mean John Searle.

  204. —Voice Coil: “There is nothing analogous to speaker intent, because there is no speaker, there is no speaker intent, and there is no listener who attempts to discern speaker intent in the process of transcribing DNA into developmental events.

    Information theory allows for but does not require that the information code should be conscious of the message that it sends to the organism or the fact that the creator designed it. That is why one can speak of information in terms of the message the creator sends to nature in the form of a code, or the message the code sends to the organism, or the message the creator sends to humans about the existence of the code.

  205. “Because I don’t have to know anything about the intention of the creator of the message (if there is one) to understand the message”

    Wow this is the ID position. I am sure further clarification will be forthcoming.

    I thought the ID position was the you detect that something was designed without knowing anything about the creator of the object or the creator’s intentions.

    “Message” in this context simply means carries information in the Shannon sense of being correlated with something else. It is trivial that you can know if A is correlated with B without knowing how A was created. For example, A might cause B.

  206. StephenB:

    Again, that it is a bad-design = no design argument all dressed up as a bad communication = no communication argument.

    Not so. And not my intent.

    I’ve applied your model (DNA “tells” the organism how to develop in a manner analogous to human communication, including the conveyance and discernment of speaker intent) to a particular case: non-genetic, developmental birth defects.

    You say that the successful transcription of DNA into the developmental unfolding of an individual organism is analogous to human communication, complete with the conveyance of speaker intent.

    It follows that DNA transcription may sometimes fail in a manner very much like the failure of human communication: misconstrual of speaker intent by the listener. Applied in the instance of non-developmental birth defects, it follows that developmental misfires (resulting in, say, a limb deficiency) may occur because the organism “misunderstood what the DNA meant” and therefore misconstrued DNA’s “speaker intent.”

    Perhaps you have no difficulty imagining that embryos can “misconstrue” or “misunderstand” what their DNA “meant to say,” and therefore develop incorrectly.

    I find that ridiculous, and that it underscores the inapplicability of your analogy between DNA transcription into developmental events and human communication.

    The discernment, so to speak, is built in. If it wasn’t, the instructions for building the proteins would not be followed.

    Unless the process is not, after all, analogous to human communication. Then “discernment of intent” and similar intentional states are not required.

    you have completely ignored the point about the creator wanting to reveal himself in his handiwork.

    That’s right.

  207. Vis mine at 206:

    “Applied in the instance of non-developmental birth defects” should read, “Applied in the instance of non-genetic, developmental birth defects.”

  208. —Voice Coil: “Not so. And not my intent.”

    I don’t doubt that it was not your intent, but it still qualifies as a bad design = no design argument.

    —”It follows that DNA transcription may sometimes fail in a manner very much like the failure of human communication: misconstrual of speaker intent by the listener. Applied in the instance of non-developmental birth defects, it follows that developmental misfires (resulting in, say, a limb deficiency) may occur because the organism “misunderstood what the DNA meant” and therefore misconstrued DNA’s “speaker intent.”

    It can also mean that the instructing element sent the wrong message, which can, among other things, be a function of bad design, corrupted design, or optimum design. Again, I ask you to consult the FAQ.

    —-”I find that ridiculous, and that it underscores the inapplicability of your analogy between DNA transcription into developmental events and human communication.”

    You find it ridiculous for three reasons: First, you do not yet recognize your bad design = no design argument in its present form. Second, you do not acknowledge that human communciation has both a functional component and a meaning-centered component. From a functional perspective, all that is required for human or non-human communication is a sender and a receiver. [Translation: Searle and Grice are wrong]. Third, perhaps for personal reasons that I will not speculate about, you will not acknowledge the likelihood that the designer’s apriori intent can play a role.

  209. Wow. Disappear for a couple of days and look what happens.

    Re vividbleau @ 180.

    Here’s what Yockey said, on page 6 of “Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life” published in 2005. The one with the Blue and Green cover. (It’s an expensive book, but well worth it. Need I say again that Yocky is an ardent proponent of evolutionary theory and drew different conclusions from his data than I do.)

    “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.”

    So maybe all someone has to do to falsify my claim is show how Shannon information, since everyone seems ok with that definition, can be generated apart from a language of some kind, i.e. a set of symbols and rules.

    More later.

  210. 210

    tgpeeler at 209,

    I pointed out to you in a previous discussion here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-340936

    that Thomas Schneider ev shows how Shannon information can be generated from even very simple known evolutionary mechanisms.

    Your “language of some kind” qualification is a red herring — Shannon information can be generated absent an intelligent agent.

  211. Amazon Product Description:

    Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life presents a timely introduction to the use of information theory and coding theory in molecular biology. The genetical information system, because it is linear and digital, resembles the algorithmic language of computers. George Gamow pointed out that the application of Shannon’s information theory breaks genetics and molecular biology out of the descriptive mode into the quantitative mode and Dr Yockey develops this theme, discussing how information theory and coding theory can be applied to molecular biology. He discusses how these tools for measuring the information in the sequences of the genome and the proteome are essential for our complete understanding of the nature and origin of life. The author writes for the computer competent reader who is interested in evolution and the origins of life.

  212. StephenB:

    I don’t doubt that it was not your intent, but it still qualifies as a bad design = no design argument.

    I disagree, as my point is more subtle. I haven’t successfully conveyed it to you. I’m content to leave it there.

    It can also mean that the instructing element sent the wrong message, which can, among other things, be a function of bad design, corrupted design, or optimum design.

    I haven’t asserted that it follows from your analogy that ALL failures of expression of DNA reflect failure to discern something like “speaker intent,” and resulting misconstrual of that intent. Only that it follows from your misapplied analogy that some would: that it would be sensible to say that some non-genetic developmental errors (birth defects in humans) reflect a failure of the developing organism to correctly discern the “speaker intent” behind the information contained in DNA.

    And that is ridiculous.

    You find it ridiculous for three reasons: First, you do not yet recognize your bad design = no design argument in its present form.

    Not so, as above.

    Second, you do not acknowledge that human communication has both a functional component and a meaning-centered component.

    Sure I do. I freely acknowledge the semantic and grammatical elements of human communication, as well as the functional/physical channels through which information is conveyed. But human communication also includes the elements that Grice identified, considerations that are at the forefront of current theorizing vis the topic (e.g. see Michael Tomasello’s recent work.) Indeed, conveying and discerning speaker intent is crucial because one must necessarily recognize the agency behind human acts of communication to fully grasp what is communicated. Agency and intentionality are absent from the transcription of information in DNA, and the discernment of agency plays no role in the transcription of that information into developmental events. Hence your analogy is inappropriate (and manifestly responsible for considerable confusion).

    Third, perhaps for personal reasons that I will not speculate about, you will not acknowledge the likelihood that the designer’s apriori intent can play a role.

    Thank you for refraining from speculation vis personal motivations.

  213. —Voice Coil: “Only that it follows from your misapplied analogy that some would: that it would be sensible to say that some non-genetic developmental errors (birth defects in humans) reflect a failure of the developing organism to correctly discern the “speaker intent” behind the information contained in DNA.”

    It does not follow that all organisms would be equally affected by a bad design, a corrupt design, or an optimum design. Indeed, a compromised or optimum design can effect different organisms in different ways and in greater or lesser degrees. Your example is but one of billions of examples of nature’s design, or nature’s code, or the “speaker’s instructions,” if you will, producing a less than perfect product. Sorry, but you are still using a bad design argument.

  214. StephenB:

    Your example is but one of billions of examples of nature’s design, or nature’s code, or the “speaker’s instructions,” if you will, producing a less than perfect product. Sorry, but you are still using a bad design argument.

    Not so, because it does not follow from the conclusion that the transcription of DNA into proteins does not entail the conveyance and recovery of speaker intent that DNA transcription was not designed. A transcription mechanism that displays no intentionality at all in its operation (nor recovery of intended meanings) may nevertheless have been designed. Indeed, that may be an exquisitely functional and adaptive arrangement. Because the absence of intent and discernment of same (analogous to human communication) in the functioning DNA does not exclude design, it is not an instance of a “bad design argument.”

    Further, I have not (and would not) argue that non-genetic developmental defects are inherently inconsistent with design; building organisms is complex, with many environmental and other contingent variables, and perhaps even the most optimal design is certain to misfire in some circumstances.

    What I DO argue is that non-genetic developmental misfires, which are common, instead serve to underscore a nonsensical component of your analogy: that if the expression of DNA is like expression in human communication, then failures of that expression can be like human misunderstandings that result from misperceptions of speaker intent.

    Which is ridiculous.

  215. Mustela Nivalis @ 210

    You pointed to Dr. Schneider’s computer simulation, which has no parallel to any biological scenario. And you think this is evidence for what exactly?

  216. —-Voice Coil: “Not so, because it does not follow from the conclusion that the transcription of DNA into proteins does not entail the conveyance and recovery of speaker intent that DNA transcription was not designed.”

    A code is a set of instructions. The cell uses a code such that the sequence of bases on the DNA directs the construction of protein molecules and the specific sequences in a four character alphabet generate specific sequences in a twenty character alphabet. Those instructions are communicated to the organism through a medium. The code has been designed to communicate instructions to the organism and the organism has been designed to follow those instructions. To that extent, it resembles human communication because humans can communicate assembly directions to other humans and communication is a good description of what is going on. The code is running a kind of factory and it is using a communication process to coordinate every aspect of it. The cell has an information processing system; processing information is another word for communication.

    —-“Inasmuch as “speaker intent” A transcription mechanism that displays no intentionality at all in its operation (nor recovery of intended meanings) may nevertheless have been designed. Indeed, that may be an exquisitely functional and adaptive arrangement. Because the absence of intent and discernment of same (analogous to human communication) in the functioning DNA does not exclude design, it is not an instance of a “bad design argument.”

    No one, except you has said anything about “intentionality,” which is an exclusively human [or superhuman] attribute. You are assuming that the analogy requires that all aspects of human communication are being applied to the code, which is obviously not the case. It is, indeed, ridiculous to attribute intentionality to a code or an organism. Since I have not done so, this may be a good time to abandon that misguided characterization. Apparently, Searle and Grice want to say that intentionality is an issue, but, as I have indicated, they are incorrect and insofar as you continue to impose their metaphor, so are you. The word strawman comes to mind. Again, communication allows for the possibility of intentionality, but it does not require it. If it did, you would have a point; as it is, you don’t.

    —-“What I DO argue is that non-genetic developmental misfires, which are common, instead serve to underscore a nonsensical component of your analogy: that if the expression of DNA is like expression in human communication, then failures of that expression can be like human misunderstandings that result from misperceptions of speaker intent.”

    That is because you continue to misread the analogy and liken the misfire to a misunderstanding or a misperception on the part of the organism. Organisms cannot misunderstand anything and codes cannot understand what they are communicating. What we have is a sender and a receiver—period. I am not discussing the problem of language at all since that is a problem all of its own.

    —-“Which is ridiculous.

    What is ridiculous is assuming that nature can direct its own operations while having no direction. That’s a pretty good summary of your position. Obviously, you cannot even begin to defend it, which explains why we spend all our time talking about my position.

  217. StephenB:

    You are assuming that the analogy requires that all aspects of human communication are being applied to the code.

    My position is that human communication crucially reflects, and is distinguished by, the expression and recovery of speaker intent, over and above sentence encoding and decoding. I originally argued, “The discernment of speaker intent by the listener is a crucial component of human langauges and symbol systems…nothing in the operation of DNA is analogous to this dimension of human communication, and for that reason (among many others) the analogy is inappropriate and misleading.”

    Speaker intent is, obviously, an instance of intentionality (in Brentano’s sense), and the correct discernment of of speaker intent requires an understanding of others’ intentional states, or a theory of mind. Regardless of the extent to which the expression of DNA may be otherwise analogous to sentence encoding and decoding, the absence of this crucial element renders the analogy between DNA and human communication (both by means of language and gesture) a failure, and a misleading one at that.

    You said in response to the quoted portion of the above paragraph,

    Quite the contrary.

    And therefore appeared to dispute my assertion. But now you state:

    It is, indeed, ridiculous to attribute intentionality to a code or an organism.

    And absent intentionality, the analogy of DNA and human communication fails, as the expression and recovery of speaker intent (an intentional state) is absolutely central to human language expression (and no less to the use and comprehension of human gestures). Which is what I have been saying all along.

    BTW, Vivid disagrees with you. In 188 we have:

    If Yockey is right DNA is no different than a written message and makes the point that it is not an analogy. As to “the discernment of speaker intent by the listener is a crucial component of human langauges and symbol systems”…Is it not evident that if something is a written message there must be intent? And can we not discern the intent of the message produced by DNA? I mean the intent of the message is to direct the molecular machinery of the cell. Can there be any clearer intent?

    So for Vivid the information in DNA is “no different than a written message,” and reflects an “intent” (an intentional state of the sender) he would like to recover.

    That is the sort of assertion I and disputing.

  218. —-Voice Coil: “My position is that human communication crucially reflects, and is distinguished by, the expression and recovery of speaker intent, over and above sentence encoding and decoding. I originally argued, “The discernment of speaker intent by the listener is a crucial component of human langauges and symbol systems…nothing in the operation of DNA is analogous to this dimension of human communication, and for that reason (among many others) the analogy is inappropriate and misleading.”

    I would like to start winding this down. It’s all a matter of definitions. I define communication, including human communication, in terms of a sender—medium—receiver model. You define it in terms of conscious apriori intent. Since organisms do not have consciousness, they cannot fit what I perceive to be your rigid definition of senders or receivers of communicated information. My definition allows for apriori intent, while yours insists on it. In the same sense, your apparent perception about how information codes work, about which you have been silent, seems to defy not only any notion of design but of causality as well. I defined “information” much earlier in this thread. I would like for you to provide your definition of “information.” That would help.

  219. —-Voice Coil: “So for Vivid the information in DNA is “no different than a written message,” and reflects an “intent” (an intentional state of the sender) he would like to recover.”

    Insofar as Vivid seems to be describing a phenomenon in which the “message” reflects a plan and an end in mind, I would agree with him. The intentional state being a metaphor not for human consciousness but rather a description of a directive process informed by the end which it seeks. You agree that the code does “direct,” don’t you? Do you not also agree that it can’t direct without some faculty, call it whatever you will, that has an end in mind. That is very close to what we humans refer to as “intent.” Surely, you do not hold that the process requires no direction.

  220. StephenB:

    My definition allows for apriori intent, while yours insists on it.

    I am simply saying that human communication, and particularly human language, is uniquely characterized by the features I describe above (no need to repeat), in addition to more general features of communication we may identify. Those unique features of human language and communication are absent from the expression and utilization of information contained within DNA. Therefore it is misleading to liken DNA to a “language” and its expression to “a written message” reflecting “intent” if by that you mean a something analogous to human communication that utilizes these uniquely human features (as others clearly DO intend, above.)

    It’s not that complicated.

  221. On the previous entry, rather than use the term, “end in mind,” which is a little clumsy, we can simply characterize the process as one which directs toward a specific objective. That would be analogous to human intent, though not synonymous with it.

  222. BTW, Vivid disagrees with you. In 188 we have:

    You gotta love it !!!

    Ahhh no…. Voice I do not disagree with Stephen. The intent I am referring to is the intent of the code ( think blueprint. Does a blueprint have consciousness?

    Vivid

  223. The blueprint does not but blueprint originator certainly does. And that seems to be the guts of the issue. What IS that originator? A Mind? Or the laws of physics?

  224. —-Voice Coil: “I am simply saying that human communication, and particularly human language, is uniquely characterized by the features I describe above (no need to repeat), in addition to more general features of communication we may identify. Those unique features of human language and communication are absent from the expression and utilization of information contained within DNA. Therefore it is misleading to liken DNA to a “language” and its expression to “a written message” reflecting “intent” if by that you mean a something analogous to human communication that utilizes these uniquely human features (as others clearly DO intend, above.)”

    Yes, I understand your position in a general way, which is why I disagree with it. Yet when I probe it further by asking what I perceive to be clarifying and qualifying questions, you simply ignore them and reiterate what you said without addressing my points.

    Clearly, the code resembles human communication insofar as we are talking about some kind of unconscious intent because we are talking about a process that strives for an end.

    Again, it would help if you would explain whether or not you agree with me about the fact that the code acts as a “director” or an “instructor.” Do you agree with those characterizations? Do you agree that the code directs in the sense that it provides instructions? If you agree, you should be able to see the similarity between that and human communication. If you disagree, then please tell me what you think the code is doing.

  225. —-tgpeeler: “The blueprint does not but blueprint originator certainly does. And that seems to be the guts of the issue. What IS that originator? A Mind? Or the laws of physics?”

    Yes, that’s exactly right. I don’t want to pile on Voice Coil, but I have raised that very issue. He is not open to discussing it. It is not a matter of small import that the code’s designer consciously intended it to play the role that it plays.

  226. Tgpeeler:

    The blueprint does not but blueprint originator certainly does. And that seems to be the guts of the issue. What IS that originator? A Mind? Or the laws of physics?

    StephenB:

    Yes, that’s exactly right. I don’t want to pile on Voice Coil, but I have raised that very issue. He is not open to discussing it. It is not a matter of small import that the code’s designer consciously intended it to play the role that it plays.

    You guys know I can hear you, right?

  227. RE StephenB @ 225

    Yes, the message of the language of life is, well, life, in all it’s intricate, amazing forms. Unfortunately, unlike you, I do want to pile on. I can’t help it. I spent too many years training to break stuff and kill people and I haven’t recovered my kinder and gentler nature. Sometimes the real me (I know, it’s ugly) comes out. I know it’s not the right thing to do but every now and then my BS meter gets pegged and I just can’t take the insanity any longer. In that spirit, the following is written.

    Out of virtually an infinitely (I speak hyperbolically) large number of possible combinations, only a few express themselves as living things. And lo and behold, there seems to be a set of macromolecules, that when combined in certain combinations, according to certain rules, not defined by or addressed by the laws of physics, (although the laws of physics explains the fact that they do combine rather nicely) express themselves as living things that can reproduce, adapt to their environment, process energy, heal themselves, etc, etc, etc… And in the case of human beings, we are also self-aware, reasoning (sometimes), sensing, feeling (emotionally), choosing, moral agents.

    There seem to be two great narratives in conflict here. The one is the Christian narrative which I will leave alone and the other (there are even more “others” that will also be left aside) is the naturalistic story of the universe and life.

    It has been interesting to me that the vast majority of this “conversation” has been about the ID/Theist/Christian side and very little has been making the case for the opposing view. Indeed, on the few occasions I solicited “information” (I use the word with some trepidation as some people still claim not to know what it is or that a language is necessary to create it) about what the naturalist position is. i.e. it’s intellectual commitments. I have been met with a deafening silence with regard to that question. So in the spirit of understanding, I have decided to tell my own version of the naturalist story and see what happens. I think I know it, but maybe not. If not, I am open to being corrected. So here goes…

    Once there was no universe (nature) and then there was. We can’t really account for that and for some reason we feel no compelling intellectual impulse to do so. We do know though, for an absolute fact, that God, whatever he might be or that might mean, did not do it. We call this naturalism, that all that exists is nature. And that all that exists can be explained by our best scientific, or physical, theories. There is nothing beyond nature. No God, no souls, nothing “spooky” that interferes in the natural order of things. Well, there is the minor problem of the laws of physics (and where in the hell did they come from?) and how is it that they are so finely tuned? (according to Roger Penrose in “The Emperor’s New Mind” to 1 in 10^10^123. That’s right, the EXPONENT is 10^123.) But anyway, just like the universe, they just ARE and so we need not inquire any further into why they are or even if there may be a rational explanation for why they are. Indeed we can dismiss all efforts to think about that problem thanks to the brilliant bit of philosophy expounded by Richard Dawkins. (… culminating in the vacuous existential question “Why is there something rather than nothing?”) Indeed, how vacuous could one be? To want to account for the very existence of the things we are trying to understand in the first place. hee hee. Those Christians are such fools. Anyway, so here we have this universe, the physical aspect of it, we know now, is governed by these very simple and elegant laws (that are somehow discernible and discoverable by us) and that are also “written” literally, in the language of mathematics. An amazing system of symbols and rules that somehow describes how the physical universe actually works!! How cool is that? Something that is completely abstract. Something that cannot be sensed in any way and yet we know about it AND IT EXPLAINS THINGS. Hmmm. Well, you say, how is it that mathematics exists? It’s just another brute fact about nature and needs no further explanation. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Vacuous.

    The other thing that perhaps I should make crystal clear is that since physics explains the physical world we feel certain that must mean that all that exists is physical! See how easy this is?! First we declare that ALL that exists is nature. Then we observe that since God is “supernatural” that he MUST NOT exist. How simple is this?? Some people call this circular reasoning but what do they know?

    So anyway, here we are with an expanding universe described by these physical laws, written in the language of mathematics, and now, all of a sudden, there is life. Wow. So how to account for that? Hmmm. It’s quite simple, actually. If you recall, we have decreed (a priori) that all that exists is nature and that all that exists can be explained by science. Therefore, science (physics) can explain everything. Plus, we have about 13.7 billion (with a B) years to work with so time plus physics MUST be the answer. It’s completely rational. If time and physics account for everything (and they do, we said so) then life, being part of everything, MUST be accounted for by time and physics.

    So somehow this first life got started. We know it got started because we’re here, after all. How foolish to say that it always existed. If it always existed it would have to be God or something like that and we’ve decreed that God doesn’t exist so that’s that. Now, this first life MUST have been very simple. I mean, we know this because complex things just don’t sort of spontaneously assemble themselves (look around for god’s sake, can you imagine an airplane just appearing out of thin air?), but they MUST have, because, remember, here we are. So anyway, we start simple and then we have this beautiful mechanism called natural selection, one of the greatest intellectual achievements of mankind, or so Francis Crick says, and he should know, being that he figured out the structure of DNA, but that’s another story (the one where he and Watson stiffed the woman scientist – but who cares about that – survival of the fittest, you know), so now we have natural selection AND billions of years. Who needs more than that? So this “natural” rachet keeps improving our first simple life and over billions (with a B) years here we are. It’s really that simple. Oh, there are a few details to fill in. Biological information for one thing. Not the original stuff, of course, (remember there are some things we can just ignore.) but everything that comes after. So we have mutations (or birth defects, they are sometimes called) and genetic drift and hox genes and emergence and there you go, case closed. Easy as pie. And if you disagree with this you are stupid, wicked, or insane. Ah Richard, he’s such a kidder! What? He wasn’t kidding? Well, he’s right so whatever. And these pesky concepts like design, purpose, morality, agency, teleology, you know, everything that makes human beings, well, human beings, these things that APPEAR to be as real and as plain as the nose on your face, these things DON’T REALLY EXIST!!!! HA HA. NO REALLY, THEY DON’T. Any questions? No? Good. We’re done here.

    But sir, if I may, could I just ask one or two questions? They’ll be short and simple.

    First, if I could create a golf ball sized mass out of thin air wouldn’t you think that odd? I mean, what WOULD you call that? And let’s say that we look closer and it’s actually a little biosphere, with tiny little creatures, all running around, apparently aimlessly, yet the more we look, the more purposeful it seems. Oh, you’d need verification? Well how much more would you need to see? Would I need to do it again? I mean, I already did it once, after all. Oh, so you might call THAT a miracle. But you won’t call the creation of the entire universe a miracle? Oh that’s just declared to be out of the conversation. Well fine. But I have another question. What if I just animated some chemicals? You know, what if I had a nano-manufacturing facility and I could assemble these strings of genetic code, as many as I want. Oh wait, you say I also need a cell wall? And I need a membrane for the cell nucleus? And a cell nucleus too? And ribosomes, and golgi apparatuses, and mitochondria, and vacuoles, and lysosomes, and endoplasmic reticula (rough and smooth, by the way,) and motor proteins, and sodium and potassium and other pumps in the cell membrane so that energy can be taken in and used and the refuse discarded and something called the Krebs cycle and on and on and freaking on. And I have to do this all at the same time?? You mean cells will die instantly without the mitochondria? You mean that there has to be some PLAN to put all of this together?? Oh, I don’t need a plan, it just happens by accident? Jeez, I haven’t even started and this is looking a little more complex than I thought, but anyway, suppose I could do this? Poof. Alive. Reproducing. Adapting, the whole works. And all without any animating impulse or direction from me. What would you call this? I mean, doesn’t your own cell theory (it does, I looked) say that life only comes from life? (OK, it says that all cells come from pre-existing cells, same thing.) So how again did you get around that? Oh, I remember, you just declared it so and that was it.

    OK. I see now how this works. I see that you insist that yours is the only intellectually responsible way to proceed and that your way cannot be questioned so there we have it.

    Merry Christmas.

    p.s. This is obviously painting with broad strokes. But, this is the story, no error.

  228. tgpeeler @ 227

    First, if I could create a golf ball sized mass out of thin air wouldn’t you think that odd? I mean, what WOULD you call that?

    Pretty cool, actually

    And let’s say that we look closer and it’s actually a little biosphere, with tiny little creatures, all running around, apparently aimlessly, yet the more we look, the more purposeful it seems.

    You know, for some reason, that reminds me of a little scene from Men In Black. You remember the one. Where J opened a locker and inside was this little civilization which worshiped him every time he looked in.

    Now suppose there were some proverbial Mad Scientist who did something like that. He creates a ball of clay and populates it with tiny creatures.

    The thing is, he doesn’t do it to increase the sum of human knowledge or help conquer disease or anything noble like that. No, he does it so the little creatures can spend their short, pitiful lives bowing down and worshiping him because he can snuff them out of existence any time he chooses. That’s it. That’s the only reason the whole thing was created.

    Now what kind of sad, narcissistic, petty little geek does that make him?

    And how does it differ from the Christian concept of God?

    Another question.

    Many here find it inconceivable that something could come from nothing by any sort of natural process, yet they have no problem with their god doing exactly the same thing.

    Why is that, I wonder?

  229. Vis tgpeeler’s at 227:

    Prompt, with excellent penmanship.

  230. I see no one on this thread was willing to lay out their intellectual commitments except for Mr Peeler. And of course, Stephen has already done do many times.

    Typical.

  231. tgpeeler @ 227

    Well, tg, as you can probably surmise, your description of the Darwinist fantasy is music to my ears. You have characterized a bizarre phenomenon accurately and summed it up quite eloquently in as few words as possible. I continue to be amazed at the multivaried strategies that our adversaries use to avoid reasoned dialogue. If you are a Darwinist, you must follow the following rules for survival:

    Does design manifest in nature? Well, then, call it an illusion. Does the universe appear to have been caused? Well, then, away with the laws of causation. Does the discovery of information in a DNA molecule frustrate your inclinations to promote secularist materialism? Well, then, claim not to know what information means, or better still, keep clamoring for new explanations in a wide variety of contexts, and pretend to be baffled by the inevitable variety of answers.

    More important, always stay on offense. Continue to ask ID to account for itself and keep saying that the explanations, however articulately expressed. are simply not adequate. Rehearse and recite the phrase, “I am not convinced”— “I am not convinced”—“I am not convinced.” It requires no intellectual exertion at all and it keeps the other guy off balance, causing him to abandon the best arguments and to start scrounging around for new and better ways to say something that has already been adequately expressed. On the other hand, never, and I mean never, provide a reasoned explanation for your own position. Whenever anyone asks you a follow up question, just ignore it. If that doesn’t work, continue to ignore it. If that doesn’t work, leave the thread and go back on offense in another venue. Rinse and repeat.

    Most important of all, always ignore context. If someone writes five or six paragraphs, go out of your way to obsess over a qualifying word or phrase while avoiding the main theme. Rather than trying to grasp the big picture, always seek consolation on the periphery and try to redirect the discussion along those lines. That way, you create the illusion that you are responding to substance even though you have dismissed all the really important points. How sweet it is.

  232. Seversky @ 228

    You know, if I thought there was a chance in hell that you would actually consider what I had to say I’d tell you.

    Merry Christmas

    p.s. Let’s say that you, nah, I’ll make this personal. Let’s say that I was homeless, jobless, without education, means, family… I have nothing. I am sleeping on the street, freezing my a$$ off, eating scraps, barely eking out an existence. Then one day a fine gentleman comes along and offers me an ATM card that gives me access to an account that has more money in it than I can spend. So he gives me the card and gives me the pin, 1,2,3,4 so I can remember it, and says all you have to do, anytime you need food or clothing or shelter or transportation or whatever, all you have to do is put that card into any ATM in the city and you can get all the cash you want. Any time of day or night and there is no limit. Also, you can clean up and come to my home anytime and there will always be someone there to visit with you, to talk about things that are important to you.

    I die broke, starving, freezing, homeless, and alone. Now who’s fault is that? Is it the Gentleman’s fault who gave me the solution? Or is it my fault because I rejected him because I didn’t want to use that particular pin. I didn’t think it was right that he made me use ATMs. I thought he should just give me cash or gold coins. I thought he was unfair and evil because he made me do it his way and I wanted to do it my way.

    It has always amazed me that people blame all kinds of things on God as they are rejecting the idea of real good and evil (how DO you get that out of physics?) and God himself. How does that work again? When it suits me I say the world has evil in it. When it suits me I reject the concept of evil. And then I turn around and reject God because of this evil that (allegedly) exists that I (allegedly) reject (because I know GD good and well that there is evil in this world and that man is responsible for it) as a matter of principle (when I am angry at God because things aren’t going my way). I am amused at Dawkins’ insistence that absolute morality is devastatingly undermined by evolution yet somehow it is evil to teach children about God or Intelligent Design. Somehow it’s evil to even believe in God!!! Hmmm. Aah, there’s no shortage of hypocrisy in the human race. I’ll grant you that. I’ve got my fair share, that’s for sure. I imagine you do too.

    Here’s a quote from Richard Dawkins in “River Out of Eden.”

    “… Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

    But he also says in “The God Delusion” (yes, I’ve actually read his books) that:

    “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, fiicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    Isn’t the hypocrisy plain for all to see? If there is no evil, just blind pitiless indifference then why should he get all exercised about the alleged shortcomings of Jahweh? I mean, if God doesn’t exist then what’s all the fuss about evil? Why get angry when things don’t work out like I want? If Dawkins is correct (he’s not even close) then be intellectually consistent and get over it. 6 million Jews in the oven? No problem. No such thing as evil. Slavery? No problem. No such thing as evil. It’s just blind physical forces and genetic replication, don’t you know?

    I don’t get it. If there is no evil then there is no evil. But there is evil and we know there is evil because good exists and because we have an exquisitely honed ability to identify wrongs that have been done to us even as we have little idea of the wrong we do to others. Funny how that works out. For me, at least, probably not for anyone else. Maybe. So how to explain good. That seems to be the real problem. The problem of evil is simple. Human beings are relentlessly rebellious and hell-bent to do things their own way. The problem is, when we reap the whirlwind, rather than face up to the problem (our own thought patterns and behavior) and the consequences, we just blame a non-existent God. Yep. That sounds real reasonable to me. There’s some intellectual integrity for you. Not.

  233. Dawkins: “The illusion of purpose is so powerful that biologists themselves use the assumption of good design as a working tool.”

    Dawkins: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

    These are from the same book, “River Out of Eden.”

    How odd that a universe without a shred of “purpose” in it somehow manifests “purpose” to such an extent that “BIOLOGISTS THEMSELVES” assume that “purpose” exists. I mean, really. Please. How FFunny is that??? How does anyone take these people seriously? No, really. HOW?????

    Oh hell, as long as I’m being mean to Dawkins, here’s another howler.

    “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. ”

    So, read this carefully. Evolution is not in actual fact always gradual, but it HAS to be gradual, else it doesn’t explain anything!!! Are you sh, kidding me??? This is rubbish. It’s not always gradual but it has to be else we can’t explain anything so it is gradual. Even though it isn’t. hee hee. What a kidder. I could make a career out of this guy if I was a stand up comedian.

  234. StephenB @ 231

    AMEN. You nailed it.

  235. 235

    Stephen #231

    I sure my view of information upthread was probably an unnecesary distraction, but the incessant droning “what is information” just gets to be too much sometimes.

    mea culpa

  236. #233


    “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. ”

    So, read this carefully. Evolution is not in actual fact always gradual, but it HAS to be gradual, else it doesn’t explain anything!!

    Did the words “when it is being used to explain the coming into existence of complicated, apparently designed objects” somehow drop out of your field of vision?

    Perhaps it will help if I rephrase what Dawkins wrote as:

    Evolution need only be gradual when it is explaining the coming into existence of complicated, apparently designed objects.

  237. 237

    “Evolution need only be gradual when it is explaining the coming into existence of complicated, apparently designed objects.”

    You means like in the Cambrian and before – where it very apparently wasn’t?

  238. —-seversky: “Many here find it inconceivable that something could come from nothing by any sort of natural process, yet they have no problem with their god doing exactly the same thing.”

    To say that God brought the universe into existence is not the same thing as saying that the universe came from nothing. God is not nothing.

  239. Upright biped @231. I have never known your comments to be distracting or irrelevant. Quite the contrary. You shed more light than most.

  240. #235

    Upright Biped

    A discussion of information seems very relevant as it is main plank of the case for ID.

    This thread, via R0b’s comment at #165, has introduced me to Peter Godfrey-Smith’s articles. I should thank you for starting the discussion and R0b for supplying the links.

    It is shame to conclude it by dismissing attempts to identify subtle differences in the meaning of the word and their implications as “incessant droning”.

  241. This whole questioning of the information content in DNA is a joke. The term information has many different meanings and I suggested a few weeks ago that anyone interested in how the term is used watch the Berkeley course on the History of Information.

    The same people here reify their ignorance by this questioning of the information content in DNA when it is well established within the biology departments of every university across the globe. But we have a few enlightened ignoramuses who continually bring up this topic.

    I suggest they ask the University of California why they pay such a large interest in biological information.

    http://www.universityofcalifor.....otech.html

    Or even why small colleges think they must cover this topic

    http://www4.wittenberg.edu/aca.....index.html

    Or why the Open University in the UK thinks they must cover this topic in the ITunes university.

    http://podcast.open.ac.uk/oule.....-formation

    Maybe then we can be spared this nonsense.

  242. jerry: This whole questioning of the information content in DNA is a joke.

    Information is an abstaction. Consider a simple example, a population of organisms. If we count the number of organisms in the population, that is information. Nothing has changed with regards to the organisms, but we have acquired information *about* the population.

    Everyday language often conflates the object with the description of the object, but the distinction is not that difficult to grasp, and is essential whenever there is confusion. If you can’t, or simply won’t, look at this issue carefully, then the discussion will be forever mired in semantics.

  243. #241

    Jerry

    How long do you think I would be allowed to comment on this forum if I started calling my opponents enlightened ignoramuses?

    No one is disputing that general topic of information is relevant to biology or that DNA contains information of a kind. So all your links are utterly irrelevant. The dispute is about the many bizarre things that tgpeeler said about information in #33. Some of these things are true of some definitions of information but not all of them are true of all definitions. In particular this argument:

    Only minds can create information, life includes information, therefore a mind created life.

    depends on confusing two different uses of the word “information” and to demonstrate this requires examining the different senses.

    If you don’t believe that “information” is used in many different senses in biology then read either of the Peter Godfrey-Smith’s articles that R0B linked to.

  244. I have more than once pointed to the following link.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....iological/

    If any anti ID person wants to go on record and say the ID community is using the term information the same way as the biological community does then I will withdraw my assessment of that person. My experience here is that the anti ID people have brought up on numerous occasions inane objections to how ID is using the term information. I have never seen an anti ID person take a reasonable approach to discussing this topic. It is always in the mode of throwing wrenches in to the gears.

    So I am sorry, until any ID person admits that ID is using the term appropriately, that is the same way as the biological community use it, then the assessment stands of every anti ID person who brings the topic up.

    As an aside, I have only met one anti ID person here who is worthy of respect and he no longer comments here which is a shame.

  245. #243

    I am sorry. I didn’t realise you had already linked to Godfrey-Smith. He describes many different uses of the word “information” in biology. The only one that is generally accepted is the first – Shannon information – which is simply one variable being correlated with another. In this sense clouds contain information about rain. As the article makes clear, all other senses of information are disputed within the biology community. So, when you write:

    “until any ID person admits that ID is using the term appropriately, that is the same way as the biological community use it,”

    Do you just mean Shannon information? If so, I admit it – DNA is indeed correlated with amino acids, proteins and aspects of the phenotype.

  246. jerry: As an aside, I have only met one anti ID person here who is worthy of respect …

    Good luck with that.

    The replication of genes, which is best treated as the transmission of Shannon Information between generations; and the transcription from genome to phenome, which can be treated as a mapping. Just because they both involve information doesn’t suggest Intelligent Design.

  247. 247

    inunison at 215,

    Mustela Nivalis @ 210

    You pointed to Dr. Schneider’s computer simulation, which has no parallel to any biological scenario. And you think this is evidence for what exactly?

    One should read the material before making claims about it.

    I pointed to Dr. Schneider’s Ph.D thesis which deals with the information content of binding sites in a variety of real world, biological, genomes. His simulator was used to validate that even simple known evolutionary mechanisms can generate information.

    This is very clear evidence that information can be generated absent intelligent intervention.

  248. jerry:

    I have more than once pointed to the following link.

    I had forgotten that it was one of your links that originally led me to that article. I apologize for not crediting you for it.

    I still find it strange, given the position of ID proponents such as Meyer and tgpeeler, that you would recommend an article that argues against the reification of information.

    If any anti ID person wants to go on record and say the ID community is using the term information the same way as the biological community does then I will withdraw my assessment of that person.

    Such a person would have to be naive enough to think that the term is used consistently within the ID and biological communities. As much as I crave your respect, I can’t bring myself to say that Meyer, Marks & Dembski, and Upright Biped all use the term the same way.

  249. “Do you just mean Shannon information?”

    No. Shannon information can have some applicability but what I mean and ID means is something else. We mean the same thing that all the biology departments in the universe mean and they do not mean it in the same sense as Shannon information.

    The comments since I made my comment just continue to reinforce my assessment. Why would anyone pay attention to someone who denies the obvious. I suggest all who object to the way ID uses the term information take it up with the biology community. And I suggest you listen to the Berkeley course on the History of Information.

  250. “I can’t bring myself to say that Meyer, Marks & Dembski, and Upright Biped all use the term the same way.”

    Why would anyone expect such a thing from a word that has hundreds of different uses. Someone once wrote that the word “run” had over a couple hundred meanings. How many times must someone say that there are numerous uses for the word information. (I repeat, listen to the History of Information on the Berkeley website.) Most uses have some similarity but with any word used in a lot of different ways the connotations often stray from the denotation. The Stanford article indicates how the biological community uses the term and that is how ID uses it when it refers to DNA. Most of the discussion here on this site over the years has been about the information content in DNA. And while it is correlational, it is certainly a lot more than that.

    Because Meyers and Dembski may use different meanings of the same word especially when it is used in a technical area, does not mean there is a problem. Each field has it own specific requirements. And each could be relevant to ID. Meyers uses it in DNA and its relevance for building life’s components and how it used generally in biology. I do not claim to be very knowledgeable on Dembski’s work but he is apparently using the term differently and relative to his field of interest.

    So someone questioning the obvious here, if they were honest would understand that the terms may being used somewhat differently. Is Dembski and Marks using the term in the biological sense or are they using it in the sense required by their field?

  251. Jerry

    #249

    Shannon information can have some applicability but what I mean and ID means is something else. We mean the same thing that all the biology departments in the universe mean and they do not mean it in the same sense as Shannon information.

    The Stanford article indicates how the biological community uses the term and that is how ID uses it when it refers to DNA

    From the Stanford article:

    Current applications of informational concepts in biology include:

    There is no consensus about the status of these ideas, and the result has been a growing foundational discussion within biology and the philosophy of biology. Some have hailed the employment of informational concepts as a crucial advance (Williams 1992). Others have seen almost every biological application of informational concepts as a serious error, one that distorts our understanding and contributes to lingering genetic determinism (Francis 2003). Most of the possible options between these extreme views have also been defended. Perhaps most commentators within philosophy have seen the project of sorting through the various kinds of informational description that have become current as valuable, distinguishing legitimate ones from illegitimate ones (Sterelny, Smith, and Dickison 1996, Godfrey-Smith 2000, Griffiths 2001). Philosophers have also tried to give a reductive or naturalistic explanation for the legitimate ones. A smaller (and perhaps shrinking) group of commentators have claimed that the whole issue is a storm in a teacup; they do not think that the development of an informational language for describing genes makes much of a difference to anything, as it is loose metaphorical talk that carries no theoretical weight (Kitcher 2001).

    This entry proceeds as follows. In the next section we discuss the most unproblematic technical use of information in biology, which draws on Shannon and the mathematical theory of information. Against that background, some of the more contentious uses are both motivated and introduced.

    The article could hardly be clearer. The only use of “information” that all the biology departments in the universe mean is Shannon information. All the many other uses are contentious.

    Given this, is it unreasonable to push for a precise definition?

  252. I do not believe what I just read. I suggest all interested go to the Stanford article and go to the section on the genetic code. It says

    “Both Godfrey-Smith (2000a) and Griffiths (2001) have argued that there is one highly restricted use of a fairly rich semantic language within genetics that is justified. This is the idea that genes “code for” the amino acid sequence of protein molecules, in virtue of the peculiar features of the “transcription and translation” mechanisms found within cells. Genes specify amino acid sequence via a templating process that involves a regular mapping rule between two quite different kinds of molecules (nucleic acid bases and amino acids). This mapping rule is combinatorial, and apparently arbitrary (in a sense that is hard to make precise.

    This very narrow understanding of the informational properties of genes is basically in accordance with the influential early proposal of Francis Crick (1958). The argument is that these low-level mechanistic features make gene expression into a causal process that has significant analogies to paradigmatic symbolic phenomena.

    Some have argued that this analogy becomes questionable once we move from the genetics of simple prokaryotic organisms (bacteria), to those in eukaryotic cells. This has been a theme of Sarkar’s work (1996). Mainstream biology tends to regard the complications that arise in the case of eukaryotes as mere details that do not compromise the basic picture we have of how gene expression works. An example is the editing and “splicing” of mRNA transcripts. The initial stage in gene expression is the use of DNA in a template process to construct an intermediate molecule, mRNA or “messenger RNA,” that is then used as a template in the manufacture of a protein. The protein is made by stringing a number of amino acid molecules together. In organisms other than bacteria, the mRNA is often extensively modified (“edited”) prior to its use. This process makes eukaryotic DNA a much less straightforward predictor of the protein’s amino acid sequence than it is in bacteria, but it can be argued that this does not much affect the crucial features of gene expression mechanisms that motivate the introduction of a symbolic or semantic mode of description.

    So the argument in Godfrey-Smith (2000a) and Griffiths (2001) is that there is one kind of informational or semantic property that genes and only genes have: coding for the amino acid sequences of protein molecules. But this relation “reaches” only as far as the amino acid sequence. It does not vindicate the idea that genes code for whole-organism phenotypes, let alone provide a basis for the wholesale use of informational or semantic language in biology. Genes can have a reliable causal role in the production of a whole-organism phenotype, of course. But if this causal relation is to be described in informational terms, then it is a matter of ordinary Shannon information, which applies to environmental factors as well.”

    Then ask yourself how Mark Frank could write his comment with a straight face. But it is what we expect around here from anti ID people. Did he really think we would not read on?

  253. Mustela Novalis @ 247

    So whoever does not agree with your own conclusions gets a sticker

    “One should read the material before making claims about it.”

    It should be obvious to anyone with rudimentary knowledge of computer programing that Dr. Schneider’s simulator is bogus, in a sense that it does not relate to any realistic biological scenario. Therefore it validates nothing found in his own thesis.

    Dissection and deconstruction of Dr. Schneider simulator can be found here and here.

    Fact that you take this bogus simulator as evidence is telling.

  254. Jerry

    You wrote:

    We mean the same thing that all the biology departments in the universe mean

    Your quote is writing about:

    Both Godfrey-Smith (2000a) and Griffiths (2001) have argued that there is one highly restricted use of a fairly rich semantic language within genetics that is justified.

    This is clearly not something that is accepted by all the biology departments in the Universe. It is a contentious definition which they are arguing for. If this is the sense of information that you mean – then fine – just confirm that you mean information in the sense defined in Godfrey-Smith (2000a) and Griffiths (2001). But don’t pretend it is obvious or universally accepted within biology.

  255. I see my links are not working @ 253

    I was referring to two articles:

    1. William A. Dembski & Robert J. Marks II, “EV Ware: Dissection of a Digital Organism” and
    2. Royal Truman, “The Problem Of Information For The Theory Of Evolution”

  256. —Zackriel: “You are assuming here that rationality requires the acceptance of cause-and-effect, but that depend on your definition of rationality. If by rationality you mean deductive reasoning from stated premises, then that would not encompass cause-and-effect, which is an experiential finding.”

    Experience can only be rationally interpreted in light of the principle of non contradiction and the law of causality. I would rather not focus on the point that you have offered yourself up as an example as one who denies this principle.

    —”If your use of terminology is unclear or simply different from how others use the term (or worse, if you slide between meanings unconsciously), then the argument will be frustrated.”

    Not many misunderstand me when I state categorically that anyone who thinks that something can come into existence without a cause is not a rational person. Even fewer would claim not to know what rationality means. With respect to most Darwinists and their compromised mental state, it is less about their intellectual capacity and more about their built in bias against reason, its demands, and the destination at which they will arrive if they conform to its principles. Since they prefer not to arrive at the destination, they abandon the vehicle which would take them there, namely reason.

    —”As for quantum phenomena, there is no particular reason that a particular lepton spontaneously pops into existence. If we have a lump of radium, there is no particular reason why this atom rather than that atom should decay at a particular time. In this sense, quantum events are contrary to naïve notions of cause-and-effect.”

    Quantum events are not uncaused.

    —”Apparently material objects do just pop into existence, just like they appear to tunnel across impenetrable barriers. That doesn’t make quantum mechanics irrational. It just follows different rules than common sense would dictate.”

    Without the right conditions, quantum events do not occur. The conditions are the causes. If anything at all could come into existence without a cause, then there could be no science. The study of quantum mechanics depends on and was established as a result of the law of causality. If you find numerous scientists that disagree with that principle, and they are easy to find, it simply means that they labor under the burden of a one-sided education and have been insulated from the metaphysica principles that underlie all science. These people are dangerous and destructive because they don’t know what they don’t know.

  257. StephenB:

    Without the right conditions, quantum events do not occur. The conditions are the causes. If anything at all could come into existence without a cause, then there could be no science.

    That’s an interesting assertion, but you offer no proof. How would science change if particle X could come into existence without a cause?

    How do you define cause anyway?

    If you find numerous scientists that disagree with that principle, and they are easy to find, it simply means that they labor under the burden of a one-sided education and have been insulated from the metaphysica principles that underlie all science. These people are dangerous and destructive because they don’t know what they don’t know.

    Again no actual arguments. Just assertions and insults.

  258. “just confirm that you mean information in the sense defined in Godfrey-Smith (2000a) and Griffiths (2001).”

    I’m shocked, shocked to find that information is going on in here. ID will have to close down.

    “But don’t pretend it is obvious or universally accepted within biology.”

    Of all the bioinformatic departments in all the planets in all the universe Shannon information walked into some.

    Well, we will always have Paris.

    PS – I forgot to check for some bioinformatics departments in the Andromeda Galaxy to see which ones are not talking about DNA and the transcription/translation process for gene creation. The intergalactic hypernet connection has been down the last few days.

  259. inunison, I can’t speak to the biological realism of ev (can you?), but it certainly achieves the modest goal of showing that evolutionary mechanisms can generate information, as Mustela said.

    There may be some confusion as to what Schneider and Mustela mean when they say “generate information”. You need to read Schneider’s paper, and understand it, in order to respond to the claim. If you don’t understand it, you’re not in a position to judge the accuracy and efficacy of the responses that you cite.

    Let’s look at EV Ware page to which you refer. In the very first sentence we find a quote by Leon Brillouin that is repeated throughout the Evo Info Lab papers. The quote seems relevant to the EIL’s conservation of information claims, but if you read the chapter from which it’s taken, you’ll see that it’s talking about something completely different. The EV Ware page says that Schneider’s claims are contrary to Brillouin’s insight, but in fact, the two are not related.

    Moving on, we find this claim: “The ability of ev to find its target in much less that twelve and a half quintillion years is not due the evolutionary program.” And this: “We will show that the ability of ev to find its target is not due to the evolutionary algorithm used, but is rather due to the active information residing in the digital organism.” These statements are not true, and Marks and Dembski have been informed for over two years that they’re not true. No matter how you apply the EIL model to ev, the problem is intractable if you take away the evolutionary algorithm.

    There are other problems, but I’ll cut to the main one, namely that the critique never counters Schneider’s claims. ev generates a sequence that results in the specified binding sites, just as a GA can generate an antenna shape that results in a specified SNR. When the EIL says that ev contains active info, that simply means that it performs better than random sampling, and that is exactly Schneider’s point.

    I’ll pause here and wait for you to respond to the above points.

  260. StephenB: I would rather not focus on the point that you have offered yourself up as an example as one who denies this principle.

    Indeed, I said when it comes to the Theory of Evolution, classical causation is sufficient.

    StephenB: If anything at all could come into existence without a cause, then there could be no science.

    A lump of radium. An atoms decays. What caused the decay of that atom rather than its neighbor?

  261. jerry, I’m thoroughly confused. The information-based arguments for ID that I’m familiar with are Dembski’s, Marks’, Meyer’s, and Durston’s. These use various definitions of information, and the authors don’t switch to a common definition when they’re talking about DNA. So when you talk about the way that ID uses the term, who are you talking about?

  262. “I’m thoroughly confused.”

    That is nothing new. Why don’t you try to figure it out.

  263. re Z @ 260

    “A lump of radium. An atoms decays. What caused the decay of that atom rather than its neighbor?”

    You don’t know what it is so that means it doesn’t exist. Hmmm. Here’s a hint, random does not equal uncaused. Not in this universe, anyway.

    And for Iryna (this is so cute, having to define cause on this forum) here’s a definition of cause from M-W online: “something that brings about an effect or a result” There is more, but this pertains to the discussion. Does this help?

    Here’s the link. You can see for yourself. And for other words, like information, you can just type them in the search box and voila!!! An answer. It’s amazing, really.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cause

    p.s. Still waiting on those intellectual commitments. The ones I said eons ago (well it seems like eons) that none of “you” had.

  264. 261

    R0b

    12/23/2009

    8:56 pm

    jerry, I’m thoroughly confused. The information-based arguments for ID that I’m familiar with are Dembski’s, Marks’, Meyer’s, and Durston’s. These use various definitions of information, and the authors don’t switch to a common definition when they’re talking about DNA. So when you talk about the way that ID uses the term, who are you talking about?

    Unfortunately, Marks, Meyer and Durston don’t post here and seemingly Dr. Dembski doesn’t want to discuss Jerry’s contributions. I actually get the impression that only those guys who come over from AtBc answer Jerry’s comments.

  265. #263

    tgpeeler

    Still waiting on those intellectual commitments. The ones I said eons ago (well it seems like eons) that none of “you” had.

    You mean things we assert to be true and will not listen to any argument or evidence to the contrary? Sorry – I don’t have any of those.

  266. #258 Jerry

    A fine line in sarcasm but I would still be intrigued to know which of the many definitions of information in the Stanford article you consider to be relevant one for ID. It may be obvious to you but for the sake of us poor confused bystanders – just say.

  267. tgpeeler: Here’s a hint, random does not equal uncaused. Not in this universe, anyway.

    Quantum Theory makes highly reliable and accurate predictions of a wide range of phenomena. All the available evidence strongly supports quantum randomness. It’s not a matter of ignorance of possible causes: Empirical tests of Bell’s Inequality support the assertion that there are no local hidden variables.

    Einstein, Podolsky & Rosen, Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?, Physical Review 1935.

    Bell, On the Einstein Podolsky Rosen paradox, Physics 1964.

    Gröblacher et al., An experimental test of non-local realism, Nature 2007.

  268. tgpeeler @ 232

    It has always amazed me that people blame all kinds of things on God as they are rejecting the idea of real good and evil (how DO you get that out of physics?) and God himself.

    Where do you get the idea that physics has anything to say about the existence of God or the problem of evil?

    What atheists and agnostics argue is that the nature of the Universe we observe around us gives no reason at all to assume the existence of a deity such as the Christian God. As Dawkins is pointing out in that quote, what we see is what we would expect the Universe to look like if there is no God.

    For atheists and agnostics, the question is why people who espouse an intellectual commitment to reason hold a belief in a deity for which there is no empirical justification.

    Even worse, for those that have that intellectual commitment to reason is that they believe in a deity that, according to their own Scriptures, apparently would deny them the use of that reason even after having endowed them with that ability.

    For example, right at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis, God creates the Garden of Eden and then creates a man and a woman, Adam and Eve, to tend it. In this garden He plants the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He tells Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit thereof but a talking serpent persuades Eve to eat the fruit and she the persuades Adam to do likewise. When God learns of this, He curses the humans and the serpent and condemns their species to suffer in various ways for ever more as punishment and casts them out of the Garden to fend for themselves.

    And, as someone with a self-proclaimed intellectual commitment to reason, you have no problem with that? Because I do.

    First, God plants this tree in the Garden and commands Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit but gives no reason why not. Absolutely none.

    If a child asks its parents why it shouldn’t do something, the parents, if they are good responsible parents, will try to explain why. They will exercise your intellectual commitment to reason and try to make the child understand there are good reasons why people should or should not behave in certain ways.

    Yet God the Loving Father gives no reasons for His command. It is a brute order and to be obeyed without question.

    Then He sets a trap for the unsuspecting humans in the form of the talking serpent. Remember, everything was created by God. Nothing, but nothing, happens except by His will and that must include the serpent.

    This serpent persuades the humans to indulge their, presumably God-given, curiosity and eat the fruit.

    When God is told of this He pretends like He didn’t know and is outraged. Really? He didn’t know? An all-knowing, all-seeing God did not know? Are you kidding me?

    He then punishes the three miscreants as mentioned before. This also means He lied to Adam. Adam was told he would die on the day he ate the fruit. No ifs ands or buts, no “what I really mean is spiritual death, of course”, he would die on the day he ate the fruit. But, as we know, life must have been pretty good outside the Garden because Adam lived to be around 900. So we have this perfect, truth-loving God, the ultimate source of morality, lying to His only child.

    He then punishes the three desperadoes. That is just about acceptable since they did disobey a strict order.

    What is not acceptable and is that all their descendants would suffer the same punishment in perpetuity. Since when is it just and reasonable to punish people for an offense that they did not commit, over which they had no possible influence and which happened long before they were born?

    And all this is just at the very beginning of the Bible. Don’t get me started on all the other unpleasantness in the Old Testament.

    Having said all that, let me emphasize that it was not intended as a blanket attack on all religion and all believers. I have known good, decent Christians who did their best to live their lives by all that is finest in their faith and I have no doubt that the same can be said about adherents of other faiths as well.

    Just don’t try to pretend that belief in a god is the inevitable conclusion of this vaunted intellectual commitment to reason. It is not. My belief is that the reason religion has proven to be so durable is because it meets deep-seated human emotional needs. But there is too much that is irrational and unreasonable about all faiths for it to be a rational position to take.

  269. StephenB @ 238

    To say that God brought the universe into existence is not the same thing as saying that the universe came from nothing. God is not nothing.

    Exactly. In fact, as far as we know, before our Universe was created, there was only God, nothing more.

    This means that we have two choices: either God created us out of part of Himself – in other words, we are made of God-’stuff’ and are, literally, a part of Him – or He created something out of nothing, which you argue is irrational.

  270. ” It may be obvious to you but for the sake of us poor confused bystanders – just say.”

    I have already said it many, many times. The one the biology departments across the universe are using. Still waiting for the connection to Andromeda to start working to see if they have a different point of view.

    I once suggested you study grammar to learn about that information process and you took it as an insult but I meant it in seriousness so that you could understand how another information system worked. Now I think you should study it to understand what people are communicating as you admit you are confused but yet insist on commenting on these topics. We all know that you are confused and challenged but now that it out in the open we can be more forthright with help and solutions since you have admitted your problem.

    You are not the only ones challenged. We often admit our limitations here and ask for help. We do not understand how naturalistic evolution can explain the appearance of all the new species over time. And so far no one has come forward to help us. Even those cruel evolutionary biologists are keeping their secret from us.

    So now that your secret is out in the open, there may be some hope for change to quote a great man of our times.

  271. re Mark @ 269

    “You mean things we assert to be true and will not listen to any argument or evidence to the contrary? Sorry – I don’t have any of those.”

    No. I don’t mean those “things.” I mean the foundational assumptions concerning ontology and epistemology that you hold. Except I don’t think you, or any one who espouses a naturalist point of view, have any. As I’ve said repeatedly. But, deflection seems to be a decent strategy. Eventually people get tired of the BS and forget that you never established a foundation for your positions in the first place. They just hang out there in mid-air. Like Dennett’s sky hooks. He’s particularly fond of those even as he asserts that it is people like me who eschew them.

  272. oops. Mark @ 265

  273. Z @ 260

    “A lump of radium. An atoms decays. What caused the decay of that atom rather than its neighbor?”

    Z @ 267

    “Quantum Theory makes highly reliable and accurate predictions of a wide range of phenomena. All the available evidence strongly supports quantum randomness.”

    So what is the problem, exactly, then?

  274. Seversky @ 268

    “Where do you get the idea that physics has anything to say about the existence of God or the problem of evil?”

    This would be funny as hell if it weren’t so exasperating. THAT’S MY FREAKING POINT. Physics has NOTHING TO SAY about God or evil. Yet, if you are a naturalist (must we do this again?) that’s all you have to explain anything and everything.

    So if that’s all you have, and what you have can’t explain something, the only thing left for you to do is deny the existence of that something. Thus Dawkins with his “illusion of design” and “apparently designed” nonsense. These things don’t exist in his ontology, yet they clearly are real. (We have EVIDENCE of them. That’s how we know.) So what’s a naturalist to do? Well, that’s pretty easy. Deny it.

    Naturalism is repellent to me because it is intellectually and morally bankrupt. Always has been and always will be. Now I’ll wait for the charges of “naturalists can be good people too.” How ridiculous is that? The ontology of naturalism denies the existence of morality but now you’ll want to claim that you are a “good person too”? Well, you may well be, but you have no intellectual foundation for making the claim or caring about it in the first place. YOU DENY THE EXISTENCE OF MORALITY. So the Nazis? No problem. Just carrying out the will of the people. Survival of the fittest and all that. Only the strong survive. So what’s your problem with the extermination of 6 million Jews and another 3 million or so untermenshcen?? Explain to me why that is wrong. Really wrong. If you think it is, that is.

    More to follow…

  275. untermenschen

  276. R0b, Osteonectin, Mark Frank, Zachriel, Voice Coil and Seversky:

    Good heavens, is this discussion still going on? Anyway, I just thought I’d drop by and make a few quick comments.

    1. Re the definition of information: surely the most logical thing to do would be to look at the definition employed in the most recent online articles defending ID. I would try the papers by Dembski and Marks at this address, as they are very recent (2009):

    http://www.evoinfo.org/Publications.html

    2. Re the points of resemblance between DNA and language: ID doesn’t need to establish that DNA is just like human language. It’s enough to show that DNA has generic features which (a) are very unlikely to have been produced by undirected processes, but which (b) we might reasonably expect an intelligent agent to produce, in the absence of any ad hoc constraints on its capacities or its actions.

    3. Zachriel, you asked:

    A lump of radium. An atom decays. What caused the decay of that atom rather than its neighbor?

    OK. What’s wrong with saying: God?

    And that doesn’t mean He has to personally split each radium atom that decays, either. He could easily use a celestial pseudo-random number generator, for instance, to decide which atoms decay, and which ones don’t.

    Also, God isn’t a local hidden variable. God is everywhere. As far as I can tell, nothing in physics rules out a theistic explanation of probabilistic events.

    By the way, Zachriel, there are at least 17 interpretations of quantum mechanics. You can read about them here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I....._mechanics

    Which one’s yours?

    4. Seversky, you wrote:

    This means that we have two choices: either God created us out of part of Himself – in other words, we are made of God-’stuff’ and are, literally, a part of Him – or He created something out of nothing, which you argue is irrational.

    You’re equivocating here. God did not “make-the-world-out-of-nothing” (as if “nothing” was the stuff God used to make the world); rather, He did not make the world out of anything. There was no raw material.

    How could that be, you ask? Think of Harry Potter. Who made him? J. K. Rowling. What did she make him out of? She didn’t make him out of anything.

    And before you all rush in and say, “We’re real, and Harry’s not,” let me ask you: real on what level? J. K. Rowling is on the next level up from Harry. Presumably we’re on the same level of reality as she is. Why couldn’t God be on the level above us?

    Does that mean we don’t possess libertarian freedom? I don’t see why it should. The idea I’m defending here (and it is a very old one) is that we are characters in a story created by God, but that we are characters who can do our own bit of story-writing – subject to the constraints of God, the Master story-teller.

    And what’s to stop God from interacting with the characters in His own story? Nothing. Which is why prayer is reasonable.

    5. Seversky, you also write:

    As Dawkins is pointing out in that quote, what we see is what we would expect the Universe to look like if there is no God.

    I have to disagree. If there were no God, I wouldn’t expect a universe with laws that are invariant over space and time. I wouldn’t expect laws that are mathematically elegant, either. I wouldn’t expect life, I wouldn’t expect consciousness, I wouldn’t expect science, metaphysics, art or religion, and I certainly wouldn’t expect libertarian freedom. (And if you don’t believe you really possess libertarian freedom, you will at least have to admit that you all do a pretty good imitation of it, in your daily lives.) Above all, I wouldn’t expect me.

    It takes a lifetime of “education” for us to cease being amazed at these unexpected features of the universe, and at the fact of our own existence. Education? I’d call it desensitization.

    6. In response to Seversky’s remarks about the unfairness of Adam’s temptation in Eden, let me briefly remark that:

    (a) contrary to what Seversky asserts, Adam was given a reason to obey the Divine command (namely, that death would be the consequence of disobedience);

    (b) Seversky’s statement that “Nothing, but nothing, happens except by His will and that must include the serpent” fails to distinguish between the active and permissive will of God;

    (c) God did not lie when He said that “Adam was told he would die on the day he ate the fruit” unless the word “day” in the Bible always means 24 hours – but if that were the case, then we would expect Jewish rabbis who wrote about the book of Genesis (and who presumably knew ancient Hebrew far better than you do) to freely acknowledge the fact that God lied – yet in fact, none of them do;

    (d) the book of Genesis is likely to be a very incomplete account of what actually happened at the Fall. It probably omits many significant details which God has not deigned to tell us about (for reasons best known to Himself);

    (e) if you really want a good, thought-provoking theodicy, try reading Dr. William Dembski’s The End of Christianity (available at Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/End-Chri.....038;sr=8-1 ). It will blow your mind – but I suggest you read and re-read it.

    Merry Christmas to all, whatever your faith may be.

  277. Jerry #270

    ” It may be obvious to you but for the sake of us poor confused bystanders – just say.”

    I have already said it many, many times. The one the biology departments across the universe are using.

    It appears that is all you are ever going to offer in the way of a definition. I will stop asking.

  278. jerry:

    “I’m thoroughly confused.”

    That is nothing new. Why don’t you try to figure it out.

    Hint taken. I still don’t understand how you can talk about “the way ID uses the term information” as if there’s only one way, and yet acknowledge that different ID proponents use the term in different ways. But I won’t pursue the issue any more.

  279. #271

    “No. I don’t mean those “things.” I mean the foundational assumptions concerning ontology and epistemology that you hold.”

    tg: I do not wish to offend our naturalist critics but honestly I think they actually think they do not hold unprovable foundational assumptions. That is first principle and presuppositions that cannot be empircally verified. A little shocking for those who are so intelligent and seemingly highly educated.

    If I am mistaken on this I apologize in advance.

    Vivid

  280. vjtorley:

    1. Re the definition of information: surely the most logical thing to do would be to look at the definition employed in the most recent online articles defending ID. I would try the papers by Dembski and Marks at this address, as they are very recent (2009):

    http://www.evoinfo.org/Publications.html

    Okay. In those papers, information is defined as a property of searches, rather than of events or objects. Since DNA is not a search, it is incoherent to say that DNA contains information, according to Marks and Dembski’s definitions. Is everybody on board with this?

    Merry Christmas to all, whatever your faith may be.

    And Merry Christmas to you, vjtorley. Thank you for the kind spirit that you bring to these discussions.

  281. “I still don’t understand how you can talk about “the way ID uses the term information” as if there’s only one way, and yet acknowledge that different ID proponents use the term in different ways.”

    Maybe there are more than one way of looking at a data set. One as coding but maybe the same data set can be analyzed in a different way. Is that hard to understand.

    I find all this phony posturing illuminating. You supposedly have the ability to analyze the situation but feign ignorance. You and others are just waiting to pounce if you find the smallest bit of hair out of place and never contribute anything. There is a description for such behavior and it is not pretty. All your comments say more about yourself than they do about the content of the discussion.

    You are not alone in this. I have commented more than once that the most interesting thing that goes on with the anti ID people is their motivation. They know they cannot attack anything successfully but yet they come here again and again looking for the smallest miscue.

    Merry Christmas and peace to men of good will.

  282. R0b @ 259

    “inunison, I can’t speak to the biological realism of ev (can you?), but it certainly achieves the modest goal of showing that evolutionary mechanisms can generate information, as Mustela said.”

    So you don’t know about ev’s biological relevance, but you are certain that it achieves its goals. Sorry, that type of faith I do not possess.

    Bottom line is that bogus computer simulation program validates nothing relevant to evolutionary biology.

    My objection is not with Dr. Schneider’s thesis, only that ev is not the evidence validating it, as Mustela Nivalis (and Dr. Schneider) so confidently proclaimed.

  283. —-Zackriel: “Indeed, I said when it comes to the Theory of Evolution, classical causation is sufficient.”

    That, of course, is the problem. To say that the law of causation counts when you want it to count and doesn’t count when you don’t want it to count, is not only to deny the law of causality, it is to militate against science itself. Causality doesn’t come and go—except for Darwinists.

    If anything at all could come into existence without a cause, then there could be no science, no reasoned discourse, or no rational thinking at all. You would have no way of knowing which things were caused an which ones were not. Evidence would be of no use because evidence is interpreted in the light of causality.

    —”A lump of radium. An atoms decays. What caused the decay of that atom rather than its neighbor?”

    The quantum conditions are the cause. If there was no law of causality, there could be no quantum mechanics, the principes of which were established in accordance with and which depend on that very same law. It is irrational to propose “selective causality,” just as it is irrational to propose selective logic. It is no more ridiculous to say that causality is sometimes in force and sometimes not in force than to say that the law of non-contradiction applies sometimes and not at other times.

  284. —seversky: “Exactly. In fact, as far as we know, before our Universe was created, there was only God, nothing more.”

    Well, maybe, maybe not. There might have been God and the angels.

    —”This means that we have two choices: either God created us out of part of Himself – in other words, we are made of God-’stuff’ and are, literally, a part of Him – or He created something out of nothing, which you argue is irrational.”

    Well, not really. God doesn’t have parts. God is existence, unity, life, truth, and goodness and possesses the capacity to share these attritutes. It would be more accurate to put it this way: [Assuming that the universe is not eternal], Either the “something”[time, space, matter etc.] came from an eternal God, or else the something came from out of nowhere. In the first case, we have a cause; in the second case, we don’t have a cause. Thus, the second way is irrational because nothing can come into existence without a cause.

  285. StephenB:

    God doesn’t have parts. God is existence, unity, life, truth, and goodness and possesses the capacity to share these attritutes.

    And you know this how? More self-evident truths?

    Either the “something”[time, space, matter etc.] came from an eternal God, or else the something came from out of nowhere. In the first case, we have a cause; in the second case, we don’t have a cause. Thus, the second way is irrational because nothing can come into existence without a cause.

    Another self-evident truth I suppose. You are simply assuming you conclusions. It’s amazing to me that you can’t seem to see your own obvious irrationality.

    Anyway, merry Christmas!

  286. Zachriel: A lump of radium. An atom decays. What caused the decay of that atom rather than its neighbor?

    vjtorley: OK. What’s wrong with saying: God?

    Nothing, unless it’s meant as a scientific claim, in which case it’s vacuous.

    vjtorley: And that doesn’t mean He has to personally split each radium atom that decays, either. He could easily use a celestial pseudo-random number generator, for instance, to decide which atoms decay, and which ones don’t.

    Which demonstrates why it is vacuous. God could be splitting each atom individually, or assigning an angel for each lump of radium, or Lucifer could be spinning a wheel, or it could be part of the Divine Plan. But it has all the appearance of utter randomness. It’s an extraneous entity that adds nothing of scientific value.

    vjtorley: By the way, Zachriel, there are at least 17 interpretations of quantum mechanics… Which one’s yours?

    Quantum interpretations may have some scientific utility in guiding hypotheses in an attempt to empirically distinguish between them. At least most are spare, and don’t propose extraneous entities. Other than that, they’re just pictures in the mind.

  287. Zachriel: Indeed, I said when it comes to the Theory of Evolution, classical causation is sufficient.

    StephenB: That, of course, is the problem. To say that the law of causation counts when you want it to count and doesn’t count when you don’t want it to count, is not only to deny the law of causality, it is to militate against science itself.

    Actually, that’s how you advance a discussion, by granting points when appropriate.

    StephenB: The quantum conditions are the cause.

    Your comment is so vague that you may as well say the whipplesnapper is the cause. Would you care to predict, based on your knowledge of quantum causation, which atom of radium will decay next?

  288. Seversky @ 268

    “What atheists and agnostics argue is that the nature of the Universe we observe around us gives no reason at all to assume the existence of a deity such as the Christian God. As Dawkins is pointing out in that quote, what we see is what we would expect the Universe to look like if there is no God.”

    I thought this was going to take some time but I see that others have already done a much more gracious job of responding to the guts of your post. I still want to respond to part of it.

    Dawkins is a fool. He says that the universe we see is what we’d expect to see if there, well, let him say it “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” So he, and you, are saying that in a universe of physics and genetic replication we should, a priori, expect to see creatures that deceive themselves about the existence of everything that makes them what they are. This would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic. No, really.

    So what you are expecting me to believe is that in a universe where people are obsessed about purpose (what we want) and morality (who is doing wrong to us) and self-awareness (I am important) the explanation is a philosophy that denies the very existence of those things!!! I mean, we don’t expect these things to exist, but they obviously do exist, so we say that they don’t exist, and we mock the people who say they do exist, and best of all, we say it’s SCIENTIFIC to say all this!! Oh, that makes PERFECT SENSE now. Are you kidding me? Get real for a second.

  289. [God doesn’t have parts.] God is existence, unity, life, truth, and goodness and possesses the capacity to share these attributes.”

    —IrynaB: “And you know this how? More self-evident truths?”

    No. Self evident truths are the basic principles of right reason by which we make reasoned arguments. The argument above does indeed, require a good deal of reasoned analysis over and above anything that is self evident. The short version is that a “self existent” being cannot be divided. It is a philosophical argument to answer another blogger’s assertion that God has “parts,” which cannot be true of a self existent being.

    Also, moving away from philosophy and into theology, God is pure spirit, and nothing spiritual can have parts. That quality is reserved for material things–and yes, that part of it should be self evident.

    [Either the “something”[time, space, matter etc.] came from an eternal God, or else the something came from out of nowhere. In the first case, we have a cause; in the second case, we don’t have a cause. Thus, the second way is irrational because nothing can come into existence without a cause.]

    —”Another self-evident truth I suppose. You are simply assuming your conclusions. It’s amazing to me that you can’t seem to see your own obvious irrationality.”

    No its another argument based on the self evident truth that anything that begins to exist must have a cause. An argument based on a self evident truth is not the same as a self evident truth. It is not likely that I would perceive anything irrational about my comment since there is nothing irrational about it. Irrationality consists in denying reason’s first principles or in not knowing the difference between them and arguments that are grounded in them.

    —-Anyway, merry Christmas!

    Merry Christmas.

  290. Here’s the thing, we either live in a “Jesus universe” or we do not. That is not a theological or a Biblical statement. It is a propositional truth statement that is undeniably true since it embodies the first principles of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle.

    What I mean by the shorthand “Jesus universe” is that Jesus of Nazareth is who he claimed to be. That is, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Redeemer of all mankind.

    The contradictory, that we do not, encompasses many other possibilities. As far as I can tell, the most prominent of them in “western culture” is the idea of naturalism with it’s various explanations for life (neo-Darwinian evolution), morality (doesn’t really exist), purpose (also an illusion), and so on. IF we do not live in a Jesus universe then naturalism, or something like it, is certain to be true. In that case, there is certainly good reason to embrace despair and nihilism. In that universe, there is no reason to do anything because none of us matter. We are merely happy coincidences of quarks and leptons that are amazingly and accidentally arranged into really cool bags of water (basically) that can do some amazing things and apparently some very foolish things, too, like deny the very essence that we have and the fundamental drive we all have to want to matter. Why would we do that in a universe described by naturalism? Ah well, we could, but to my earlier point, it would ultimately be to no avail, since in this universe we DON’T matter. All “why” questions ultimately devolve into blank looks accompanied by a shoulder shrug. (I’m saying if naturalism or something like is is true.) Why is there something rather than nothing? Beats me. Why is there life? Beats me. Why is there human life? Beats me. Why do we have an apparently empty place in our apparent souls that demands to know why in the first place? Beats me. Why is there apparently good and evil in a purposeless pointless universe? Beats me. Why would I care about ever doing “the apparently right thing – remember, no REAL right thing is possible) since I will never, ever be held accountable for what I do or fail to do? If someone says “but doing the apparently right thing makes me feel good for some odd reason,” I respond “so what.” What does it matter? In a universe that’s almost 14 BILLION years old, our roughly 70 years or so, and often much less, are merely the blink of a cosmic eye. How could anything matter, really, in such a world? Well, it couldn’t.

    If we do live in a Jesus universe, however, a different picture emerges. In this universe, God created it, and us, so He could have fellowship with us in an unbroken and perfect state for all eternity. In this universe, man rebelled against the will of God and we call this sin. This sin separates us from eternal fellowship. God, being God, knows this and realizes that we owe a debt we cannot pay. Because He loves us, however, He decided that He would provide a way out. This way is summarized in perhaps one of the most recognizable verses of all, John 3:16, where Jesus himself said: For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall never perish but have eternal life. Wow. How about that? In this universe, God is not a malevolent bully or an evil tyrant. In this universe, all of these creatures made in His image have a power that is, well, God-like, and that is the power to choose. And the ONLY THING that separates any of us from an unspeakably joyous eternity is ONE DECISION that we are ALL free to make. Yes or no. Do we accept the gift or not??? Ah, there’s the real question.

    We are also self-aware, like God is. We also can reason, because we are have reason with a “little r” because God IS REASON.* We also know the difference between good and evil, like God does. There is more but I don’t want to lose anyone that may still be here. According to the law of identity, free will means that we have the option to choose one course of action over another. We can choose from among various alternatives and we do so freely.

    So if God allows us free will and we reject Him and His gift what is He to do? He can either respect the free will He has given us or He can overrule our volition and force us to accept Him, to love Him, to worship Him. But that makes Him no better than a divine rapist. Which, being perfectly righteous, He is not. (In a Jesus universe, mind you.)

    If God says, believe in Jesus, accept the free gift of eternal life (free for us, it was hardly free for Jesus) and you will spend eternity with Jesus and others of like mind in perfect, harmonious, joyful, productive, fellowship. If we say, NO. We reject that Jesus is any of the things He claimed to be, and we think the whole idea is a ridiculous piece of trash that only fools and idiots could believe. Well then, again, what is God to do? Well, what He has promised to do is to honor the decision that each of us makes. If we declare that we do not want to be with Jesus for ever then we won’t. But as an incentive (perhaps) for us to treat this decision with the respect that it deserves, God also tells us that the alternative to being in heaven with Jesus for eternity is, well, not to be with Him. And since this place is going to be populated with everyone who believes in naturalism, or something like it, well, He calls it hell. A place of eternal torment.

    So what? You may say. This is just Pascal’s wager dressed up a little bit. It doesn’t prove anything. Indeed it doesn’t. You are correct about that. But it should demonstrate that this decision could not be more important. I’m guessing most of us have seen some no-limit Texas Hold ‘em on tv. These games in which players often go “all in” with all their chips, sometimes millions of them are on the line. Well, each one of us, every one of us, are going to make a cosmic, eternal “ALL IN” bet on my original propositional statement. We either live in a Jesus universe or we don’t. If we do then according to Jesus it is best not to ignore Him or to disobey Him. If we don’t, then of course it doesn’t matter and, as the apostle Paul said, and I paraphrase, Christians are the biggest fools of all. And he would be right. If we do not live in a Jesus universe, I am the biggest fool of all time (I may be anyway but at least I am a saved fool.) and so is anyone else who believes such nonsense. But what if I’m right? What if we do live in a Jesus universe? It’s possible. So on this Christmas morning I urge all of you, I beg all of you, I plead with all of you, to take a real, genuine, rational, look at the claims of Jesus. See if there is evidence for Him and what He did. See if life makes more sense if we live in a Jesus universe or if we don’t. And make your choice based on what your best analysis of what the truth is. Don’t believe anything that is not true just because you want some “fire insurance.” That’s nonsense, too. He either is, or He isn’t. If He is, then we will be held accountable for our choices and for our actions. If He is, then our choices really do matter because they have eternal, that is forever, consequences. Choose wisely and Merry Christmas.

    p.s. here are two links to my favorite Christmas carol of all time. Enjoy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Jr-2eyRtV4

  291. *God is REASON. I say this based on Exodus 3:14. The background is that Moses has been told to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and Moses is asking God, “who do I say sent me?” God says, I AM WHO I AM, tell them I AM sent you.

    It occurred to me some time ago that I AM is the most concise way (well, ok, you could say eimi in Greek but you get the point) to summarize the first principles of reason. You have being, identity, and non-contradiction and excluded middle by immediate inference. If I AM then I’m not something else and I’m either I AM or not. I thought it was interesting. Maybe not.

    But this would explain why human reason always leads us to the truth and why it is the universally valid method for coming to know the truth. It would also explain “why” we can reason in the first place (created in His image). It would answer that “why” question, would it not?

  292. The “Nicene screed.”

    But great penmanship!

  293. [To say that the law of causation counts when you want it to count and doesn’t count when you don’t want it to count, is not only to deny the law of causality, it is to militate against science itself.]

    —Zachriel: “Actually, that’s how you advance a discussion, by granting points when appropriate.”

    I have no idea what you mean. What points have you granted? How does your comment justify the Darwinist strategy of selective causality? Science depends on the law of causality. If you are granting that point, then please be specific. If you are not granting the point, then explain how science can proceed if causality comes and goes at the whim of the observer.

    [The quantum conditions are the cause.]

    —”Your comment is so vague that you may as well say the whipplesnapper is the cause. Would you care to predict, based on your knowledge of quantum causation, which atom of radium will decay next.”

    My comment is not vague at all. We don’t know the exact nature of the causal conditions for a quantum event just as we don’t know the exact nature of most things. Also, you are assuming that all things that are caused are also predictable, which is not the case. Further still, you have not yet addressed the fact that quantum mechanics and the concept of indeterminancy in general were conceived and established with the understanding that causality is non-negotiable. What we do know is that if even one thing can come into existence without a cause, then there is no reason to believe that millions of things that we have not yet discovered can come into existence without a cause. Under those circumstances, we wouldn’t even be secure that the things we do think are caused were caused. We wouldn’t know which things are caused and which things are not caused or if anything is caused at all. That is why we acknowledge the first principle of science: Nothing can come into existence without a cause. I need not identify or elaborate on all causes to assert that fact. Your objection is unreasonable because you have not considered the ultimate consequences of believing it.

  294. Hey VC. Good to see you still engaging on a fundamental level.
    MC

  295. vjtorley @ 276

    God did not “make-the-world-out-of-nothing” (as if “nothing” was the stuff God used to make the world); rather, He did not make the world out of anything. There was no raw material.

    According to StephenB, from a naturalistic perspective this is an irrational position, a violation of one of the fundamental principles of Right Reason, the Law of Non-Contradiction. Even a God cannot create something out of nothing.

    The idea I’m defending here (and it is a very old one) is that we are characters in a story created by God, but that we are characters who can do our own bit of story-writing – subject to the constraints of God, the Master story-teller.

    This is the predecessor of the hypothesis that we are all part of a vast computer simulation, I take it?

    It is an appealing idea but is it not also suggestive that a species of inveterate story-tellers would find themselves to be the creations of a God who is a Master Storyteller?

    As Dawkins is pointing out in that quote, what we see is what we would expect the Universe to look like if there is no God.

    I have to disagree. If there were no God, I wouldn’t expect a universe with laws that are invariant over space and time. I wouldn’t expect laws that are mathematically elegant, either. I wouldn’t expect life, I wouldn’t expect consciousness, I wouldn’t expect science, metaphysics, art or religion, and I certainly wouldn’t expect libertarian freedom. (And if you don’t believe you really possess libertarian freedom, you will at least have to admit that you all do a pretty good imitation of it, in your daily lives.) Above all, I wouldn’t expect me.

    If we set aside God as an explanation for a moment, we have to admit that we have no idea as yet why the Universe exists or how it came to be as it is. That is not a failing, of course, it is simply a recognition of the current limits of our understanding. It does not follow necessarily from that, however, that we must default to God as an explanation.

    Also, if, as we have admitted, we have as yet no explanation of the why and the how of the Universe, then we have no reason to expect the Universe to be one way rather than another. There may be countless other possible Universes, although the number that support living, intelligent creatures such as ourselves may be far fewer.

    However, if you propose a god as a creator, and if that name is more than just a label but has defining characteristics, then you can observe whether our Universe has features which are inconsistent with such a being as described.

    It takes a lifetime of “education” for us to cease being amazed at these unexpected features of the universe, and at the fact of our own existence. Education? I’d call it desensitization.

    Personally, I find the opposite is true, that the more science learns about this Universe, the stranger and more wonderful it appears. As Haldane wrote:

    I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

    In fact, for me, religious narratives, such as those in the Bible, seem to be increasingly inadequate and parochial in the face of what we are learning.

    (a) contrary to what Seversky asserts, Adam was given a reason to obey the Divine command (namely, that death would be the consequence of disobedience);

    You are equivocating on the meaning of “reason” in this case. Adam was threatened not enlightened. I am sure that you recognize that there is a difference between persuasion and coercion.

    b) Seversky’s statement that “Nothing, but nothing, happens except by His will and that must include the serpent” fails to distinguish between the active and permissive will of God;

    What difference does that make?

    (c) God did not lie when He said that “Adam was told he would die on the day he ate the fruit” unless the word “day” in the Bible always means 24 hours – but if that were the case, then we would expect Jewish rabbis who wrote about the book of Genesis (and who presumably knew ancient Hebrew far better than you do) to freely acknowledge the fact that God lied – yet in fact, none of them do;

    Even if they thought it, those scholars were hardly going to admit that their holy texts suggest that God lied right from the start.

    As for any ambiguity about the meaning of the word ‘day’, we are talking about the Creator of the entire Universe here. Are we really supposed to believe that He forgot, or was unaware, that the word ‘day’ means one complete revolution of the planet Earth for the humans which live there, rather than perhaps thousands of terrestrial years? And if he was aware of the difference, was it really beyond His powers to explain: “Yes, I know I said you would die on the day you ate the fruit, but I forgot to mention that ‘day’ for me means thousands of your years. Sorry about the confusion.”?

    Merry Christmas to all, whatever your faith may be.

    All the above aside, a Merry Christmas to you and yours and to all other contributors to this blog.

  296. #295

    “According to StephenB, from a naturalistic perspective this is an irrational position, a violation of one of the fundamental principles of Right Reason, the Law of Non-Contradiction.”

    How you come to this conclusion escapes me.

    “It does not follow necessarily from that, however, that we must default to God as an explanation.”

    Correct however since space time and matter came into existence at the Big Bang you cannot appeal to space time and matter as the cause of itself. You know self causation, the LNC and all that.

    Hopefully since you brought up the LNC to make your point you are not one of those who deny it when it suits their purposes.

    “There may be countless other possible Universes, although the number that support living, intelligent creatures such as ourselves may be far fewer.”

    You mean “turtles all the way down’?

    “All the above aside, a Merry Christmas to you and yours and to all other contributors to this blog.”

    Merry Christmas to you as well.

    Vivid

  297. StephenB:

    To say that the law of causation counts when you want it to count and doesn’t count when you don’t want it to count, is not only to deny the law of causality, it is to militate against science itself.

    You’ve also been flexible, although without scientific justification (unlike Zachriel).

    I acknowledge that an “event” can be uncaused if we define an event as a change of movement, which understood on those terms would not violate the principle of causality. If, however, we describe an event as something coming into existence from nothing, then the principle of causality would be violated.

    and

    If a quantum particle changes location, it is conceivable to me that such an “event,” if that is what we mean by event, could be causeless because I don’t think the law of causality forbids it.

    And again:

    I submit that the existence of the particle was caused and the movement of the particle may or may not have been caused.

    And again:

    Causality, at the quantum level, and with respect to movement, may or may not HAVE been violated because we simply don’t know for sure. On the other hand, there is no reason, in principle, why it cannot be suspended in that context because there is no firm law that can either forbid it or mandate it. Causality with respect to the cause of existence cannot be suspended.

    And again:

    Quantum events (changes in momentum and position) can be uncaused in that sense. Quantum particles coming from nothing cannot be uncaused in that sense.

    All starting here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-332851

    Given the above conscessions, one wonders on what basis you insist that the instances of decay cited by Zachriel, which entail nothing “coming into being,” cannot also be considered acausal.

  298. #297

    “You’ve also been flexible, although without scientific justification (unlike Zachriel”

    Voice the above is part of the problem. Do you not understand that what you call scientific evidence is dependent upon certain non provable ( by science) assumptions and presuppositions? First principles come first then science not the other way around.

    Vivid

  299. —-Voice Coil: “You’ve also been flexible, although without scientific justification (unlike Zachriel).

    Quoting me:

    ["I acknowledge that an “event” can be uncaused if we define an event as a change of movement, which understood on those terms would not violate the principle of causality. If, however, we describe an event as something coming into existence from nothing, then the principle of causality would be violated."]

    Yes, and so? Do you understand the difference between beginning to exist and moving?

    and

    …[If a quantum particle changes location, it is conceivable to me that such an “event,” if that is what we mean by event, could be causeless because I don’t think the law of causality forbids it.}

    Yes, do you yet understand the difference between beginning to exist and moving.

    And again:

    ----I submit that the existence of the particle was caused and the movement of the particle may or may not have been caused."

    Yes, do you yet understand the difference between moving and beginning to exist.

    And again:

    {Causality, at the quantum level, and with respect to movement, may or may not HAVE been violated because we simply don’t know for sure. On the other hand, there is no reason, in principle, why it cannot be suspended in that context because there is no firm law that can either forbid it or mandate it. Causality with respect to the cause of existence cannot be suspended.}

    Same question again and again.

    [Quantum events (changes in momentum and position) can be uncaused in that sense. Quantum particles coming from nothing cannot be uncaused in that sense.]

    You are not the first desperate Darwinist who, after having been totally refuted in a debate, tried to go back in time looking for loopholes in past statements. Nor are you the first who failed in your attempt.

    On the other hand, you may be the first who, after having been given the most patient instruction, failed to understand the points being made long after they were made.

    So, one final time. Do you understand the difference between unpredictability and movement vs. beginning to exist. When you get through that intellectual threshhold I will take you to the next step, which clearly will require similar remedial attention.

  300. StephenB:

    Yes, and so? Do you understand the difference between beginning to exist and moving?

    Sure. What I don’t understand is your rationale for excusing one from an ironclad law of causation, but not the other. And, in light of excusing quantum “changes in motion” from causality, on what basis you decline to excuse particle decay (Zachriel’s example), which entails nothing “beginning to exist.”

  301. —seversky to vjtorley: “According to StephenB, from a naturalistic perspective this is an irrational position, a violation of one of the fundamental principles of Right Reason, the Law of Non-Contradiction. Even a God cannot create something out of nothing.”

    If you cannot debate vjtorley without misrepresenting what I say and trying to use it against him, then please argue against him under your own strength and leave me out of it. Clearly, you do not understrand what I said or what he said. So don’t complicate things by adding additional variables to your own confusion.

  302. —Voice Coil: Sure. [Do you understand the difference between moving and beginning to exist].

    I doubt very much if you do understand it. Indeed, I hold that you were totally confused about it until I educated you on the matter. Otherwise, you would not have gone back into the archives looking for the irrelevant loopholes that you thought were so telling.

    —”What I don’t understand is your rationale for excusing one from an ironclad law of causation, but not the other.”

    That’s true. You don’t understand it.

    —”And, in light of excusing quantum “changes in motion” from causality, on what basis you decline to excuse particle decay (Zachriel’s example), which entails nothing “beginning to exist.”

    No it does not.

    Since I have provided answers to all your questions, I think it is time that you started answering a few questions. You can begin by telling me whether or not the information code provides instructions to the organism. Also, you can explain how science is possible when the observer can take or leave causality at his whim.

    Those points have been on the table for quite a while.

  303. StephenB:

    VC: —”What I don’t understand is your rationale for excusing one from an ironclad law of causation, but not the other.”

    That’s true. You don’t understand it.

    I’ve never seen it. What is it?

  304. StephenB:

    You can begin by telling me whether or not the information code provides instructions to the organism.

    Assuming you meant “the genetic code” or something like that.

    “Instructions,” like “recipe,” is serviceable enough as a loose metaphor, but that’s really all it is. Such images are rather like the image of an atom as like a miniature solar system: it supplies some information, but there is no substitute for getting down on all fours with the phenomenon, at which time the limitations of the metaphor become apparent. Atoms are quite unlike solar systems in many respects, an image that has attributes not shared by atoms and that omits much that is important about atoms. Similarly, the operation of DNA is quite unlike “instructions” and “recipes” (not to mention languages) as well, images that both imply features that DNA lacks (such as agents who author the instructions) and omit important elements.

  305. Zachriel: Actually, that’s how you advance a discussion, by granting points when appropriate.

    StephenB: I have no idea what you mean. What points have you granted? How does your comment justify the Darwinist strategy of selective causality?

    Nothing in evolutionary theory requires “selective causality.”

    StephenB: My comment is not vague at all. We don’t know the exact nature of the causal conditions for a quantum event just as we don’t know the exact nature of most things.

    We can show, with reasonable certainty, that you can’t know, that there are *no* local hidden variables. We have to abandon classical causation.

    StephenB: Also, you are assuming that all things that are caused are also predictable, which is not the case.

    That is certainly not our assumption. Something can be completely deterministic, but unpredictable—even if we understand all the forces in play.

    But that is not the case with quantum phenomena. While wave functions are deterministic, observations of discrete phenomena are not.

    StephenB: Further still, you have not yet addressed the fact that quantum mechanics and the concept of indeterminancy in general were conceived and established with the understanding that causality is non-negotiable.

    They were found to be violations of classical notions of causation. Einstein refused to accept this, but because he thought deeply about the problem, the EPR paper has been very fruitful in spurring the investigation of the problem.

  306. By the way, the argument is not that causality is an unimportant feature of modern physics, only that it is not axiomatic, and that theories of causation are subject to modification based on evidence. In modern times, this occurred first with Relativity Theory, then with Quantum Theory.

  307. —-Voice Call: “Similarly, the operation of DNA is quite unlike “instructions” and “recipes” (not to mention languages) as well, images that both imply features that DNA lacks (such as agents who author the instructions) and omit important elements.”

    It isn’t unlike that at all. But if you want to quibble over the verb “instruct,” we will use the word “direct,” since that means almost the same thing. I submit that the coding regions of DNA “direct” operations within a complex material system through a sequence of chemical characters. If that is not a fair abbreviated account of their role, tell me why. More precisely, tell me why the verbs “direct” or “instruct” are as you imply, misleading and use your own descriptive terms that show how and why the word “direct” is wrong.

    Also, I have yet to hear from you about the significance of abandoning the law of causality and how science could survive without it.

  308. StephenB:

    If that is not a fair abbreviated account of their role, tell me why.

    “Instruction” and “direction” are both human activities (as is language use), and therefore, while capturing something of the role of DNA, have connotations are unhelpful and misleading, similar to those I identify above with respect to a characterization of DNA as bearing a “language.”

    My only comment upon causality has been that your use of the term has been no less flexible than Zachriel’s above, although bereft of grounding in quantum theory that both defines and constrains the acausal phenomena he has commented upon. Absent any rationale for excusing some classes of quantum events from ironclad causality (as you clearly have) while insisting that others are so bound, your carve-out of the “law of causality” (accomplished by unjustified adjustments to the definition of “event”) has exactly that ad hoc quality you deride. Indeed, it is more clearly ad hoc, having (IMO) nothing to do with the physics and everything to do with fortification of your preferred theological arguments.

    What is that rationale? So far as I can tell, you’ve never described it.

  309. —Voice Coil: “Instruction” and “direction” are both human activities (as is language use), and therefore, while capturing something of the role of DNA, have connotations are unhelpful and misleading, similar to those I identify above with respect to a characterization of DNA as bearing a “language.”

    What does it matter if “direct” or “instruct” are human activities if they are also cell activities? Humans also “bear” things, so does that mean you are going to rule out your own word by your own standards. Clearly, the information code is doing something, it is performing a function. How would you describe that function and why is that description more informative than my description?

    —-”My only comment upon causality has been ………………………………………………………………………………………….”

    Should I ask the question yet a fourth time? How can you do science absent the law of causality? If one thing can come into existence without a cause, why not a thousand things, why not a million things? How can you interpret evidence reasonably if you can’t know which things were caused and which things were not caused?

  310. nullasalus

    Determining the “likelihood” of any parameters likely kicks the question out of science and into metaphysics.

    Like

    Determining the “likelihood” of any parameters likely kicks the question out of science and into “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by metaphysics”?

  311. StephenB:

    What does it matter if “direct” or “instruct” are human activities if they are also cell activities?

    It matters because the analogy between human direction and instruction and the functioning of DNA is imperfect. Human direction/instruction entail facets that are not evident in DNA; the functions of DNA display features that are not evident in human direction/instruction.

    Should I ask the question yet a fourth time? How can you do science absent the law of causality?

    Your previous questions were directed to others, and hence your observation in 305 (“I’ve yet to hear from you…”) was a non-sequitur.

    I gather you don’t have, or won’t share, the rationale I’ve requested above. Absent that rationale your take on causality and quantum phenomena (documented in 297 above) is rightly characterized as inconsistent and ad hoc – more so than the limitations alluded to by Zachriel, as your idiosyncratic definitions (of “event” and “effect”) have obviously been devised in anticipation of a your defense of a particular theological position (something can’t come from nothing, therefore God).

    It follows that you’ve no place to stand from which to issue demands for ironclad consistency with your take on “the law of causality,” nor stones to throw vis rationality. After all, “rationale” and “rationality” share a root.

    At any rate, I’ve witnessed some of your many trips around the “irrational Darwinists abandon causality” Maypole. Do you really want to travel that route yet again?

  312. inunison:

    So you don’t know about ev’s biological relevance, but you are certain that it achieves its goals. Sorry, that type of faith I do not possess.

    I said that it achieves the “modest goal of showing that evolutionary mechanisms can generate information”. It shows it by doing it — that is, it uses evolutionary mechanisms to generate information. It follows that information can be generated absent intelligent intervention. Biological realism is a separate issue.

  313. jerry @ 281:

    I find all this phony posturing illuminating. You supposedly have the ability to analyze the situation but feign ignorance.

    My ignorance is real — see Hanlon’s razor. I sincerely can’t make sense of what you’re saying, and given your palpable disdain for ID opponents, I’ll do us both the favor of not trying any more.

  314. StephenB:

    We notice, for example, their proclivity to appeal to the quantum phenomenon in an attempt to show that some physical events can come into existence without causes, as if such a thing were logically possible—as if the principles of quantum mechanics themselves could have been established on such an irrational basis.

    Apparently, it never occurs to them that the evidence from quantum mechanics, like all other scientific approaches, depends as much on the law of causality as any other kind of evidence. Yet it is that same evidence that they point to in an attempt to show that causality is negotiable. Remarkable. [That there are so many popular scientists who fall into that same trap is yet more evidence of the sad state of their incomplete and one-sided education.]

    Kind of funny, isn’t it, even without an identifiable determinant, a cause such as I presume you insist must be present, QM, statistically, nevertheless is quite predictable?

    What is the cause of that predictability? The only ’cause’ I can think of is supernature; a ‘force’ outside of time and space but with a very accurate counter, ticking off atoms slated for a quantum event. A cause extending the width and breadth of the entire universe.

    Since nobody knows, speculation is free.

  315. Cabal: What is the cause of that predictability? The only ’cause’ I can think of is supernature; a ‘force’ outside of time and space but with a very accurate counter, ticking off atoms slated for a quantum event. A cause extending the width and breadth of the entire universe.

    It’s the same “cause” that makes casinos profitable—the Law of Large Numbers.

  316. StephenB @ 301

    If you cannot debate vjtorley without misrepresenting what I say and trying to use it against him, then please argue against him under your own strength and leave me out of it.

    If you feel I have misrepresented your views then I apologize. You are, of course, free to set the record straight.

  317. —-Voice Coil: “It matters because the analogy between human direction and instruction and the functioning of DNA is imperfect. Human direction/instruction entail facets that are not evident in DNA; the functions of DNA display features that are not evident in human direction/instruction.”

    This is the fifth time you have refused to answer my request to describe the function of the information code in your own terms. Your contention that the DNA does not “direct” because humans direct is ridiculous. Would you also deny the fact that one of the functions of information is to build proteins because humans also build. Even Darwinists use the term “affinity” to describe a relationship between information and the organism’s development. Did you explain to your Darwinist colleagues that they must abandon that description because humans also experience affinity? Truly you are standing in intellectual quicksand. The problem, here, is not very hard to discern. You will not describe the function in your own terms because any kind of accurate description will refute your own position. So, you refuse to answer.

    —-“Your previous questions were directed to others, and hence your observation in 305 (”I’ve yet to hear from you…”) was a non-sequitur.”

    You decided to enter into the fray on others’ behalf, so you are accountable for defending your defense.

    —-“I gather you don’t have, or won’t share, the rationale I’ve requested above. Absent that rationale your take on causality and quantum phenomena (documented in 297 above) is rightly characterized as inconsistent and ad hoc – more so than the limitations alluded to by Zachriel, as your idiosyncratic definitions (of “event” and “effect”) have obviously been devised in anticipation of a your defense of a particular theological position (something can’t come from nothing, therefore God).

    You have failed again for the fifth time to answer a simple question. How can you do science without the law of causality? I have already explained my rationale and the futility of your attempt to hearken back to past threads in a desperate attempt to find inconsistencies in my comments. Prior to my explanation of the difference between “movement” and “beginning to exist,” you were obviously unacquainted with the matter. Indeed, you haven’t even dealt with points made on this thread. So, everything you are putting up now is a distraction away from your unwillingness to step up to the plate and answer questions. Indeed, if you would go through the intellectual exercise of answering my question, you would immediately understand why the law of causality is non-negotiable—and it is not “my” rationale. You should read a few books on the subject of the metaphysical foundations of modern science. It is not my rationale simply because you had never heard of it until I brought it up.

    —-It follows that you’ve no place to stand from which to issue demands for ironclad consistency with your take on “the law of causality,” nor stones to throw vis rationality. After all, “rationale” and “rationality” share a root.

    I didn’t issue any demands. I simply explained a fact well known in the philosophy of science.

    —-“At any rate, I’ve witnessed some of your many trips around the “irrational Darwinists abandon causality” Maypole. Do you really want to travel that route yet again?”

    You act as if I wanted Darwinists to be irrational. I would much prefer that they cease and desist with their evasions and abandon their illogical stance that something can come from nothing. On the present matter, I didn’t ask you to weigh in with your errors, or to evade all the relevant questions. That was all your doing.

  318. “My ignorance is real — see Hanlon’s razor. I sincerely can’t make sense of what you’re saying, and given your palpable disdain for ID opponents, I’ll do us both the favor of not trying any more.”

    I find it interesting that you think you can criticize the works of Dembski and Marks but claim not to understand a basic idea that a 10 year old can fathom. When one encounters such an attitude, what is one to think? Using Hanlon’s razor, I assume your lack of understanding of a simple use of the term information and your criticism of Dembski and Marks is due to stupidity since you do not want to be accused of malice. Incredible admission and if true, I admire you for it but what is missing is an admission that ID may be on to something. We have to constantly repel and deflect all attacks but are given no credit by anyone for that and not by you. So which is it, stupidity or malice. For most I understand what it is, but we often give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are stupid. Should I ask each anti ID person here whether they are stupid or malice or both. They certainly are not both smart and of good will.

    I suggest you start further quests on this subject with any biology department and ask them what is meant by biological information. And keep in mind that the same data set can be information in more than one way. Information has many meanings. An English sentence can have semantic meaning as far as content or even be a double entendre or triple entendre but also have aesthetic content dependent on word use and structure as well as a different aesthetic content based on font choice, size and color. It could also correlate with word usage by a certain group of people. I am sure the aficionado on information or language could come up with a lot more possible types of information in the same English sentence.

    The biological community’s understanding of information is in sync with Godfrey-Smith whom you seem to espouse and admit I sent you to him as he helped develop the Stanford site. Godfrey-Smith makes the ID case even though he professes to abhor ID. When Godfrey-Smith discusses the basis or coherence of Darwinian evolution it is incredibly shallow and full of holes. So maybe his discussion of information is equally shallow too but I use him since what he says is in sync with ID on this topic and that is supposedly his area and his ideas on information seems to be accepted by the biology community. So we will give him the benefit of the doubt.

    So rather than ask me any further questions which is quite fine with me, ask the biology community. Pick a university biology department that talks about information and biology on its website, contact a professor there and ask away. You will eventually find one or two who will gladly answer your questions. Bring their answers back here and we can see if there is anything to discuss.

  319. StephenB: How can you do science without the law of causality?

    By proposing and testing hypotheses, by making observations and drawing correlations.

  320. tgpeeler @ 274

    “Where do you get the idea that physics has anything to say about the existence of God or the problem of evil?”

    This would be funny as hell if it weren’t so exasperating. THAT’S MY FREAKING POINT. Physics has NOTHING TO SAY about God or evil. Yet, if you are a naturalist (must we do this again?) that’s all you have to explain anything and everything.

    All? According to materialists, that’s everything. Surely everything is enough to explain everything.

    More seriously, physics has nothing to say about God or evil because, so far, they have not been required to explain the phenomena under investigation.

    So if that’s all you have, and what you have can’t explain something, the only thing left for you to do is deny the existence of that something.

    You are jumping the gun here. The fact that physics has no explanation for something now does not mean it never will have. As a species, we have only been doing science for a minute fraction of the estimated age of the Universe. You can surely afford to cut science a little slack. If God exists, it will make no difference to Him or you relationship to Him.

    Thus Dawkins with his “illusion of design” and “apparently designed” nonsense. These things don’t exist in his ontology, yet they clearly are real. (We have EVIDENCE of them. That’s how we know.) So what’s a naturalist to do? Well, that’s pretty easy. Deny it.

    Not at all. Atheists and agnostics are quite happy to acknowledge that there are things which appear to be designed. As you say, we have plenty of evidence in the form of things which seem to be designed.

    The problem is we only have evidence for the existence of one species of intelligent designers which is, obviously, ourselves and we are pretty sure that those biological features which look like they were designed were not designed by us.

    So, are they actually evidence of design or do they simply look that way to us?

    Darwin proposed an explanation of how this could happen through natural processes, a theory which has been greatly amplified and developed in the 150 or so years since he first published it.

    He supported his theory with evidence from his own observations and researchers since have compiled a great deal of evidence, including successful predictions of previously undiscovered data, which cumulatively tend to confirm it.

    You are, of course, free to deny or reject all of that but the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of biologists accept evolution as the best theory available at the present time. And it is not a fallacy to appeal to appropriate or competent authority.

    Naturalism is repellent to me because it is intellectually and morally bankrupt. Always has been and always will be.

    Naturalism as a methodology has proven to be more fruitful than any of the alternatives which also provides support for the metaphysical claims of philosophical naturalism. How much of the knowledge, the science and the technology that we now take for granted was the product of naturalistic research and how much was the direct result of divine providence?

    As for morality, I have pointed repeatedly to the Old Testament narratives as evidence that any Christian claims to moral superiority are ill-founded.

    The ontology of naturalism denies the existence of morality but now you’ll want to claim that you are a “good person too”? Well, you may well be, but you have no intellectual foundation for making the claim or caring about it in the first place. YOU DENY THE EXISTENCE OF MORALITY.

    Wrong.

    I do not deny the existence of morality, I reject the claim that there is any objective morality. My view is that human societies tend to develop or evolve forms of collective morality that function to make those societies safer and more secure for their members and, hence, more stable.

    In principle, yes, that allows for anything to be considered moral if a society as a whole agrees to it. In practice, moralities are grounded on the the common interests of all human beings, such as survival. The fact that my, or your, desire to survive does not have the approval of some supreme moral authority is irrelevant. I do not need a God to tell me I am entitled to survive or that, if I have that desire, I should also respect the same in others if I want them to respect mine.

    So the Nazis? No problem. Just carrying out the will of the people. Survival of the fittest and all that. Only the strong survive. So what’s your problem with the extermination of 6 million Jews and another 3 million or so untermenshcen?? Explain to me why that is wrong. Really wrong. If you think it is, that is.

    Yes, I think killing millions of people, who presented no threat to the survival of those who killed them, was “really” wrong. The Holocaust was not the will of the German people since it was kept secret from the vast majority of them and it was certainly not the will of the helpless millions who died.

    As for ‘fitness’ in the Darwinian sense, it refers to how fitted an organism is to survive in the environment in which it finds itself. Any strategy which tends to ensure that survival is a fit one. In the case of the Nazis, their policies brought much of the rest of the world into the war against them and led ultimately to the total destruction of their regime. From a Darwinian perspective you could say that they were clearly not fit to survive.

    In terms of morality, they completely ignored the Golden Rule, which I believe is axiomatic, and look where it got them.

  321. —-seversky:

    —–”I do not deny the existence of morality, I reject the claim that there is any objective morality.”

    —–Yes, I think killing millions of people, who presented no threat to the survival of those who killed them, was “really” wrong.

    Huh? What does “really” wrong mean if it doesn’t mean objectively wrong?

    —”In principle, yes, that allows for anything to be considered moral if a society as a whole agrees to it.”

    So, if society in the 1950′s decided that abortion was wrong, that was then, but if society in 2010 decides that abortion is not wrong, then that which was once wrong suddenly becomes right because society changed its mind.

    So, if society in 1900 decided that discrimination against blacks was tolerable, that was then, but if society in 2000 decides it is intolerable, that’s different. Thus, what was once right graudally [or suddenly if the case may be] becomes wrong.

    So, which scenario in each case is “really” the moral one. Is it the early formulation, arrived at by popular opinion, or the latter formulation that contradicts the earlier formulation, which was also arrived at by popular opinion.

  322. StephenB:

    Describe the function of the information code in your own terms.

    Rather obviously, DNA encodes the information required to replicate cells and organisms. It indeed bears information that is in some respects analogous to instructions, blueprints, or a recipe required for building organisms, accomplished in part by specifying the synthesis of proteins. And, of course, it is the transmission of modifications of DNA that enables evolutionary change. In a sense the information stored within DNA reflects the history of those modifications.

    Would you also deny the fact that one of the functions of information is to build proteins because humans also build.

    As I have repeated above, these are serviceable, loose analogies with human activities (such as storing and utilizing information in blueprints, directions, and recipies; building things employing such stored information; replicating the information so stored, etc.). I use similar terms above. It does not, however, follow that all facets of these human activities of are necessarily reflected in the activity of DNA, nor that all of the characteristics of information transmission via DNA are captured by these imperfect analogies. That is all I have stated, and I don’t see an argument to the contrary in your responses.

    I have already explained my rationale…

    Where? I must have missed it. What post number? In what thread?

    I see that you continue to distinguish “things coming into being” from “changes in motion (position/momentum)” by stating that the “law of causality” applies to the first but not to the second at the quantum level (a distinction accomplished by means of an idiosyncratic definition of “event,” such that changes in position are defined as “not events”). What I am requesting is your rationale for stating that some quantum events can be acausal while others cannot. Nor do you offer a rationale for declining to exclude the decay events cited by Zachriel from your “law of causality,” events that entail no “comings into being.” Nor do you describe a rationale for insisting that billiard ball collisions at the macro level are “events” and necessarily causal, while changes in position/momentum at the quantum level are not to be regarded as events, and therefore are excused from conformance to your law.

    So far as I can tell, you’ve never offered a rationale for any of this. You certainly haven’t above.

    I didn’t issue any demands.

    Then I’ll say that you’ve no place to stand from which to declare others irrational for advocating qualifications regarding the reach of causality in the instance of quantum events, when you yourself have allowed similar ad hoc exceptions with no rationale whatsoever for having done so (at least none you are willing to share).

    How can you do science without the law of causality?

    I’m going to pass on this topic. You may, if you wish, incorporate the views expressed by R0b and Diffaxial into mine by reference, particularly as described in the threads linked below. But those were obviously long, heated discussions that explored every possible nuance of the topic – culminating in Diffaxial’s unwarranted silent banning, demonstrating once again that UD isn’t an appropriate forum for conducting such difficult conceptual contests. At any rate, I’m not up for a discussion that promises to almost certainly become dysfunctional. Maybe another time, if that seems less certain.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....u-have-it/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-334963

  323. “My view is that human societies tend to develop or evolve forms of collective morality that function to make those societies safer and more secure for their members and, hence, more stable.”

    Aint that sweet. In the end morality = your view.

    “Yes, I think killing millions of people, who presented no threat to the survival of those who killed them, was “really” wrong.”

    Really? Well no matter Hitler had a different view and the power to impose his will until overcome by more power. In the end for the moral relativists morality is reduced to ‘might makes right”

    Vivid

    The Holocaust was not the will of the German people since it was kept secret from the vast majority of them and it was certainly not the will of the helpless millions who died.

  324. —”Voice Coil: “It [information code] indeed bears information that is in some respects analogous to instructions, blueprints, or a recipe required for building organisms, accomplished in part by specifying the synthesis of proteins.”

    Thank you

    —I’m going to pass on this topic. [How can one do science in the absence of the principle of causality?]

    Thank you.

    I will proceed to provide the answer: It is impossible to do science unless causality is understood to be a non-negotiable principle.

    I have asked every Darwinist within range to provide a credible or even comprehensible answer to the question about how science is possible if causality is negotiable, and no one has ever come up with one.

    Also, philosophy teaches us that no entity, physical or otherwise, can bring itself into being. For something to bring itself into being it must have the power of being within itself. It would have to have the causal power of being before it had any being with which to exercise the power. It would at least have enough causal power to cause its own being. If its being comes from some other source, it would simply be an effect.
    No one has ever presented a rational argument against this point either. Indeed, the only way to deny it is to deny the law of non-contradiction.

    This concept is not religious its formulation. Even the atheist Ayn Rand, understood this point, albeit from a supplemental explanation, as dramatized by Galt, one of the characters in her book: “The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature . . . . The law of identity does not permit you to have your cake and eat it, too. The law of causality does not permit you to eat your cake before you have it.”

  325. R0b @ 312

    Evolutionary mechanisms may or may not generate information (however you define it) and that was not an issue in my reply to Mustela Nivalis.

    You said: “Biological realism is a separate issue.”

    I beg to differ. When we talk about computer simulation program of the ev quality, that is the precise, relevant issue. Ev might be interesting thought experiment but nothing more. Therefore claim that it validates anything relating to biological scenarios is, plainly, bogus.

    In my opinion evolutionary biologists should stay away from any attempt to use computer simulation software as evidence for their claims, if they want to gain respectability within people involved in Technical Sciences.

  326. StephenB:

    I will proceed to provide the answer: It is impossible to do science unless causality is understood to be a non-negotiable principle.

    And StephenB:

    Quantum events (changes in momentum and position) can be uncaused in that sense.

    Granting your position arguendo, how would you do science in light of your own ad hoc inclusions and exclusions, for which you provide neither scientific nor logical rationale? If one exclusion that omits a “coming into being” can be negotiated (changes in position/momentum), why not the next (the timing of particle decay)? If quantum entities may change motion uncaused, why not macrophysical objects? That is, on what principled basis do you maintain that roads cannot wet themselves by means of an uncaused change in movement of water molecules, given that the law of causality, as you describe it, permits uncaused changes in movement at the quantum level? (Note that you’ve already rejected responses grounded in the statistical consequences of quantum theory, and/or in observed empirical regularities, as unprincipled.)

    Given that you believe the “law of causality” is ironclad, violators irrational, and violations fatal to science, what rationale do you have for these arbitrary exclusions and inclusions?

    Since you are fond of counting, this is the seventh time I have asked you this question on this thread alone. You claim to have offered your rationale, but none is in evidence, and you seem unable or unwilling to supply a link.

  327. 327

    VC,

    The conditions surrounding the unpredictable nature of decay are unknown (as was clearly stated upthread).

    This answer was termed as “vague” and you have since ignored it – as if something unknown should be more precise.

  328. Upright Biped: The conditions surrounding the unpredictable nature of decay are unknown (as was clearly stated upthread).

    As was also posted upthread, but held in the moderation queue until a significant amount dust had accumulated, it’s not a matter of ignorance. We can show, with reasonable scientific certainty, that you *cannot* know. There are *no* local hidden variables. While wave functions are deterministic, observations of discrete phenomena are not.

    The question of how to do science when there are questions about the nature of causality was also answered; through observation, by noting correlations, by proposing and testing hypotheses.

    Again, the argument is not that causality is an unimportant feature of modern physics, only that it is not axiomatic. Theories of causation are subject to modification based on evidence. In modern times, this occurred with Relativity Theory, then with Quantum Theory.

  329. Biped:

    The conditions surrounding the unpredictable nature of decay are unknown (as was clearly stated upthread).

    This answer was termed as “vague” and you have since ignored it – as if something unknown should be more precise.

    That doesn’t work. The response you cite is to another question, not the question I am posing. Nor does it speak to the distinction for which I am requesting a rationale, to wit (in this instance): what is his rationale for asserting that the timing of particle decay is governed by the law of causality, because determined by “quantum conditions,” but changes in position/momentum are not?

    This cut is not determined by the presence or absence of things “coming into being from nothing,” as no comings into being from nothing are entailed in either instance.

    That is the rationale I am requesting. Absent that rationale, his inclusions and exclusions from the “law of causality” are more arbitrary and ad hoc than the forms of acausality noted those who take exception to his position, assertions of acausality that are responsive to distinctions that are inherent in the physics.

  330. —-Voice Coil: “Granting your position arguendo, how would you do science in light of your own ad hoc inclusions and exclusions, for which you provide neither scientific nor logical rationale?”

    .

    —”If one exclusion that omits a “coming into being” can be negotiated (changes in position/momentum), why not the next (the timing of particle decay)?”

    Causality is not synonymous with predictability. I hold also that the movement is caused, but since I, nor anyone else knows much about it, I can’t state if for a fact. I can only state for a fact that nothing, including quantum events, can come into existence without a cause. To believe that anything at all is possible is to believe that any number of things can come into existence without a cause, which of course rules out any search for causes, since there would be no way of knowing which things are caused and which things are not. Thus, science would be impossible.

    —”That is, on what principled basis do you maintain that roads cannot wet themselves by means of an uncaused change in movement of water molecules, given that the law of causality, as you describe it, permits uncaused changes in movement at the quantum level? (Note that you’ve already rejected responses grounded in the statistical consequences of quantum theory, and/or in observed empirical regularities, as unprincipled.)”

    Because if streets could wet themselves they would be changing their nature and that would violate the law of identity. [A thing cannot be what it is and be something else at the same time.] Further, rain does not come into existence without a cause. Further, streets become wet only because something else causes them to become wet.

    Do you think, in principle, [not necessarily based on experience] that streets can get wet without a cause? Why or why not? Do you think, in principle, that a cement wall can appear out of nowhere and kill a helpless motorist. Why or why not? Do you think science is possible absent the law of causality? If so, how is it possible.

  331. StephenB:

    Causality is not synonymous with predictability.

    It is you who used the words “uncaused” and “causeless” rather than “predictable” with respect to these phenomena.

    You said:

    …an “event” can be uncaused…it is conceivable to me that such an “event,” if that is what we mean by event, could be causeless…the movement of the particle may or may not have been caused….Causality, at the quantum level, and with respect to movement, may or may not HAVE been violated…there is no reason, in principle, why it cannot be suspended…Quantum events (changes in momentum and position) can be uncaused in that sense…

    But now you say:

    I hold also that the movement is caused.

    I gather that you retract the above statements. Nothing wrong with that. Your retraction situates your position directly in opposition to contemporary quantum physics, but that is another issue.

    Do you think, in principle, [not necessarily based on experience] that streets can get wet without a cause?

    One of Diffaxial’s remarks will suffice:

    We have a well-developed understanding of macrophysical events such as water and wetness, the sorts of causal accounts that explain particular instances of wet streets, and the empirical regularity of those causal relationships. We also have a highly refined and extraordinarily precise understanding (both theoretical and empirical) of the domains in which quantum indeterminacy must be considered, such that it is completely clear from the physics that the “acausality” of some dimensions of quantum physics cannot stage a jail break and begin wetting roads and popping walls into existence out of thin air (your previous cartoon) without cause.

    Good enough for me. That said, I don’t wish to go further ’round the Maypole of this topic, as the arguments to follow and aspersions to be cast are utterly predictable, having been stated here before ad nauseam.

  332. —-Voice Coil [quoting me]:

    “…an “event” can be uncaused…it is conceivable to me that such an “event,” if that is what we mean by event, could be causeless…the movement of the particle may or may not have been caused….Causality, at the quantum level, and with respect to movement, may or may not HAVE been violated…there is no reason, in principle, why it cannot be suspended…Quantum events (changes in momentum and position) can be uncaused in that sense…

    Yes, of course.

    —-But now you say:

    “…I hold also that the movement is caused.”

    Yes, of course.

    Please go on a little intellectual jog with me and try to grasp these three distinctions: (a) what I acknowledge may be possible [quantum movements may or may not be caused], (b) what I actually believe to be the case [quantum movements are caused], and (c) irrefutable fact [anything that begins to exist must have a cause].

    Now that you have the context, let me set it up for you.

    Based on the evidence that we have, the quantum vacuum as a “sea of fluctuating energy, an arena of violet activity that has a rich physical structure and can be described by physical laws.” The sub-atomic particles are believed to originate by fluctuations of the energy in the vacuum. Recall that it is difficult to know where matter leaves off and energy takes over.

    So, it is not a case where something comes from nothing or comes into being without a cause. The quantum vacuum and the energy locked up in the vacuum are the cause of the particles. I would argue, by extension, that the movement of the particles is also caused. Indeed, I do hold that position. The only reason I don’t state it as an incontrovertible fact is because it doesn’t directly pertain to the law of causality, which, as I a said many times, applies only to something coming into existence. My position is conservative, cautious, and reasonable.

    I do not assert that my inferences are beyond debate,[namely, that the movement of the particles is caused] but I assert that the law of causality itself is beyond debate because without that law, I could not draw any inferences in the first place. It is impossible to interpret evidence reasonably outside the law of causality. You have never addressed this point either because you don’t understand it or you refuse to accept it. If you ever do confront it, you will discover that you are quietly assuming in private the very law that you disavow in public. That, by the way, is also the reason why you continue to avoid the relevant question: How can one do science outside the law of causality?

    —-“I gather that you retract the above statements. Nothing wrong with that. Your retraction situates your position directly in opposition to contemporary quantum physics, but that is another issue.”

    I gather that you have a serious problem with reading comprehension, or possibly something worse.

    —-“One of Diffaxial’s remarks will suffice:

    Why would you quote someone else who also avoided my questions, and why would you put him on the spot when he is not here to defend himself. As it is, Diffaxial was simply saying that quantum events need not be bound by the law of causality, but, as I showed at the time, and as I have shown on this thread, that position is misguided, wrong, and yes, irrational. When Darwinists are losing a debate, they get desperate and hearken back to earlier threads and search for some of my quotes, so they can take them out of context and try to set up a comparison contrast in hopes of finding a contradiction. What baffles me is this: Since it didn’t work for others, why would you think it would work for you?

    —–“That said, I don’t wish to go further ’round the Maypole of this topic, as the arguments to follow and aspersions to be cast are utterly predictable, having been stated here before ad nauseam”

    What you really mean is that you don’t have the intellectual honesty or the intellectual courage to answer my questions or even approach them. That was the only predictable element in this dialogue, and it shows the relative merits of our two positions. I can, and did, defend my position, but you didn’t even begin to defend your position. That is because you cannot defend your position, and I knew it from the beginning. You must have known it as well. Like most Darwinists, you push forth boldly when you are scrutinizing others, but when the time comes to be scrutinized, you become timid, silent, and evasive. Because your position is irrational, your only hope is keep it at a safe distance from reason’s searchlight and hope that no one will notice. Well, everyone did notice. For one so disinclined, aspersions are perfectly appropriate. I let you off easy.

  333. StephenB: So, it is not a case where something comes from nothing or comes into being without a cause. The quantum vacuum and the energy locked up in the vacuum are the cause of the particles.

    So the “Law of Causation” doesn’t apply to motion? That’s a rather odd exception to such an iron-clad rule isn’t it? Doesn’t it seem that if a photon veers one way or the other, it should have a cause?

    In a vacuum, sometimes an electron will pop into existence, sometimes a muon, or some other particle. What causes this distinction?

  334. 334

    inunison @253,

    Please excuse my delay in replying — I had an offline holiday.

    Mustela Novalis @ 247

    So whoever does not agree with your own conclusions gets a sticker

    “One should read the material before making claims about it.”

    No, but that’s a reasonable reply when you have demonstrated that you haven’t actually read Schneider’s Ph.D thesis.

    It should be obvious to anyone with rudimentary knowledge of computer programing that Dr. Schneider’s simulator is bogus, in a sense that it does not relate to any realistic biological scenario.

    Again, if you read Schneider’s Ph.D thesis you will see that it refers exclusively to real biological organisms.

    His ev simulator was written after his thesis was completed, as a means of validating that known evolutionary mechanisms could create the Shannon information he measured in actual genomes.

    Your claim that ev “does not relate to any realistic biological scenario” is therefore demonstrably false.

  335. Weasel man,

    Shannon information is meaningless in this debate as it does not pertain to information at all, just mere complexity.

  336. Zachriel,

    StephenB: So, it is not a case where something comes from nothing or comes into being without a cause. The quantum vacuum and the energy locked up in the vacuum are the cause of the particles.

    So the “Law of Causation” doesn’t apply to motion? That’s a rather odd exception to such an iron-clad rule isn’t it? Doesn’t it seem that if a photon veers one way or the other, it should have a cause?

    I don’t think you’re really grasping what “nothing” means in the formulation. A universe with a quantum vacuum is not nothing. The idea that something can be studied to come from nothing in this universe is impossible, for you can only do such an experiment in the universe, which is something. We can never start with true nothing, for we would have to get rid of even ourselves.

  337. StephenB:

    What you really mean is that you don’t have the intellectual honesty or the intellectual courage to answer my questions or even approach them.

    It is your characteristic descent into ad hominem remarks such as this that disincline me to comment further.

  338. Zachriel:

    The question of how to do science when there are questions about the nature of causality was also answered; through observation, by noting correlations, by proposing and testing hypotheses.

    But there isn’t any testable hypothesis pertaining to the accumulation of genetic accidents.

    Also ID is based on observation and experience with causation.

    That is every time we have observed some level of IC and knew the cause it has always been via agency involvement.

    The same goes for CSI.

    IOW the design inference is based on our knowledge of cause and effect.

  339. Additionally, I’ve now been placed into moderation.

  340. VC,

    The real problem with your opposition to Stephen’s position is more than just the obvious weakness of your argument, but it is also that you do not recognize the position you put yourself in. You also seem to ignore the way in which your argument plays out to those who follow the attack. As odd as it may be for a smart fellow like yourself, it seems you completely forget that this is a competition, and by virtue of being a competition, its mechanics of it are well known and well understood.

    Stephen stated a position and was willing to defend it. You on the other hand, were left with one of the three other positions available to you (in order to attack his position).

    One of those positions (the weakest one) you would not take as a matter of pure ideology. To do so would require a certain kind of intellectual courage that you have not shown you are capable of. On the other hand, the strongest of those positions could not be taken because you have neither the data nor the reasoning for your argument to be successful. As Stephen noted, you seem to have already known this yourself.

    This leaves you with the strategy in the middle; a move into uncontested territory followed by the hope for a tangential gain which you might exploit further. In other words, what is left to you is to change the topic away from the defended position.

    This is of course a well documented strategy, and has been exhaustively studied by countless generations. For your attack to have been successful you would have had to accomplish three things. The first is being able to actually move the conversation into uncontested territory (that which is safe from the defended position but still relevant enough to be viable in the attack). The second is a matter of gaining some level of tactical surprise over your opponent, and the third is the hard pursuit of an advance in your argument should one materialize for you.

    Unfortunately for you, you were not attacking a general observation or a set of data points; you were instead attacking the very underpinnings of rational thought. By definition, this is not a position that has a lot of uncontested territory surrounding it (if you know what I mean). Even so, you were not engaging an opponent who is unaware of the move you make. As such, any useful element of surprise was none existent. So without being able to move the conversation into new territory, and without any level of surprise to benefit your move, there would be no tangential gain for you to pursue and exploit.

    Your attack was doomed from the beginning.

  341. Clive Hayden: I don’t think you’re really grasping what “nothing” means in the formulation.

    If StephenB were merely saying that there is something rather than nothing, that’s a rather obvious axiom. Rather, he seems to be using his own definition of causality that only applies to existence, when causality is normally construed to mean the relationship between events such that one event is a consequence of another event.

    Apparently, StephenB’s “causality” comes and goes for Darwinists (which is rather odd considering Darwin posited specific mechanisms of evolution, including descent with modification and natural selection).

    And yet, StephenB insists that his muddled use is essential for doing science, even for the very use of reason, when it’s not clear he is *saying anything* at all.

  342. Upright Biped: it seems you completely forget that this is a competition

    And here I thought it was a discussion.

    Upright Biped: Stephen stated a position and was willing to defend it.

    Here’s an example of StephenB’s muddled position.

    StephenB: I know that you are used to accepting the fantasy that transformations like that just happen without a cause, but here is a clue–they don’t.

    Leaving aside the specifics, notice the use of “cause” within the context of the modification of already existing components. In other words, his use of the term has changed through the course of the discussion.

  343. 343

    Zach,

    – “And here I thought it was a discussion.”

    Yes Zach, the competition of ideas often takes place within a discussion. I personally suggested skywriting…uh…but what was your point again?

    – “Here’s an example of StephenB’s muddled position.” … “Leaving aside the specifics, notice the use of “cause” within the context of the modification of already existing components.”

    Geez man. No let’s not leave out the specifics. The quote you pulled comes from an exchange about the transformation of the four-character DNA pattern into a twenty-character amino acid pattern. Stephen wrote “I know that you are used to accepting the fantasy that transformations like that just happen without a cause, but here is a clue–they don’t”.

    The discussion then morphed through “language” and “meaning”, and eventually into one about whether quantum events have a cause.

    And this is what you have posited as the last gasp of a dying strategy to show that the law of causation is so obviously flawed. And the truly entertaining part is that when you wrote your post, you actually made a point to suggest that we should just ignore the specifics around what you are saying.

    I think the reason for your request is rather obvious.

  344. Seversky @ 320

    You say: “You are jumping the gun here. The fact that physics has no explanation for something now does not mean it never will have. As a species, we have only been doing science for a minute fraction of the estimated age of the Universe. You can surely afford to cut science a little slack. If God exists, it will make no difference to Him or you relationship to Him.”

    Is it possible that after all this you still miss the fundamental point? Physics will NEVER have an explanation for anything that is immaterial because physics describes the behavior of material things, matter and energy. Physics will never have an explanation for design because design is a mental, that is to say, abstract, phenomenon. What about this is so hard to get? You are committing an egregious (is there any other kind?) of category mistake. Since physics can’t possibly describe non-material or immaterial things because part of the DEFINITION (LAW OF IDENTITY) of physics is that it is about the physical world, yet that is all the materialist has in his metaphysical bag of tricks, well then, the only thing left to do is deny the existence of those things. It’s intellectual degeneracy of the highest order.

    You say: “So, are they actually evidence of design or do they simply look that way to us?”

    This is laughable. For someone who alleges to be, if not a scientist, at least someone with a concern for what is true, this represents some pretty shoddy head work. A couple of questions for you Sev. What is science allegedly all about? Isn’t it data, observations, empirical evidence, i.e. FACTS? AND making inferences to the best explanations of those facts, i.e. REASON? So when you say “look that way to us” you are talking about THE DATA. If it looks like a duck and waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck then we are reasonable to infer that yes, it’s a freaking duck. Yet you feel free to ignore ALL OF THE DATA/OBSERVATIONS of design because it offends your philosophically indefensible premise. How would you know about design in the first freaking place if there wasn’t such a thing as real design? Let’s say you are trudging through the desert and you see “water” off in the distance. Aha! I’m saved, you think. Alas, when you get there you realize that it was only a mirage. It was only “apparent water.” But how would you know about “apparent water” unless there was real water??? To speak of “apparent design” while ignoring real design betrays a mind either careless of reason or indifferent to it. Either way, too bad for you. Here’ Dawkins on the subject:

    “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.” From River Out of Eden. page 98.

    NO YOU IDIOT IT’S DESIGN. The true process that gives “everything else about life with the STRONG illusion of purposeful design” IS DESIGN. Gaaaahh.

    You say: “And it is not a fallacy to appeal to appropriate or competent authority.”

    It is when the issue under discussion is that competence. Eat $hit, 5 billion flies can’t be wrong. Is that it? Is that how your mind works? It’s allowed to have an independent thought from time to time. I recommend it.

    You said: “Naturalism as a methodology has proven to be more fruitful than any of the alternatives which also provides support for the metaphysical claims of philosophical naturalism. How much of the knowledge, the science and the technology that we now take for granted was the product of naturalistic research and how much was the direct result of divine providence?”

    Well of course science is effective when it comes to discovering the truth about the physical world. Who is arguing against that? Ontological or metaphysical naturalism has nothing to say about science either. What naturalism says is that all that exists is nature, i.e. the material or physical universe. So what? That is an a priori assumption that is not a first principle. Therefore, it is not intellectually defensible to maintain its truth in the face of overwhelming evidence. (Laws of physics and economics and tennis and diet, all laws and rules in other words, mathematics, information, language, purpose, design, consciousness, etc…) All of these things are immaterial yet real. So naturalism is false.

    What I’m goint to talk about next is what does it for me. And this is why this will be my last post on this subject. In the beginning I claimed that the naturalists/materialists/Darwinists/ whatever you want to call yourselves, refused to make intellectual commitments. I took a little flak for that but, oddly enough, no one from your side of the issue has still been williing to do that (300 or so posts later). Now you have, inadvertently, I’m sure, given evidence of the truth of my claim that you have no intellectual commitments. Here it is. And I quote you again…

    You say: “I reject the claim that there is any objective morality.”

    AND YOU SAY, virtually in the same breath, “Yes, I think killing millions of people, who presented no threat to the survival of those who killed them, was “really” wrong.”

    In one sentence you reject the assertion of objective morality (when you are spouting the naturalist nonsense) and then you say that these murders were “really” (with your own emphasis for God’s sake) wrong. Well excuse me for saying WTF, over? How can you possibly be so blind as to claim on the one hand that something does not exist and on the other to claim that it does??!! But “you people” do this all the time. Thus my comment in post #33 about the lack of intellectual commitments. Thanks so much for making my point so clearly and forcefully. Of course, now you will deny it somehow and I look forward to reading it. It will be most funny, I’m sure. In case others are reading, this is the perfect example of what I am talking about. When it suits “them” to talk about morality or design or purpose, they do. When it suits “them” to deny the existence of those things, they do. And they apparently do it without suffering from any kind of intellectual constipation or indigestion. It’s an amazing thing to see. And the kicker, WE are the irrational ones. Man, it doesn’t get much better than that.

    And finally, you have the gall to say: “they completely ignored the Golden Rule, which I believe is axiomatic,”

    So now you are telling me, again, that not only do you believe in an objective moralality, but that it is “axiomatic.” That is to say, a foundational assumption, one that is unquestionable because it is so obvious and apparent to everyone. You are killing me. You really are. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. So your almost final words to me betray the idiocy of the statement that you made (with your own emphasis, no less) that there is no objective morality. See what I mean about trying to have it both ways??? You stress words in both of those claims!!! There IS NO objective morality . There IS TOO objective morality. That’s what you are claiming in the same post. Post #320 for anyone who thinks I’m making this up.

    Happy New Year Seversky and the rest. When you are prepared to actually stand for something I’ll be happy to engage. When I started out in apologetics, Norman Geisler told me (us) that unless you could get agreement from people about the primacy of reason in matters of truth – in other words, the law of non-contradiction – you were wasting your time. I think he is correct. How much sense does it make to reason with people who reject the very idea of reason? And how much more evidence does one need that reason has been rejected? There is and isn’t a moral law. That is just too much for me to contend with.

    Regards.

  345. Upright BiPed: And this is what you have posited as the last gasp of a dying strategy to show that the law of causation is so obviously flawed.

    Um, no. The point is that StephenB’s position on “causation” is incoherent because his use of the term is inconsistent.

  346. —-Zackriel: “So the “Law of Causation” doesn’t apply to motion? That’s a rather odd exception to such an iron-clad rule isn’t it? Doesn’t it seem that if a photon veers one way or the other, it should have a cause?”

    —-“In a vacuum, sometimes an electron will pop into existence, sometimes a muon, or some other particle. What causes this distinction?”

    It depends on whether you are talking about the “where” of the movement, which, according to the uncertainty principle, is unpredictable, or whether you are talking about the “fact” of the movement, which would, indeed, seem to follow from the law of causality. I submit that, given what we know, the “where” of the movement is likely not governed by the law of causality but the “fact” of the movement is, indeed, governed by the law of causality.

    On the other hand, the law of causation does not contain the word, “movement” in it, so my above comments are deductions, not laws. I submit that if it is true that nothing can come into existence without a cause, then it follows that nothing can move without a cause. However, I can only state that the first clause in that previous sentence is an incontrovertible fact, while I hold that the second clause is a reasonable conclusion to draw. I don’t claim that my conclusions are infallible or non-negotiable, but I do claim that the first principles upon which they are based are non-negotiable. If my reasoning is sound, then the fact of movement is always caused, but the location, destination, and path of the movement may well not be caused. Why should I say that I know something that neither I nor anyone else knows. What I do know is that something cannot come into existence without a cause.

    You will never hear Darwinists make the kinds of distinctions that I just made, [except to criticize them from a safe distance] because, given their disdain for the law of causality, those distinctions never occur to them. In fact, they seldom say anything at all; they just respond and react negatively to what ID advocates say. I have never known a Darwinist on this site to state a proposition, develop it, and follow through with a defense. Not even once. What does that tell you? The more we are grounded in the first principles of right reason, the deeper is our capacity to probe the issue and understand all possible paradoxes and ironies—and there are plenty of them.

    The truth sets us free; it is error that enslaves us. If we abandon the laws of reason, we can’t probe the issue at all, or even get started. Among other things, we cannot distinguish between a paradox and a flat out contradiction. It is hard enough to do that from a foundation of solid logic and reason. Abandon reason, and there is no hope at all. From that vantage point, everything seems simple and uncontroversial. Universe’s just pop into existence from out of nowhere, life comes from non-life, mind from matter, natural causes create information, or anything at all can happen that one might hope to be true.

    Why do I fuss about this so much? Because many [probably most] of the errors Darwinists make in their debates with ID proponents about science can be traced back to the fact that they have chosen to abandon reason’s first principles. We should focus, then, on the cause of those errors, not just the errors themselves. Notice, that I didn’t say that Darwinists are unintelligent. Some of them are quite intelligent. Their inability to reason does not stem from some kind of congenital deprivation but rather a willful choice to reject reason’s principles so that they can avoid the kinds of conclusions that reason dictates. If anything at all can come into existence without a cause, then the Darwinist always has an escape clause.

    If he claims, for example, that the explanatory filter doesn’t work because law, chance, and agency may not explain all possible causes for a given event, the ID proponent may say, “Well fair enough.” a fourth cause is logically possible.(For my part, that is too much of a concession). Still, we think our position is reasonable because after thousands of years after Plato first made these causes evident, a fourth cause has never been found or even hinted at, so we can safely assume three causes until someone proves otherwise. We are prepared to adjust our paradigm if that fourth cause should be found. To that, the Darwinist says, “No, you don’t understand. Even at that, we will still not be satisfied until you concede that NO CAUSE IS NEEDED AT ALL. This is madness.

    It is impossible to demonstrate intelligent agency in an irrational atmosphere like that, and that’s the whole point. Take away reason, and intelligent agency automatically goes with it. Thus, Darwinists attack ID with a series of mindless challenges informed by but never acknowledged as a denial of causality, but they never, and I mean never, address the challenges that are sent their way.

  347. StephenB: It depends on whether you are talking about the “where” of the movement, which, according to the uncertainty principle, is unpredictable, or whether you are talking about the “fact” of the movement, which would, indeed, seem to follow from the law of causality.

    Well, no. Momentum and position can’t both be known with certainty, hence if we know where a particle is, we don’t can’t know whether it is moving or not.

    StephenB: On the other hand, the law of causation does not contain the word, “movement” in it, so my above comments are deductions, not laws.

    Please state the Law of Causality. That will presumably also require a clear statement of causation.

    StephenB: I submit that if it is true that nothing can come into existence without a cause, …

    That seems to be the case, but it isn’t derived from logic, but experience. As a working principle in science, it is quite reasonable to make that supposition.

    StephenB: … then it follows that nothing can move without a cause.

    It doesn’t “follow” at all. Existence is not a property such as momentum is.

    StephenB: You will never hear Darwinists make the kinds of distinctions that I just made, [except to criticize them from a safe distance] because, given their disdain for the law of causality, those distinctions never occur to them.

    It’s unclear whom you mean by “Darwinists,” but biologists rarely have issues with causation as normally construed. The biological sciences are underwritten on classical causation.

    StephenB: Universe’s just pop into existence from out of nowhere, life comes from non-life, mind from matter, natural causes create information, or anything at all can happen that one might hope to be true.

    While the existence of the Cosmos is a conundrum, life and mind are posited to be rearrangements of existing matter. No one claims life or mind just popped into existence anymore than the Earth just popped into existence.

    StephenB: If he claims, for example, that the explanatory filter doesn’t work because law, chance, and agency may not explain all possible causes for a given event, the ID proponent may say, “Well fair enough.” a fourth cause is logically possible.

    No, it’s because the Explantory Filter relies on an argument from ignorance, and that there may be overlaps between the categories.

  348. When the sun has set, it remains the case StephenB in 332, and again in 345, states that certain quantum events may be uncaused.

    Because the “law of causality” is silent on the question, the only remaining source of adjudication regarding the causality/acausality of those phenomena is the science. And it so happens that the science asserts with both sound theoretical and ample empirical justification that the phenomena in question are in fact acausal.

    Biped claims that StephenB’s admission is a peripheral issue. But I think it central. It is an admission that there are facets of causation that ONLY the theoretical and empirical tools of science can affix. Moreover, we have what amounts to an admission (by omission) that other claims regarding the reach of the “law of causality” within the quantum domain (e.g. to particle decay) are made with no detectable rationale, and are entirely ad hoc.

    Biped likes battle metaphors, but others are more appropriate. For example, we need only find one hole in a bucket to know that it doesn’t hold water. What the above establishes beyond dispute is that the premodern “law of causality” is sometimes ill equipped to contain quantum phenomena.

    With the declaration that “everything that begins to exist must have a cause,” the law again comes into direct contact with quantum phenomena that arguably indicate otherwise. We know from the examples above that, with respect to quantum phenomena, the law at times fails to hold water and at others is applied in an arbitrary and ad hoc manner. We also have the precedent that it is the science that must ultimately adjudicate these questions. Because there is no law that tells us when the “law of causality” should and should not be applied, that is where we are left. I’ll go with the science.

  349. #344

    tg outstanding post.Some of what you wrote echo’s what I wrote in #94

    “Furthermore when we analyze their responses we find they are doing two things. 1) Thay are giving their REASONS why REASON does not apply. 2) One can further breakdown their responses as a list of causes why causality need not be absolute. Cannot one say that alll their resposes can be reduced to “we reject the principle of causality beCAUSE…”

    So they use reason to argue that reason can be abandoned and causality to argue that there need not be causality. Talk about nonsense!!! And they do all this with a straight face.”

    Vivid

  350. Zachriel:

    No, it’s because the Explantory Filter relies on an argument from ignorance, and that there may be overlaps between the categories.

    THAT is an argument from ignorance.

    The explanatory filter relies on our KNOWLEDGE.

    The explanatory filter mandates a thorough investigation into causation- ie cause and effect.

    And yes, as with all scientific inferences the inference made via the EF can be falsfied or confirmed with future research.

    However that does not mean that inference was based on ignorance.

    Clearly it was based on the current state of KNOWLEDGE at the time of the inference.

    IOW anyone who says the EF is an argument from ignorance is ignorant of the EF and science.

  351. —-Zackriel: “Please state the Law of Causality. That will presumably also require a clear statement of causation.

    —-As a working principle in science, [Law of causality] it is quite reasonable to make that supposition.

    Since you have agreed in your second comment that the law of causality is a “quite reasonable” supposition, I gather that you don’t need the definition requested in your first comment. So, moving ahead, do we agree that the universe had to have a prior cause? If so, you are one unusual Darwinist and I may just end up tipping my hat. Or, is it the case [please don’t let it be so] that you do not understand the significance of what you just said.

    —–“It doesn’t “follow” at all. Existence is not a property such as momentum is.”

    Existence takes logical precedence over movement. If something doesn’t exist, it can’t move; if something moves, it exists. Do you find this assertion controversial or do you insist that I provide “evidence” for it?

    —-“It’s unclear whom you mean by “Darwinists,” but biologists rarely have issues with causation as normally construed. The biological sciences are underwritten on classical causation.”

    A Darwinist is

    [A] Someone who believes that solely naturalistic forces can explain the apparent design of life or

    [B] Someone who insists that evolution is a purposeless, mindless process that did not have man in mind, or

    [C] Someone who insists that biology is the science of things that only appear to be designed, or

    [D] someone who reads comments like [A], [B], and [C] on past threads, notices that the words don’t match, concludes there must be a contradiction somewhere, and shouts out in triumphant stupidity, “I gotcha!”

    On the matter of causality, well, let’s look at that. Inasmuch as the law of causality applies to all science, and inasmuch as biological science is a subset of all sciences, biological science is dependent on the law of causality. I think you might be on to something here. [Insert smiley face] Thus, if a “biological scientist” denies the law of causality, that person is less of a scientist and more of an ideologue, or, come to think of it, a Darwinist. Wasn’t it cute of me to work that in.

    —-“While the existence of the Cosmos is a conundrum,…..

    I don’t know what that means, so I cannot respond.

    —-“ life and mind are posited to be rearrangements of existing matter.

    Posited by whom? Darwinists? The passive voice is not serving you well here. I, for one, do not believe that the mind is a rearrangement of matter, nor do most ID advocates.

  352. re presumably Z quoted by StephenB @ 350

    “ life and mind are posited to be rearrangements of existing matter.”

    Posited? Posited? So what? It used to be posited that the ether was real and that phlogiston was real. Guess what?

    Have you decided to completely ignore your own advocates such as Dawkins, Crick, Kuppers, and others who say: “life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information” and other such things? Which, of course (God, I hate to be so tedious but there is no other way) brings us back to INFORMATION and how that is ABSTRACT and thus not explainable by physical laws and yes, is ALWAYS explained by mind. Or in the case of life (biological information), Mind.

    (Slaps his forehead in mock amazement) Of course you have. What else would I expect? Information and mind are inconvenient at this stage of your discussion so you decide to “posit” them away. That is just so,,,, typical. Ah well, everybody makes their own choices in the end and lives or dies by them. Good luck to all.

  353. Existence takes logical precedence over movement. If something doesn’t exist, it can’t move; if something moves, it exists. Do you find this assertion controversial or do you insist that I provide “evidence” for it?

    I miss a demarcation between the material and the non-material world.
    I am sorry, my mind boggles. Information exist, therefore information moves. When it moves, can it move other existing objects too? What is an object? Is God an object? Have any books been written by people possessing the ultimate answer?

    Just curious, but maybe it is just that my mind can’t cope.

  354. Confirmation.

  355. When the sun goes down the fact remains that StephenB in 332, and again in 346, allows that certain quantum events may be uncaused.

    Because the “law of causality” is silent on the matter, the only remaining source of adjudication regarding the causality/acausality of those phenomena is the science. And it so happens that the science asserts with both sound theoretical and ample empirical justification that the phenomena in question are in fact acausal.

    Biped claims that StephenB’s admission is a peripheral issue. But I think it central. It is an admission that there are facets of causation that ONLY the theoretical and empirical tools of science can affix, facets on which the “law of causality” is silent. Moreover we have what amounts to an admission (by omission) that other claims regarding the reach of the “law of causality” within the quantum domain (e.g. to particle decay) are made with no rationale whatsoever.

    Biped likes battle metaphors, but others are more appropriate. For example, we need only find one hole in a bucket to know that it doesn’t hold water. What the above establishes beyond dispute is that the premodern “law of causality” is poorly equipped to contain quantum phenomena.

    With the declaration that “everything that begins to exist must have a cause,” the law again comes into contact with quantum phenomena that arguably indicate otherwise. We know from the examples above that, with respect to quantum phenomena, the “law of causality” at times fails to hold water and at others is applied in an arbitrary and ad hoc manner. We also have the precedent that it is the science that must ultimately adjudicate these questions. Because there is no law that tells us when the “law of causality” applies and when it does not, I’ll go with the science.

  356. Zachriel: No, it’s because the Explantory Filter relies on an argument from ignorance, and that there may be overlaps between the categories.

    Joseph: Clearly it was based on the current state of KNOWLEDGE at the time of the inference.

    Ignorance always overweighs knowledge. If there is a Gap in knowledge and no explanation in law or chance is known, then the Explanatory Filter returns a (quite possibly false) positive for design. If we don’t know why the planets trace their complex dance in the sky, it must be angels moving crystal spheres.

    Voice Coil: Additionally, I’ve now been placed into moderation.

    That’s hardly seems fair. There can’t be a reasonable discussion when some participants—who have done nothing but contribute positively to the discussion—have their comments delayed or silently banned.

  357. StephenB: I submit that if it is true that nothing can come into existence without a cause, …

    Zachriel: That seems to be the case, but it isn’t derived from logic, but experience. As a working principle in science, it is quite reasonable to make that supposition.

    StephenB: Since you have agreed in your second comment that the law of causality is a “quite reasonable” supposition, I gather that you don’t need the definition requested in your first comment.

    Um, no. You should always make explicit any terms that may be unclear.

    You seem to be saying that the LAW OF CAUSATION is a working supposition. As such, it can be dispensed with when the evidence weighs against it. If so, then it is not an essential principle of science, much less of reason.

    StephenB: … then it follows that nothing can move without a cause.

    Zachriel: It doesn’t “follow” at all. Existence is not a property such as momentum is.

    StephenB: Existence takes logical precedence over movement. If something doesn’t exist, it can’t move; if something moves, it exists.

    That doesn’t mean the movement is caused. Even if the existence is caused, it doesn’t “follow,” that its movement must have a cause. It may be a reasonable presupposition, but it’s not a logical necessity.

    StephenB: A Darwinist is

    [A] Someone who believes that solely naturalistic forces can explain the apparent design of life or

    [B] Someone who insists that evolution is a purposeless, mindless process that did not have man in mind, or

    [C] Someone who insists that biology is the science of things that only appear to be designed, or

    [D] someone who reads comments like [A], [B], and [C] on past threads, notices that the words don’t match, concludes there must be a contradiction somewhere, and shouts out in triumphant stupidity, “I gotcha!”

    Among biologists, a Darwinist is someone who believes that Natural Selection is the primary mechanism of evolution. By your definition, nearly all biologists are methodological Darwinists.

    StephenB: Inasmuch as the law of causality applies to all science, and inasmuch as biological science is a subset of all sciences, biological science is dependent on the law of causality. I think you might be on to something here.

    Virtually all biologists work within the paradigm of classical causation. Of course, this has little to do with your ill-defined term, LAW OF CAUSATION.

  358. tgpeeler: Posited? Posited? So what? It used to be posited that the ether was real and that phlogiston was real.

    A valid scientific hypothesis entails specific and distinguishing empirical consequences.

    Ether

    Phlogiston

  359. I’ll ask a brief question as a non-philosopher in a philosophical discussion.

    tgpeeler:

    Which, of course (God, I hate to be so tedious but there is no other way) brings us back to INFORMATION and how that is ABSTRACT and thus not explainable by physical laws and yes, is ALWAYS explained by mind.

    It seems to me that if information can be said to exist in any meaningful sense, it must be an abstraction of a real physical state. Why would an explanation of this physical state not also explain the abstraction that supervenes on it?

  360. #353

    It seems to me that if information can be said to exist in any meaningful sense, it must be an abstraction of a real physical state.

    Can a poem be said to exist if it has never been spoken, written or any other way made physical? I don’t think so.

  361. #352

    That was just poor. You don’t necessarily owe it to the people in a conversation to know what the hell is being said before you start talking, but you might consider it anyway.

    #353

    Slow down and re-read your comments. Take special note of what is an abstraction and what is physical reality in your first sentence, then ask yourself again the question you posed in the second. Think about what an “explanation” is made of and from where it comes.

    (BTW, R0b, thanks for your review of “Signature in the Cell” on Amazon. I completely disagree with your assessment, but if you hadn’t posted it, then the entire materialist camp wouldn’t have produced a single thoughtful review of the book on the entire Amazon site. As it is, the materialist camp produced exactly one).

  362. 354

    “Can a poem be said to exist if it has never been thought of, or spoken, written or any other way made physical? I don’t think so.”

    There you go Mark, I fixed that for you.

  363. Upright BiPed:

    Think about what an “explanation” is made of and from where it comes.

    I interpret tgpeeler’s “explained by” to mean “explained in terms of”. If it’s intended in the sense of “Brownian motion was explained by Einstein”, then I’m not sure what tgpeeler’s point is. Obviously physical laws, which are themselves abstractions, don’t explain anything in that sense.

    tgpeeler’s point seems to be that Dawkins’ “life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information” shows that biological information cannot be explained in terms of physical laws, a position that Dawkins clearly does not hold. My question is: Why would explaining a DNA molecule not also explain the “CTGACTTCGACAA…” sequence that supervenes on it?

    As it is, the materialist camp produced exactly one.

    That’s very kind, although I wouldn’t classify myself as a materialist. Quite honestly, I don’t know what the word means.

  364. #356

    Try thinking of a poem without thinking of the words in some form (written or vocal).

  365. #358

    Is this about the definition of information or the definition of poetry?

    Must information must be an abstraction of a real physical state? I can draft plans for a building that doesn’t and may never exist.

    Not that it matters. What matters is that information describes a thing apart from its physical implementation. That’s why it’s irrelevant whether the thing described exists or not.

    If I encode something in a language, it requires planning and foresight, because I have a plan to retrieve it at some point.
    If I do so with the intent to communicate, it requires all of that plus at least one agent to decode the communication, and quite likely some cooperative intent on the part of that agent to act accordingly.

    And some random series of chemical reactions figured that out? A bunch of molecules that hadn’t even evolved the will to keep living constructed an abstract language tp define their components and a plan to encode and decode themselves for replication?

    It’s reasonable and rational to assume that such things never happen until someone convincingly demonstrates otherwise.

  366. ROb @ 353

    “It seems to me that if information can be said to exist in any meaningful sense, it must be an abstraction of a real physical state. Why would an explanation of this physical state not also explain the abstraction that supervenes on it?”

    The laws of physics can describe in detail the physical state of every letter that is appearing on your computer screen. They can describe the 1s and 0s at the physical machine level. They can describe the switches. They can describe the flow of electrons across the buses. They can describe EVERY physical aspect of why the letters that you are reading are displayed on your monitor or iPhone or whatever. What they cannot describe is how or why those 1s and 0s are coded to represent letters and punctuation marks and so on. They cannot describe how or why certain arrangements of the symbols (1s and 0s) mean something, eventually, once converted to English, but others do not. And having described every physical state of every letter in detail, how have they possibly explained the content of the letters themselves? That is, the message?

    A particular arrangement of symbols (letters in the case of English) only makes sense within the context of a mind (human in this case since we are talking about human language) that undestands a set of symbols and the rules for organizing those symbols so that a message can be originated or encoded, and a mind on the receiving end that also understands that same set of symbols and the same rules so that the message can be “decoded” and understood. The message being a representation of something else that may be physical or abstract and may or may not be real (unicorn).

    I think the key word in all of this is “representation.” A symbol is the representation of one thing for another. If you see a Marine Corps emblem (eagle, globe, and anchor), that represents the Marine Corps. If you see the word “rain” that represents precipitation or moisture falling from the sky. In other words, even to have a represenation of one thing for another means that something abstract exists. The rocky mountains aren’t inside my head when I think about them. This means that there is something apart from the the mountains themselves and that is the idea of the mountains. Or whatever else.

    This is fundamental and it goes to the heart of the naturalist/materialist error which is that nothing beyond the natural or material world exists. Clearly it does. And equally clearly, abstract minds provide a perfectly coherent explanation for all aspects of language, the creation of symbols, the rules for their use, and the actual creation of messages.

    Those who try to explain information, on the other hand, by means of the laws of physics, are committing a category error. They are trying to explain the immaterial solely in terms of the material. This doesn’t make sense on the face of it. To deny the existence of the abstract, and then to try to explain the abstract as though it were physical, is absurd.

    The same problem exists in the realm of morality, say. See my thread with Seversky for more on that. The moral law, if one exists (it does), is abstract. It’s not material even though it is conveyed by means of language. It’s not measurable. It doesn’t weigh anything. It doesn’t have mass or inertia. It can’t be smelled or tasted or felt or heard or seen. It’s not extended in space and time. It can’t be converted to energy or used to heat or move matter. In other words, it’s not empirically detectable (and therefore it’s outside the realm of science). Yet it’s real. It’s also not related to space or time and in that sense it’s transcendant. It’s wrong for me to be rude to a waiter, or Seversky, for that matter, today, yesterday, and tomorrow. It’s wrong whether I do it online or in Houston or New York or on the moon or in some other galaxy. What accounts for this?

    Even Seversky, in spite of his vehement denial of a moral law (at first, because, I think, it’s just the “thing” to do), recognizes that one exists. Indeed he calls it axiomatic. So the naturalist has a problem here. How to explain, by means of physics or physical laws, something that is not physical? Clearly, that is impossible. So what do “they” do? They make the only move left to them and they deny the existence, as Seversky did, of a moral law. Now, this does not create an internal contradiction. If I say that “a moral law does not exist” I have said something that can be true or false but I have not said something that contradicts itself and is therefore necessarily false. So in this case, of a moral law, we we must weigh the evidence for each position and draw our conclusion from that. However, to claim, as Seversky did (without even realizing it, I’m sure), that a moral law (objective morality was the term he used, I believe) exists AND does not exist is to be irrational. It either does or it doesn’t. But not both.

    In the case of information, however, the naturalist has no escape. They cannot deny the existence of information without using information. When I say: “information does not exist” I am using information. It’s as if I denied my own existence. I would have to exist to deny that I exist.

    “They” also make the same move when it comes to design and purpose. They deny their real existence, metaphysically, yet the evidence for design and purpose is overwhelming. So what is the move there? Why they say it’s only apparent design or apparent purpose. This is, of course, utter nonsense, as I hope you can see. It’s also contrary to the scientific method which “they” claim to worship. If there is evidence for design, well then, so there is, but since design has been declared out of bounds a priori, before evidence has been examined, well then, they MUST deny its existence. There is a vicious circularity here that I have been trying, unsuccessfully, I must say, throughout this entire thread, to try and expose. There is no objective, rational, evidence based reason for assuming the FOUNDATIONAL PREMISE of naturalism. It’s just not true that all there is is nature and that all there is is material. But they declare it to be true, then they reach a conclusion that isn’t true, but they say because my premise is true my conclusion MUST BE true, even though it defies common sense. Richard Lewontin gave the most candid statement of this I have ever seen in print. Here it is:

    “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

    He goes on to say:
    “It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

    This is from a book review he did of a Carl Sagan book in the New York Review of Books back in 1997. I give him an A+ for candor and an F in intellectual integrity. Go ahead, read it carefully again and see how rational it is. Not very.

    All of this gets back to the point that reason has first place when it comes to truth. It is impossible to reliably come to truth apart from reason. Our senses can and do deceive us but reason never does. Thus, the denial of reason by someone claiming to be interested in the truth rings hollow. They either misunderstand, have not thought it out, or they are an intellectual hypocrite of the highest order. I sincerely hope that you are none of these. I also sincerely hope that this helps make sense of what we are trying to explain. If not, I can try again.

  367. ROb @ 357

    “… although I wouldn’t classify myself as a materialist. Quite honestly, I don’t know what the word means.”

    That’s an astonishing admission coming this late in the conversation. Surely you jest?

  368. Please excuse the essentially duplicated posts at 348 and 355 (the latter a reconstructed version of the former). Additionally, the post numbers referenced in those posts are now incorrect, as the appearance of other moderated messages (Zachriel’s) has changed the numbering of subsequent messages. The posts referenced were at 330 and 332. All this an artifact of much delayed appearance (something like 24 hours in this case) of moderated messages. (God knows when this one will appear.)

    (Edited by Moderator)

  369. Mustela Nivalis @ 334

    Repeating your claims many times does not make them true.

    Of course Dr. Schneider claims that his thesis and it’s validation via ev simulation software relates to real biological scenario.

    The only thing that was demonstrated is that his and your claim of his thesis validation is false.

    It is very simple actually, you only need to let us know to which real world biological organism ev simulator applies.

  370. tgpeeler,

    While I appreciate the time you put into your response @ 366, my question was actually quite narrow. You said that information is abstract, and therefore cannot be explained by physical laws. My question is: Why would explaining a DNA molecule not also explain the supervening information, i.e. the genetic sequence?

    Note that this question has nothing to do with the genetic code or any other aspect of gene expression. I’d rather stick with one point at a time than cover a host of points superficially.

    Surely you jest?

    Not at all.

  371. My wife gave my son a list of chores to do yesterday. The laws of chemistry and physics can tell us everything about the ink on the paper but can tell us nothing about how or why the chores got done.

  372. —-Voice Coil: “When the sun goes down the fact remains that StephenB in 332, and again in 346, allows that certain quantum events may be uncaused.”

    When the sun goes down, the record shows that I explained all the subtle nuances concerning the law of causality and that Voice Call ran and hid from each of my questions, apparently with an intuitive knowledge that he cannot defend his position.

    That he cannot distinguish causality [the fact of the movement] from unpredictability [the where of the movement] is his problem. That fact that he doesn’t have the intellectual honesty to answer my questions confirms the inferiority of his position.

  373. StephenB: That he cannot distinguish causality [the fact of the movement] from unpredictability [the where of the movement] is his problem.

    There is a distinction between causality and unpredictability, but that’s not it. Please my comment above.

  374. —-Zackriel: “Um, no. You should always make explicit any terms that may be unclear.”

    In one part of your post, you tell me that the law of causation is a “quite reasonable supposition,” and, in the same post you ask for a definition. Do you always agree that something is reasonable without knowing what it is that is reasonable?. Although I have probably made the point ten times, I will make it again: Anything that begins to exist must have a cause. Have you got that?

    —-“You seem to be saying that the LAW OF CAUSATION is a working supposition. As such, it can be dispensed with when the evidence weighs against it. If so, then it is not an essential principle of science, much less of reason.”

    What is it about the fact that it is a non-negotiable principle of science that you do not understand? On the other hand, if you will agree that it is a reasonable supposition, I will be thankful for small favors.

    —-“That doesn’t mean the movement is caused. Even if the existence is caused, it doesn’t “follow,” that its movement must have a cause. It may be a reasonable presupposition, but it’s not a logical necessity.”

    If you think that something can move without existing, far be it from me to argue against you.

    —-Zackriel: “Virtually all biologists work within the paradigm of classical causation. Of course, this has little to do with your ill-defined term, LAW OF CAUSATION.

    First, you tell me that the law of causality is a “reasonable presupposition,” and now you say that it isn’t. I am sorry, but your general statement here is too naïve to untangle. You must first explain the difference between the two [classical paradigm and the law], describe what you think biologists are doing that exempts them from thet law, and explain it all in the context of methodological naturalism. Are you up to that? I don’t have the time, much less the inclination, to do it for you. .

  375. StephenB: Anything that begins to exist must have a cause.

    That must be your LAW OF CAUSATION. Did you define “cause” somewhere? It can be a very tricky concept.

    And “anything” probably needs to be clarified also. Many things come into existence out of other things. For instance, the Solar System formed from the collapse of a stellar nebula.

    StephenB: What is it about the fact that it is a non-negotiable principle of science that you do not understand?

    Let’s review that exchange.

    StephenB: I submit that if it is true that nothing can come into existence without a cause, …

    Zachriel: That seems to be the case, but it isn’t derived from logic, but experience. As a working principle in science, it is quite reasonable to make that supposition.

    Not knowing how you were defining the LAW OF CAUSATION, the response was to your direct statement. A working principle has much more flexibility in definition than a non-negotiable principle. A working principle can be modified or dispensed with depending on its utility.

    StephenB: On the other hand, if you will agree that it is a reasonable supposition, I will be thankful for small favors.

    I already granted that favor a week ago. Nor does that justify your stronger assertion.

    Zachriel: That doesn’t mean the movement is caused. Even if the existence is caused, it doesn’t “follow,” that its movement must have a cause. It may be a reasonable presupposition, but it’s not a logical necessity.

    StephenB: If you think that something can move without existing, far be it from me to argue against you.

    Just because something exists doesn’t necessarily mean its movement has a cause. Such a claim is not derived from logic, but experience. And there is the case of knowing a particle’s position, but don’t can’t know its momentum, even in principle.

    StephenB: You must first explain the difference between the two [classical paradigm and the law],

    Classical causation is the causation found in classical mechanics, biology and chemistry. It includes the supposition that all transformations have a discrete cause, cause here meaning a demonstrable relationship such that former events imply latter events. Modern causation has been modified due to discoveries of Relativity and Quantum Theories. For instance, while wave functions are deterministic, individual observations are not.

    StephenB: describe what you think biologists are doing that exempts them from thet law,

    Biologists nearly always work within the paradigm of classical causation. As for StephenB’s LAW OF CAUSATION, no thing just pops into existence in biology. There are specific mechanisms posited for all transformations.

    StephenB: and explain it all in the context of methodological naturalism.

    Methodological Naturalism is an interesting heuristic, in essence saying not to propose extraneous and unevidenced entities. However, if you can define demons in a scientific manner with clear and consistent empirical consequences, then there appears to be no reason they can’t be scientifically investigated.

  376. StephenB:

    That he cannot distinguish causality [the fact of the movement] from unpredictability [the where of the movement] is his problem.

    As before, it was YOU who repeatedly used “cause” in various forms with respect to changes in position and momentum (movement), and their relationship to the “law of causality.”

    Once again:

    I acknowledge that an “event” can be uncaused if we define an event as a change of movement, which understood on those terms would not violate the principle of causality.

    and

    …If a quantum particle changes location, it is conceivable to me that such an “event,” if that is what we mean by event, could be causeless because I don’t think the law of causality forbids it.

    And again:

    I submit that the existence of the particle was caused and the movement of the particle may or may not have been caused.

    And again:

    Causality, at the quantum level, and with respect to movement, may or may not HAVE been violated because we simply don’t know for sure. On the other hand, there is no reason, in principle, why it cannot be suspended in that context because there is no firm law that can either forbid it or mandate it.

    And again:

    Quantum events (changes in momentum and position) can be uncaused in that sense.

    Any confusion vis “uncaused” and “unpredictable” was yours. If you would like to retract the above statements, or indicate that you misspoke, or otherwise revise the above, you are welcome to do so. Denying that you repeatedly stated that changes in momentum and position can be uncaused isn’t one of your options.

  377. —Zackriel: “There is a distinction between causality and unpredictability, but that’s not it. Please my comment above.”

    let me lay it out for you:

    On matters concerning quantum events[A] Causality does not equal unpredictabililty. In keeping with that point [B] The “fact” of the movement of particles is caused, while the “where” of the movement, may or may not be caused. If I say then, that “movement” may or may not be uncaused, and I provide no further explanation, I am talking about the where of the movement, [its destination, location, trajectory etc] not the fact that it is moving. [C] The fact of the movement is dependent on the necessary condition that it must first exist. A necessary condition is a cause, even if it is not the only kind of cause. Should I use diagrams?

    Nothing can begin to exist without a cause. It if could, science would not be possible since we would not know which events are caused and which ones are not. If you think otherwise, explain to me how, absent the law of causality, we could track down causes or even be sure that anything at all is caused. Explain how we could reasonably interpret evidence in such a madhouse environment. How could you predict the outcome of an experiment or even hope to isolate variables? How could you control conditions if conditions refused to be controlled? How would you know which effects were bound to causes and which ones were not? For that matter, on what princple can you declare that a brick wall will not suddenly appear on front of your moving car and take your life?

    I am still waiting for Darwinists to answer. I suspect that hell will freeze over before a Darwinist will answers my questions [though one may ignore context and demand that I provide evidence that hell exists]

  378. ROb @ 370

    While I appreciate the time you put into your post, all 10 seconds or so, I don’t have any idea what genetic code or gene expression mean.

  379. tgpeeler @ 344

    Physics will NEVER have an explanation for anything that is immaterial because physics describes the behavior of material things, matter and energy. Physics will never have an explanation for design because design is a mental, that is to say, abstract, phenomenon. What about this is so hard to get?

    The fact that science is not yet able to describe every link in the causal chain between quantum-level events and human thought does not mean that it never will. Neither you nor anyone else alive has any way of knowing that. All science can do for now is to continue to investigate to see how far we can get.

    What about this is so hard to get? You are committing an egregious (is there any other kind?) of category mistake. Since physics can’t possibly describe non-material or immaterial things because part of the DEFINITION (LAW OF IDENTITY) of physics is that it is about the physical world, yet that is all the materialist has in his metaphysical bag of tricks, well then, the only thing left to do is deny the existence of those things. It’s intellectual degeneracy of the highest order.

    Unlike religion, science does not deny any thing because it conflicts with some impregnable dogma. What it does require is that if you want to overturn or supplant a well-established theory then the replacement needs to do more and do it better than the incumbent.

    As for a non-material or immaterial world, what is there for physics to describe? Physics can only study what exists. You talk about abstracts like morality or information as if they exist in the same way as my car yet plainly they don’t. I can verify the existence of my car through my senses and through instruments. I can find evidence that it continues to exist regardless of whether I am observing it or even thinking about it. They same cannot be said about morality. There is no evidence of any such thing outside the human mind. If the human race were snuffed out of existence our artefacts would continue to exist after – in some cases, long after – the last human consciousness was extinguished. Alien explorers, if they came to Earth after, would be able to study all the material things that survived us. There would be no rusting bits of morality for them to pick up and take to a laboratory to study, would there? So tell me how abstracts like morality can have any existence beyond our conscious minds.

    … you feel free to ignore ALL OF THE DATA/OBSERVATIONS of design because it offends your philosophically indefensible premise. How would you know about design in the first freaking place if there wasn’t such a thing as real design?

    I am not ignoring anything.

    Of course we know about design. It’s what we do.

    We also know that we did not design those things that look designed.

    And while there are many beliefs and speculations about gods and extraterrestrial intelligences we have no evidence for any of them.

    What we do have is a theory of how these biological features that look designed might have come about through purposeless or undirected processes.

    That is why we talk about the appearance of design.

    Because that is all it might be.

    If you really want to be reasonable and scientific then, for a start, you need to be wary of the fallacy of selective reporting, which is the pitfall any analogical argument. You need to study the differences with even greater care than noting the similarities. People see the face of Christ in a damp stain on a wall or the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in a pretzel. Are these examples of design or just false-positives from our internal pattern-recognition software?

    And remember, it’s not about what you believe and want to be true, it is what we can reasonably infer taking into account all factors.

    You say: “And it is not a fallacy to appeal to appropriate or competent authority.”

    It is when the issue under discussion is that competence.

    On the one side we have a motley collection of lawyers, mathematicians, philosophers, engineers, doctors, dentists, chemists, physicists, etc with a smattering of representatives from the biological disciplines.

    On the other side we have the overwhelming majority of the community of biologists.

    So tell us, on questions of biology, which would you say was the more competent?

    Put it another way. How do you think Phillip Johnson would react if Kenneth Miller tried to lecture him about points of law? Do you think it would be much the same way as a professional biologist would react, having spent many years of education and the whole of his or her working life in the field, being told by someone like you that they don’t have the first idea of what they are talking about?

    There IS NO objective morality . There IS TOO objective morality. That’s what you are claiming in the same post.

    No. Read it again. I am stating my own moral beliefs. Unlike you, I am not claiming they have any objective existence or must be true because they are approved by some Supreme Moral Authority.

    But even if yours were the Approved Version, what reason do you have for thinking they are any better than we could come up with and are you saying that you only know what is right or wrong because God tells you what they are?

  380. Seversky,

    The fact that science is not yet able to describe every link in the causal chain between quantum-level events and human thought does not mean that it never will.

    It cannot, it would be self referentially incoherent.

  381. —Voice Coil: Denying that you repeatedly stated that changes in momentum and position can be uncaused isn’t one of your options.”

    Why would I deny the same point that I have not only made clear but dramatized countless times. I summarized it again at 377: The FACT of the movement MUST be caused, while the WHERE of the movement, MAY or MAY NOT be caused. Do you sleep through what I write and dream about what you wish I had written? It appears so.

    It is not my place to recant, but rather it is your place to learn how to read.

  382. #379

    Sagan: “The cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be”.

    Monod: “The scientific attitude implies what I call the postulate of objectivity – the fundamental postulate that there is no plan, that there is no intention in the universe. This is basically incompatible with virtually all the religious or metaphysical systems whatever”…”Chance alone is at the source of every innovaton, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, only chance, absolute but blind liberty is at the root of the prodigious edifice that is evolution”

    Dawkins: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”

    Lewontin: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

    Meyers: “I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart.”

    Seversky: “Unlike religion, science does not deny any thing because it conflicts with some impregnable dogma. “

    - – - -

    Seversky, you are intellectually and emotionally incapable of an honest assessment of the debate.

  383. tgpeeler, I’m guessing that asking the question a third time won’t persuade you to address it, so I’ll just apologize for bugging you and wish you a happy new year.

  384. 384

    #379

    “As for a non-material or immaterial world, what is there for physics to describe? Physics can only study what exists. You talk about abstracts like morality or information as if they exist in the same way as my car yet plainly they don’t”.

    The message contained in a book of words does not exist, but only the paper and ink?

    Or is this yet another suggestion that the “self” does not exist either? When you stated elsewhere that you were giving your personal moral code and beliefs, who was the originator of the code and beliefs you were talking about? Are you saying there is no self whom even thinks of himself as Serversky, instead there is a complex chemical reaction that excretes the arbitrary identity of Seversky as a means of survival. End of story.

    Please Serversky, why don’t you guys on your side of the argument stop with the crap about fossils and such. Just take your underlying premises on a road show to the public. It can be labeled a campaign to liberate mankind from the delusional sickness of self. It’s a new final solution for a new age; the eradication of the non-existent human will. Quit cleverly maintaining the fake struggle to show how Darwin was “fact Fact FACT!” and get on with it. Tell them the truth about what you see as the truth. Say atheism is fact Fact FACT! Form a string of willful refugee camps where people can be re-educated. Whatever they bring in will be tested for its existence just like your car. Whatever fails the test, they must abandon before they are “free” to go.

    The NCSE will love you for it.

  385. 385

    #379

    On the one side we have a motley collection of lawyers, mathematicians, philosophers, engineers, doctors, dentists, chemists, physicists, etc with a smattering of representatives from the biological disciplines.

    On the other side we have the overwhelming majority of the community of biologists.

    So tell us, on questions of biology, which would you say was the more competent?”

    - – - – -

    You left out a couple of minor details in your question.

    1) You and yours have made one thing abundantly clear regarding the “community” to which you refer. By definition, the “community” MUST limit itself to certain conclusions or “it’s not science!” (I’ll be happy to start posting the evidence of this if you feel it’s necessary) (and I am sure it will be).

    Do you think that such priori limitations placed upon the “community” might indeed place a priori limit on the “community”?

    2) You start of by saying that those opposed to the priori conclusion of the “community” are a motley collection. Motley is defined by Merriam-Webster as composed of diverse often incongruous elements.

    Why should logic suggest that a group, who has placed upon itself a limit against considering an idea, be more valuable in evaluating that idea than a diverse group who has not placed such limits?

    3) The naïve insinuation that this debate is about scientific acumen is specious (if not an out-and-out lie). You present your question under the false idea that the Priests of Biology know something about this debate that the lowly layperson just can’t know. What world are you living in? This debate is not about technical facts, in the sense that one group has it figured out while the other group just doesn’t have the skill-set to understand it anyway. (What a ignorant appeal to authority). This debate is about the rational interpretation of evidence that is available to all who are interested in knowing it. Is the information available or not?

    And if a Prof Emeritus in bio-chemistry (independent, and no friend of ID) sees that the “community” is orgasmic over the artificial synthesis of RNA and comments that “this has nothing to do with the origin of life on Earth whatsoever” because “the chances that blind, undirected, inanimate chemistry would go out of its way in multiple steps and use of reagents in just the right sequence to form RNA is highly unlikely”, then why should anyone ignore it?

    Truly…what specific quality of the “community” are you suggesting that should cause me (or anyone else) to ignore these comments in favor of an interpretation which is limited from the start (and regardless of the evidence)?

  386. 386

    #379

    “Put it another way. How do you think Phillip Johnson would react if Kenneth Miller tried to lecture him about points of law?”

    If Phillip Johnson was suggesting that conclusions can be drawn regardless of the evidence, then Ken Miller would be correct in lecturing him about it.

  387. According StephenB, we have a class of quantum events regarding which the “law of causality” has nothing to say (hence they MAY or MAY not be caused):

    - the “movement of a particle” (The “where” of the movement, not the fact of its movement).

    - “a CHANGE in movement.” (a CHANGE in the “where of its movement,” presumably)

    - “a CHANGE in location.” (again, a CHANGE in the “where” of its movement.)

    - “CHANGES in position and momentum.” (A CHANGE in the velocity and direction of the “where” of its movement.)

    (Quoted words are Stephen’s, with my emphasis added.)

    Therefore, according to StephenB, it is not merely “the where of movement” that may be uncaused, even as the “fact of movement” is caused: CHANGES in the “where of movement” (position, velocity, direction) may also be uncaused. Because such changes are not inherent in the particle’s coming into being, nor are they inherent in the original “fact of movement” of that particle, such changes are properly viewed as further EVENTS distinct from the coming into being of the particle.

    A change in the “where of movement” is an EVENT. A change in momentum is an EVENT.

    Ergo, the “law of causality” does not govern all events at the quantum level. It is silent on some events, which therefore MAY or MAY NOT be caused.

    Because the law is silent, only the science remains to adjudicate whether or not such events are in fact acausal. Therefore we have an instance of the science preceding, and operating without benefit of, “the law of causality.” Even were the science to massively reverse itself and conclude that such inherently unpredictable events nevertheless have hidden causes, the fact would remain that the law of causality was silent and it was the science that made that determination, without benefit of that law.

    The “law of causality” therefore does not undergird all science, or even all physics, contrary to StephenB’s claims.

  388. StephenB: The FACT of the movement MUST be caused, while the WHERE of the movement, MAY or MAY NOT be caused.

    You define LAW OF CAUSATION in terms of cause, but you’re apparently using the term “cause” in a private manner. It usually means a relationship such that former events imply latter events. Apparently you apply it only to existence, even though it is most often used for transformations, such as billiards.

    Furthermore, you think that the existence of a particle is the cause of its movement. It’s certainly necessary, but causation usually refers to an entailed relationship, and mere existence doesn’t imply movement.

    Even then, you have ignored the problem in Quantum Mechanics. We have a particle. It exists. And we know where it is. But if we know where it is, we can’t know its momentum. It may be moving. It may not. So whether it is moving or not is not implied by the mere existence of the particle.

    StephenB: nothing can come into existence without a cause.

    Nor have you defined what you mean by “no thing.” As pointed out above, causation normally refers to transformations. The Solar System can come into existence through the collapse of a Stellar Nebula, but this isn’t considered a violation of causation. Particles can pop in-and-out of existence in a vacuum, and there is no limit to the size of such particles.

    All-in-all, it’s not clear you are *saying* anything at all. But it is apparently essential to all science, even to reason itself.

  389. 389

    inunison at 369,

    Repeating your claims many times does not make them true.

    I’m pleased that you realize that.

    Of course Dr. Schneider claims that his thesis and it’s validation via ev simulation software relates to real biological scenario.

    He doesn’t merely “claim” it, he demonstrates it very clearly in his thesis and in the papers on his simulator.

    The only thing that was demonstrated is that his and your claim of his thesis validation is false.

    Anyone reading his thesis and his overview of the ev simulator will see who is making false claims here.

    It is very simple actually, you only need to let us know to which real world biological organism ev simulator applies.

    As noted repeatedly, it applies to the genomes researched in Dr. Schneider’s thesis (links above).

  390. Upright, I read the reply from Seversky and despaired of having to go through ALL of it again. But thanks to you, I no longer have to do that. Happy New Year.

    p.s. I’m still wondering about whether or not it’s worth a reply to ROb. Hmmm, read history all afternoon in front of a fire while I watch Oklahoma/Stanford or restate the same things we’ve been saying for, for, forever, all over again to no avail all over again. Wow. This is a toughie … :-)

  391. p.s. STILL, no evidence of intellectual commitments from the darwinists. I’m shocked. Shocked, I say. Yeah, right. Appalled, but not shocked. So materialism was defined in post #33 but ROb comes along in post #357 and says he doesn’t even know what materialism is, even though much of the discussion to that point (virtually all of what I wrote) has been about materialism. I think that’s when I pretty much checked out of this conversation.

    From post #33.

    If a materialist is intellectually committed (in my experience they have no real intellectual commitments) to the idea that all that is real is material, that is matter and energy, or the physical world, or the natural world, or the things described by the natural sciences, or whatever the latest version of the nonsense is, THEN, the only explanatory resources they have are the laws of physics.

  392. 392

    Tom, if I had known my posts would cause you to not reply yourself, then I wouldn’t have made them. Your posts are some of the best reading out there!

    Have a great New Year :)

    …and Happy New Year to all that come here.

  393. I’m still debating. The Navy/Missouri game doesn’t look so good… :-) (and thanks)

  394. “The Navy/Missouri game doesn’t look so good”

    I am a Stanford graduate and was watching the Stanford Oklahoma game. It is starting to look grim for Stanford.

  395. Clive Hayden @ 380

    Seversky,

    The fact that science is not yet able to describe every link in the causal chain between quantum-level events and human thought does not mean that it never will.

    It cannot, it would be self referentially incoherent.

    Could you explain that in a little more detail, please?

  396. Upright BiPed @ 384

    “As for a non-material or immaterial world, what is there for physics to describe? Physics can only study what exists. You talk about abstracts like morality or information as if they exist in the same way as my car yet plainly they don’t”.

    The message contained in a book of words does not exist, but only the paper and ink?

    Good question.

    Going back to my previous illustration, suppose aliens cam to Earth after we had become extinct. They find one of our books and recognize that the marks on the paper are some form of code.

    But without being able to read the symbols and understand the language are they likely to get the message?

    And since the only people who could get the message, assuming there was one, are dead and gone, where is the message?

    In what sense can we say the message “exists”?

    Or is this yet another suggestion that the “self” does not exist either?

    No, but we need to be clear what we mean by “self” and also to understand that ‘existence’ is not quite the black-and-white concept some seem to think it is.

    I referred earlier to my car out in the parking lot having an objective existence and how we are able to verify it.

    But when I, or anyone else, looks at that car, what we are actually seeing is a reconstruction in the brain of the image falling on the retinas in our eyes. Can that mental ‘model’ of the car be said to “exist” in the same way as the car itself?

    The existence of of the physical body of a human being can be verified in the same way as that of the car but the “self” is a somewhat more nebulous concept.

    How would you define it?

    When you stated elsewhere that you were giving your personal moral code and beliefs, who was the originator of the code and beliefs you were talking about?

    My moral beliefs, like a lot of people’s, have been compiled from a number of sources: my religious upbringing, reading and talking about other faiths and philosophies and from “gut reactions”. In fact, I suspect a lot of it is post hoc rationalization of more visceral responses to what happens, both for me and for others.

    The advantage of not having an “intellectual commitment” to one particular religion or philosophy is that I am free to decide for myself what morally acceptable or unacceptable. I am not bound to accept the – possibly arbitrary – choices of some other being nor am I placed in the unenviable position of having to justify, for example, passages from scripture that I might otherwise find indefensible.

    Are you saying there is no self whom even thinks of himself as Serversky, instead there is a complex chemical reaction that excretes the arbitrary identity of Seversky as a means of survival.

    As far as I understand it, the world we experience around us is a ‘model’: a virtual reality reconstructed in our brains on the basis of sensory input. We use that model to navigate our way through the outside world so it has to be a reasonably accurate representation of what is there. To do that it also needs to include us as a part of the model. That could be what we mean by “self”.

    In evolutionary terms it seems to be a strategy that works. We have become the most successful species on the planet even though it costs each of us a significant portion of our available resources to build and run such a large brain.

    Unfortunately, the mental model hypothesis doesn’t answer an obvious question. We build models for us to look at and manipulate. Who or what is it in our brains who is looking at this model we build in there? Unless consciousness can emerge from some sort of self-referential model that watches itself. Or the “self” is just the part of the model that represents the subject and that awareness of self is just a reflection or illusion, as you say.

    I honestly don’t know.

    And it is good to be able to admit that without being thought to have fallen short in my “intellectual commitment” to a particular philosophy or my adherence to a particular faith.

    Of course, I realize, that doubt and confessions of ignorance are of no use to those who crave certainty and the corresponding sense of security. That is why there is religion and I would not take that away from people even if I were able.

    What I have a problem with is when one group tries to assert their own brand of faith as the only true one and tries to have it taught in the public schools as such. If I had children, I would not want them to have to learn only your faith just because you believe it is true.

    What is worse, though, is if – I repeat, if – the campaign to have something like Intelligent Design inserted into the school science curriculum as an established scientific theory is actually using it as a Trojan Horse to get Christian creationist belief in through the back door. That would be unacceptable

  397. Mustela Nivalis @ 389

    You need to stop bluffing and actually access your own links, read both Dr. Schneider thesis and ev simulator. When you do that let us know to which real biological scenario does ev simulator map.

    But let me help you by quoting Dr. Schneider from the ev web site you linked:

    “A small population (n=64) of `organisms’ was created, each of which consisted of G= 256 bases of nucleotide sequence chosen randomly, with equal probabilities, from an alphabet of 4 characters (a, c, g, t).”

    Now all you have to do is tell us, what might these 64 living and reproducing organisms, with a total and unchangeable genome one quarter of the size of one typical gene, be?

    What can be easily demonstrated that these cannot possibly be single nor multiple cell life forms, not even virus nor any other known organism. This prevents any kind of model validation.

    Therefore your claim that ev simulator demonstrates anything relevant to real biological organism is bogus.

  398. 398

    Seversky,

    “A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound-a proof that there are no such things as proofs-which is nonsense. Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: `If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true … and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’” [Haldane, J.B.S., "Possible Worlds," Chatto & Windus: London, 1927, p.209] But Naturalism, even if it is not purely materialistic, seems to me to involve the same difficulty, though in a somewhat less obvious form. It discredits our processes of reasoning or at least reduces their credit to such a humble level that it can no longer support Naturalism itself.” (Lewis, C.S., “Miracles: A Preliminary Study,” [1947], Fontana: London, Second edition, 1963, reprint, pp.18-19.

    It therefore follows that all knowledge whatever depends on the validity of inference. If, in principle, the feeling of certainty we have when we say `Because A is B therefore C must be D’ is an illusion, if it reveals only how our cortex has to work and not how realities external to us must really be, then we can know nothing whatever. … This admission seems to me completely unavoidable and it has very momentous consequences. In the first place it rules out any materialistic account of thinking. We are compelled to admit between the thoughts of a terrestrial astronomer and the behaviour of matter’ several light-years away that particular relation which we call truth. But this relation has no meaning at all if we try to make it exist between the matter of the star and the astronomer’s brain, considered as a lump of matter. The brain may be in all sorts of relations to the star no doubt: it is in a spatial relation, and a time relation, and a quantitative relation. But to talk of one bit of matter as being true about another bit of matter seems to me to be nonsense.” (Lewis, C.S., “De Futilitate,” in “Christian Reflections,” [1967], Hooper, W., ed., Fount: Glasgow UK, Fourth Impression, 1988, pp.86-88)

    “What makes it impossible that it should be true is not so much the lack of evidence for this or that scene in the drama as the fatal self-contradiction which runs right through it. The Myth [of Evolution] cannot even get going without accepting a good deal from the real sciences. And the real sciences cannot be accepted for a moment unless rational inferences are valid: for every science claims to be a series of inferences from observed facts. It is only by such inferences that you can reach your nebulae and protoplasm and dinosaurs and sub-men and cave-men at all. Unless you start by believing that reality in the remotest space and the remotest time rigidly obeys the laws of logic, you can have no ground for believing in any astronomy, any biology, any palaeontology, any archaeology. To reach the positions held by the real scientists- which are then taken over by the Myth-you must, in fact, treat reason as an absolute. But at the same time the Myth asks me to believe that reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of a mindless process at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. The content of the Myth thus knocks from under me the only ground on which I could possibly believe the Myth to be true. If my own mind is a product of the irrational – if what seem my clearest reasonings are only the way in which a creature conditioned as I am is bound to feel- how shall I trust my mind when it tells me about Evolution? They say in effect: ‘I will prove that what you call a proof is only the result of mental habits which result from heredity which results from bio-chemistry which results from physics.’ But this is the same as saying: ‘I will prove that proofs are irrational’: more succinctly, ‘I will prove that there are no proofs’: The fact that some people of scientific education cannot by any effort be taught to see the difficulty, confirms one’s suspicion that we here touch a radical disease in their whole style of thought. But the man who does see it, is compelled to reject as mythical the cosmology in which most of us were brought up. That it has embedded in it many true particulars I do not doubt: but in its entirety, it simply will not do. Whatever the real universe may turn out to be like, it can’t be like that.” (Lewis, C.S., “The Funeral of a Great Myth,” in “Christian Reflections,” [1967], Hooper, W., ed., Fount: Glasgow UK, Fourth Impression, 1988, pp.117-118)

    “Charles Darwin himself once said, `The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?’ [Darwin, C.R., Letter to W. Graham, July 3rd, 1881, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. I., 1959, reprint, p.285] In other words, if my brain is no more than that of a superior monkey, I cannot even be sure that my own theory of my origin is to be trusted. Here is a curious case: If Darwin’s naturalism is true, there is no way of even establishing its credibility let alone proving it. Confidence in logic is ruled out. Darwin’s own theory of human origins must therefore be accepted by an act of faith. One must hold that a brain, a device that came to be through natural selection and chance-sponsored mutations, can actually know a proposition or set of propositions to be true. C.S. Lewis puts the case this way: `If all that exists is Nature, the great mindless interlocking event, if our own deepest convictions are merely the by-products of an irrational process, then clearly there is not the slightest ground for supposing that our sense of fitness and our consequent faith in uniformity tell us anything about a reality external to ourselves.Our convictions are simply a fact about us-like the colour of our hair. If Naturalism is true we have no reason to trust our conviction that Nature is uniform. [Lewis, C.S., "Miracles: A Preliminary Study," [1947], Fontana: London, 1960, Revised Edition, 1963, reprint, p.109] What we need for such certainty is the existence of some `Rational Spirit’ outside both ourselves and nature from which our own rationality could derive. Theism assumes such a ground; naturalism does not.” (Sire, J.W., “The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog,” [1976], InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1988, pp.94-95. Emphasis original)

  399. 399

    Seversky,

    “Going back to my previous illustration, suppose aliens came to Earth after we had become extinct. They find one of our books and recognize that the marks on the paper are some form of code. But without being able to read the symbols and understand the language are they likely to get the message?”

    “And since the only people who could get the message, assuming there was one, are dead and gone, where is the message?”

    Because something may be unknown to the alien, does not mean it doesn’t exist. The message is still in the book, regardless of any ability to understand it. There are many artifacts we ourselves do not understand; even as we are capable of understanding they have meaning. This is hardly a controversial idea.

    – “In what sense can we say the message “exists”?”

    In your illustration above, the message existed when it was authored.

    - – - – - – - -

    – “…when I, or anyone else, looks at that car, what we are actually seeing is a reconstruction in the brain of the image falling on the retinas in our eyes. Can that mental ‘model’ of the car be said to “exist” in the same way as the car itself?”

    One is a representation of the other, and they both do indeed exist.

    – “The existence of the physical body of a human being can be verified in the same way as that of the car but the “self” is a somewhat more nebulous concept. How would you define it?”

    The material body is composed of mechanistic functions. Yet, those functions do not account for the accompanying phenomena of conscious experience. Nagel used the phrase “something it is like” to describe its subjective quality. In my personal view, that is the self. It is the thing that not only receives the image of the car, but experiences it outside of the functional aspect of the physical image falling onto the retina. If you are now asking if the self actually exists, then I will ask you why exactly you think it doesn’t. David Chalmers once wrote on the subject:

    According to this line, once we have explained the functions such as accessibility, reportability, and the like, there is no further phenomenon called “experience” to explain. Some explicitly deny the phenomenon, holding for example that what is not externally verifiable cannot be real. Others achieve the same effect by allowing that experience exists, but only if we equate “experience” with something like the capacity to discriminate and report. These approaches lead to a simpler theory, but are ultimately unsatisfactory. Experience is the most central and manifest aspect of our mental lives, and indeed is perhaps the key explanandum in the science of the mind. Because of this status as an explanandum, experience cannot be discarded like the vital spirit when a new theory comes along. Rather, it is the central fact that any theory of consciousness must explain. A theory that denies the phenomenon “solves” the problem by ducking the question.

    – “The advantage of not having an “intellectual commitment” to one particular religion or philosophy is that I am free to decide for myself what morally acceptable or unacceptable. I am not bound to accept the – possibly arbitrary – choices of some other being nor am I placed in the unenviable position of having to justify, for example, passages from scripture that I might otherwise find indefensible.”

    The “intellectual commitments” that were being requested earlier on this thread dealt solely with rationality and reason, not religion. The inquiry centered on the question of whether we are “free to decide” to abandon rational thought within the debate. Religion and morality had nothing to do with it.

    – “As far as I understand it, the world we experience around us is a ‘model’: a virtual reality reconstructed in our brains on the basis of sensory input.”

    The world around us is real, and so is our experience of it.

    – “To do that it also needs to include us as a part of the model. That could be what we mean by “self”.”

    It’s a reflection of the reality that we are a part of the reality.

    – “Who or what is it in our brains who is looking at this model we build in there?”

    The Self.

    – “Unless consciousness can emerge from some sort of self-referential model that watches itself. Or the “self” is just the part of the model that represents the subject and that awareness of self is just a reflection or illusion”

    None of your comment addresses the distinction between the functionality of receiving a certain wavelength of light in the eye, versus the experience of deep blue. In any case, your need to categorize it in one way or another (to suit your personal distaste for stories in an ancient book) does not make it non-existent.

    – “I honestly don’t know.”

    I am certain that is a comforting admission if you begin your day by denying your self in reality. A chance to equivocate on the proposition that the you in you doesn’t even exist is…well…something to believe in.

    I also noticed from the structure of your paragraph that you used the words “Unless” then “Or”. And yet, before accepting that it might be an illusion, you forgot to accept that it might be real.

    – “And it is good to be able to admit that without being thought to have fallen short in my “intellectual commitment” to a particular philosophy or my adherence to a particular faith.”

    This is self-serving rhetoric. Again, the “intellectual commitments” referred to on this thread had only to do with rationality, not faith. You are using the avoidance of an issue to applaud yourself. And you are doing it as if intellectual independence is something your opponents lack.

    – “Of course, I realize, that doubt and confessions of ignorance are of no use to those who crave certainty and the corresponding sense of security.”

    Now you are just grandstanding. You seek no less than anyone else. You’ve found what you want through repeated denial (design, self, good & evil, a basis of rational thought).

    – “That is why there is religion and I would not take that away from people even if I were able.”

    You continue to avoid the issues, to you own magnanimous applause.

    – “What I have a problem with is when one group tries to assert their own brand of faith as the only true one and tries to have it taught in the public schools as such.”

    No shit! So do I, but there is little I can do about it. Academia, the media, and the courts have sought to codify ONE worldview into the laws of this land under the guise of a scientific consensus based on an unfalsifiable premise. They’ve re-fashioned the founding father’s ban on the establishment of a state church into a bowling ball to knock down any religious pins that the population might carelessly have lying around. And because those courts have taken control over what is taught in the public schools, we have ended up with ONE worldview being taught there. How ‘bout that?

    – “If I had children, I would not want them to have to learn only your faith just because you believe it is true.”

    That’s interesting Seversky. If you had children I would not want my faith taught to them in public schools at all, with the possible exception of a religious studies setting (if they so chose to take the course). And I damn sure wouldn’t want it taught in a science class. But I have news for you; your faith was taught to my children. They were told that life began in a primordial soup, that humans were nothing more than evolved primates, and that there was no objective meaning to the universe. All of these topics could have easily been covered without injecting your faith into the studies, but they weren’t. The opposite was true.

    – “What is worse, though, is if – I repeat, if – the campaign to have something like Intelligent Design inserted into the school science curriculum as an established scientific theory is actually using it as a Trojan Horse to get Christian creationist belief in through the back door. That would be unacceptable”

    I have always found this to be the most specious of the anti-ID claims.

    I am not interested in replacing one dogma for another. Nor do I think a high-school biology class is the battleground for design theory. So, I rarely approach these side issues. I believe they are almost always disingenuous. But please do tell me Seversky; what are your fears for the children? Spell them out, one by one. List them in bullet points. Let us examine the substance of what you are afraid of. What does “Christian creationist belief” smuggled through the back door of your local grade-school science class look like, exactly?

    When you are through with all that, then I’ll remind you that science is suppossed to be a search for truth in reality – not fodder for the prosecution or the defense.

    Why not cease the fake battle between science and religion, and just follow the evidence where it leads? Do you actually have a better idea?

  400. Biped:

    Nagel used the phrase “something it is like” to describe its subjective quality. In my personal view, that is the self.

    Nagel also famously stated that it is intelligible to assert that it is “like something” to be a bat (although we can never know what it is like to be a bat). Do bats therefore have selves?

    David Chalmers once wrote on the subject.

    Chalmers accepted the notion that the world as described by the natural sciences is causally closed: “For every physical event, there is a physical sufficient cause…there is no room for a ‘ghost in the machine’ to do any extra causal work” (“The Conscious Mind,” p. 125.) (StephenB should love the causal closure, but not the exclusion of ghosts). It has been many years since I read that book, but IIRC his solution to the problem of consciousness in light of this was to conclude that consciousness was “real,” but had no causal powers whatsoever: a non-conscious zombie that was otherwise physically identical to a conscious person (a logical possibility once you deny that consciousness derives exclusively from physical structure and processes) would behave identically, right down to making claims that it knew it was conscious because its consciousness was immediately apparent to it. (Chalmers may have changed his position an it is certainly more subtle than this, given that this is a ten year old recollection, at least).

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