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The Sri Aurobindo International Center in India

The Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education, in Pondicherry, India, has recently launched a new on-line journal Anti-Matters , which naturally has a strong Eastern flavor, but is solidly anti-materialist and anti-Darwinist; it provides further evidence that ID, at least the rejection of Darwinism, is not a uniquely American Christian phenomenon. The editor, Ulrich Mohrhoff is a German physicist with apparently a strong quantum mechanics background. This issue has an article discussing my A Second Look at the Second Law essay, which I believe the editor found from a link here at UD.

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14 Responses to The Sri Aurobindo International Center in India

  1. Dr. Sewell,
    I was wanting to read your essay ” A Second Look at the Second Law”, but can’t seem to open it, although I can open the other links on your entry.

  2. Fantastic link, thank you.

    And I recommend the “Dismissing God” article on that site to any UD regulars. I was very pleasantly surprised by it.

  3. A little off topic, also in the same issue of Antimatters is a great review of Beauregard and O’Leary’s The Spiritual Brain, at http://71.18.123.59/ojs-2.1.1/.....view/47/39.

    In the review, about the only disagreement with the book is over the authors’ faith that science can be expanded and transformed to incorporate mystical experience. Mohrhoff says, “I don’t think it’s possible to convince scientists of the authenticity of a genuine mystical experience unless they themselves have had such an experience, and in that case it’s unnecessary….There is no way of being objective about mystical experiences.”

    I agree with this. In practice many scientists will actually take the pathological skeptic position, that no such genuine experience is possible, therefore even if they themselves have had such an experience it must be a brain disorder-caused hallucination.

  4. As someone who has lived through several mystical experiences, I am fully behind the effort to bring these empirical results to the fore of the discussion about the nature of living phenomena. If we as humans experience these things, what more must the enormous panoply of living things must experience on a daily basis? For instance I have often watched, for hours, my cats react to stimuli that I cannot discern. As smart as my cats are I am sure that this is no animal random instinct. Bravo!!!

  5. Speaking of that Second Look at the Second Law:

    Mr. Sewell. I don’t usually run in these circles or report other people’s Skeptic modes, but I happened to run into this blog posting while looking for something else, and then it occurred to me that I recognized the name being drug through the mud. Do you have any input on the posting below that I found? since I am one of these “laypersons” (admittedly), I WOULD be curious to know exactly what is going on here with regard to your take on the application of the 2nd law to “specified complexity.”, et al.

    Thanks for your time, as hopefully you’ll understand that that us regular folks watching from the gallery can’t make clear discernments about who’s fooling whom if the terminology is apparently so slippery. Your alleged words, I’ve bolded for clarity. All else are his complaint in full in italics.

    Check out: http://www.spectator.org/dsp_a.....rt_id=9128

    To see Granville Sewell make an a** of himself trying to (incorrectly) explain the second law of thermodynamics.
    Quote:

    “It is a well-known prediction of the second law that, in a closed system, every type of order is unstable and must eventually decrease, as everything tends toward more probable states.”

    NOTHING of the sort is well-known and this single sentence demonstrates very clearly that Sewell has a comic-book understanding of the Second Law. It’s no accident that the people who have the least understanding of thermodynamics are so convinced of his ‘genius’ in the subject.

    The 2nd law doesn’t have anything to do with specified complexity. That is an add-on thing that Creationists put there that is not part of the 2nd law. Granville Sewell is not an expert on thermodynamics.

    It’s not that “anything can happen” when you have fresh energy put into a system; it’s that the criteria for the definition of 2nd law employed by creationists is no longer met.

    In practice, ID advocates and other creationists use hand-waving to tie together a bunch of not-well-understood topics like chaos, complexity, order, etc. so that it sounds to the lay-person as if the Second Law is violated by abiogenesis or by evolution. In contrast, real scientists actually understand thermodynamics and realize that neither abiogenesis or evolution would violate the 2nd law.

  6. I meant to address the author as “Dr. Sewell”, of course.

    My bad.

    –SWT

  7. 7

    S Wakefield Tolbert:

    I assume you didn’t bother to read my article before posting this. The application of the second law to more general situations, such as the breaking of a wine glass, the burning of a library, the demolition of a building, or a decaying rabbit rising from the dead, was not an add-on invented by creationists, but by physicists. If you pick up any basic physics textbook that discusses the second law of thermodynamics, there is about a 50% chance it will discuss examples such as the above (a couple are included in my article). So whether or not the second law applies to such general situtations depends on which statement of the second law is used (there are a lot of different ones, some more general than others). But certainly it is the same underlying principle, namely, that natural forces do not do macroscopically describable things which are extremely improbable from the microscopic point of view. And I was careful to state that it was the “fundamental principle behind the second law” which appears to be violated by computers arising from mud. By the way, the editor, who wrote the Antimatters article about my essay is himself a physicist.

    W.E.Loennig once complained to me that a lot of his critics “write a lot more than they read.” I wish some of my critics would at least read my article before commenting on it.

  8. SWT:

    I think you need to take a look at the statistical thermodynamics view of the 2nd Law of thermodynamics.

    In that view, the issue hinges on relative statistical weights of macrostates and the result of allowing systems to move to any one microstate of a given system with equal probability.

    Citing for instance Yavorsky and Pinsky’s basic level summary:

    “[b]y comparing the [thermodynamic] probabilities of two states of a thermodynamic system, we can establish at once the direction of the process that is [spontaneously] feasible in the given system. It will correspond to a transition from a less probable to a more probable state.” [Physics, Vol I (MIR, USSR, 1974) p. 284.]

    Here, thermodynamic probabilities speaks of the number of associated microstates, and the “states” mentioned are macrostates.

    This is in fact the ideational context for the late great Sir Fred Hoyle’s well-known remarks on the likelihood of a tornado in a junkyard assembling a 747 jumbo jet. (And I take it you accept that he knew a thing or two about thermodynamics — though this is actually fairly basic stuff once you look at the statistical view of thermodynamics.)

    In my always linked, Appendix 1, I discuss the consequences of this view, especially in section 6 which scales Hoyle back to quasi-molecular scale. Why not show me where I am wrong, if I am obviously and grossly wrong?

    In short, on consisderation of relevant facts and factors, Dr Sewell may possibly be wrong but he is not making a fool of himself to say, for instance:

    . . . The second law is all about probability, it uses probability at the microscopic level to predict macroscopic change: the reason carbon distributes itself more and more uniformly in an insulated solid is, that is what the laws of probability predict when diffusion alone is operative. The reason natural forces may turn a spaceship, or a TV set, or a computer into a pile of rubble but not vice-versa is also probability: of all the possible arrangements atoms could take, only a very small percentage could fly to the moon and back, or receive pictures and sound from the other side of the Earth, or add, subtract, multiply and divide real numbers with high accuracy. The second law of thermodynamics is the reason that computers will degenerate into scrap metal over time, and, in the absence of intelligence, the reverse process will not occur; and it is also the reason that animals, when they die, decay into simple organic and inorganic compounds, and, in the absence of intelligence, the reverse process will not occur . . . .

    What happens in a[n isolated] system depends on the initial conditions; what happens in an open system depends on the boundary conditions as well. As I wrote in “Can ANYTHING Happen in an Open System?”, “order can increase in an open system, not because the laws of probability are suspended when the door is open, but simply because order may walk in through the door…. If we found evidence that DNA, auto parts, computer chips, and books entered through the Earth’s atmosphere at some time in the past, then perhaps the appearance of humans, cars, computers, and encyclopedias on a previously barren planet could be explained without postulating a violation of the second law here . . . But if all we see entering is radiation and meteorite fragments, it seems clear that what is entering through the boundary cannot explain the increase in order observed here.” Evolution is a movie running backward, that is what makes it special.

    THE EVOLUTIONIST, therefore, cannot avoid the question of probability by saying that anything can happen in an open system, he is finally forced to argue that it only seems extremely improbable, but really isn’t [I add, e.g. by resort to quasi-infinite multiverse models] , that atoms would rearrange themselves into spaceships and computers and TV sets . . .[I added emphases and substituted the stricter, isolated system terminology]

    But, sadly, it is a lot easier to deride the messenger than deal with the message.

    Further to this, it is a loaded, prejudicial misrepresentation to insist that it is “Creationists” who speak of Complex Specified Information. This is a defining concept of Design Theory, and the associated emergent research programme is clearly distinct from Creationism.

    And, worse yet, there is an informational school of thought on statistical thermodynamics, which joins the concept of entropy to that of information, and with arguments that are not art all obvious nonsense. [Cf my always linked for a discussion on Harry Robertson's work following up from Jayne et al. Also, note the work of Brillouin.]

    GEM of TKI

  9. Karo and Dr. Sewell.

    Thanks for the responses.

    I did in point of fact read the article but unlike many people I freely admit to not being able to glean as much from this as others presumably do or claim to here who’ve also commented on it.
    (If I knew how to digest these things to begin with I’d never bother to even ask for your clarifications, after all.)

    But one thing DID stand out, to wit:

    “THE EVOLUTIONIST, therefore, cannot avoid the question of probability by saying that anything can happen in an open system, THE EVOLUTIONIST, therefore, cannot avoid the question of probability by saying that anything can happen in an open system,

    Your detractor that I posted, presumably someone who is either reciting textbook definitions of things or (as he claims) is involved with in some capacity or knowledgeable about such matters, mentioned Specified Complexity. The problem here (as I see he states the matter) is that no one ever claimed that “anything is possible” in an open system or any other scenario, constrained or not. No one says computer chips or salsa chips evolved in a fortnight in mud. And there is no meaningful analogy between living systems slowly evolving in a warm, sun-soaked environment of an early earth from basic molecules and this admittedly ludicrous imagery of airplanes and computer chips and trumpeting elephants springing up from primordial ooze in one fell swoop in about 30 minutes. He claims (as do others) simply that you can have a wide range or organic molecular recombinations in an open system and thus the possibility of time and temperature solving the difficulty of forging amino acids that later recombine to replicate into the first proto-cells, etc. Or so it is claimed, apparently.

    Thus in this notion there is no real “information” content or “specified complexity” to larger molecules, and so on up the scale that combine and recombine by chance to form organic chains, etc, etc. They just simply are. Water is an amazing molecule in its own right but is hardly supernatural in origin any more than table salt, its just that it has what can be called “emergent” properties that cause it to be vastly different in its hydric bond from the far more volatile natures of pure hydrogen and oxygen, etc.

  10. Dr. Sewell, DaveScot,

    Is my reasoning on this principle right?

    Landauer’ s principle:

    The most enduring fruit of Landauer’s speculation is the (seemingly counter-intuitive) conclusion that the only part of the computing process that necessarily consumes energy is the erasure of information.

    Information on the position of the particle can be acquired reversibly without having to pay the energy bill, but erasing information does have a cost!

    Thus I reason, the law of conservation of information can be tied semi-directly to the law of conservation of energy.

    i.e. If information “arose” as a purely “material” supplement to energy then the first and second law would heavily suggest that the information could be erased with no consumption of energy.

    i.e. in fact the laws would suggest energy would be recovered from information from its erasure, Since information would be presumed to be “made out of energy”. If information was truly a dependent “supplement” to energy then energy by all rights should be expected to be recovered by informations erasure. Yet since erasure of information is proven to consume energy and computing “new information’ does not necessarily consume information, this provides foundational scientific support to the fact that information is a completely separate entity from energy/matter.

    Thus, I would like to think, we can now safely say, like energy, information can neither be created nor destroyed.

  11. There sure is information in water and everything else. The creation speaks of the majesty of the creator. He Spoke, and There Was Water.

    Of course the law can be violated. The Creator is omnipotent! The Resurrection of Jesus as prophesied is a prime example of such a thing.

    Given that we know this to be true, it weakens the absolute argument against the evolutionists from science. We have to make exceptions and this makes us look bad and weakens the cause of Christ.

    This of course furthers my point that science is a waste of time for Intelligent Design. We know things are designed, and we know who the Designer is. Trying to steal the materialists arguments about material is a waste of time, we have a better argument: the witness of the Holy Spirit.

  12. ellazim (#5), re. the Antimatters website: “Perhaps it’s just me but is some of that gobbly-gook as well as biased?”

    I agree this is wordy academic philoso-speak that could have been boiled down a lot to make its few points. But is it biased. Not unless you are a materialist.

  13. Kairo, you said, in part:

    Further to this, it is a loaded, prejudicial misrepresentation to insist that it is “Creationists” who speak of Complex Specified Information. This is a defining concept of Design Theory, and the associated emergent research programme is clearly distinct from Creationism.

    Agreed, at least on the point that many Darwinian faithful (in their “search and destroy” missions with these kinds of posts) don’t see distinctions between ID and true Creationism. They make no such distinction or consider it to be a fine line of one not worth considering. It is akin to saying that anyone who sees Intelligent Agency in any aspect of the Known Universe is a…..”Creationist.”

  14. SWT:

    Following up on a few points:

    1] no one ever claimed that “anything is possible” in an open system or any other scenario, constrained or not. No one says computer chips or salsa chips evolved in a fortnight in mud . . .

    Prof Sewell used somewhat loose language in describing and rebutting the common evolutionary materialist response to the 747-in-a-junkyard point. Namely, that once a system is open to energy and mass inflows and outflows, energy flow through it allows the formation of structures that are compatible with lowered entropy.

    They are, but that is not the whole story.

    And thereby hangs a sad tale about misleading half-truths and resulting manipulation of the public [including HS and College students] by too many evo mat advocates who should — or in some cases I suspect DO — know better.

    For, when the relevant energy conversion structures are formed, if they exhibit functionally specific, complex information [FSCI], in EVERY observed case, they are the products of agency. This is because of the beyond merely astronomical size of what I have described as the configuration space and the relative isolation in it of the islands and archipelagos of functionality. (That is what I discuss in my point 6 in the appendix in my always linked.)

    In short, those who point out that CSI is far beyond the credible reach of random search-driven strategies on the gamut of a cosmos that for the sake of argument we can accept as ~10^80 atoms, and 13.7 BY, are right.

    Indeed, when we take a statistical view of thermodynamics [roughly, looking at the implications of possible arrangements of mass and energy on molecular or so level in bodies and systems], it is this very same process of reasoning that leads to the inference that with very high reliability, the spontaneous direction of change in such bodies is towards less orderly distributions of mass and energy on the microscale. That is, the system naturally tends to move to macrostates associated with higher statistical weights. This is the statistical form of/ warrant for the second law of thermodynamics.

    Simply allowing mass and energy inflows and outflows does not materially change this picture.

    For, raw dumping of energy into a system [as I discuss in the Appendix, from point 1 on] tends to increase the randomness of energy distribution especially. [Think about the dashboard on your car, and how raw sunlight tends to make it deteriorate.]

    It is systems that are constrained in ways that lead them to process energy that do not simply deteriorate on importation of energy, i.e. there is a mechanism to couple the energy into work or at least energy conversion. That may indeed be naturally occurring [e.g. a hurricane] or man-made [e.g. a steam engine].

    However, in EVERY directly observed case, once we see the sort of organised complexity that exhibits CSI etc at work, the system is the product of agency. And the underlying statistical mechanics as just outlined tells us why: random searches are maximally unlikely to find the required clusters of functionality starting from an arbitrary initial point, regardless of whatever functional filtering may be imposed at each stage.

    So all of that posturing about “Creationists” using the term CSI is simply a red herring leading out to a convenient strawman burned to cloud and poison the atmosphere.

    2] Correcting a major misconception: Did “Creationists” introduce the concept of Complex, Specified information?

    In fact, no — but again, most people will not know this [unless they have carefully read something like Thaxton et al's The Mystery of Life's Origins]. For instance, in ch 8 of TMLO, they cite some interesting OOL researchers at the turn of the 1980′s, on why there was the emergence of the CSI concept as a natural distinction from order and disorder relevant to the origin of life:

    In existing living systems, the coupling of the energy flow to the organizing “work” occurs through the metabolic motor of DNA, enzymes, etc. This is analogous to an automobile converting the chemical energy in gasoline into mechanical torque on the wheels. We can give a thermodynamic account of how life’s metabolic motor works. The origin of the metabolic motor (DNA, enzymes, etc.) itself, however, is more difficult to explain thermodynamically, since a mechanism of coupling the energy flow to the organizing work is unknown for prebiological systems. Nicolis and Prigogine summarize the problem in this way:

    Needless to say, these simple remarks cannot suffice to solve the problem of biological order. One would like not only to establish that the second law (dSi >/= 0) is compatible with a decrease in overall entropy (dS Orgel notes:

    Living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; mixtures of random polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity.6 . . . .

    Yockey7 and Wickens5 develop the same distinction, that “order” is a statistical concept referring to regularity such as could might characterize a series of digits in a number, or the ions of an inorganic crystal. On the other hand, “organization” refers to physical systems and the specific set of spatio-temporal and functional relationships among their parts. Yockey and Wickens note that informational macromolecules have a low degree of order but a high degree of specified complexity. In short, the redundant order of crystals cannot give rise to specified complexity of the kind or magnitude found in biological organization; attempts to relate the two have little future.

    That is, it is some of the leading researchers in the OOL field who raised the concept which Dr Dembski has given more precise formulation to.

    3] there is no meaningful analogy between living systems slowly evolving in a warm, sun-soaked environment of an early earth from basic molecules and this admittedly ludicrous imagery of airplanes and computer chips and trumpeting elephants springing up from primordial ooze in one fell swoop in about 30 minutes

    This, unfortunately, materially distorts what Dr Sewell said, what Prof Hoyle said, and what I have said.

    Look at my discussion in the always linked [check my name in the LH column], and you will see that on no reasonable scale of time or matter will the parts of an existing micro-jet spontaneously assemble to form a functional whole, due to the difference between the number of microstates that are scattered, then clumped at random, then organised into a functional whole.

    And, the issue is in fact highly analogous to that involved in the claimed spontaneous formation of the functionally organised molecules of life as found in living systems, whether in pre-biotic soups or hydrothermal vents or icy comets or whatever scenario strikes one’s fancy.

    4] He claims (as do others) simply that you can have a wide range or organic molecular recombinations in an open system and thus the possibility of time and temperature solving the difficulty of forging amino acids that later recombine to replicate into the first proto-cells, etc.

    He is ignorant of or suppressing the message of the statistical thermodynamics as just outlined to do so, and if the latter, is confident — for good reason – that he is extremely unlikely to be specifically called on that bluff. (Unfortunately for him, we here at UD have noticed, and are replying.)

    5] in this notion there is no real “information” content or “specified complexity” to larger molecules, and so on up the scale that combine and recombine by chance to form organic chains, etc, etc. They just simply are.

    There is none so blind as one who refuses to see what is right there in front of him. Cf the statements by leading OL researchers at the turn of the 80′s to see that there is no excuse for this, if we were dealing with honest and serious dialogue.

    Unfortunately, given the institutional politics at work, a great many people will be misled by this sort of irresponsible or outright intentionally deceptive rhetoric.

    GEM of TKI

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