Home » Design inference, Intellectual freedom, Intelligent Design, Philosophy » Hello World! – An Introductory Post

Hello World! – An Introductory Post

Greetings all. Since I’m going to be contributing some posts here at Uncommon Descent, it’s been suggested I explain to everyone just where I’m coming from intellectually and in the context of the Intelligent Design discussion. Before I do that, I just want to express my thanks to the powers that be on this site for allowing me this opportunity – with luck it may lead to some interesting conversations on a topic I’ve enjoyed following over the years.

So if you’re at all curious of where I stand on the questions of ID, evolution, and so on… Well, just read on.

First, when it comes to questions of my intellectual background I’d like to be explicit: I’m very much an average person. My pseudonym doesn’t hide someone with important credentials, and I’m neither an academic nor a scientist. I’m simply someone who became very interested in Intelligent Design, along with the related questions of design, science, and so on years ago, and have taken part in many conversations both on here and at Telic Thoughts (another blog dedicated to teleological topics.)

Second, my views on ID are somewhat complicated. If you were to ask me if I think Intelligent Design can offer arguments, evidence and reasons to think that design exists in the natural world, I’d say yes. Now, if you’d ask me whether I think ID is “science”, I’d say no – but I’d also say that Darwinism as offered up by many (and Michael Ruse in particular) is not science either. The other side of that coin is that I’m pragmatic – if it’s “science” to argue, as many Darwinists do, that science CAN in fact detect the presence or absence of design in nature (and inevitably, they always insist that science has shown its lack), then my response is “Then detecting design in nature is science after all, therefore ID is science.” I strongly believe that the one thing many ID critics fear most is consistency: They want all positive inferences of design ruled out as non-scientific, but all negative inferences of design to be called not only scientific, but utterly true.

Third, you could classify me as a theistic evolutionist of sorts. I’m a Catholic who grew up with a Catholic family and schooling, and the result was that evolution never struck me as a problem for my faith – the impression I’ve always gotten is that it simply hasn’t been considered a major issue for quite some time, at least among many Catholics. That said, I have little patience for Darwinism – at least, I’ve had little patience for it after coming to realize that “Darwinism” was different from “evolution”, and this will be one of my focuses while I contribute at UD. Further, I simply don’t have the fiery indignation many TEs have when it comes to this topic. I got over my (largely ignorant, cultural) hostility to YECs years ago, I don’t find the suggestion of designer interventions in natural history as some kind of terrifying “science-stopper” much less obviously untrue, and I think both the natural world in general and evolution in particular bear signs of intention, design, purpose, mind, and teleology from top to bottom even if it’s granted for the sake of argument that no direct intervention took place. In other words, for me, design in the world is obvious – and questions of whether biological organisms evolved, were directly created, or otherwise strike me not as a question of whether or not design took place, but as an implied affirmation that it did take place with the “How?” being of central concern.

Fourth, my interest in ID is not purely or even largely religious. And by that I mean, if tomorrow it were demonstrated to me that Christianity was false, my interest in ID would remain. I think it’s to ID’s credit that its major proponents have repeatedly stressed that ID may allow one to infer, even strongly infer, a mind or teleology being responsible for what we see in the natural world – but that this mind is not necessarily the specific God of Christianity, or may not even be a ‘god’ at all (though the particularities of that question are dicey.) In fact, I think ID as a movement would benefit by stressing this point further – I feel that many otherwise agnostic people would find the broad inferences, questions, and ideas in the ID ‘big tent’ to at least be worthy of serious consideration. In some ways, I feel this is an eventuality regardless.

In the near future, I hope to post about a wide variety of ID-related topics – from giving my own take on why Thomists should support ID, why agnostics should support ID, the mistakes some prominent ID critics and/or TEs make, the ideas of some lesser-known ID-sympathetic people, and more.

I think that wraps things up for now. So a belated Merry Christmas to you all, and an early Happy New Year.

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106 Responses to Hello World! – An Introductory Post

  1. I strongly believe that the one thing many ID critics fear most is consistency: They want all positive inferences of design ruled out as non-scientific, but all negative inferences of design to be called not only scientific, but utterly true.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head.

    On the topic of Hello World!, here’s my UD contribution on that subject:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....selection/

    Design in living systems is simply obvious, but no one knows how it was instantiated.

    I find it interesting that so many people, with genuinely inquisitive minds, but from widely diverse backgrounds, are attracted to ID. Perhaps the explanation is that ID makes sense, and a design inference is inescapable if one is not blinded to obvious truth.

    I’m a former atheist (ID was a major factor in my abandonment of that worldview). David Berlinski is a secular Jew and a friend of ID, who once told me that he cannot pray.

    Logic and evidence will eventually prevail, but the battle will be won with much difficulty and sacrifice, because the enemy has so much to lose and is so entrenched.

    P.S.: I enjoy your UD contributions, which are always eloquent, thoughtful, and well-written.

  2. I enjoyed your introductory column, nullasalus, as I’ve enjoyed the comments you’ve posted here over the years. I appreciate your determination to avoid partisan labels and to look for the truth wherever it lies. I’m particularly interested in hearing you develop your thoughts on a “lower case te” — a theistic evolutionism which is compatible with design insights and avoids the dogmatic pitfalls of the quasi-culture-war movement we’ve unfortunately come to know as upper-case TE. I look forward to whatever you may write for us in the future, and I’ll be one of your regular readers.

    T.

  3. Welcome! I’ve always noticed you approach things a little bit differently than most here, and it’s good to have different perspectives.

    Now, perhaps I’m missing the obvious, but what’s the etymology of “nullasalus”? I’ve never been able to figure that out.

  4. Thanks for the welcomes all. I look forward to the conversation.

    SCheesman, the name is from latin. Nulla Salus.

  5. to argue, as many Darwinists do, that science CAN in fact detect the presence or absence of design in nature (and inevitably, they always insist that science has shown its lack), then my response is “Then detecting design in nature is science after all, therefore ID is science.” I strongly believe that the one thing many ID critics fear most is consistency: They want all positive inferences of design ruled out as non-scientific, but all negative inferences of design to be called not only scientific, but utterly true.

    I have always held that it is possible to detect the absence of presence of design if you make some assumptions about the motives and abilities of the designer. I think this is what most Darwinists (aka biologists) are subconsciously assuming when they argue, for example, that nature is not designed because no competent designer would have designed the Panda’s thumb and no benevolent designer the malaria parasite. If you don’t make any assumptions about the designer then the design hypothesis becomes as meaningful as the hypothesis that “life developed through chance”.

  6. Hi nullasalus,

    Congratulations on your first post. I enjoyed reading it, and I look forward to future posts.

    markf,

    Regarding your claim that “no benevolent designer the malaria parasite,” you might like to read this recent post by the National Science Foundation at http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_s....._id=117259 . It appears that modern malaria parasites began to spread to various mammals, birds and reptiles about 16 million years ago. Malaria parasites may jump to new, unrelated hosts at any time, decoupling their evolution from that of their hosts. The ancestors of humans acquired the parasite 2.5 million years ago – about the time when humans first appeared. However, according to Dr. Robert Ricklefs, one of the biologists who conducted the recent research into the origin of the malaria parasite, “Malaria parasites undoubtedly were relatively benign for most of that history, becoming a major disease only after the origins of agriculture and dense human populations.”

    Hope that helps.

  7. markf,

    I have always held that it is possible to detect the absence of presence of design if you make some assumptions about the motives and abilities of the designer.

    So, what – so long as I assume motives and abilities of any kind for any reason, and what I’m looking at either reflects or fails to reflect the reasonable result of those motives and abilities, I have in fact detected the presence or lack of design in nature? It’s really that easy?

    And best of all, this is science in action?

    I think this is what most Darwinists (aka biologists) are subconsciously assuming when they argue, for example, that nature is not designed because no competent designer would have designed the Panda’s thumb and no benevolent designer the malaria parasite.

    Biologists != Darwinists. What’s more, I don’t necessarily care what a Darwinist or a biologist dreams up and assumes about the world and nature. The question is: Is this science?

    If it’s science in action for a Darwinist to make assumptions about the abilities and motives of a designer and detect design’s presence or lack in nature, then it’s science in action for an ID proponent or anyone else to do the same. Take that tack and congratulations, you’re now an ID proponent yourself.

    If you take the tack that well, no, it’s not science (Maybe “It’s an argument I believe and I think is reasonable, but it’s still not science”), then you’ve shut out ID from the ‘science’ arena at the cost of shutting out quite a lot of Darwinists too. Every atheist who wants to argue science has shown that the nature is not designed, from the realms of biology to cosmology to otherwise, is stopped in their tracks. And insofar as Darwinism is defined as a belief that neither evolution nor its products are intended, guided, etc – and many define Darwinism precisely this way – Darwinism is not science.

    At least, these are the choices in play if someone is consistent. Of course, there’s a solution to that problem: Just don’t be consistent. I don’t think much of it, but hey, that hasn’t stopped it from being a popular move.

  8. #7 nullasalus

    I thought a key principle of ID was that you could somehow detect design independent of any knowledge about the designer.

    If you want to put forward a hypothesis about a specific designer with known limitations and motives then yes this hypothesis can be tackled in a scientific way. Have you got one?

  9. #6 vj

    I don’t quite point of your comment about the malaria parasite. Whatever it may have been in the past, it is most certainly bad news for humans at the moment. Are you denying that life has produced all sorts of nasty things throughout human history (and before for other species)?

  10. markf,

    I thought a key principle of ID was that you could somehow detect design independent of any knowledge about the designer.

    Is ID science? I stated my position on this question in my post – you’re the one who told me what Darwinists were ‘probably subconsciously thinking’ when they said what they did, and how they were relying on assumptions about the capabilities and intentions of the designer.

    I asked you if this is science. So, is it? Is it not?

    If you want to put forward a hypothesis about a specific designer with known limitations and motives then yes this hypothesis can be tackled in a scientific way. Have you got one?

    “In a scientific way”? Kind-of scientifically? Science, now with 95% less empirical restraints?

    Again, I outlined my views on ID and science. You came in and started talking about what Darwinists and biologists were probably subconsciously thinking when they talked about what was and wasn’t designed in nature – namely, that you can detect design so long as you just assume the capabilities and intentions of a designer.

    So, is that science? Is design-detection science? Not science? Is it science if design’s lack is “found” this way, but not if design’s presence is?

    Ya gots me curious. Let’s hear the answers.

  11. #10

    Nullasalus

    Sorry – I am bit confused about what you are claiming. But I will tackle your request:

    …Darwinists were ‘probably subconsciously thinking’ when they said what they did, and how they were relying on assumptions about the capabilities and intentions of the designer.

    I asked you if this is science. So, is it? Is it not?

    It has the potential to be science although it does not have the rigour and generality that I would call science. In principle a hypothesis that X designed life subject to limitations l1 to ln and with motives m1 to mn can be investigated scientifically. You can ask scientific questions such as:

    * does this feature of life conform to the motives
    * how could the designer have implemented this feature given its limitations

    Does this help?

  12. markf,

    It has the potential to be science although it does not have the rigour and generality that I would call science.

    Really? So if I posit a designer with particular capabilities (say, omnipotence and omniscience), and particular intentions, I am engaging in a kind of protoscience that has the potential to become science, according to you?

    In principle a hypothesis that X designed life subject to limitations l1 to ln and with motives m1 to mn can be investigated scientifically. You can ask scientific questions such as:

    Being able to ‘ask scientific questions’ about something is a ridiculously low bar to set. I can ask at least some superficially scientific questions about just about any philosophical topic, but that doesn’t mean that panpsychism is now science or protoscience (unless science just means ‘reasoning, somehow’ at this point.)

    So no, this isn’t too helpful. As near as I can tell, you think that so long as someone assumes something, anything, about the intentions and capabilities of a hypothetical designer, they can infer design or its lack, and that these inferences are either science or almost-science.

    In which case everyone from the most ardent YECs to the most fervent positive atheists to full-blown solipsists and everyone in between are, in fact, ‘doing science’ or something close to it, so long as they meet those criteria.

    Interesting take on science.

  13. In which case everyone from the most ardent YECs to the most fervent positive atheists to full-blown solipsists and everyone in between are, in fact, ‘doing science’ or something close to it, so long as they meet those criteria.

    I am sorry. I am not being clear. There is a difference between making a hypothesis that can be the subject of science and doing science. I can propose that the earth is flat. This hypothesis is capable of scientific enquiry. It is rapidly and easily shown to be scientifically false. To then continue to believe that proposal is not doing science.

    In the same way a proposal that life is designed by a specific designer can be subject to scientific enquiry. However, just making that proposal is not itself scientific. It is then necessary to gather appropriate evidence (on the limes I suggest above).

  14. markf,

    In the same way a proposal that life is designed by a specific designer can be subject to scientific enquiry. However, just making that proposal is not itself scientific. It is then necessary to gather appropriate evidence (on the limes I suggest above).

    So, the idea that God is a rational being whose creation (nature) was therefore accessible to rational minds is a scientific hypothesis that has been getting supported like crazy for centuries now? On that view every advance of science is just more evidence in the pile for God. (I think CS Peirce had a philosophical argument along these lines.) Then again, you’ve got evidence all over the place because you’re only limited by whatever capabilities and intentions you think up for the designer in question, and you’ve placed no restraints on this.

    This hypothesis is capable of scientific enquiry. It is rapidly and easily shown to be scientifically false. To then continue to believe that proposal is not doing science.

    Alright. And if I propose a designer – say, a computer programmer who is running a simulation of our world – and suggest that our simulation only started 6000 years ago, but the simulation began with an Omphalos Hypothesis style setup.. this is ‘doing science’?

  15. So, the idea that God is a rational being whose creation (nature) was therefore accessible to rational minds is a scientific hypothesis that has been getting supported like crazy for centuries now?

    I didn’t say that all hypotheses are capable of scientific enquiry. This particular one does not strike me as scientific. In fact it is quite hard to determine exactly what it means.

    Then again, you’ve got evidence all over the place because you’re only limited by whatever capabilities and intentions you think up for the designer in question, and you’ve placed no restraints on this.

    I am not the one posing a design hypothesis. I am only placing minimal restrictions on what counts as a scientific hypothesis with respect to design. Whether a particular hypothesis is justified by the evidence is another question.

    Alright. And if I propose a designer – say, a computer programmer who is running a simulation of our world – and suggest that our simulation only started 6000 years ago, but the simulation began with an Omphalos Hypothesis style setup.. this is ‘doing science’?

    I am afraid I know very little about the Omphalos Hypothesis. However, I think the idea is that the world was created 6000 years ago to look exactly as though it were 4 billions years old. This seems to say very little about the motives and limitations of the computer programmer.

    I think this little discussion has run its course – thanks

  16. Null

    Welcome aboard, and a happy new year to you too.

    I think your thought will be enriching, as it gives a further perspective, which seems to be fairly close to what I think the folks over at Telic Thoughts tend to think.

    I want to suggest a working definition of science as it should try to be, as a thought or two for development of a sounder epistemology of origins-related science. As you know, ever sinve Lyell and Darwin, the issue of projecting from the present to the past has been a crucial issue in science and its definition. Feyerabend ended up arguing that in effect there is no one size fits all definition that is possible for all sciences, and he is plainly right. So we have to proceed on a common sense, family resemblance, what is reasonable if we are to move towards learning the truth about our world as it now is and as it was in the past of origins.

    Here is my nearest thing to a global definition that is generic, and targets what science should strive to be like (note the onward discussion in light of Newton’s work and its backdrop):

    _________________

    >> science, at its best, is the unfettered — but ethically and intellectually responsible — progressive pursuit of the truth about our world (i.e. an accurate and reliable description and explanation of it), based on:

    a: collecting, recording, indexing, collating and reporting accurate, reliable (and where feasible, repeatable) empirical — real-world, on the ground — observations and measurements,

    b: inference to best current — thus, always provisional — abductive explanation of the observed facts,

    c: thus producing hypotheses, laws, theories and models, using logical-mathematical analysis, intuition and creative, rational imagination [[including Einstein's favourite gedankenexperiment, i.e thought experiments],

    d: continual empirical testing through further experiments, observations and measurement; and,

    e: uncensored but mutually respectful discussion on the merits of fact, alternative assumptions and logic among the informed. (And, especially in wide-ranging areas that cut across traditional dividing lines between fields of study, or on controversial subjects, “the informed” is not to be confused with the eminent members of the guild of scholars and their publicists or popularisers who dominate a particular field at any given time.)

    As a result, science enables us to ever more effectively (albeit provisionally) describe, explain, understand, predict and influence or control objects, phenomena and processes in our world. >>

    __________________

    Okay, I trust that helps.

    I should note that design is something we understand as those who live as designers in a world where we observe other designers. So, on that experience, we notice that we can make a definition of a certain class of cause:

    DESIGN = intentionally (and intelligently — if it is to work!) directed configuration; and, by extension, the result of such art.

    We can also define intelligence on our experience and observation:

    [From UD glossary:] Intelligence – Wikipedia aptly and succinctly defines: “capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn.”

    Now, we also observe that things which begin or are otherwise contingent have causes, not least factors that are necessary: if absent, they block the effect, if present they enable (but do not force — necessity is not sufficiency) the effect. Think about the triangle factors for a fire: oxidiser, fuel and heat are each necessary and jointly sufficient (taking on board chain reaction in the definition of fuel).

    One useful classification is that causal factors come in the flavours: necessity, chance, design. Where and/or is possible. But, we may discern empirically observable signs — as has been frequently pointed out at UD: mechanical necessity is low contingency, high contingncy under similar starting conditions is either chance or design.

    Chance shows itself in statistical patterns of outcomes reflecting probability distributions of various kinds. This is a common fact of life in industry where statistically based process control is now a key part of any quality management programme.

    Design shows itself through things connected to intentionally directed contingency, and can be reliably distinguished from chance when the outcomes we see are going to be so far removed from the overwhelming clusters of configurations that it is unreasonable to infer to chance as best explanation; unless we can rule out the possibility of a designer.

    For instance FSCI is a case in point as has been commonly discussed at UD. Complex, functional, coded linguistic information is another reliable sign of design. Complex, purposeful, functional network organization is another. There are more. All of these are reliable based on numerous cases where we observe the causal process, and see that the only known directly observed factual cause of such is design. So such things are empirically credible signs of design.

    Of course, in principle, chance can imitate anything whatsoever. but if we let the chance hyp get out of hand, it undermines reasoning, as it for instance would be equally arguable that every dropped object we saw falling was by chance not mechanical necessity, and the same for the orbits of planets etc.

    But, there comes a point where it does not make sense to think in these terms, and if we see a reliable pattern we infer to law not chance.

    Just so, we see a reliable pattern on design and its signs. So we have a perfect epistemic right to infer to design on signs, and to the onward existence of a relevant designer at the time of origin of said objects with signs.

    The only reason this is controversial is that there is an established orthodoxy that is hostile to the idea that life shows signs of being designed. Well, can you give me an observed case of a complex digitally coded system or an algorithm or a program or data structure spontaneously originating by chance plus necessity without intelligent configuration?

    Of functionally specific complex information and associated effecting functional organisation similarly occurring by undirected chance and necessity, under our observation?

    The answers are obvious from the rebuttal strategies used by the defenders of the reigning orthodoxy: they have no facts so they are pounding on their institutional power to censor thinking on the subject. They are even trying to redefine science on evolutionary materialistic premises, however camouflaged under sales names and slogans.

    So, the actual balance on the merits is plain enough.

    And if the work of Lyell et al and Darwin et al and successors is accepted as science — even, paradigmatic science, inference to design on signs is also science by close family resemblance.

    Null, welcome aboard, again!

    Happy new year to all.

    GEM of TKI

  17. kairosfocus,

    Thanks for the welcome, and Happy New Year to you too.

    Of course, in principle, chance can imitate anything whatsoever. but if we let the chance hyp get out of hand, it undermines reasoning, as it for instance would be equally arguable that every dropped object we saw falling was by chance not mechanical necessity, and the same for the orbits of planets etc.

    I’d note that design can also “imitate chance” – what seems like a chance set of results can actually be one set to a pattern we aren’t looking for, or for the purpose of results we don’t understand. I recall Dembski mentioning this with the thomists (stressing that ID can give ‘false negatives’, and in principle everything can be designed.) It doesn’t even have to be an ‘imitation of chance’ – the ‘chance’ can come entirely from the mind doing the judging in a mistaken manner.

    Well, can you give me an observed case of a complex digitally coded system or an algorithm or a program or data structure spontaneously originating by chance plus necessity without intelligent configuration?

    Wouldn’t any program or data or, etc, that managed to ‘spontaneously originate’ be doing so in a universe that itself is strongly suspected of being an intelligent configuration? Actually, I think we’ve gone back and forth on this in the past, so I wonder – what would be an example of any of these things ‘spontaneously originating by chance plus necessity’, even as an utterly fictional example?

    Because if I saw a “complex digitally coded system or an algorithm or a program or data structure” that ‘spontaneously originated’, I admit, I’d still be thinking design. Of course, one problem I’ve had with the designation of ‘necessity, chance or design’ is that ‘necessity’ itself strikes me as yet another instance of design, and ‘chance’ presupposes order and orchestration which itself indicates design.

    But then, I’ve grown very skeptical of ‘chance’ at all levels, except as a tool used in making models, etc.

  18. Hello Null,

    I have been following your comments here and at TT (where I usually just lurk) for years and have very much enjoyed your perspective (and bite).

    I am tickled s***less that you will be a contributor at UD.

    Congrats

  19. Null:

    Fair enough, indeed pseudorandom number generators are deterministic and designed.

    My idea of a random source issuing FSCI would be the example I keep challenging evolutionary materialists with. Set up a Zener source, de bias it’s output — usually, feed it into a pseudorandom generator as seed! [how truly random numbers are often generated today] — then use this to write a floppy.

    Test the floppy for ASCII text, and the text for function or meaning. Say, is it Shakespeare or a new version of Word. (And no, contrary to rumour that is not done, nor does uncle Bill hire monkeys to bash keyboards in his programing dept. Those photos of truckloads of bananas heading into the campus are faked.)

    There is a finite, non-zero probability that a floppy treated like this will have coherent ASCII text, or program code etc, even the works of Shakespeare. (Of course the odds against are astronomical.)

    if you really set something like this up, and it fed you meaningful info, that would be lucky noise in action.

    But, you would have an objective way to confirm that it really was spontaneous. (I think we can trust q-mech to give us random noise out of the Zener. Failing that, try sky noise.)

    GEM of TKI

  20. PS: In the bad old days of statistics by hand, my dad — used to work as an econometric statistician in Gov Jam [helped set up the first Leontief i/o matrix model used there, a 23 x 23 model, many decades ago] — says they used to take the telephone book, and use a technique to get random numbers from the phone books by using an un correlated way to pick numbers on the page.

    Near as I recall, use the last few digits on the 1st no on a page picked at random, to pick row and column, and use the line code digits [usually the last four].

    The phone numbers are assigned deterministically, and the alphabetic list is non-random. But the lack of correlation triggers an uncorrelated string of numbers that will be quite good enough to pass as random.

  21. Hey, Null. Good show. You bring a unique perspective to the table, so I am confident that your thoughtful interaction with ID partisans will help them sharpen their axes. In my judgment, you are one of the few Theistic Evolutionists who takes the Theism as seriously as the Evolution, setting you apart from a herd of Christian Darwinists who go by the same name but who mean something radically different.

  22. markf:

    I can’t speak for nullasalus, but I’ll give my own response to this statement:

    “I thought a key principle of ID was that you could somehow detect design independent of any knowledge about the designer.”

    It strikes me as painfully obvious that one can detect design independent of any knowledge of the designer. One example that’s been used many times here and elsewhere is: Suppose we found some elaborate structure on Mars. It might be a sort of Bayeux tapestry carved in stone on a mountainside, with discernible figures with heads, limbs, etc., in a series of poses indicating an intelligible series of actions. And suppose we found nothing else on Mars which provided any clue as to where this structure came from. We could know for a certainty that it was designed, while knowing literally nothing about the nature, motives, or history of the designer(s).

    Whether we call this design inference “scientific” or not is to me an entirely uninteresting question, and I’ve always maintained that fighting over whether or not ID is “science” is wrong-headed, whether coming from ID people or from their opponents. The only important question is whether the design inference in such a case would be valid. If it’s valid, then the claim that we need to know something about the motives or nature of the designer in order to validate the inference is bogus, and should be scrapped.

    Whether such an example can be extended to biological cases can be debated, but the stipulation that we must know something about the nature or motives of the designer is clearly wrong, and ID opponents should drop it from their list of arguments.

    T.

  23. nullasalus:

    You gave a short explanation of your name, but to me, not a full one. Unless I am mistaken, your name comes from the Patristic phrase *extra ecclesiam nulla salus* — “outside the Church there is no salvation.” If this is right, it might be interesting for readers to know why you selected this as your handle. Does it indicate a general or particular commitment to Christianity in your thought? If so, in what way does Christianity ground, bound, or shape how you think about evolution, design, chance, etc.?

    T.

  24. Great and cool to see new blood for the good guys.
    Glad your not afraid of us yEC folk anymore but I gather your not yec now.
    I.D is a intellectual step closer to Yec.
    Merry Christmas and success for you and the forum from your contributions.

  25. Timaeus,

    If this is right, it might be interesting for readers to know why you selected this as your handle. Does it indicate a general or particular commitment to Christianity in your thought?

    Honestly, I chose this handle years ago, and if memory serves not for any very deep reasons other than “A Christian reference” and “It just seemed appealing”. But I am generally committed to Christianity in my thinking, though also to broader (even classical) theism in general. And on the subject of ID, I even have sympathies with deists and non-theistic ID proponents. Then again I’m an easygoing sort, and usually try to find some common ground with everyone but the New Atheists, who I have a tremendously low opinion of.

    If so, in what way does Christianity ground, bound, or shape how you think about evolution, design, chance, etc.?

    It depends on what’s being discussed, really. I suppose the best way to put it is I tend to be reactionary rather than fiercely advocating one specific view – hence, I think of evolution, even macroevolution, as being yet one more possible design method a Designer could use to achieve a given or collection of ends. Naturally those aren’t the only possibilities, but because the question is so often framed as ‘evolution or design’, I end up focusing in that subject area.

    As for “chance”, I’m skeptical of it existing in the way many seem to think it does. There seems to be a habit of thinking of chance as literally being some “thing” with causal powers of its own, rather than as a description (if we’re speaking scientifically) or a metaphysical claim (if we’re asserting that it was unforeseen and unintended by any mind.)

    Hence we hear “evolution proves cats (for example) evolved by chance”, and what’s really going on is a number of ideas and claims are being – sometimes purposefully – muddled. At its scientific best it’s like saying “the processes and mechanisms of evolution, given what we know about them, did not make the development of cats an inevitability in the abstract”. In other words, if someone wanted to evolve cats, they couldn’t just pick any particular world or situation, let the processes and mechanisms work, and invariably – here are cats. Why this should be a concern to anyone who believes in an omniscient, omnipotent God is beyond me, rather like saying that ‘weather’ will not on its own part the red sea. No, I suppose it won’t.

    So my Christianity would bind my thinking largely on topics specific to Christianity (For instance, I think the Fall describes a real, historical event, even if certain particulars aren’t understood by us. I think Genesis makes it clear that God is the author of nature, through whatever means nature came into being. I think accepting an omniscient, omnipotent God renders a tremendous amount of ‘evolution v design’ worries moot, and the ‘darwinism v design’ worries have everything to do with shoddy darwinian metaphysics being passed off as science.), though my thoughts on ID go beyond Christianity. I think ID could, should, does and will have appeal to people other than Christians, and that that’s an aspect of ID that proponents should recognize and prepare for now.

    I hope I gave some good responses to your questions, T. If not, ask again – always a pleasure.

  26. Robert Byers,

    Great and cool to see new blood for the good guys.
    Glad your not afraid of us yEC folk anymore but I gather your not yec now.

    No, I’m not a YEC. However, I just no longer have that bizarre, raging fury against YECs that so many TEs (even OECs!) seem to have, and I openly question whether that attitude is at all appropriate, and what motivates it. Mind you, I also am not a fan of the YECs who rage and condemn non-YECs either, but I think quite a lot of the problem on both ends could be solved with courtesy and diplomacy. What can I say, sometimes I’m optimistic.

    In fact, I want to touch broadly on the subject of YEC, ID and common attitudes to it all in a future post.

  27. Timaeus and Nullasalus:

    Both of you (as usual) have put up very significant move- the- ball- forward observations that deserve to be scooped out, highlighted and remarked on.

    Refreshing:

    T, 22: Whether we call this design inference “scientific” or not is to me an entirely uninteresting question, and I’ve always maintained that fighting over whether or not ID is “science” is wrong-headed, whether coming from ID people or from their opponents. The only important question is whether the design inference in such a case would be valid. If it’s valid, then the claim that we need to know something about the motives or nature of the designer in order to validate the inference is bogus, and should be scrapped.

    Whether such an example can be extended to biological cases can be debated, but the stipulation that we must know something about the nature or motives of the designer is clearly wrong, and ID opponents should drop it from their list of arguments.

    N, 25: As for “chance”, I’m skeptical of it existing in the way many seem to think it does. There seems to be a habit of thinking of chance as literally being some “thing” with causal powers of its own, rather than as a description (if we’re speaking scientifically) or a metaphysical claim (if we’re asserting that it was unforeseen and unintended by any mind.)

    Hence we hear “evolution proves cats (for example) evolved by chance”, and what’s really going on is a number of ideas and claims are being – sometimes purposefully – muddled. At its scientific best it’s like saying “the processes and mechanisms of evolution, given what we know about them, did not make the development of cats an inevitability in the abstract”. In other words, if someone wanted to evolve cats, they couldn’t just pick any particular world or situation, let the processes and mechanisms work, and invariably – here are cats.

    a –> Chance is a very interesting concept, being quite properly — Ilion, I shall explain, DV — joined to mechanical necessity and intelligence acting through art as a fundamental causal explanation.

    b –> How may we best characterise it?

    c –> New World Enc in its very helpful ID article gives a useful discussion:

    In The Design Inference (1998), mathematician and philosopher William A. Dembski formalized, quantified, and generalized the logic of design inferences. According to Dembski, people infer design by using what he calls an Explanatory Filter. He wrote: “Whenever explaining an event, we must choose from three competing modes of explanation. These are regularity [i.e., natural law], chance, and design.” When attempting to explain something, “regularities are always the first line of defense. If we can explain by means of a regularity, chance and design are automatically precluded. Similarly, chance is always the second line of defense. If we can’t explain by means of a regularity, but we can explain by means of chance, then design is automatically precluded. There is thus an order of priority to explanation. Within this order regularity has top priority, chance second, and design last.” According to Dembski, the Explanatory Filter “formalizes what we have been doing right along when we recognize intelligent agents.”[24]

    Of course, different aspects of the same thing can be due to different causes. For example, an abandoned car will rust according to natural laws, though the actual pattern of rust may be due to chance. Yet, the car itself was designed. So regularity, chance, and design, though competing, can also be complementary.

    When inferring design, ruling out regularity is the easiest step [added: i.e. if we see high contingency of outcomes under materially similar initial circumstances, then mechanical necessity is not dominating the relevant aspect of an object, phenomenon or process]. Ruling out chance is more difficult, since mere improbability (i.e., complexity) is not sufficient to infer design. Something that is complex could easily be due to chance. For example, if several dozen letters of the alphabet were randomly lined up, it would not be surprising to find a two-letter word such as “it” somewhere in the lineup. A two-letter word is not improbable enough to rule out chance. So, how complex must something be? . . .

    d –> In that context, we may then appreciate the relevance and delicate balance of the following def’n from AmHD:

    chance (chns)n.
    1.a. The unknown and unpredictable element in happenings that seems to have no assignable cause.
    b. A force assumed to cause events that cannot be foreseen or controlled; luck: Chance will determine the outcome.
    2. The likelihood of something happening; possibility or probability. Often used in the plural: Chances are good that you will win. Is there any chance of rain?
    3. An accidental or unpredictable event . . .

    e –> So, in the relevant sense, chance seems to be about high contingency of outcomes, that cannot be assigned to a specific, purposeful intention, or to an accidental circumstance that just happen to be.

    f –> In either case, the point is that there is no correlation between different “runs” under similar circumstances, and the outcome is just a matter of a probability/statistical distribution across the range of reasonable possibilities.

    g –> Hence the significance of the Bernoulli- Laplace rule of indifference in assigning probabilities of possible outcomes, in the first instance: since there is no reason to prefer any one particular side of a presumably fair die, the odds of any number form 1 to 6 are 1/6, and the like.

    h –> Then, by extension, if the micro-possibilities can be clustered in discernible groups, we can give relative statistical weights to grouped outcomes and assess the GENERAL odds of being in these clustered groups by those statistical weights. [This is a foundation stone of the highly successful discipline of statistical thermodynamics, and it is the basis for the statistical form of the second law.]

    i –> In such cases as we can see a bias for particular states [e.g. text in English has E most probable and X rather improbable, while also Q is almost always followed by U save in special contexts . . . of course someone wrote a whole novel that does not have a single e in it (how they got along without "the" and "one" or "red" etc is interesting . . .], then we can adjust the above, as is done in Shannon’s work, and in cryptology. More complex and nasty to work with, but routinely done. This is also key in decision theory.

    j –> In this sense, chance is a reasonable entity, though it can be tuned into a whole philosophy: the world originated by chance + necessity only, and you are “unscientific” to think otherwise. Which is T’s concern.

    [ . . . ]

  28. k –> Plainly, aspects of phenomena being caused by necessity, chance and intent is an easily confirmed empirical fact. This post is designed and my ability to type words and get them to post is designed and takes advantage of the mechanical necessities and stochastic behaviour of nature [electronics rests on quantum physics!], yet the moment it will appear on UD is to some extent a chance — in the sense of an accident of clashing un-correlated chains of cause-effect bonds — outcome.

    l –> Equally plainly, mechanical necessity leads to low contingency on materially similar start points [if I type p --> o --> i --> n--> --> t --> s, I expect to see "points"].

    m –> And high contingency outcomes can be differentiated by the contrast between statistically distributed outcomes and purposeful ones. For instance, if I have reason to expect a die to give 1/6 odds, but a particular die keeps on coming up 6 for a long enough run, that is reason to suspect loading as its best explanation. Especially if money — a purpose — is a material factor.

    n –> Similarly, if the configuration space for a string of symbols is sufficiently large, and islands of contextually relevant function are deeply isolated in them, if I see function, I have good reason to infer to design, not chance.

    o –> This is why as a reasonable rule of thumb the FSCI threshold is set at 500 – 1,000 bits. (E.g.: If I see over 20 or so words [on avg English words have 7 letters or so] in coherent text in English, I have reason to suspect a deliberate sentence, not a random bit string.)

    p –> So, if science at its best is an empirically based and unfettered process of reasoning on observations and patterns of empirically grounded cause about how the world is and works, the design inference is plainly scientific.

    q –> Thus (evolutionary materialistic radicals in Kansas etc notwithstanding), cf AmH Sci Dict, 2005:

    science (sns)
    The investigation of natural phenomena through observation, theoretical explanation, and experimentation, or the knowledge produced by such investigation. Science makes use of the scientific method, which includes the careful observation of natural phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis, the conducting of one or more experiments to test the hypothesis, and the drawing of a conclusion that confirms or modifies the hypothesis.

    r –> So, we have every epistemic right to apply the design-detecting explanatory filter in scientific work, as long as a design is a reasonable possibility.

    s –> But, such immediately runs head-on into the Lewontinian, Divine foot in the door objection (especially on matters of origins science):

    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.

    [[From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997.]

    s –> This objection, once it is plainly stated, answers itself: the question is clearly being begged. Science should be allowed to go where the evidence points, without being subjected to the sort of materialistic censorship we see here, however disguised it might be as a seemingly “reasonable” methodological constraint.

    t –> Question-begging is a fallacy, and until it can be shown through observation that functionally specific complex information can be routinely [or at least credibly] produced by undirected forces of chance and mechanical necessity — cf. 17 and 19 – 20, then we have every right to view FSCI as a signature of intelligently directed configuration of contingent elements, aka design.

    u –> And, let us notice: this is a provisional though confident inductive generalisation, subject to empirical test and disproof. But, on the statistics of islands of function in vast config spaces, we have good reason to be as confident of this as of say the similarly provisional but inductive second law of thermodynamics.

    ________________

    So, it looks like the real challenge is that there is an established materialistic dogmatism ruling as a reigning magisterium in key scientific institutions and pushed through their publicists and popularisers, in the name of popular science and science education.

    But no authority, however august, is better than his or her facts and reasoning.

    GEM of TKI

  29. #22 Timeaus

    You are right that the example of an elaborate structure on Mars has been used and debated many times. Please forgive me but I do not want to replay that debate yet again. My concern this time was different. I wanted to address the charge of inconsistency – how can biologists accuse ID of not being scientific and yet make scientific criticisms of design hypotheses.

    I believe the answer is that a hypothesis of design in general is not open to scientific study – but a specific design hypothesis is open to scientific study.

  30. I believe the answer is that a hypothesis of design in general is not open to scientific study – but a specific design hypothesis is open to scientific study.

    Except, oddly, any ‘specific design hypothesis’ such as “The designer would design a rational world, capable of being understood and comprehended” gets ruled out as not scientific enough, yet apparently “no benevolent designer would create malaria, therefore nature isn’t designed”? Hey, scientific.

    If a “specific design hypothesis” is “open to scientific study” – and it is therefore science in action to discuss and explore it – you’ve just opened the doors to ID. Welcome aboard, ID proponent, there are people ready to greet (and shun) you.

    What I said earlier stands. If design detection in nature is not science, then neither is detecting its lack. Rule them both out, but in the process you’ve made any claims of non-design in nature a non-scientific inference. Now as for me, I’m quite fine with that. Many atheists, including some scientists, will choke at the suggestion. It’s a great way to take the joy out of science for many.

    Or we can rule them both in. In which case, hey, detecting the lack of design is science in action after all. But so is detecting the presence of design – even the presence of design in evolution itself. It may not be a universally held view, but so what? Science doesn’t require consensus on all theories. But again, many atheists, including some scientists, will choke at this. It retains that much desired ability to say ‘science shows there is no design’ at the cost of other scientists saying ‘baloney, design is all over the place’. Suddenly a Behe or a Mike Gene or a Denton or others are doing science when they determine nature is replete with design, every bit as much – and possibly moreso – when Stenger or Weinberg or Coyne determine there is none.

    But the old move of rigging the game, where it’s only science if you determine that there is no design, but if you determine there is design you’re not doing science, won’t stand. Hypocrisy on this front is very easy to see once it’s been outlined, and design critics of the evangelical variety are going to have to pick which horn they want to be impaled on. Do they keep the ability to suggest detecting the lack of design is scientific and open the gates of the castle to the ID barbarians? Or do they keep the gates locked, and in the process surrender anti-design arguments to philosophy and metaphysics?

    How’s that old song go? “Laugh about it, shout about it, when you have to choose. Every way you look at it, you lose.”

  31. kairosfocus,

    I’ll zero in one the one chain in your explanation where problems begin for me.

    e –> So, in the relevant sense, chance seems to be about high contingency of outcomes, that cannot be assigned to a specific, purposeful intention, or to an accidental circumstance that just happen to be.

    Particular ‘stochastic’ results may after all be assigned to a ‘specific, purposeful intention’ that we’re not aware of. Again, Dembski (if I recall right) explicitly states that the entire universe, top to bottom, at every point and at every event may in fact be designed – and thus ID (at least via his design filter, etc) is entirely capable of ‘missing’ some actual design in the universe.

    Now, maybe your definition is including these considerations – where ‘chance’ is a word for an outcome that onlookers couldn’t have been particularly expected in the normal course of events, an isolated incident. One which we may even say, if an intention exists for it, we lack knowledge of it, maybe even lack knowledge of how said intention could have been implemented if it was the case.

    But if you’re saying something stronger – that a ‘chance event’ really is a case where there is, in fact, no intention behind said event, no intention, then I end up asking “How is this known?” Merely identifying the pattern as what we’d call stochastic, even observing the event in question repeatedly and noting the spread of results, won’t answer the question.

    Now, I don’t think this caveat is a problem for ID necessarily. You can cede that every event in the world is designed, intended, and foreseen, but still ferret out particular types of design and intention, etc. Or at least, I see no reason why you couldn’t. But once it’s admitted that calling something ‘chance’ is related to the presence or lack of intention or purpose in a particular result, that’s when I think it’s clear we have a problem on our hands. It means chance has a kind of subjective component to it, one that isn’t easily resolved, and which goes beyond science to discuss.

  32. #30

    I am sorry, I have still failed to give a satisfactory explanation – so maybe it is worth another comment.

    You wrote:

    The designer would design a rational world, capable of being understood and comprehended” gets ruled out as not scientific enough, yet apparently

    I guess you are referring to:

    “God is a rational being whose creation (nature) was therefore accessible to rational minds ” back in comment 15. I don’t find this to be the same hypothesis. I don’t understand “what accessible to rational minds” means, while I do understand “capable of being understood”.

    The hypotheses:

    1) The designer would design a rational world, capable of being understood and comprehended

    and

    2) A benevolent designer created life to maximise human well-being

    Do have a similar structure and a similar level of “scientificness”.

    They are of the form:

    “The world has features X, Y and Z because God wanted a world with features X, Y and Z.”

    They specify a motive but no limitations or methodology. Such hypotheses can be falsified by showing the world does not have features X, Y and Z (e.g. there are features of the world such as malaria that do not maximise human well-being). And science can be used to show that the world does not have features X, Y and Z. So in this sense they are scientific.

    However, they are also blatantly ad hoc explanations. Without some other reason for supposing God had that motive and without some statement about the mechanisms and limitations they are obviously unsatisfactory.

    (As it happens there is a lot about reality we do not understand and no particular reason to suppose we ever will understand everything about it – so the hypothesis is falsified)

  33. Null:

    I speak in the direct and narrow sense of how a fair, tossed die settles in a distribution with odds generally 1 in 6. There may well be a deeper purpose in such a phenomenon, indeed even the purpose of playing a game is a purpose for such randomness, but the immediate process is for all practical purposes chance with no discernible direction to the outcomes.

    Of course the ancient Hebrews believed God could intervene in such a process to provide guidance, e.g. by drawing lots. But plainly, a miracle is being sought, and miracles take their distinctive rule as signs pointing to or from God, precisely by being exceptional to the usual course of events.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Re MF.

    I will not trouble onlookers overmuch with remarks on MF’s post just above, save to observe that MF is plainly shutting his eyes to what we do and can easily know about the source of functionally specific,complex information and associated organisation, as well as to the implications of our organised functionally specific observed cosmos that credibly had a beginning. What we do not know — in part, arguably because we may not want to listen to One who does know — does not relieve us from responsibility to face the implications of what we do or should know. Cf here on that, especially the excerpt from John Locke.

  34. markf:

    I thought a key principle of ID was that you could somehow detect design independent of any knowledge about the designer.

    Very good- and we can do that. However it does take knowledge of cause and effect relationships.

    And that is what the design inference (ID) is based on- our knowledge of cause and effect relationships.

  35. hey mrkf-

    Perhaps you can provide a testale hypothesis for your position so we will know what you will accept.

    My bet is that you won’t provide such a hypothesis because it will expose yourposition for what it is- nonsense.

    But I could be worng…

  36. markf:

    You wrote:

    “You are right that the example of an elaborate structure on Mars has been used and debated many times. Please forgive me but I do not want to replay that debate yet again.”

    Too bad. In the many venues on the internet in which I’ve seen this example (or others like it) considered, not once has an ID critic come even close to refuting the conclusion it implies. In fact, I’ve seen some debates where Ph.D.s in biology can’t even seem to grasp the bearing of the example. But if you want to duck the example, in order to avoid failing where everyone else has failed, I’ll carry on and address your next point:

    “I wanted to address the charge of inconsistency – how can biologists accuse ID of not being scientific and yet make scientific criticisms of design hypotheses.

    “I believe the answer is that a hypothesis of design in general is not open to scientific study – but a specific design hypothesis is open to scientific study.”

    I don’t know what “a hypothesis of design in general” would be. That there is design somewhere, somehow? No design theorist says that. The claim is that there is design in the structure of the bacterial flagellum, or in the apparatus for winged flight, or in the fine-tuning of the fundamental physical properties, or in something else that is quite specific. I don’t see the problem you are pointing at here.

    Earlier, you wrote:

    “I have always held that it is possible to detect the absence of presence of design if you make some assumptions about the motives and abilities of the designer. I think this is what most Darwinists (aka biologists) are subconsciously assuming when they argue, for example, that nature is not designed because no competent designer would have designed the Panda’s thumb and no benevolent designer the malaria parasite. If you don’t make any assumptions about the designer then the design hypothesis becomes as meaningful as the hypothesis that “life developed through chance”.”

    First of all, re your aside, not all Darwinians are biologists — some of the most militant, like Dennett and Pennock and Forrest and Ruse, know next to nothing about biology — and not all biologists are Darwinians; in fact, not even all evolutionary biologists are Darwinians — e.g., Margulis.

    But to your main point:

    The hypothesis of design does not postulate a perfect designer or a benevolent designer. It simply postulates that chance alone cannot account for the phenemenon in question. The Darwinians are simply wrong to drag in claims about imperfect design, suffering in nature, etc. Such claims have nothing to do with design arguments.

    You are confusing Christian apologetics with the design argument. It’s true that if someone says: “The Christian God, who is a God of infinite love, power, and intelligence, designed X,” then that person may have some explaining to do regarding allegedly incompetent design or allegedly malicious design of X. But this is not the design hypothesis. The design hypothesis is: “X cannot be explained by chance alone; there was some intelligent design involved.”

    Why do you, and so many ID critics, have trouble grasping this? How many times, and in how many different ways, must ID proponents say this, before atheists and TEs catch on?

    I’m at a loss as to how to explain the obvious to learned critics, with Ph.D.s in biology and so on, who cannot see the obvious. But I’ll try one more time, with some homely examples.

    The early home computers, say, the Pets, had design flaws in comparison with later computers. Yet we would not say that the Pets arose due to an explosion in a wire factory which threw them together. We would still say they were intelligently designed. The same goes for the first Wright brothers airplane. It was badly flawed from a design point of view. Did it therefore arise by chance?

    MS Word 2007 was clearly designed. It was also clearly badly designed. It is filled with flaws — important functions have been removed, useless functions have been added, the menus are confusing, the help manuals are useless — astoundingly, not even alphabetized — etc. One often has to go to internet help groups, not Microsoft, to figure out how to do the most basic things. One is tempted at times to say that the staff at Microsoft could all be laid off with no discernible effect, because their product is so shoddy that it must have arisen by the chance generation of code. But nonetheless, hard though it sometimes seems to believe to someone who has just spent an hour trying to figure out how to perform a simple operation which any Word Perfect user can perform in the blink of an eye, MS Word 2007 was “designed.”

    And when a surgeon removes your swollen appendix, or a dentists pulls a decaying tooth, there is pain and suffering; does this prove that surgeons and dentists operate by non-intelligence, by sheer chance — the mere fact that their operations cause some pain and suffering? Would you argue that dentistry and surgery are not intelligent activities because no intelligent activity would involve pain and suffering?

    How do you know the designer was omnipotent? Perfectly intelligent? All-loving? These are not scientific claims, and *they are no part of the design hypothesis*. They are theological claims, and *ID has no responsibility whatsoever to defend them*.

    ID’s job is to show that Dawkins’s explanation of the origin of species is fatally flawed. It is *not* to show that the God of American evangelical Christianity created all the species one by one.

    Like most ID critics, you confuse ID with “creationism,” and like most ID critics, you confuse “design” with “optimal design,” or, worse, some conception of “good design” which is wholly your own, and no part of the theory.

    If you want to complain that the God of the Bible must be a bad or cruel designer, then do so. But that has nothing to do with ID has a hypothesis. That’s a theological claim which ID as such has no interest in touching.

    ID claims that the organization of the cell, and structures such as the bacterial flagellum, did not arise by chance alone, but required intelligent input. That’s the claim you and the Darwinists should be focusing on, not complaints about inverted retinas and panda’s thumbs and malarial parasites.

    If we can determine that a frieze on a Martian cliffside was designed, without any previous knowledge of the designer, then in principle we should be able to determine whether particular biological systems display design, without any previous knowledge of the designer. So you must either deny that the design inference in the Martian case is valid, or you must somehow show that the reasoning is different in the biological case. You have not done either; nor, to my knowledge, has any other ID critic.

    T.

  37. markf,

    Without some other reason for supposing God had that motive and without some statement about the mechanisms and limitations they are obviously unsatisfactory.

    Funny. Earlier you said:

    I have always held that it is possible to detect the absence of presence of design if you make some assumptions about the motives and abilities of the designer.

    So, when it’s an example you like (God is supposed to be benevolent and no benevolent God would allow malaria and if He’s omnipotent He could forbid malaria but He didn’t so obviously nature isn’t designed), assumption is allowed and the whole thing is scientific. But when it’s an assumption you don’t like – one that yields a positive inference – suddenly assumptions are unfair and now we need *reasons* for our assumptions? Of course, reasons could be supplied for these posits – theological, philosophical, even empirical – but suddenly the standards change depending on what the idea is and what sort of inference it’s yielding.

    This is a pretty shallow game. If demanding convincing reasons for what we suppose about the designer is required, you’re again wiping the field out, and out goes every inference of non-design because every assumption that yields such an inference can be questioned. (That’s why they’re assumptions – something taken to be true without actual demonstration.)

    As I said earlier, consistency is your greatest enemy here – but you’re going to have to eventually make a choice. Is it all science, or is none of it science?

    (As it happens there is a lot about reality we do not understand and no particular reason to suppose we ever will understand everything about it – so the hypothesis is falsified)

    But the suggestion wasn’t “We will completely understand reality by a specific date”. All that was posited was that reality, being constructed by a rational being, would be capable of being grasped by other rational beings. So every advance in our understanding is support for the inference. After all, this suggestion was mounted centuries ago originally – there was no reason then to suspect we’d get as far as we have.

    Or, wait, are you going to suggest that we haven’t advanced a step in actually understanding reality, and play some kind of scientific anti-realism card? Now that would be fun.

  38. kairosfocus,

    I speak in the direct and narrow sense of how a fair, tossed die settles in a distribution with odds generally 1 in 6. There may well be a deeper purpose in such a phenomenon, indeed even the purpose of playing a game is a purpose for such randomness, but the immediate process is for all practical purposes chance with no discernible direction to the outcomes.

    Well, ‘practical purposes’ is the thing. If you want to say that distributions tend to be of this general pattern, and that if such a pattern tends to hold over time we can have expectations of X, Y, and Z, that’s fine. All I’ve questioned is the claim that the particular and real-world results in a stochastic mechanism take place without intention, purpose, etc. That positive claim of lack.

    “Not discernible” is a qualification that stresses the minds of those involved with making the judgment, which is a different story.

  39. Null:

    Can you show me that a fair — unloaded — die tossed say 1,000 times is specifically guided as to outcomes in such a way that we see say 6 [etc] about 1/6 of the time? is the particular outcome preplanned from the foundation of the cosmos or whatever? Or, is there room for randomness to play out as a part of the general order of nature; e.g consider the physical nature of temperature as a metric of the avg random energy per degree of freedom of the particles in sensible bodies?

    My earlier point on “for practical purposes” has to do with that the die exhibits sensitive dependence on initial dynamical conditions, so that through un-correlated collisions with walls and tables — gaming houses in Las Vegas now specify tossing against a textured [pyranmidical studs] wall and falling to the table, on the 8 corners and 12 edges, there is an unpredictability on outcomes through clashing uncorrelated dynamical streams.

    Thus through the accident of particular impacts of clashing uncorrelated dynamical streams and that non-linearity that vastly amplifies tiny differences in otherwise substantially similar initial setups, we do get effective random outcomes from the die.

    Rather like my earlier remarks on how a phone book, by being fed through an uncorrelated stream of events, can be used to generate quite good enough random numbers, even though the phone lines and the directory ordering are in fact deterministic; as the phone company can vouch.

    In the case of the zener diode feeding a pseudorandom number generator, the truly random — quantum — noise injection from the Zener pushes the deterministic stream of the counter circuit to generate outputs that are truly random.

    In each of these cases, we can reasonably say that we see a chance outcome, which could in principle lead on to results that show high contingency of statistically random character.

    I am not at all saying that randomness and chance imply the world as a whole lacks purpose or meaning, or that chance can so reasonably explain what we see that we can credibly prefer chance + necessity to design. On the contrary, I point out that the resources of he cosmos on chance + necessity — on the statistical properties — would not reasonably land us in islands of function. So an inference to design is the empirically best warranted explanation. You may object that this is not an absolute proof, but the answer is that very very few things are subject to such proof, so to object to warrant by inference to best explanation is selectively hyperskeptical.

    I would also hold that when we look on quantum events that are random per the relevant analysis [e.g radioactive decay and the decay constant thus half life], that pattern is random. Same, for the distribution of energies and speeds etc of particles in bodies with a temperature. No specific direction can reasonably be assigned to these outcomes as a general rule.

    Perhaps there is a possibility for miracles a la the ancient Hebrew praxis of seeking guidance through what would otherwise be random, but even that depends on the point that the outcomes are out of human control and absent a miracle would be random.

    GEM of TKI

  40. PS: Maybe some thoughts may help build a bridge:

    1] The die tossed against the wall then tumbling to the table model shows how a process can be random in the large, but open to the miraculous: since a tiny shift makes all the difference, a tiny nudge below our ability to discern would be effective in controlling the particular outcome without committing to so controlling all stochastically distributed processes directly.

    2] On the mind-body problem (yes, there is a link), a similar point obtains: it is possible,maybe even plausible at some level that quantum-level influences on neural networks in the brain are an interface for the conscious mind. If something like that is so, design would subtly but decisively intervene into the physical world, in a way that makes for intentionally controlled contingency, without committing to all contingencies being intentionally controlled.

    3] In short, I am pointing out that there is room for both intent and chance, with room that they can have diverse and empirically detectable characteristics.

  41. kairosfocus,

    Can you show me that a fair — unloaded — die tossed say 1,000 times is specifically guided as to outcomes in such a way that we see say 6 [etc] about 1/6 of the time?

    That depends on what you mean by show. If I establish the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent God (via the Five Ways, via the ontological argument, via anything else), will that suffice as showing? Or would that prove that no die roll is truly ‘fair’? If the latter, then the question is problematic from the outset.

    is the particular outcome preplanned from the foundation of the cosmos or whatever? Or, is there room for randomness to play out as a part of the general order of nature; e.g consider the physical nature of temperature as a metric of the avg random energy per degree of freedom of the particles in sensible bodies?

    Good questions. But are you asking me in a practical sense (“Can I model as if…?”) or a reality sense (“Is it really and truly the case…?”)? In the former sense, sure – but a practical model is a practical model, with more limited goals and qualifications. In the latter case we’re dealing with questions of ultimate reality – we’re not asking if we can model-as-if, but if our models and all the assumptions we make with our models are true as a matter of fact. And that requires getting the answers to some difficult, complicated questions.

    In the case of the zener diode feeding a pseudorandom number generator, the truly random — quantum — noise injection from the Zener pushes the deterministic stream of the counter circuit to generate outputs that are truly random.

    But whether quantum results are “truly random” – if you mean absolutely and utterly unguided – is itself an open question. Some people have ideas, even models, but in the respect I’m asking the question remains open. Even moreso, because just what’s ‘happening’ at the quantum level is, even in a practical model sense, a lot more unusual than in the die rolls.

    So an inference to design is the empirically best warranted explanation. You may object that this is not an absolute proof, but the answer is that very very few things are subject to such proof, so to object to warrant by inference to best explanation is selectively hyperskeptical.

    I’m not objecting to an inference to design – quite the opposite actually. I don’t even believe you need to talk about “random” or “chance” in any strong sense to make the inferences to the particular kind of design you wish to make.

    Perhaps there is a possibility for miracles a la the ancient Hebrew praxis of seeking guidance through what would otherwise be random, but even that depends on the point that the outcomes are out of human control and absent a miracle would be random.

    It depends on what’s meant by ‘random’ here. “Uncorrelated with respect to…”? Sure, but a wholly intentional, purposeful event can be typically uncorrelated to a particular outcome generally, but become so in a specific instance.

  42. Null:

    My first point is that one needs not take any strong view against the reality of randomness to be a serious theist or design thinker. There is no good reason to reject random processes as a part of nature, as an aspect of being a theist. So, we can afford to be indifferent on this matter.

    Second, we can see that chance and statistical randomness and associated distributions, on reasonable principles, will not be able to account for the origins of the sort of functionally specific, complex organisation we see, whether in putting the cosmos at a — notice, all I am pointing to is local finetuning — finely balanced operating point that supports life, or for the functional, complex organisation of cell based life.

    Instead these things are replete with empirically well supported reliable signs of intentional, intelligent and deeply knowledgeable, skilled configuration. That is design.

    The chance plus necessity only evolutionary materialistic school of thought is therefore inferior on empirically based grounds.

    Specifically, canonical neo-darwinian thought and its extensions, supplements etc, fail to account for origin of such life, or for body plan level biodiversity. The phenomena are on empirically reliable signs best explained on design.

    So, while such schools are institutionally dominant, they are on very shaky empirical ground.

    Does this mean that there was not evolutionary development in the biological world?

    No, the empirically warranted descent with modification out there can only account for minor changes.

    Does this mean there was no common descent of life?

    No, it does mean that the means by which life was transformed across body plans was intelligently directed, on the evidence. That is darwinian macroevolution — despite its institutional dominance — is not empirically credible; on information and functional system organisation origination challenges (a subject where biologists as such: biologists, do not hold particularly strong expertise). And, from the outset, darwinian theory was intended to account for precisely this, and is popularly promoted as such. Worse, the credibility of powerful sectors of the academy is locked into this being an adequate account for life, and has locked in an implicit evolutionary materialism to back it up, resorting to force on occasion to preserve that dominance.

    In short, nature — in both the biological and physical sides — strongly points to intentionally directed configuration as a decisive causal factor.

    To design.

    GEM of TKI

  43. The die tossed against the wall then tumbling to the table model shows how a process can be random in the large, but open to the miraculous: since a tiny shift makes all the difference, a tiny nudge below our ability to discern would be effective in controlling the particular outcome without committing to so controlling all stochastically distributed processes directly.

    Well, let me offer something back at you. Every event we see in nature can be the result of an intention, or guidance, or foreordination, etc, but even if this were the case we still could and would be able to make practical models of reliable patterns (The odds of getting a 6 on a die roll is 1 in 6 for all practical purposes), and we can practically determine when a result doesn’t line up with what we normally expect of those patterns (If there’s an explosion at the Scrabble factory, we expect the tiles to fall in a typical pattern. But they fell in a pattern that spelled out the entirety of Job 38, saying “Well, that pattern was just as likely as any other, there’s nothing particularly unusual about this at all” isn’t going to cut it.)

  44. kairosfocus,

    There is no good reason to reject random processes as a part of nature, as an aspect of being a theist. So, we can afford to be indifferent on this matter.

    It depends on the sort of theist and the sort of randomness being discussed, doesn’t it? Just by virtue of admitting to an omniscient, omnipotent God, it seems obvious to me that any talk of ‘random’ has to be bracketed. Stephen Barr, to his credit, admits this outright. But then Barr makes the distinction between the model and the mind of God.

    Second, we can see that chance and statistical randomness and associated distributions, on reasonable principles, will not be able to account for the origins of the sort of functionally specific, complex organisation we see, whether in putting the cosmos at a — notice, all I am pointing to is local finetuning — finely balanced operating point that supports life, or for the functional, complex organisation of cell based life.

    But I’m not really disagreeing with that. I’m qualifying what ‘chance’ means, what ‘randomness’ means, but what I’m qualifying does nothing to get in the way of ID inferences generally, or the sort of ID inferences you’re particularly talking about. On the flipside, talking about ‘chance’ or ‘randomness’ in a way stronger than is warranted doesn’t bolster the ID case and is not necessary generally, so I see no reason to make the move. Unless that’s someone’s personal belief – fair enough, then – but that’s only going to go so far.

    And, from the outset, darwinian theory was intended to account for precisely this, and is popularly promoted as such.

    I agree but disagree. I keep referencing him – what can I say, he’s useful here – but when Michael Ruse defended Darwinism over on Biologos, the sort of “Darwinism” he was talking about beautifully demonstrated what I think is the heart and soul and engine of Darwinism: Metaphysical commitments on claims science not only hasn’t demonstrate, but could never hope to demonstrate. If you believe in a God who is outside of time and therefore knew what the results of evolution would be, according to Ruse, a Darwinist you ain’t. If you believe God intervenes at the quantum level, a Darwinist you ain’t. Heck, he seems ready to kick Conway Morris and even Dawkins out of the Darwinism club on the grounds that they both have ideas which ‘impart directionality to evolution’, which he sees as a ‘violation of the spirit of Darwinism’.

    Jerry Coyne plays this exact same game, where the fact that 40% or so of Americans believe in evolution isn’t a cause of celebration for him (Yay, they accept evolution!) but horror, because said 40% believes evolution was guided by God. He explicitly suggests this is a denial of Darwinism as Darwin offered it, and as most scientists offer it.

    But my reply is that if this is a commitment of Darwinism, this is (as Cornelius Hunter loves to discuss) religion and metaphysics – not science – through and through. It’s not even open to demonstration by experiment or in the laboratory. The best that could be hoped for is to say that science is silent on that question of guidance and direction and foresight in either direction – but to take that stance is to cut off over 100 years of atheist apologetics at the knees. Hence that resistance to doing so, and the hope of maintaining an obvious double standard.

    In short, nature — in both the biological and physical sides — strongly points to intentionally directed configuration as a decisive causal factor.

    I agree, in way after way.

  45. Null:

    First, I am first and foremost speaking of Darwin’s close to Origin in Ch 15, where he specifically says that the animals and plants etc on a tangled streamside bank are the product of descent with modification on his theory’s premises, from one or a few original ancestral forms.

    he is claiming a SCIENTIFIC result, not a metaphysical imposition.

    Going further,the more modern versions of the theory still imply the came claim; a claim that darwinian theories account for macro-level biodiversity. Even declaring it a “fact.”

    I am saying that on the evidence, that claim is unsupported by evidence, which instead strongly points to design; once you look at the issue of information origination.

    Next, what I have pointed out is that random processes are a matter of indifference to theism as such. There is no good argument that the creator is locked into not using real randomness, instead of some species of pseudorandom process. Nor does use of randomness lock God our of intervening is he has reason to.

    Indeed, the Israelites of old — who I am sure probably had those who played at games of chance and intuitively understood randomness in such games — specifically prayed for God’s intervention in the situations where they used otherwise random processes for guidance; cf the drawing lots to choose the replacement for Judas in the Upper Room. The “otherwise random” aspect was plainly intended to clear the deck for God to intervene, i.e. the situation was credibly not manipulable by men.

    So, there is room aplenty for a both and view. There is no reason why a lump of radioactive material should not be undergoing a truly random process, nor forbidding an intervention if that is warranted. Just as, as a rule, dead men do not get up, walk away and join their friends for supper, much less cook breakfast for them. But that normal pattern opens the way to understand that the case where that credibly happened — on 500 witnesses — is something beyond the ordinary course of nature. And that was recognised as such from the outset, that is why so many — not just Thomas — were initially dubious.

    And, as to the notion that chance or random outcomes are cause-less, that is based on a serious and widespread misunderstanding of cause, and beyond that of the logic of implication which is closely tied to that.

    Specifically, anything that begins or may cease etc is contingent on external factors, i.e. causes. Such include not just sufficient factors that make it that something WILL occur, but necessary ones that can — if absent — block it from occurring. [Take away air or other oxidser, and no fire, e.g.]

    When we see a situation with a random pattern, there are always necessary factors at work, e.g at crude level, no die, no tossing to tumble to read a 6. no surface to rest on, and no reading either, etc.

    Similarly, there have to be sufficient factors to set up a situation where there is a statistical distribution of possible outcomes. Something had to come together in a sufficient cluster for he die to be tossed, tumble and settle to read 6. And under similar circumstances, it can read 1, 2, 3,4, 5,6 but not 9 or 54.

    So, chance and randomness are not equivalent to causeless. Once there are necessary factors, that is so, and once the event is an effect that happens now and not before — it has a beginning — it is necessarily caused.

    That takes in our whole cosmos, which credibly had a beginning. One that is so organised at a finely balanced operating point for c-chemistry cell based life that it points to design as its most credible cause.

    GEM of TKI

  46. kairosfocus,

    Going further,the more modern versions of the theory still imply the came claim; a claim that darwinian theories account for macro-level biodiversity. Even declaring it a “fact.”

    Darwinism requires multiple commitments, sure – some scientific, some not. But if the ‘whole package’ requires a metaphysical commitment, a religious commitment beyond the demonstration of the laboratory, then science it is not.

    That said, ‘Darwinism’ has been reworked so many times to include so much more than Darwin envisioned and intended that I sometimes wonder what really remains of it as a theory. Call it a Ship of Theseus style problem – how many times can a theory be amended before it’s not the same theory anymore? Really, the one non-negotiable aspect seems to be… pretty much what Ruse said. ‘Whatever did it, it happened without intention or guidance or design or foresight of any sort.’

    Further, Ruse did say explicitly what I’m saying he did re: Darwinism, and on Biologos no less. He’s not alone in his view either. Frankly, I’m surprised more people aren’t stunned by his move. He made it very explicit.

    Next, what I have pointed out is that random processes are a matter of indifference to theism as such. There is no good argument that the creator is locked into not using real randomness, instead of some species of pseudorandom process. Nor does use of randomness lock God our of intervening is he has reason to.

    It depends on what you’re saying. Are you denying God’s omniscience and omnipotence? If so, that’s fine – I disagree over that point, of course, and I’d further disagree that there’s no good argument for God’s omniscience or omnipotence. And if someone insists that either this or that particular part of nature, or some whole class of events in nature, is utterly unguided and lacking intention, etc, then I’ll note that no good argument exists to demonstrate that claim. We’d be at a metaphysical and philosophical impasse.

    That said, absolutely ID itself doesn’t demand any creator be omniscient or omnipotent or even God – far from it.

    The “otherwise random” aspect was plainly intended to clear the deck for God to intervene, i.e. the situation was credibly not manipulable by men.

    But as I said earlier, that method doesn’t require that on all those other times God was unaware of the ‘random’ outcomes, or not preordaining them, etc. The context drives that situation.

    There is no reason why a lump of radioactive material should not be undergoing a truly random process, nor forbidding an intervention if that is warranted.

    And this depends on what ‘truly random’ means. Random, as in not foreseen or preordained by any mind, God included? I can think of plenty of reasons to deny that, and certainly no way to demonstrate it is in fact the case. Nor does asserting that a mind did foresee or preordain (or even interventionally causes, at each and every event) the events taking place in a radioactive lump require that, say.. the pattern that shows up won’t be such-and-such reliably overtime (a nice, qualified ‘random’ distribution, say.)

    And again, going back to Ruse, I think this is an important and relevant point. What’s more, Dembski himself seems to agree that ID doesn’t require that there is ‘true’ randomness in the world (as in, events and outcomes utterly unforeseen by anyone, God included.): For the Thomist/Aristotelian, final causation and thus design is everywhere. Fair enough. ID has no beef with this. As I’ve said (till the cows come home, though Thomist critics never seem to get it), the explanatory filter has no way or ruling out false negatives (attributions of non-design that in fact are designed).

  47. kairosfocus:

    The reason that people have come to interpret “random” as “causeless” is due to a certain interpretation of quantum physics, the so-called “Copenhagen interpretation,” which is the interpretation of the majority of physicists. According to this interpretation, there is *literally no reason* why one energy level rather than another is assumed by an electron at a given time, or why a radioactive particle is given off at time X rather than five minutes later. Only a statistical generalization can be made for these events; no sufficient cause can be given for any of them taken individually. And this is not just because human beings don’t have the means to perceive the cause; the unpredictability, it is said, is built into nature itself. Randomness is part of the metaphysical fabric of reality, not just a concept useful for science where observation and calculation cannot handle the causal relationships.

    I happen to think that the Copenhagen interpretation is wrong; I think the physicists who hold to it are philosophical incompetents who don’t know what they are talking about. I think they have mistaken the human inability to specify causes for the absence of causes. I think they have mistaken mathematical randomness for ontological randomness. I think that every event in the universe has a fully sufficient natural cause — except in cases where God intervenes. But my view is neither here nor there; I’m just explaining where the random = causeless notion comes from.

    The TEs love quantum indeterminacy because it allows them to have things both ways. You can believe in real randomness in nature while affirming that God is behind the randomness; thus, Darwinian evolution, driven by randomness, is true in science, and God is still the designer of nature in theology. (Never mind that randomness in evolutionary theory means something different from what it means in quantum theory; TEs can’t handle such subtle distinctions.)

    Anyhow, my view (and I think nullasalus may agree with me) is that *if* there were “real randomness” in nature, and *if* the mutations that allegedly drive Darwinian evolution were “truly random,” then we should be able to calculate how likely it is that evolution could proceed by such processes, and by comparing with the time given by the fossil record, estimate the likelihood that purely Darwinian mechanisms are a significant part of evolution. And I think that if one does such calculations, the Darwinian theory is wildly implausible. Macroevolution may have occurred; but if it did, it wasn’t driven by the means specified by Darwin. Something else was going on. Maybe interventions. Or maybe an inherent teleology built into living systems. Either way, it’s design.

    T.

  48. T,

    According to this interpretation, there is *literally no reason* why one energy level rather than another is assumed by an electron at a given time, or why a radioactive particle is given off at time X rather than five minutes later.

    I don’t think that view (brute, basic indeterminism) is specific to the Copenhagen interpretation. But yes, in quantum physics – as near as I can tell – there is the (popular?) view that at the basic level, nature is probablistic and nothing is determining those probabilities. They ‘just happen’.

    To be fair to the physicists, at least some of them think this question gets into philosophy and metaphysics, and thus try not to attach much weight to the view. On the other hand, some do, and still more love to repeat what they say as if this has been or even could be demonstrated.

    (Never mind that randomness in evolutionary theory means something different from what it means in quantum theory; TEs can’t handle such subtle distinctions.)

    I think some handle the distinctions well, though I’ll frankly admit many don’t. There’s the Stephen Barr example again – I think he makes some mistakes on the ID/TE question, but he does a good job of making clear the distinction between ‘modeled as if’ and ‘really is’. I think Barr would object to randomness as Darwinists tend to mean it, but I also get the impression he naively assumes that everyone means what he means when he talks about Darwinism. That strikes me as manifestly untrue.

    And I think that if one does such calculations, the Darwinian theory is wildly implausible. Macroevolution may have occurred; but if it did, it wasn’t driven by the means specified by Darwin. Something else was going on. Maybe interventions. Or maybe an inherent teleology built into living systems. Either way, it’s design.

    I think Darwinism – and any science, really – automatically comes with a certain amount of teleology whether someone likes it or not. Worse, I think the idea of ‘Darwinian mechanisms’ has exploded lately – is neutral evolution a “darwinian mechanism”? The impression I get is “Yes, in that we can call it that, because Darwinism now means whatever we want it to mean”. Was deep homology expected on Darwinism? Apparently not, until it was discovered – then it turned out that, well, we can incorporate that into Darwinism too. And HGT. Maybe even mutational biases in evolution. And convergence. And…

    Further, I honestly wonder what reply of many Darwinists would be to your question of ‘likelihood’. The impression I get is that many are committed to saying that what we see in nature is radically unlikely, that we should certainly not expect humans – even mere ‘intelligent, moral creatures’ – to exist given Darwinism. And yet here we are. Aren’t we lucky?

    After all, the cost of explaining away the chance and arguing that humans or ‘moral, intelligent creatures’ should be expected on evolution is to add increasing amount of direction to the evolutionary process – but to do that is to dabble even more explicitly in teleology. Yet to argue that we (and perhaps, other complicated structures) are incredibly unlikely given the mechanisms, resources and time – yet here we are – is to open the door to the question of a different variety of rigging. Since we know there’s one thing that can use a very ‘chancy’ process to create a particular outcome – a mind.

    I guess a good summary of my view would be that I think too much of the anti-teleology that comes with the Darwinism package is of a variety that forms a metaphysical, ideological commitment, not anything that can even hope to be supported scientifically, even in principle. Scrap the metaphysics and you’re left with, at best, yet another mechanism and process a designer could implement and exploit to achieve an end.

    To use a classic example, Mount Rushmore was designed. How was it designed? The possible answers to that are varied. A given designer, certainly one of the sort Christians specifically and theists generally envision, has quite an array of tools at the ready.

  49. nullasalus
    There are multiple misunderstanding between us. So let me start from scratch. I believe these two hypotheses to have the same status:
    The world was designed by an omnipotent God who wants to maximise human joy.
    The world was designed by an omnipotent God who wants it to be comprehensible.
    They are both capable of refutation by identifying aspects of the world that are in one case malevolent and in the other case incomprehensible – and to this extent they are capable of scientific enquiry. On the other hand, even if it turned that the world was completely benevolent and comprehensible to humans they would be unsatisfactory hypotheses because they are ad hoc. This applies to any hypothesis of the form:
    “The world has feature X because an omnipotent God wants feature X.”
    I do not see what is inconsistent about this and I am not sure which bit you disagree with.

  50. Null & T:

    First, I think a common [mis-]reading of the Copenhagen interpretation is where the error is, not in the theory itself. Remember the significance of the city in which it was held: Bohr’s hometown, and hosted by him.

    No knowledgeable person could reasonably accuse Bohr, especially, of being a philosophical incompetent! (And a lot of others there were no slouches either.)

    What was meant by the Copenhagen view, is that relevant quantum phenomena follow a random statistical pattern, not that there were no underlying causal factors that set up the situation; which includes necessary ones — as I have discussed. For instance, radioactive decay by quantum tunnelling of an alpha particle in an unstable nucleus will follow a random pattern, but fits in underlying probabilities so that there is a definite measurable decay constant that leads to a definite half-life. We may not be able to predict which specific atoms in a mass of radioactive substance will decay when, but we know some very definite things about the population of atoms.

    Similarly, in statistical thermodynamics, we do not know specifics of the individual particles, but we are able to deduce key overall population distribution parameters — what the Zustandsum or partition function does — and connect these to bulk properties such as temperature, pressure, electrical activity [I think here of the significance of the Fermi level in electronics] etc.

    The fact that we have population properties that are stable and measurable, tells us the underlying process though random is not chaotic, outside of law.

    In turn, that answers to Null’s unfortunate characterisation:

    Are you denying God’s omniscience and omnipotence? If so, that’s fine – I disagree over that point, of course, and I’d further disagree that there’s no good argument for God’s omniscience or omnipotence. And if someone insists that either this or that particular part of nature, or some whole class of events in nature, is utterly unguided and lacking intention, etc, then I’ll note that no good argument exists to demonstrate that claim . . . .

    that method doesn’t require that on all those other times God was unaware of the ‘random’ outcomes, or not preordaining them, etc. The context drives that situation . . . .

    this depends on what ‘truly random’ means. Random, as in not foreseen or preordained by any mind, God included? I can think of plenty of reasons to deny that, and certainly no way to demonstrate it is in fact the case. Nor does asserting that a mind did foresee or preordain (or even interventionally causes, at each and every event) the events taking place in a radioactive lump require that, say.. the pattern that shows up won’t be such-and-such reliably overtime (a nice, qualified ‘random’ distribution, say.)

    Sniff, sniff, I think I smell a burning strawman in the morning . . .

    More specifically, I think we have been so used to thinking in terms of projecting certain partricular views as highlighted as THE alternatives, that we forget that there is another way.

    I have therefore highlighted the crucial point where the argument goes off into strawman-tinged error. Doubtless, inadvertently, so deep is the programming tracing to the old and fruitless debates over Calvinism and especially its hyper-forms.

    For, at first level corrective, as a point of simple analysis: God’s (and here I am speaking of God in the sense of the concept of God) foreknowing — or more accurately his immediate and direct awareness of all things at all times — is not to be conflated with his direct programming that this must and shall be so.

    Knowing that X is not the same as forcing that X.

    Even, for God.

    To know that X is not to CAUSE that X. That God knows that X will occur is not the sufficient cause that X occurs. It is a necessary condition, on his omnipresence and omniscience, but necessity is not sufficiency in causality or in implication logic.

    P => Q means P is sufficient for Q and Q necessary for P. Notice the counter-flow of sufficiency and necessity. Fuel is necessary for a fire, but it is not sufficient for it. God knowing that X is necessary once X is real, if God is omniscient, but the mere fact of God’s knowing that X does not mean that he is its sufficient cause.

    X may happen by a random process God has designed and implements for good reason, e.g temperature is a key feature of reality, and is a measure of the average random energy per degree of freedom for microparticles. It is intimately involved in any number of key processes, including life processes that use diffusion or osmosis etc. Similarly, to enable virtue, God grants freedom to choose to love — no choice, no love and thus no virtue — knowing that sometimes freedom will be abused, forming evil. But a world in which love and other virtues are possible is a world in which a whole class of good that would otherwise be impossible now becomes possible.

    (This is a crucial error often made by those who so focus on God’s sovereignty that they swallow all up in a hard determinism, regardless of absurd and perverse consequences.)

    This is why among other points I keep returning to the ancient Israelite practice of seeking guidance from God through what would in normal circumstances be random processes, e.g. casting lots.

    [ . . . ]

  51. Pardon an excerpt from Wiki:

    ____________________

    >> Cleromancy is a form of divination using sortition, casting of lots, or casting bones or stones as in lithomancy, in which an outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but are believed to reveal the will of God, or other supernatural entities . . . .

    Casting of lots occurs relatively frequently in the Bible, and many biblical scholars think that the Urim and Thummim served this purpose.

    In the Hebrew Bible, there are at least four cases where casting lots was invoked as a means of determining God’s mind:

    1. In the Book of Joshua 7:11-22, God commands that a thief be found by casting lots, first among the tribes of Israel, then among the families of that tribe, etc. Achan, the person identified in this way, confesses his guilt, and shows where he has buried the loot.
    2. In the First book of Samuel 10:17-24, the people of Israel demand God to set a king over them, and God decrees a king to be found by a procedure similar to the above, leading to the selection of king Saul.
    3. Also in the First book of Samuel 14:42, lots are used to determine that it was Jonathan, Saul’s son, who broke the oath that Saul made, “Cursed be the man who eats food until its evening and I am avenged on my enemies”.
    4. In the Book of Jonah 1:7, casting of lots is used to determine that Jonah was the cause of the storm. He was subsequently cast overboard, and the storm dissipated.

    Other places in the Hebrew Bible relevant to divination:

    * Book of Proverbs 16:33: The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from Yahweh and 18:18: The lot settles disputes, and keeps strong ones apart..
    * Book of Leviticus 16:7-10: On the Day of Atonement lots are cast over two goats to determine which will be the sacrifice and which will be the Scapegoat.
    * Leviticus 19:26: …. neither shall you practice [nahash] or [onan][1]. The literal meaning of nahash is hissing, though it can be extended to whispering, and it has historically been understood to refer to enchantment; onan literally translates as clouds, possibly referring to nephomancy. Some English translations render onan as augury (interpreting the flight patterns of birds), but others translate it as sorcery . . . .

    Note that there are two distinct Hebrew concepts which are confused if both are translated by casting of lots. Although nahash literally means to hiss when used as a verb, as a noun it means serpent; the idea of divination, or fortune-telling, is conveyed through association with the breath [fig. spirit] of a serpent [fig. deceiver][unreliable source?]. In contrast, the Hebrew word for lot-casting, gowral, merely means to assign portions, or allotments, in the interests of fairness.

    The most notable example in the New Testament occurs in the Acts of the Apostles 1:23-26 where the eleven remaining apostles draw lots to determine whether Matthias or Barsabbas (surnamed Justus) would be chosen to replace Judas. >>

    ____________________

    I am of course not particularly happy with the Wiki terminology.

    On substance, we observe that the key concept is that God is able to intervene in a process that is beyond human control and would otherwise be random. Given the universality of gambling in cultures, and its premise on randomness, the Israelites plainly understood this.

    So, the issue pivots on the same thing as miracles vs the normal course of nature (and is related to the question of the power of a mind to supervene on a body, including a brain); as I previously pointed out. Particularly, that God sets up the normal course of nature and that it has in it causal factors tracing to mechanical necessity, chance and intelligence, does not detract from his sovereignty. It means only that he has chosen to exercise it in a particular way.

    So, for instance, if God has created an order of creature that can think, decide and love (thus be truly virtuous) — rather than acting by pre-programmed robotic instructions and/or chance — that is an expression of his sovereignty, not an undermining of it. That such creatures therefore have significantly — though not unlimitedly — free powers of choice and will, similarly, does not undermine God’s sovereignty, but is the particular way he has chosen to express it. And, such creatures will not go beyond God’s parameters of knowledge of what happens ["in him we live and move and have our being"], nor will they be able to toss the world utterly beyond God’s ability to restore it through loving redemption and healing through the Messiah, the wounded healer despised and rejected of men and acquainted with suffering, but also the one who God will raise up after he has made his soul a sin-offering and has been poured out to death and buried with the rich; as Isa 53 so eloquently puts it.

    God’s sovereignty, on the Biblical theology view, is dynamically and interactively exercised, not a passive pre-programming of a rigid program.

    In this context, that God would similarly allow chance, random behaviour of atoms, molecules etc, is within his sovereignty, not in contradiction to it.

    In short, the notion that randomness has some great metaphysical import that the world is a chaos, and not a cosmos that . . .

    a: obeys laws or order (including cause and effect and other first principles of right reason),

    b: so orders randomness that it is itself orderly on statistical distributions,

    c: has room for free thinking free willing intelligent creatures, and yet

    d: has room in it for God’s direct (indeed, miraculous) intervention when that is important for God’s good purposes

    . . . is absurd on its face.

    So, I think the whole exchange where the reality of chance or randomness is seen as a pivotal metaphysical issue that hinges on the fluttering question: is this a chaos or a cosmos, is simply misdirected.

    We plainly live in a cosmos, that we experience as orderly, reasonable, intelligible, and open to our choice and also has in it things that show forth randomness under control.

    In short, I think there are some key deep conceptual issues that should be addressed, as above. Once that is done, the vexed problem of the reality of chance melts away like fog in the sunshine of a new day.

    Indeed, that process of phase changes is deeply embedded with random microparticle level physical processes under control of intelligible and astonishingly beautiful and powerful elegant laws of nature!

    GEM of TKI

  52. F/N: Darwin’s closing summary:

    __________________

    >> . . Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” [Origin, Ch 15. Emphases added]] >>

    ____________________

    Some updating may be applied but he substantial claim is still at the core of the modern macro-evolutionary view of origins. And, it utterly fails to cogently address and resolve the issue of origin of required information. I find it probably calculated that Darwin cuts off at the question of the root of the tree of life, origin of life.

  53. markf,


    The world was designed by an omnipotent God who wants to maximise human joy.
    The world was designed by an omnipotent God who wants it to be comprehensible.
    They are both capable of refutation by identifying aspects of the world that are in one case malevolent and in the other case incomprehensible – and to this extent they are capable of scientific enquiry.

    You think that ‘identifying malevolence’ is the stuff of scientific inquiry? Considering science has boo to say about values, that’s quite an assertion.

    Nor does finding an aspect of the word that is currently incomprehensible a ‘refutation’ in and of itself. Otherwise absolutely any currently inexplicable phenomena is a ‘refutation’ of, say.. materialism. On the contrary, the fact that science has advanced as much as it has over the centuries just bolsters the rationality claim.

    On the other hand, even if it turned that the world was completely benevolent and comprehensible to humans they would be unsatisfactory hypotheses because they are ad hoc.

    You mean they’re assumptions, exactly like you were saying is not only allowed, but you consider necessary to detect the presence or absence of design?

    Just tell me straight out, Markf: Can the design of an omniscient, omnipotent being and/or its lack be detected by science, or not? None of this ‘inquired into a roughly scientific way but not satisfactory’ stuff. You’ve gone from saying ‘Yes, if you make assumptions about the designer’ to ‘No’ to ‘Kind of, you can explore it, but it’s ad hoc so it’s unsatisfactory so I guess you really can’t’.

  54. kairosfocus,

    Some quick responses for now.

    Sniff, sniff, I think I smell a burning strawman in the morning . . .

    Sorry, that’s just offbase. I burnt no strawmen – I asked for clarification in the open theism case, since you spoke of the “truly random”, and I aired what I thought was a particular problem with any talk of the truly random. If you’re saying that God foreknows all, even if He does not force all, then I fail to see how the ‘random’ can be ‘truly random’. Certainly a distinction must be made.

    For, at first level corrective, as a point of simple analysis: God’s (and here I am speaking of God in the sense of the concept of God) foreknowing — or more accurately his immediate and direct awareness of all things at all times — is not to be conflated with his direct programming that this must and shall be so.

    Knowing that X is not the same as forcing that X.

    Even, for God.

    (This is a crucial error often made by those who so focus on God’s sovereignty that they swallow all up in a hard determinism, regardless of absurd and perverse consequences.)

    Plenty to discuss here theologically, but I’m going to sidestep it for one reason: The theological dispute isn’t the point for me. It’s the scientific dispute, namely just what science as science can possibly show. And crucially, science cannot show – is incapable of showing – that the outcomes and events of evolution are neither foreknown or preordained nor ultimately guided.

    Perhaps God foreknows all but does not force all. Perhaps God foreknows and does program everything. Perhaps many different things, and perhaps these things can be demonstrated with philosophy and reason. But science just has not, and in principle cannot, cross that bridge. And when Darwinians say that God cannot and did not foreknow the outcomes of evolution, cannot have or did not guide the evolutionary process, and that this is science, it is an abuse of science. (You’ll note that I have not been claiming the truth, much less scientific truth, of any kind of “hard determinism”. I’ve focused squarely on a documented claim made by some Darwinians, and what I see as one of the central problems with the entire modern discussion about evolution and design.)

  55. Onlookers: MF of course hints at the problem of evils — how neatly atheistical debaters omit the problem they face: implications of the reality of good and the related reality of evil — without admitting he actual state of play post Plantinga’s Free Will Defense. Cf,. here.

  56. #53

    You mean they’re assumptions, exactly like you were saying is not only allowed, but you consider necessary to detect the presence or absence of design?

    Necessary – but not sufficient.

    Just tell me straight out, Markf: Can the design of an omniscient, omnipotent being and/or its lack be detected by science, or not?

    I can only tell you what I believe to be true which happens not to be a straightforward answer.

    If that is the total description then it cannot be detected (or refuted) by science.

    If you add some assumptions about motives (but nothing else) then you can refute it scientifically but cannot establish its truth scientifically.

    If you say something also about how it implemented its design then it can be both refuted and potentially detected scientifically.

    I believe this is what I have been saying all along. I am sorry if it has not been clear.

    Now which bit do you disagree with?

  57. Null:

    Pardon, my phrasing was plainly unclear — and unnecessarily hurtful — to you. I am sorry for that.

    Please note, I specifically highlighted that the strawman mischaracterisation I spoke of is inadvertent and that it traces to the old debates over Calvinism and hypercalvinism that blind us to alternatives that are there. I feel that I am being squeezed into someone else’s shoes that pinch hot hot hot!

    How many other ways can I say that, to make it plain that you have not accurately captured either the range of possibilities or my views, and that this is leading you into a distorted conclusion?

    I hope I am clear enough, without being unnecessarily painful.

    I proceeded to elaborate such on the old Hebraic praxis of casting lots. That is, a random process may exist in a world designed by God as a real thing, without implying that God cannot intervene specifically if he wishes, or that he world at large is a chaos. Randomness does not entail a chaos not a cosmos.

    The underlying projection of a misunderstanding comes out in the implied contrast:

    If you’re saying that God foreknows all, even if He does not force all, then I fail to see how the ‘random’ can be ‘truly random’. Certainly a distinction must be made.

    Truly random means that something is highly contingent without specific intelligent direction of outcomes. The sequence of readings of a fair die under normal — not “lot-casting” — circumstances will be random in this sense. Same, for the distribution of kinetic etc energies among microparticles in a body of gas or liquid. God does not have to tell every molecule of H2O in that coffee pot on the fire to take up this particular quantum of energy just now. Setting up a situation where microparticles exchange energy by interacting freely and in great number is sufficient for the result to happen.

    That God knows immediately — by omnipresence and omniscience — that each and every particle will have a particular quantum of energy at a given instant, and succession of instants, does not mean that he has assigned angels to push them around from moment to moment [though he presumably could if he wanted to]; all that is needed is to set up a physical system with the appropriate parameters. Indeed, it is no accident that the empirically observable gas laws and parameters such as pressure, temperature, volume, PVT relationships would emerge mathematically by setting up a model of particles moving at random and deducing consequences.

    At a different scale, and factoring in nuclear reactions, a model cloud of hydrogen atoms forming a gas body, and collapsing under gravity and forming a hydrogen ball will go through the credible, empirically supported life cycle of a star.

    Is the involvement of random atomic and molecular processes in such a model a mark of chaos beyond lawful, orderly processes of the natural world? Not at all.

    By sharpest contrast, when such molecular interactions are held to be responsible for he origin of life in some warm little pond or undersea volcanic vent or wherever the latest scene for act 1 scene 1 on the evolutionary materialist tree of life is set, as an applied physicist who has worked with digital information systems from the gates, circuits and registers, machine code and assembly language view, I must say: no way!

    The sort of functionally prescriptive information involved in DNA is so complex that the resulting configuration space is going to so deeply isolate islands of function relative to searches on the scope of our cosmos as observed, that the account is not plausible at all, and certainly bears no comparison to H-ball models for stellar formation and life cycles.

    The same holds for the onward models proposed for the elaboration of the dozens of main body plans on chance variation and culling on differential reproductive success.

    In that context, we have good reason to see that random processes are involved in a lot of natural phenomena, starting with something so commonplace as what your thermometer is reading.

    Here, I cite AmHD:

    ran·dom (rndm)
    adj.
    1. Having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective: random movements. See Synonyms at chance.
    2. Mathematics & Statistics Of or relating to a type of circumstance or event that is described by a probability distribution.
    3. Of or relating to an event in which all outcomes are equally likely, as in the testing of a blood sample for the presence of a substance.
    Idiom:
    at random
    Without a governing design, method, or purpose; unsystematically: chose a card at random from the deck.
    [From at random, by chance, at great speed, from Middle English randon, speed, violence, from Old French, from randir, to run, of Germanic origin.]
    random·ly adv.
    random·ness n.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

    Wiki has an unusually good elaboration:

    _________________

    >> Randomness has somewhat disparate meanings as used in several different fields. It also has common meanings which may have loose connections with some of those more definite meanings. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “random” thus:

    Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, etc., without method or conscious choice; haphazard.

    Closely connected, therefore, with the concepts of chance, probability, and information entropy, randomness implies a lack of predictability. [I add, but God makes no actual predictions -- he is present everywhere, everywhen in our space-time domain so he is immediately aware of all that is or from our viewpoint, will be] Randomness is a concept of non-order or non-coherence in a sequence of symbols or steps, such that there is no intelligible pattern or combination. [I add: in other words, knowing the past path does not give you a guide to the specific outcomes for the future, though it may help you characterise a probability distribution, thus bridging from uncertainty to risk in decision-making]

    The fields of mathematics, probability, and statistics use formal definitions of randomness. In mathematics, a random variable is a way to assign a value to each possible outcome of an event. In probability and statistics, a random process is a repeating process whose outcomes follow no describable deterministic pattern, but follow a probability distribution, such that the relative probability of the occurrence of each outcome can be approximated or calculated. For example, the rolling of a fair six-sided die in neutral conditions may be said to produce random results, because one cannot know, before a roll, what number will show up. However, the probability of rolling any one of the six rollable numbers can be calculated. [notice the classic example]

    The term is often used in statistics to signify well-defined statistical properties, such as a lack of bias or correlation. Monte Carlo Methods, which rely on random input, are important techniques in science, as, for instance, in computational science.[1] Random selection is an official method to resolve tied elections in some jurisdictions[2] and is even an ancient method of divination, as in tarot, the I Ching, and bibliomancy. Its use in politics is very old, as office holders in Ancient Athens were chosen by lot, there being no voting. >>
    _________________

    Here, the implication is strong: randomness does not have any grand metaphysical import. Randomness in its clearest terms, is a particular statistical property:

    In probability and statistics, a random process is a repeating process whose outcomes follow no describable deterministic pattern, but follow a probability distribution, such that the relative probability of the occurrence of each outcome can be approximated or calculated.

    Things may be according to a flat or peaked bell type curve or reverse J or even a U distribution or the like without that requiring that the world is a chaos.

    Those who infer from the existence of randomness to the absence of cause of such random outcomes, and onward to a chaos not a cosmos, are committing demonstrable non-sequiturs, or jumping to conclusions driven by question-begging hidden a prioris.

    Once we see that things that begin to exist have circumstances under which they do not/do exist, then they have blocking factors that can prevent their existence. Such blocking factors are necessary causes, e.g. no gas, your car cannot drive. So, since we live in a world that credibly had a beginning, we have every good reason to see the cosmos as caused, much less what is in it.

    We may be unable to specify the necessary and sufficient conditions for a particular effect to happen just now just there, to just that, but that is different form the event has no cause. The very fact that it begins at a some when, somewhere, somehow means it has a cause external to itself.

    So, the notion of causeless events is absurd, once we recognise the reality of necessary — as opposed to sufficient — causal factors. For instance, no unstable atom, no radioactive decay. The atom must exist and it must be unstable, for it to be able to subsequently decay.

    That we cannot predict when a particular atom will decay is irrelevant to the fact that the decay must be caused, since it has necessary factors. And,the fact that a population of atoms exhibits a definite probabilistic pattern to the decay implies that there is a lawlike process governing the decay.

    Now, in such a context, that God could make a world in which such randomness occurs, does not entail that the world is somehow out of control. Nor does having creatures able to choose to love mean the world is an out of control chaos that God is either watching in a horrified panic or is desperately trying to figure out how to bring it back into order.

    A Creator God is not to be confused with a Demiurge.

    So, we are not forced to imagine that randomness is opposed to the sovereignty of God, that is a questionable jump to a conclusion that is unwarranted by the evidence in hand.

    Nor are we forced to make the even more illogical leap from randomness exists to the random events are causeless and we live in a chaos not a cosmos.

    If that is your concern, the answer is to correct the errors of reasoning involved. Starting with helping such to see that cause is more than and different from what hey seem to imagine it is, in their haste to reject it.

    As a philosophically and theologically aware physicist, I see no good reason to reject the reality of randomness. I see no good reason to jump from accepting that reality to the conclusion that we live in a world where events are causeless.

    And, I see no good reason to leap to the further absurdity that — despite the success of science in elucidating precisely the many causal patterns we study — that the world is a chaos not an orderly and at least partially intelligible cosmos.

    GEM of TKI

  58. F/N: As usual, MF is refusing to acknowledge the force of the argument that causes trace to chance, and/or necessity and/or art, that each has empirically discernible, reliable signs, and that for the signs relevant to design theory, there are obvious empirical tests.

    For example if a typical 20 or so word sentence or two in English could credibly have come to be in our observation on chance variations, then the whole concept of functionally specific complex information as a sign of intelligent design, and the wider concept of complex specified information would collapse.

    Thus, the possibility of empirical test and refutation is there. So far, on billions of cases on the internet, the sign is holding up very well thank you.

    (His studied responsiveness would be amusing, if it were not so sad.)

  59. OOPS: His studied UNresponsiveness would be amusing, if it were not so sad.

  60. KF RE 50 “Similarly, to enable virtue, God grants freedom to choose to love — no choice, no love and thus no virtue — ”

    This is a perfect example of the old adage that if you say something enough times it becomes accepted as a fact.

    So God has no virtue? The angels in heaven have no virtue? When we are in heaven we will have no virtue? It is impossible for the angels, the saints in heaven and for God to sin. So following your logic God cannot love nor is God virtuous the same goes for the saints and angels in heaven.

    “The highest and the perfect state of the will is a state of necessity; and the power of choice, so far from being essential to a true and genuine will is its weaknes and defect. What can be a greater sign of an imperfect and immature state of the will than that,with good and evil before it, it should be in suspense which to do?” Mozley

    Vivid

  61. RE 60 The same holds true for choice. God neccessarily ( by neccessity) cannot choose ever to sin. If true freedom of choice requires non neccessity, then God Himself, the most free being, does not have free choice.

    Vivid

  62. Vivid:

    God loves because his character is good, indeed, he is the fount of good will and all that is good — as was just celebrated.

    God is not a robot, nor are angels, nor are men.

    To be in suspense over which of good or evil to do is not a sign of the imperfection of choosing in itself , but of our moral struggle; indeed your theologians need to reflect a bit more on the Garden of Gethsemane and Who was choosing there, even sweating blood: not my will but thine.

    God, who knows the right perfectly, also chooses the right perfectly. But on a far better authority than any theologian you can cite, it is a choice.

    And it is not a tautology nor a logic of necessity external to himself; goodness is in his character.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  63. KF RE 62 With all due respect the points you are making are not in dispute. Neither God ,angels or men are robots.To be in suspense over which of good or evil to do is not a sign of the imperfection of choosing in itself. Nor are “my theologians” asserting that free choices are not made by men God, Christ in the garden or by the angels in heaven.

    As to “my theologians” I am perfectly capable of thinking for myself thank you very much.The issue is does virtue, love and free choice require non neccessity in order to be present. Is it a sign of a mature and perfect will when good and evil are before it that one is in suspense as to which to choose? I am speaking of neccessity as choosing in the same way as you when you wrote “And it is not a tautology nor a logic of necessity external to himself; goodness is in his character”

    Vivid

  64. —vivid: “So God has no virtue? The angels in heaven have no virtue? When we are in heaven we will have no virtue? It is impossible for the angels, the saints in heaven and for God to sin.”

    Vivid, it is God’s nature to be good. Indeed, God is goodness itself and cannot do evil. Humans and angels are different. Many angels made bad choices, failed the test of virtue, and lost heaven; others made good choices, passed the test of virtue, and won heaven. It’s all in the record. It is the same with men, all of whom, with the help of God, must pass the test of virtue. Without God’s help no one can pass that test. ["Without me, you can do nothing"]

    In the final analysis, we choose our own destiny. Once we win heaven, however, we can no longer lose it because we have already chosen to “become a new creature” and transform ourselves into Christ. While we inhabit the earth, though, we must, with the help of God’s grace, make a free will decision to allow that transformation to take place. There is no charm in a “yes,” unless a “no” is possible.

  65. that should read, “chosen to become a new creature and [allow ourselves] to be transformed”

  66. I like this quote from this video around the 2:30 min. mark:

    ‘God is neither a cosmic rapist who forces His love on people, nor a cosmic puppeteer who forces people to love Him, rather God, the very personification of love, grants us choice.’

    Studying Near Death Experiences – 4 / 8
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdE6fAGR3Ok

  67. Here’s the entire quote:

    ‘God is neither a cosmic rapist who forces His love on people, nor a cosmic puppeteer who forces people to love Him, rather God, the very personification of love, grants us choice. So people who have lived a whole lifetime voluntarily distancing themselves from God are not in the end involuntarily dragged into His presence for all eternity, if they were heaven would not be heaven, heaven in fact would be hell.

  68. as a side note, Please note, in the following video, the similarity of the effect noted at the 3:22 minute mark, for traveling at the speed of light, with the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ effect noted in many Near Death Experiences.

    Traveling At The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5733303/

  69. markf,

    I can only tell you what I believe to be true which happens not to be a straightforward answer.

    If you add some assumptions about motives (but nothing else) then you can refute it scientifically but cannot establish its truth scientifically.

    Thank you – we’re done here. The fact that you won’t give a straightforward answer to a very simple question speaks volumes. Further, no one said anything about ‘establishing truth’, but about reasonable inferences – even Jerry Coyne will say that ‘all truth in science is provisional’. It’s bad enough to deal with shifting goalposts, but when someone refuses to even put the goal in the ground in the first place, my interest disappears.

    But hey, at least we’ve had a great demonstration of how some people desire deeply to maintain a clearly hypocritical position about science re: design.

  70. #69 nullasalus

    I agree we are done. I have laid out my position as clearly as I can. I am sorry that you do not find it to be straightforward (surely it is not so very complicated?). But I am not going to give a straightforward answer that I believe to be wrong just to satisfy you.

    What I find very odd is that throughout the discussion I don’t remember you identifying anything I wrote that you thought was wrong.

  71. kairosfocus,

    Pardon, my phrasing was plainly unclear — and unnecessarily hurtful — to you. I am sorry for that.

    No problem, just making sure.

    Truly random means that something is highly contingent without specific intelligent direction of outcomes.

    Then this is the first time I’ve run into this usage of “truly random”. All other times “truly random” as I’ve read it has been intended as “outcomes foreseen and/or preordained by no one, God included”.

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines “random” thus:

    Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, etc., without method or conscious choice; haphazard.

    As a philosophically and theologically aware physicist, I see no good reason to reject the reality of randomness. I see no good reason to jump from accepting that reality to the conclusion that we live in a world where events are causeless.

    All I can do here, in the interest of brevity, is repeat my last response: Science does not, and indeed cannot, establish the truth of ‘randomness’ – even in the modified sense you’re using, certainly in that stronger “hard determinist” (Calvinist?) sense. Pick the most mundane example you want, like an emission from a radioactive lump. Was said emission without purpose? Was it guided? Was there no method involved, no act of mind? Science can suggest patterns, expected conditions, likely results, etc, but not much more than that.

    Now philosophically and theologically, we may have good reasons to believe certain things – maybe rejecting ‘hard determinism’, maybe embracing it, maybe many other things. As I said, I’m sidestepping the greater theological discussion in this case, because noting the limits of science (and breaches of said limits) is my main concern here. You can tell me that every physicist in the world believes X is true, but if X happens to be something beyond science’s capability to deal with, I will remain unmoved – at least insofar as the status of a physicist carries some authority.

  72. markf,

    What I find very odd is that throughout the discussion I don’t remember you identifying anything I wrote that you thought was wrong.

    Mark, your discussion with me has been marked by – in your own words – you claiming you misspoke, miscommunicated, were not coming across clearly, and finally it was capped off with an admission of not being able to give a straight answer. If you ‘can’t recall where I disagreed with you about anything’, I suggest you go back and read the exchange. Maybe what you meant is that you don’t recall saying anything that didn’t proceed to get rephrased and modified and reworked each time I pursued the reasoning of what was being said.

  73. Null:

    First, I agree: science can provide no demonstrations beyond all doubt.

    However, it can provide warrant that leads us to the provisional conclusion that certain experiences are factual [including the empirical laws that summarise them, e.g unsupported objects near earth's surface tend to fall at 9.8 m/s^2], certain theories are empirically reliable on such facts, and some conclusions are credibly true and worthy of routine use, pending only a solid counter-example.

    That micro-particles undergo random motion consistent with the kinetic theory etc, has been taken to be a fact ever since Einstein’s explanation of Brownian motion in Annalen Der Physik in 1905, which made a significant contribution to his Nobel Prize. (Contrary to popular belief, Relativity did not contribute much to the award.)

    Indeed, that analysis, that the particles that undergo Brownian motion acted like giant size micro-particles, dancing around as they share the random thermal motion of the invisible atoms and molecules, was taken also as a direct confirmation of the reality of atoms.

    So, I have excellent reason to accept that randomness at this level is real.

    Similarly, the patterns of radioactive decay show a pattern that is credibly random, following a pattern that fits with a probabilistic distribution leading to the theoretical and empirical decay curves.

    You are free to reject such testimony of observations, but if the criteria you use to do so were generally applied, you would lose confidence in your contact with reality through conscious experience of the world based on use of your senses and common sense.

    I confidently conclude that randomness is real and empirically reliable, and that those who deny it have the burden of proof.

    Now, by “true randomness,” I mean, again, in effect what wiki described as cited above, as opposed to the pseudo-random distributions that can, say, be made with a suitably organised counter with well chosen feedback networks. Such counters are actually deterministic, but put out a pretty good imitation of random numbers [and are often used in testing]. Similar things can be done in software.

    I repeat, such things do not in any wise imply onwards that there are uncaused effects or events, once we understand that that which has a beginning has factors external to itself that are blocking [if absent]/enabling [if present]; i.e. necessary causal factors.

    So, we have no reason to fear that randomness leads to a chaos not a cosmos. Indeed, it seems that randomness is a part of the design of the cosmos, that enables a lot of things to get done, including many life processes such as getting rid of wasted in the blood in our kidneys, the functioning of lungs to get oxygen into the blood and CO2 out of it, etc etc.

    So, the controlled use of randomness is a part and parcel of the design and organisation of our world. And as a direct consequence we come to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, one of the most reliable of all laws in physics.

    Radioactive decay, closely follows models of randomness, and it is highly reasonable to believe that relevant quantum processes like quantum tunnelling, obey probability distributions of randomness. the burden of proof is on the one who imagines they are only pseudo-random.

    Going further, you will note from the examples already given, that the ancient hebraic view as recorded in the scriptures, is entirely compatible with real randomness, but open to intervention from God for purposes of his own.

    In short, randomness is not necessarily opposed to God acting directly in specific cases to achieve particular results, while using general randomness as a means of achieving many useful results. [Indeed, even walking is dependent on processes that have random components in them.]

    GEM of TKI

  74. kairosfocus,

    However, it can provide warrant that leads us to the provisional conclusion that certain experiences are factual [including the empirical laws that summarise them, e.g unsupported objects near earth's surface tend to fall at 9.8 m/s^2], certain theories are empirically reliable on such facts, and some conclusions are credibly true and worthy of routine use, pending only a solid counter-example.

    Absolutely, science is useful in that regard. However, judging any motion or effect – even the relatively mundane example with a radioactive lump – as being ‘unintended’, ‘unforeseen’, etc, is another matter. On some questions, science as science is extremely hobbled.

    I can even provide very qualified counter-examples to back up my inference – an example of something an individual judges as random and purposeless, which is in fact purposeful. This should at least be enough to illustrate my own point, and give people pause when they start talking about identifying randomness – whether in the strong Darwinian sense of ‘foreseen by no one, planned by no one, permitted by no one’, or in your own cited dictionary sense – much less as arguing science demonstrates this as a truth.

    Similarly, the patterns of radioactive decay show a pattern that is credibly random, following a pattern that fits with a probabilistic distribution leading to the theoretical and empirical decay curves.

    But I haven’t at all denied that we identify patterns in nature, nor claimed that said patterns do not come with some explicit explanation of the intention (if any, or lack thereof) behind it on the part of any designer, much less God. Certainly we can identify patterns, even a lack of correlation to such-and-such in the particular. It’s the stronger claims about the lack of intention, lack of purpose, etc, that I question.

    You are free to reject such testimony of observations, but if the criteria you use to do so were generally applied, you would lose confidence in your contact with reality through conscious experience of the world based on use of your senses and common sense.

    But I’m not rejecting the testimony. Indeed, I’m accepting it, but noting – insofar as science goes – its limitations. Philosophy and theology may work with science to make me take a certain position, but the science on its own won’t do such a thing. (Putting aside, for a moment, that science is never utterly free of metaphysics.)

    This reminds me of the question of scientific realism versus anti-realism. Oddly enough, the question of what position to take is a philosophical one, and some scientific anti-realists do exist. (Stephen Hawking himself seems to be flirting with that position. I’m surprised that didn’t get more press than his God comments.)

    Radioactive decay, closely follows models of randomness, and it is highly reasonable to believe that relevant quantum processes like quantum tunnelling, obey probability distributions of randomness. the burden of proof is on the one who imagines they are only pseudo-random.

    Actually, I’ve always understood that the burden of proof comes on whoever is making a positive claim to begin with. If I claim ‘those random distributions are only pseudo-random’, then the onus is on me to make my case. But if someone claims ‘these distributions are truly random (and random means without purpose, intention, foresight, etc)’, they get the burden. That there is a burden – that the answer to these questions is not self-evident on the terms of science alone – is part of my point here.

    But I make no claim here on whether the ‘randomness’ in nature is ‘truly’ random or ‘pseudorandom’. I merely note the limitations of what we can glean from observation. And again, if an army of physicists tells me they believe X, but X happens to be beyond their capacity to determine, I will remain unmoved at least on those terms alone.

    Going further, you will note from the examples already given, that the ancient hebraic view as recorded in the scriptures, is entirely compatible with real randomness, but open to intervention from God for purposes of his own.

    I haven’t been touching on the theological end of things, nor saying that said readings are incompatible. The philosophical and theological discussions are important, just not my focus here. Nor am I taking a ‘hard determinism’ position. I certainly am not saying that reading X is the only possible reading of scripture.

    The science, its limitations, and the violations of those limitations is central for me here.

  75. #72 null

    Mark, your discussion with me has been marked by – in your own words – you claiming you misspoke, miscommunicated, were not coming across clearly, and finally it was capped off with an admission of not being able to give a straight answer. If you ‘can’t recall where I disagreed with you about anything’, I suggest you go back and read the exchange.

    I looked and couldn’t find anything. However, there are quite a lot of comments and I may have missed something.

    When someone does not understand my point I tend to assume it is my fault for not making myself clear. So I try to rephrase it a different way. I like to think this is more polite and constructive than the usual “aren’t you able to read?” or “you need to take lessons in …” that you often get on blogs. It is quite hard when the response is to be accused of continually shifting the goalposts!

    Look again at my comment #53. It was a fairly simple answer – I couldn’t give a straighter answer because the answer is not simple. What do you want me to do – lie? I asked you which bit you disagreed with. No response.

  76. markf,

    What do you want me to do – lie? I asked you which bit you disagreed with. No response.

    First, I said we were done here. When you say you can’t give a straight answer, especially after the backtracking, the entire thing starts to come across as an all-too-common internet game.

    Second, ‘no response’ is flat out untrue. I said explicitly that your talk of ‘establishing the truth of design’ was ludicrous, because science isn’t in the business of ‘establishing truth’ on those terms right in 69. Somehow, that just passed you by. Further, design – even by ID proponents, at least every one I’ve thus far been familiar with – is regarded not as an establishment of truth, but as the taking of a reasonable inference subject to the same limitations of any scientific inference.

    As it is, you’ve gone from saying that design can be detected so long as motivations and abilities are assumed, to then saying that assumptions of motivations and abilities are ad hoc and therefore the inferences aren’t scientific, to then saying, well no you can kinda-sorta use a scientific-ish method to refute a design claim but observations consistent with design claims don’t count because they don’t ‘establish truth’ and also they’re ad hoc to now.. mostly just sticking around. Figure out what you actually think about these questions, figure out a way to state it concisely, and be willing to either stick to your position or admit it’s being dropped or modified. Until then, there’s just nothing interesting you’re telling me.

  77. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for your comments and thanks for all that you contribute to this forum.

    “Vivid, it is God’s nature to be good. Indeed, God is goodness itself and cannot do evil.”

    I am a classical theist. God is a necessary being, He cannot not exist. He is a spirit, eternal, immutable, all knowing, all powerful, etc, etc. He cannot deny His being, and all that He is, He cannot not be what He is. God’s immutable nature is good so God by necessity can not do evil and only do good. God by necessity can only choose good and cannot choose evil. I think we agree.

    To say God acts, chooses, etc by necessity does not mean that God is being forced to do these things by some external power. The necessity flows from His being therefore even though He acts and chooses by necessity His choices and acts are free acts. God is by necessity virtuous and loving. My point being that love, virtue and free choice are not incompatible with necessity. My further point is that we would be more virtuous if we by necessity could only choose that which is good.

    “What can be a greater sign of an imperfect and immature state of the will than that,with good and evil before it, it should be in suspense which to do?”

    It is a defect to have to struggle and ponder whether we should do good.

    Vivid

  78. Vivid, I always appreciate and respect your comments. Thank you.

  79. Null

    Let me discuss an example to help clarify what I am saying, a simplified, non-mathematical, intuitive version of kinetic theory.

    Consider a box, filled with tiny perfectly hard marbles, scattered similar to a raisin-filled Christmas pudding (pardon how the textual elements give the impression of a regular grid, think of them as scattered more or less hap-hazardly as would happen in a cake):

    ===================
    ||:::::::::::::::||
    ||:::::::::::::::||=== ||:::::::::::::::||
    ===================

    Now, let them all be at rest.

    Then, imagine that a layer of them against the leftmost wall were given a sudden, hard push to the right [the left and right ends are pistons].

    The moving balls would begin to collide with the marbles to their right, and in this model perfectly elastically. So, as they hit, the other marbles would be set in motion.

    As the glancing angles vary, the marbles hit and the original marbles would bounce in all sorts of directions. Then, they would also deflect off the walls, bouncing back into the body of the box and other marbles.

    Soon, the marbles will be moving in all sorts of directions, with varying speeds, forming what is called the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution, a bell-shaped curve. And, this would emerge independent of the specific initial arrantgement or how we impart motion to it, i.e this is an attractor pattern: once the marbles are set in motion somehow, and move around and interact, they will soon enough settle into the M-B pattern. E.g. the same would happen if a small charge of explosive were set off in the middle of the box, pushing our the balls there into the rest, and so on. And once the M-B pattern sets in, it will strongly tend to continue.

    A pressure would be exerted on the walls of the box by the collisions of marbles bouncing off the walls, and this would be increased by pushing in the left or right walls (which would do work to push in against the pressure, naturally increasing the speed of the marbles just like a ball has its speed increased when it is hit by a bat going the other way, whether cricket or baseball).

    Temperature emerges as a measure of the average random kinetic energy of the marbles in any given direction, left, right, to us or away from us.

    We could actually deduce the classical — empirical — gas laws [and variants] from this.

    Thus, from the implications of classical, Newtonian physics, we soon see the hard little marbles moving at random, and how randomness gives rise to gas-like behaviour. It also shows how there is a natural tendency for systems to move from more orderly to more disorderly states, i.e. we see the outlines of the second law of thermodynamics.

    To see diffusion in action, imagine that at the beginning,the balls in the right half were red, and those in the left half were black. After a little while, as they bounce and move, the balls would naturally mix up, and it would be very unlikely indeed — through logically possible — for them to spontaneously un-mix, as the number of possible combinations of position, speed and direction where the balls are mixed up is vastly more than those where they are all red to the right, all alack to the left or something similar.

    (This can be calculated, by breaking he box up into tiny little cells such that they would have at most one ball in them, and we can analyse each cell on occupancy, colour, location, speed and direction of motion. thus, we have defined a phase or state space, going beyond a mere configuration space that just looks at locations.)

    So, from the orderly arrangement of laws and patterns of initial motion, we see how randomness emerges through the sensitive dependence of the behaviour on initial and intervening conditions. There would be no specific, traceable pattern that one could follow or predict for the behaviour of the marbles, through we could work out an overall statistical distribution, and could identify overall parameters such as volume, pressure and temperature.

    For Osmosis, let us imagine that he balls are of different size, and that we have two neighbouring boxes with a porous wall between them; but only the smaller marbles can pass through the holes. If the smaller marbles were initially on say the left side, soon, they would begin to pass through to the right, until they were evenly distributed, so that on average as many small balls would pass left as were passing right, i.e., we see dynamic equilibrium. [this extends to evaporation and the vapour pressure of a liquid, once we add in that the balls have a short-range attraction that at even shorter ranges turns into a sharp repulsion, i.e they are hard.]

    Randomness is thus credibly real, and naturally results even in a classical Newtonian world. Quantum theory adds to the picture, but the above is enough to model a lot of what we see as we look at bulk and transport properties of collections of micro-particles. indeed, even viscosity comes out naturally, as if the are are boxes stacked top and bottom that are sliding left or right relative to one another, and suddenly the intervening walls are removed, the balls would tend to diffuse up and down from one stream tube to another, so their drift verlocities will tend to even out, The slower moving stream tubes exert a dragging effect on the faster moving ones.

    And many other phenomena can be similarly explained and applied, based on laws and processes that we can test and validate, and their consequences in simplified but relevant models of the real world.

    When we see such a close match, especially when quantum principles are added in, it gives us high confidence that we are looking at a map of reality. Not the reality itself, but a useful map. And, that map tells us that thanks to sensitive dependence on initial conditions, randomness will be a natural part of the micro-world. That is, we see a steady pattern of a statistical distribution, one that will come back rapidly if there is a disturbance, and this also implies that there is no predictability in the long term (save for an omniscient entity). the sense of no-purpsoese tha tis relevant — language is inherently ambiguous so we need to be sensitive to context — is that the specific long term pattern is not credibly directed to a particular end, there is a dominant distribution, not a detailed plan a la Laplace’s (finite) Demon who could predict the long term path of the world on its initial conditions and sufficient calculating power and time. And, though God may indeed be immediately aware of that long term pattern of specific outcomes, that does not mean that he is locked into not using secondary causal patterns such as natural laws to effect the pattern. We have a cosmos not a chaos, in short. But equally, since short term interventions that are subtle can have significant effects, there is room for the intelligent and sophisticated intervention; e.g. through a Maxwell’s demon who can spot faster moving and slower moving molecules and open/shut a shutter to set one side hotter and the other colder in a partitioned box. Providing he has to take active steps to learn which molecules are moving faster/slower in the desired direction, Brillouin showed that he will be within the second law of thermodynamics. But one who knows beyond such would be exempt from that law. [As in: "in him we live and move and have our being."]

    Putting on philosophical- theological hats for a moment, we can see that such natural randomness is a logical part of a wider orderly design for the world and how it works, and is useful for many things. (So, we should understand lacking purpose or direction in a narrow sense, not the broader metaphysical one you are suggesting. There is no reason to infer from the above sort of consideration to a chaotic world as a whole, indeed the very analysis that gives rise to the M-B pattern is based on ordering laws. So, we can correct the error of the chaos thinkers without resorting to a sort of nuclear option denial of the reality of randomness. Randomness can be real without being chaotic. And, at quantum level, there is no reason for us to reject that there are similar random patterns or even the classic uncertainty results, in the context of a world of finite observers. Since such results from ordering laws, again, it is not chaotic. That is why random decay processes follow definite laws of radioactive decay. And more, e.g we can see how a cavity radiator with a photon gas in it, gives rise to the blackbody radiation pattern, as the emitters at higher frequency pay a penalty of having to put out radiation in bigger lumps. That cavity radiation picture then extends to the cosmos as it is the basis of the cosmic microwave 2.7 K radiation that confirmed the Big Bang theory back in the 1960′s. [Black body radiation on the cavity model was the context in which quantum theory was first discovered by Planck in 1900. He was trying to use a mathematical trick of introducing then smoothing out finite lumps, but the lumps would not go away by playing the usual calculus trick of going to a limit. Bingo, the light went off in his head, and we have quantum theory. In 1905 Einstein then showed that absorption of radiation in the photoelectric effect was also lumpy so the light was always lumpy, i.e in quanta we now call photons. This was another key contribution to his Nobel Prize, from that astonishing Patents Office in Switzerland.])

    Moreover, what we have seen here is a warrant by inference to best reasonable explanation. Once that is on the table, those who would overturn it now have the burden of proof to show a better explanation. In short, the burden of proof issue does not exist in a vacuum, but something is already on the table with a considerable body of warrant developed across centuries since the 1600′s. That is why scientific progress is by inference to best current empirically warranted explanation, as improved by additional investigations. Such can result in theory refinement, or theory replacement.

    In this sort of context, where we have a well-warranted body of theory sitting on an empirical body of observations and applications, to see someone saying that anyone who makes a positive assertion has the burden of proof in dismissal becomes a manifestation of selective hyperskepticism. The burden of WARRANT has been met, across centuries. Those who would move the game forward, have to account for that body of evidence and warrant, then improve on it. There is no justification for airily brushing it away as if it did not exist.

    Of course, many evolutionary materialists would be tempted to assert much the same about their theories. But the case is not at all comparable. For, as this survey outlines and as is detailed in following units linked therefrom, the mechanisms proposed for origin of life and for body plan level evolution are utterly inadequate for task, as soon as the issue of origin of highly structured informational configurations that then work in organised entities is to be accounted for.

    Indeed, the above analysis provides the context in which a lot of what is wrong with the evolutionary materialistic claim becomes evident. (It is no surprise that Maxwell’s Demon works by intelligent application of information, and that Brillouin has formulated the negentropy view of information. Cf my longstanding note on the thermodynamics issues connected to the debates on evolutionary materialism, here.)

    In short, there is good reason to accept that randomness as discussed and defined is a natural part of our world. It does not overthrow order, it emerges from it naturally and spontaneously. It gives rise to several key phenomena used in life systems. And, it is certainly not a-causal or able to transform an orderly world, a cosmos, into a disorderly chaos that has a-causal events in it. Noticing the role of sensitive dependence on initial and intervening conditions, there is room for subtle nudging that would change specific outcomes in the short term; i.e. there is room for the pattern and the exception for good reason. (I.e this is a world model in which there is no reason to forbid miracles! Indeed, as C S Lewis was fond of saying, to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary course of the world, miracles need for there to be an ordinary course, not a confusing chaos.)

    I trust these help us see the other side of the picture.

    GEM of TKI

  80. PS: Ouch my little diagram messed itself up. Let’s try not to be so clever this time, and leave off the rod on the piston:

    ===================
    ||:::::::::::::::||
    ||:::::::::::::::||
    ||:::::::::::::::||
    ===================

    Preview says this should work . . .

  81. F/N: Vivid, your viewpoint is always stimulating. To see where Stephen and I are coming from let me scoop out your remark and make an adjustment or three or so:

    God’s immutable nature is good so God by necessity can WILL not do evil and [WILL] only do good. God by necessity [of his inherently good, loving, just character] can WILL only choose good and cannotWILL NOT choose evil.

    Do you see how this corrects the tendency to see God as externally necessitated, as one horn of the Euthyphro dilemma posits? God is internally motivated by goodness, and WILL do good, so we can trust him with absolute confidence, needing fear nothing that somehow he will choose evil (as ever since Eden the serpent tempts us to slander upon God).

    Citing a classic text in a well loved NIV 84 rendering:

    1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

    3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

    4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

    5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

    In short, faith here rests on confidence in God’s character; not on some imagined external necessity.

  82. oops, I am sleepy this morning, Heb 11: 1 – 6

  83. #76 null

    I stick with my comment #56 as a description of my position:


    If that is the total description then it cannot be detected (or refuted) by science.

    If you add some assumptions about motives (but nothing else) then you can refute it scientifically but cannot establish its truth scientifically.

    If you say something also about how it implemented its design then it can be both refuted and potentially detected scientifically.

    At 58 words that is concise by ID standards. If you think that it is a modification rather than a clarification of previous comments then please disregard all previous comments and stick with this one.

    I am sorry I didn’t recognise your paragraph about “establishing the truth of design” as an answer to my question “Now which bit do you disagree with?”.

    I am intrigued to find that you think it is not possible to establish whether life was designed and furthermore you think that is the opinion of most ID proponents. This appears to rest on a subtle distinction between “detecting the presence of design in life” and “establishing that life was designed” which I must say is beyond me. May I suggest you make that the subject of your next post.

  84. KF RE 81

    KF just like Stephen I am so gratefull that you participate on this forum. This site is so blessed to have contributors such as your self that have the depth of knowledge in science,philosophy and logic to address the issues discussed on this board. Thanks so much for all you do.

    I used “can” rather than “will” because “can” speaks to ability. You know the saying “Yes you “can” but you “may” not. But you are right, to many atheists to say God can’t do this or that they immediately attack God’s omnipotence or claim He is externally necessitated. You and I know that this is an unsophisticate understanding of omnipotence. Omnipotence means that God can do anything that is possible to do, it does not mean that God can do the impossible such as deny His being or create another God.

    Thanks for the suggestion.

    Vivid

  85. F/N: Onlookers, and I stand by my own comment at 58:

    _________________

    >> F/N: As usual, MF [cf 56 supra and Null at 53] is refusing to acknowledge the force of the argument that causes trace to chance, and/or necessity and/or art, that each has empirically discernible, reliable signs, and that for the signs relevant to design theory, there are obvious empirical tests.

    For example if a typical 20 or so word sentence or two in English could credibly have come to be in our observation on chance variations, then the whole concept of functionally specific complex information as a sign of intelligent design, and the wider concept of complex specified information would collapse.

    Thus, the possibility of empirical test and refutation is there. So far, on billions of cases on the internet, the sign is holding up very well thank you.

    (His studied [un]responsiveness would be amusing, if it were not so sad.)>>
    _________________

    I also stand by my remarks at 55 and in the onward linked, on the attempt by MF in 49 to suggest that the now outdated problem of evil is a cogent objection to the reality of a good God:

    Onlookers: MF of course hints at the problem of evils — how neatly atheistical debaters omit the problem they face: implications of the reality of good and the related reality of evil — without admitting he actual state of play post Plantinga’s Free Will Defense. Cf, here.

    I think, on balance, MF’s pattern in this and many other threads (for a long time now) has unfortunately earned the rebuke that Null gave at 69 above:

    [MF:] I can only tell you what I believe to be true which happens not to be a straightforward answer.

    If you add some assumptions about motives (but nothing else) then you can refute it scientifically but cannot establish its truth scientifically.

    [Null:] Thank you – we’re done here. The fact that you won’t give a straightforward answer to a very simple question speaks volumes. Further, no one said anything about ‘establishing truth’, but about reasonable inferences – even Jerry Coyne will say that ‘all truth in science is provisional’. It’s bad enough to deal with shifting goalposts, but when someone refuses to even put the goal in the ground in the first place, my interest disappears.

    But hey, at least we’ve had a great demonstration of how some people desire deeply to maintain a clearly hypocritical position about science re: design.

    In short, we are plainly dealing with unresponsive, selective hyperskepticism; here to make talking points on an agenda.

    It is finally very clear that those who object to the design inference on best explanation for the occurrence of empirically reliable observed and tested signs, do not do so on actual evidence that such signs are unreliable. They are doing so on a priori metaphysical a prioris. That is why they make objections like questioning what intelligence is, or what information is, or whether DNA code is information [as MF did recently by using scare quotes to discuss DNA], or pretend that reliable signs cannot be used as evidence pointing to design in the deep past of origins (implicitly assuming that no designer was possible then so the most astonishingly implausible alternatives “must” be accepted), and the like.

    And, if there is someone who is going to point these things out specifically, why, if you can get away with it, simply pretend that such correctives do not exist, on whatever excuse is handy.

    But the fact of utter unresponsiveness to correction as we saw yet again above reveals the underlying problem: sadly, the fallacy of the closed, ideologised mind.

    Let us hope that one day men such as MF will do better.

    In the meanwhile, let the record of unresponsiveness to correction speak for itself.

    GEM of TKI

  86. Vivid

    The use of “[good] will” as an expression of God’s character also addresses the other horn of the Euthyphro dilemma, so called: God’s character defines good, and that good is not arbitrary or capricious.

    G

  87. kairosfocus,

    So, from the orderly arrangement of laws and patterns of initial motion, we see how randomness emerges through the sensitive dependence of the behaviour on initial and intervening conditions.

    Or pseudorandomness. Really, you can swap in either idea and it still does the same job. In fact when you say…

    There would be no specific, traceable pattern that one could follow or predict for the behaviour of the marbles, through we could work out an overall statistical distribution, and could identify overall parameters such as volume, pressure and temperature.

    ..The problem is that a statistical distribution is itself a kind of pattern. Really, I’m very aware of gaussian distributions, idealized calculations, and so on and so forth. I’m certainly not making the move of denying that (say) what we call a gaussian distribution shows up in observation. Nor am I arguing for the case that it’s demonstrable (even in principle) that there is intention, purpose, mind, etc behind each component or event in a gaussian distribution. As ever, I’m at the limits of what science, as science, shows us.

    Randomness is thus credibly real, and naturally results even in a classical Newtonian world.

    The sort of randomness that is ‘real’ – subjective randomness, For All Practical Purposes randomness – is exactly the sort of randomness I’m happily willing to cop to. But I’m saying that no method of science is able to suss out the intention (or lack thereof), the purpose (or lack thereof), etc, of even these events.

    There is no justification for airily brushing it away as if it did not exist.

    There’s plenty of warrant, because what’s been demonstrated over the centuries is exactly what I’m admitting to: Certain patterns, certain distributions, that reliably obtain. There has never been a scientific inquiry into whether these results occur absent the intention of a mind, because science expressly lacks the tools for such an investigation. I can fire back with countless examples of pseudorandomness passed off as subjective randomness if needed, but really, is it?

    When you said that what science gives us is useful, reliable models, you’d find me agreeing. The problem is that the models don’t fail to be useful just because someone asserts ‘Pseudorandomness is all that exists’ – or even ‘Sometimes a random distribution in nature is actually pseudorandom’. The models stay the same, the use stays the same. Indeed, insofar as they are models, the ability to match them with a pseudo- pattern becomes prominent.

    I think we may be at an impasse on this one, sadly. But then again, I never walk into a discussion hoping anyone will agree with me. Hopefully I’ve been respectful to your satisfaction throughout this conversation though – you certainly have been.

    One last thing.

    Noticing the role of sensitive dependence on initial and intervening conditions, there is room for subtle nudging that would change specific outcomes in the short term; i.e. there is room for the pattern and the exception for good reason.

    ..But this just highlights my own point. Nudging can occur without our notice, at any given point. And if there has been ‘nudging’ in the randomness, it spoils the ‘randomness’ claim. The ‘random’ is not random then, it’s quite guided. And if nudges can’t be detected, we’re stuck. They can’t be due to limits of science, not only practical but in principle. Which is enough to sink the Darwinist claim on this front, and the positive ‘truly random’ claim generally.

  88. F/N; To see the sort of utter unresponsiveness mentioned above in further (even more obvious) action, let us observe the line of discussion in response to my excerpting and commenting on the following remark MF made in the Giraffe thread, at no 53 (itself a capital example of word games and misrepresentation of the design view):

    Later you jump to the “information” in DNA. This is something completely different. There are no intentions or beliefs associated with it.

    I respond at 55, with definitions of information at 56 and a technical foot note on computer code at 57.

    Tribune7 responds at 58, exposing a strawman mischaracterisation by MF.

    Dr Torley responds to MF’s 54 at 59, referring MF to some corrective reading.

    Here is MF’s response at 60 – 61:

    MF, 60: >> #58 Tribune

    Please excuse me but I really don’t want to go over all those arguments yet again.>>

    MF, 61: >> #59 vj

    Thanks for the reference but I don’t have time or money to read every ID book that is recommended to me and the video didn’t work (went into a loop).

    However, I don’t dispute that the nature of information in a snowflake is in some respects different from the information in DNA which is yet gain different from the information in a computer programme or an English sentence. In fact that is the main point I have been trying to make – information is a word with many shades of meaning.

    No doubt you are aware of Peter Godfrey Smith’s survey of some of the many uses of the word in the context of biology. >>

    In short, MF is plainly unresponsive to correction.

    He knows or should know that the information in DNA is a digitally coded string data structure used in a step by step process of assembly of proteins on the start, add A X, Y, Z . . . STOP sequence being coded for.

    He knows that there is no coded information in a snowflake, only complexity tracing to the circumstances of the atmosphere in which it formed. But, he insisted on using the snowflake still though it had been long since pointed out to him that if you break a snowflake all that happens is you have two smaller, less pretty snowflakes. If you break an mRNA chain, or if you break the AA chain of a protein, there is functional loss because the function of the resulting protein depends on there being a complete sequence of the correct AA’s.

    Similarly, if you break up a sentence, its meaning is lost.

    The bottomline is that MF refuses to accept the reality of digitally coded functionally specific, complex information and what it signifies. That is the only way he can try to hang on to the snowflake as a comparable though different — he concedes but will not accept the implications of that concession — informational entity form a coded string structure such as in DNA, object code in a PC or the ASCII text for sentences in this post.

    Sad, but revealing.

    And, as for videos of the protein synthesis process and related topics, he has consistently refused to examine and respond to those here or here or here. Or, for that matter the one that commonly appears as a featured video for UD.

    Let us invite him to join us on the same page by watching the narrated protein synthesis video here.

    GEM of TKI

  89. Null:

    The results of the model process I have shown will be truly random, once we recognise the force of the M-B attractor. Regardless of how the motion of balls is initiated, they will fairly rapidly turn into the M-B pattern, a random behaviour pattern.

    A pseudorandom process will be deterministic, not stochastic.

    Similarly, quantum processes are random.

    Sky noise — now used to construct random number tables — is also random.

    All of this within the limits of our ability to warrant a knowledge claim, but as well warranted as any claims in science are, especially the related second law of thermodynamics.

    In looking at your response above, you are making the appeal to the invisible gardener.

    The vulnerability of that appeal is seen in the fact that it is used by materialists to imply that the appeal to creation or action by an invisible untraceable God, is like the forest that one says is tended by an invisible, trace-less gardener.

    The acid reply of the materialist is telling: what different is that from, there is no gardener save in your imagination? (That is this is not like appealing to the childhood invisible friend? Grow up! [And, just a few days ago, I had an exchange with an atheist whose response to his education in a religious school was plainly premised on that.])

    the approach of the biblical teaching — since this sort of issue is plainly on the table — is very different:

    Rom 1:19 [NIV '84] . . . what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. [I safely add: in the old days, in temples, nowadays often in museums and textbooks]

    24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised . . .

    In short, the apostolic writer puts a risky, empirically testable proposition in the heart of NT theology. If the cosmos, the world around us and out own hearts and minds within do not provide adequate warrant to point to a Creator beyond the cosmos, sufficient to make men without excuse for turning their backs on what they know or should know — a key difference — then this key plank of NT theology is falsified.

    I believe the apostle’s claim is more than adequately warranted, and have laid out my reasons here, with specific details on the existence of God by the light of nature, mind and conscience here and with a response on the problem of evils and good here, then also on the specific minimal facts warrant for the gospel as outlined in AD 55 1 Cor 15:1 – 11 here as well.

    But, back on the focus of this thread, there is good reason to see that randomness is real, on he same grounds that we accept that laws of science in general are well warranted.

    As I showed above this morning, randomness is a direct implication of classical physics — it is embedded, without further ado in the foundations of quantum physics — once we recognise sensitive dependence on initial conditions. What that means is that even if you were to perfectly set up a large collection of boxes as discussed in 79 above, given the fact that the walls themselves have vibrations and the marbles too, if we were to set them off at the same instant with the same impulse on the LH pistons, then watch for a time, the boxes would all have the same general pattern but the paths undertaken would be diverse in every case, and would be more and more diverse as time goes on.

    Indeed, one of the ways chaos was discovered was that Lorenz tried to re-run a weather simulation on his three-equation set, and found out that the rerun diverged sharply form the specific path of the original run. Though of course, he saw that the butterfly two loop phase space pattern was the same.

    The M-B statistical pattern is an attractor, but it does not identify a determinstic set path. Random, not pseudo-random.

    I have previously discussed repeatedly how, on the casting lots cases, the hebraic, scriptural mindset is that such situations are open to intervention form God, so that what would otherwise be random will in that case show a specific purpose and indeed a message of guidance. (That seemed to be a common view in the ancient near east, with gods substituted for God; as the case of Jonah and that of Haman casting lots to pick the day of slaughter of the Jews in the Persian Empire, show. For that matter, many forms of divination today follow a similar assumption that spirit forces will intervene in an otherwise chance process, e.g. casting Tarot cards.)

    So, I point out that randomness is credibly real — so much so that the burden of disproof rests on the objector, to provide evidence that randomness per the sort of scenarios described is not real. In addition, I have shown that such randomness is embedded in the design of living things — even, when we breathe we are implying that we expect O2 to be diffused through the atmosphere. It is manifest in gas laws, and is deeply embedded in quantum theory. It does not imply the existence of a chaos with uncaused effects, once we recongise that for instance a necessary cause is a cause.

    And, so it does not challenge the supremacy of God as Creator and Lord.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  90. F.N: In the scriptural cases, God’s nudging was not exactly invisible in its impacts, i.e. miracles are SIGNS that point beyond the ordinary, not mysteries only apprehended by the eye of faith. G

  91. kairosfocus,

    The results of the model process I have shown will be truly random, once we recognise the force of the M-B attractor. Regardless of how the motion of balls is initiated, they will fairly rapidly turn into the M-B pattern, a random behaviour pattern.

    Sure they will. Exactly as could well be intended – which, in turn, means that no demonstration of ‘truly random’ has been made.

    I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t deny the existence of certain distributions and patterns that regularly obtain in nature. But there is no demonstration that these patterns are not in any and/or every detail, purposeful, foresighted, and guided – and science is incapable of making this determination.

    The vulnerability of that appeal is seen in the fact that it is used by materialists to imply that the appeal to creation or action by an invisible untraceable God, is like the forest that one says is tended by an invisible, trace-less gardener.

    Materialists say a lot of nonsense, on a regular basis. I want to stress here that I have not been mounting a positive claim that such randomness, either in whole or in part, is in fact directed in a “hard determinist” fashion, nor are my observations merely limited to pointing out the possible truth (or better yet, the inability for science to demonstrate the lack *or* presence of) such determinism. It applies equally to the case of a ‘nudge’.

    I’ve been pointing out the limits of what science can show or explore. The atheist admits to it whenever they insist that the existence or action of an omnipotent, omniscient God is unfalsifiable. But they forget that the inability of science to falsify such a being’s existence or action – or any relevant being – entails that the claims of negation are also unfalsifiable, beyond the limits.

    To put it more bluntly – I’ve been making no ‘appeal’ here the way your example atheist suggests. At no point have I tried to argue from the apparently stochastic to God’s existence or will.

    The acid reply of the materialist is telling: what different is that from, there is no gardener save in your imagination? (That is this is not like appealing to the childhood invisible friend? Grow up! [And, just a few days ago, I had an exchange with an atheist whose response to his education in a religious school was plainly premised on that.])

    Again, materialists say a lot of nonsense on a regular basis. Beyond that, taking an actual unpopular position doesn’t concern me too much either.

    First, I’m willing to bet the atheist who sprung the ‘invisible gardener’ line wasn’t reacting to anything remotely like the claim I’m making here. You can point out all the teleology in the world to a person. You could conceivably exist in an alternate world which was in fact 6000 years old, with all species seemingly showing up fully formed. But that gardener will still be derided as invisible, and an alternative can always be thought up – from ‘brute facts, it just is’ to ‘something happened, we don’t understand yet’ to otherwise. How many times have you seen a materialist or atheist dump causality when it became inconvenient? Or refuse to say that coming across the equivalent of Mount Rushmore on another uninhabited planet would lead one to accept a design inference? If they were gunning for the modest claim I’m making here, I’d be amused.

    Second, insofar as the claim I’m making references a real limit of science, I can turn the claim back on them: “Chance” and “Randomness” – in the sense of “Events without foresight and/or purpose and/or knowledge” is also an invisible friend, an invisible gardener. It certainly is not demonstrated by science, nor can it be in principle. Oh, it can be *imagined* – that’s easy. “Everything happens just because of chance and even lawlike order is a result of chance and things I don’t understand or have knowledge of are also the result of chance and the only thing that ever has intention is a human mind – maybe.” ‘Chance’ in that context, for all possible purposes, has Godlike ‘power’. Then again, if an atheist is going to go any such imaginary route, they may as well claim a giant turtle did it. If you’re going to imagine, why limit yourself?

    But I’m not the one making the claim here. The atheist who claims that various processes take place – in whole or in part – without the knowledge, direction, guidance, or purpose of any being, and the fact that they happen to result in numerous identifiable and reliable ends is just a big coincidence, is playing that game. And my reply simply points out the limits of science, the existence of known pseudorandomness (really, the only kind of randomness we CAN ‘know’), the variety of designer resources involved in the claim, and that the atheist claims aren’t demonstrable in the way they need to be to have any force. (I’ll also note that this is one reason why so many atheists insist they are agnostic, rather than claiming no God exists. Because making that positive claim puts them in a position that is ridiculously easy to do severe damage to. And skeptics generally hate being on defense.)

    As I showed above this morning, randomness is a direct implication of classical physics — it is embedded, without further ado in the foundations of quantum physics — once we recognise sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

    Right, chaos theory. But that only works in the case where we’re dealing with a being who cannot A) Know the initial conditions, B) Determine a ‘new instance’ of initial conditions, or C) Know the outcomes of initial conditions. All three of those are in question here. And the moment knowledge, guidance, intention or purpose are introduced as a possible factor, you’ve made the random into the possibly-random/possibly-pseudorandom upon the instance. And really, that’s all I need here to advance my claim on the limits.

    In fact, Lorenz’s example helps me out here given the fact that it was a computer model. It’s very easy for even humans to get some particular events for certain in Lorenz’s model – just use the right seed. After all, part of the problem with the simulation was that the ‘initial conditions’ were being slightly changed at a decimal point each time. Not a necessary problem for a designer. (And, of course, there’s also the prospect of a direct intervention by the man at the keyboard!)

    I have previously discussed repeatedly how, on the casting lots cases, the hebraic, scriptural mindset is that such situations are open to intervention form God, so that what would otherwise be random will in that case show a specific purpose and indeed a message of guidance.

    Earlier you said…

    The die tossed against the wall then tumbling to the table model shows how a process can be random in the large, but open to the miraculous: since a tiny shift makes all the difference, a tiny nudge below our ability to discern would be effective in controlling the particular outcome without committing to so controlling all stochastically distributed processes directly.

    ..But as I replied: Agree that a single nudge is possible in principle, and you’ve opened the door to an infinite number of nudges in principle. You mention above that the purpose of ‘nudges’ in an otherwise ‘random’ setting was to show a ‘specific message of purpose or guidance’ to particular people – but there’s no need for such a purpose to be in mind for a nudge to take place. It could be to bring about an event the nudger wants, and the nudger doesn’t require its own identification as part of that event.

    In fact, let’s walk through this.

    1) Please, forgive me if I am wrong – but earlier I was under the impression that you believe God foreknows all, such that even the particular patterns that will be resulted from a ‘stochastic’ source are foreseen by God. I recall you stressed the difference between ‘foreseen’ and ‘purposefully caused’, of course. And my focus here is philosophical, and one aimed at the limits of science, so your particular belief isn’t what I’m asking about. Instead it’s this: Do you agree that it is possible in principle for a being to foreknow the results of ‘stochastic’ processes, either particularly (‘The outcome of this one process’) or generally (‘The outcome of all actually occurring stochastic processes’)?

    2) Assuming you agree 1 is possible, do you further agree that it is possible in principle for a being to exist who could manipulate – nudge – the results of any stochastic process to particular desired end(s)? Again, this seems obvious giving what you’ve said about nudging already, but I want to be clear.

    3) Assuming you agree with 1 and 2 – that a being can foreknow the exact results of a particular (or any) stochastic process, and that the same being can nudge and force a result of a particular (or any) stochastic process to a desired end – then any results so nudged will not be random given your earlier definition. After all, the results will be purposeful, intentional, for a particular end, etc.

    4) But if we lack the knowledge of that being’s existence or non-existence, intervention or lack, intention or lack, purpose or lack, etc *in any particular situation*, we therefore lack the knowledge, insofar as science is concerned, of whether or not any particular stochastic pattern we are looking at is, in fact, ‘random’ by the measure just mentioned. Now, we can make judgments about this based on philosophy, or theology, or metaphysics, etc. But those things aren’t science – the scientific toolset is dramatically limited in comparison.

  92. Quick note:

    Null, you are relabelling random as pseudorandom.

    Pseudorandom specifically relates to deterministic processes designed to give number patterns that look like random numbers, but run basically in a deterministic cycle that will eventually repeat.

    For instance, you can use counters with x-OR feedback loops and specially set up pick up and feed back points.

    As I pointed out above, unlike such a process, if you were to set up an ensemble of the boxes, they would diverge rapidly, i.e the process is NOT deterministic. That is one way we know it is as random as anything else we will see, guaranteed by the sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

    Years ago, I think I recall a discussion that a perfect billiard table would be sensitive to in effect the position of any given star in the next galaxy over, after a surprisingly short time.

    G

  93. kairosfocus,

    Null, you are relabelling random as pseudorandom.

    Pseudorandom specifically relates to deterministic processes designed to give number patterns that look like random numbers, but run basically in a deterministic cycle that will eventually repeat.

    When I mean pseudorandom, I’m talking about a variety of ‘randomness’ that is opposed to the definition you gave earlier:

    Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, etc., without method or conscious choice; haphazard.

    As well as what you outlined in 57 and 27d, which further suggests ‘unforeseen’, etc. In such cases the guidance can be unknown or inscrutable, as can various other factors (conscious choices, purposes, etc.) In fact, going by 26d,b it seems the question of ‘chance’, given God (or the right kind of designer), is problematic. At least if I took you correctly earlier in my previous questions about ‘foreseen’, much less controlled in the potential manner of speaking.

    Years ago, I think I recall a discussion that a perfect billiard table would be sensitive to in effect the position of any given star in the next galaxy over, after a surprisingly short time.

    Of course. But as I keep noting, those sorts of effects, whether in terms of sensitivity or apparent patterns, just isn’t something I’m denying science models, etc. Maybe we will hash this out better after I see your responses to my questions 1-4. It helps illustrate the position I’m taking, since I at least get the impression you take me to be saying something I don’t intend to. As I said in 1, at least it’s my impression that you agree God foreknows all, and thus clearly you’d agree to the existence and possibility of a designer who knows all or some outcomes, even at the minute level.

  94. Null:

    Pardon.

    Pseudorandom has a standard physical meaning, and a standard context of usage.

    That is how I have used it.

    GEM of TKI

  95. kairosfocus,

    Pseudorandom has a standard physical meaning, and a standard context of usage.

    That is how I have used it.

    Then the clarification I’ve made should help out here. I’ve made clear from the start that my concern with terms like ‘random’ and ‘truly random’ comes down to claims made about purpose, intention, guidance, etc. I haven’t denied the existence of, say, gaussian distributions or associated model/measurement claims, nor lacks of measurable correlation with a static outcome. In fact I’ve copped to them freely, because models don’t impact what I’ve been saying.

  96. On your q’s:

    First, the intention of God could just as easily be that he sets up a world in which random processes fulfill a role, as I have already described. We cannot know the will of God beyond dispute [without his telling us specifically], but we can use teh minds and senses he has given us to understand our world. And, one principle we can take for granted, is that oursenses and reasoning on such according to first principles of right reason will not be perverse and deceptive to the point where they undermine confidence in observation, experience and reasoning.

    If we take such a view, explicitly or implicitly, the world disintegrates into a chaos. And, we have reason to be confident that God is a God of order, not chaos.

    Above, we saw that even on Newtonian terms, a body of gas [as modelled by marbles in a box] will if disturbed from a perfect rest, rapidly move to a M-B probabilistic distribution. The circumstances of such boxes guarantee that if we have an ensemble of such boxes, in initially highly similar configs, and with effectively the same start-stimulus, their behaviour will rapidly diverge. They will all go to the M-B distribution, but will not follow the same path, due to sensitivity to fine details. Indeed, if we were patient enough to set up the same box over and over again, a similar result would happen.

    So, we have reason to believe we can only characterise the behaviour of the box up to the limit of the statistics, and cannot predict its path in details. It is not in our gift to predetermine its exact path in state space.

    Now, when you look at this then revert to the invisible gardener model, instead of the obvious: God has set up an order that includes randomness (for many good reasons as already outlined), you actually undermine your intent. For, an invisible, untraceable gardener is all too reminiscent of an imaginary gardener. This is utterly diverse form the point made in say Rom 1:19 ff, where the signs of God in the world are sufficiently clear to the eye of rational creatures that we have to resist the cumulative force of evidence to reject what it tells us, that there is a divine architect behind the world. You are free to take that hidden God view, but you are not then free to avoid its consequences, and to avert the force of the responses that your invisible gardener is a grown up version of a childhood imaginary friend.

    You may view this as materialist nonsense, but in fact, it is a fair response; especially when posed as a challenging difficulty; comparative difficulties and choice being what we face at serious worldviews level. And,the responses of skeptics or evolutionists to YEC views is not the invisible gardener, but to claim that science shows that the earth is much older and species are variable not fixed; nope this is a response to the view that God acted invisibly and indiscernibly but may be somehow apprehended by faith — a position that is pretty clearly a Christian Darwinist type view. One of the champions of that response was no less than Antony Flew, whose subsequent — fifty years later — turn to Deism, was predicated on his seeing that there is indeed a strong cumulative case that there is a designer of the cosmos and of life in it.

    Science provides provisional warrant, but that is an extension of our general epistemic challenge, as was aptly put by Locke, in section 5 of the introduction to his essay on human understanding:

    _______________

    >> Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 - 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 - 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 - 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 - 21, Eph 4:17 - 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 - 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 - 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 - 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke's allusions and citations.] >>
    _______________

    The direct import is that we should trust but verify and be open to further development of our understanding; we have no excuse to complain that our knowledge is not utterly certain and perfect, as it is far more than good enough to proceed by the candle-light we have. Provisional and imperfect do not translate into delusional and arbitrary.

    The degree of support for real randomness — and, notice randomness does NOT imply that say Divine knowledge of what is is impossible — God does not strictly foreknow,he immediately knows, as he is everywhere and everywhen.

    Foreknowledge” is a temporal view of that, i.e. our perspective. To foreknow in that sense is not to force.

    First, the intention of God could just as easily be that he sets up a world in which random processes fulfill a role, as I have already described. We cannot know the will of God beyond dispute [without his telling us specifically], but we can use the minds and senses he has given us to understand our world. And, one principle we can take for granted, is that our senses and reasoning on such according to first principles of right reason will not be perverse and deceptive to the point where they undermine confidence in observation, experience and reasoning.

    If we take such a view, explicitly or implicitly, the world disintegrates into a chaos. And, we have reason to be confident that God is a God of order, not chaos.

    Above, we saw that even on Newtonian terms, a body of gas [as modelled by marbles in a box] will if disturbed from a perfect rest, rapidly move to a M-B probabilistic distribution. The circumstances of such boxes guarantee that if we have an ensemble of such boxes, in initially highly similar configs, and with effectively the same start-stimulus, their behaviour will rapidly diverge. They will all go to the M-B distribution, but will not follow the same path, due to sensitivity to fine details. Indeed, if we were patient enough to set up the same box over and over again, a similar result would happen.

    So, we have reason to believe we can only characterise the behaviour of the box up to the limit of the statistics, and cannot predict its path in details. It is not in our gift to predetermine its exact path in state space.

    [ . . . ]

  97. Now, when you look at this then revert to the invisible gardener model, instead of the obvious: God has set up an order that includes randomness (for many good reasons as already outlined), you actually undermine your intent. For, an invisible, untraceable gardener is all too reminiscent of an imaginary gardener. This is utterly diverse form the point made in say Rom 1:19 ff, where the signs of God in the world are sufficiently clear to the eye of rational creatures that we have to resist the cumulative force of evidence to reject what it tells us, that there is a divine architect behind the world. You are free to take that hidden God view, but you are not then free to avoid its consequences, and to avert the force of the responses that your invisible gardener is a grown up version of a childhood imaginary friend.

    You may view this as materialist nonsense, but in fact, it is a fair response; especially when posed as a challenging difficulty; comparative difficulties and choice being what we face at serious worldviews level. And,the responses of skeptics or evolutionists to YEC views is not the invisible gardener, but to claim that science shows that the earth is much older and species are variable not fixed; nope this is a response to the view that God acted invisibly and indiscernibly but may be somehow apprehended by faith — a position that is pretty clearly a Christian Darwinist type view. One of the champions of that response was no less than Antony Flew, whose subsequent — fifty years later — turn to Deism, was predicated on his seeing that there is indeed a strong cumulative case that there is a designer of the cosmos and of life in it.

    Science provides provisional warrant, but that is an extension of our general epistemic challenge, as was aptly put by Locke, in section 5 of the introduction to his essay on human understanding:

    _______________

    >> Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 - 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 - 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 - 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 - 21, Eph 4:17 - 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 - 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 - 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 - 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke's allusions and citations.] >>
    _______________

    The direct import is that we should trust but verify and be open to further development of our understanding; we have no excuse to complain that our knowledge is not utterly certain and perfect, as it is far more than good enough to proceed by the candle-light we have. Provisional and imperfect do not translate into delusional and arbitrary.

    The degree of support for real randomness — and, notice [as I have said already] randomness, properly defined, does NOT imply that say Divine knowledge of what is is impossible — it does imply that for those of us who have to exert energy to investigate and observe the states of the world, there are aspects of the world that we may not know or predict beyond a certain degree of uncertainty. In this case, up to some sort of probabilistic distribution.

    So, when we see evidence that points to such a limit on us as observers who have to exert energy to observe, instead of being immediately aware of all that happens everywhere and everywhen, then we are well warranted to respect the evidence. Randomness is such a case.

    The M-B marble box thought exercose shows tha there are good reasons to accept tha there are circumstances where we will not be able to analysie and predict in detail the behaviour of the world, especially at micro level, and must settle for a distribution. Such situaitons are important on many scales, far moreso than the classix macro-example, a six-sided fair die, would suggest

    Before going on, I again protest, you are misusing the term pseudo-randomness.

    Similarly, that the whole focus of the discussion of randomness as real, has been the finite observer, such as we are.

    In the case of Lorenz’s computer model, wha thappened is thast he needed to stop a run, then went back some days later to re-run it, from what he thought was a known point. To his astonishment, the new run did not replicate the older one, probably due to small differences in rounding or the like. In short sensitive dependence on initial conditions can cause even digital simulations to diverge as they face the fact of rounding off.

    On the subject of nudging, you ate missing out on one of the key points of a miracle: to stand out as a sign, such REQUIRES that there be an orderly world that has an ordinary course. That is, miracles — precisely to function as signs — need to be rare and evident. And, the biblical cases of guidance by lots are in fact striking for evidently picking out the right person or alternative.

    Now, to your more specific questions:

    Q1: God does not strictly foreknow, he immediately knows, as he is everywhere and everywhen: inhim we live and move and have our being. “Foreknowledge” is a temporal view of that, i.e. our perspective. To foreknow in that sense is not to force.

    Q2: God is notr capricious or chaotic, and on evidence he normally works by the secondary means of having created and sustaining an orderly world. One in which actions have predictable consequences, and we have resposnilility to act with prudence. E.g. given the predictable results of unsupported bodies near the earth’s surface, we have no reason to assume that we can tempt God by leaping off the pinnacle of the temple and praying for/expecting angels o come to our rescue. Such, even for one far more august than you or I, would be presumption and a disrespectful putting of God tothe test.

    Q3: You are twisting the definition of randomness as already given, and I have already corrected the error. Namely: that a random process is open to Divine intervention does not mean that such a process will normally be disturbed to the point where scientific investigation and warrant of the usual course of the world can be airily dismissed. In fact, given that the sign and wonder function of a miracle turns on there being a normal and predictable course, such rarity is a necessary feature of the miraculous. Nor will our senses and common good sense generaly mislead us. That too is a condition of being creatures subject to moral government and responsibility to think and act aright.

    Q4: We hardly lack good warrant for the existence of God, or for our living under his moral government. In that context, we have every reason to be confident that our genral view of the course of the world will be sufficiently accurate to guide us in life. Yes, science theories on he world beyond our usual observation will be perhaps quite strange and counter-intuitive [and will have in them many goodies that we can then use], but the world in which we live on human scale will besufficiently plain that we will find ourselves responsible to act on what we see and can foresee. In this conext, scentific investigations may turn up surprises on the undelrying structure of the world, but these things will, on extension to ordinary human scale, come back into conformity with our ordianry experience. Otherwise, they will run counter to fact and will stand refuted. Knowledgeof the world is possible, and it is perverse to defy the balance of the evidence. Which, in this case, isthat randomness, correctly understood, is real.

    GEM of TKI

  98. F/N: Sigh, the typist’s devil was at work overtime this morning. I guess I am sleepy.

    Nullasalus, you accept that there are circumstances that obey the patterns of probability distributions and are not predictable in detail on initial circumstances and forces. Thus, you imply randomness, in the sense that is material.

    The gaussian type distribution, is the result of many tiny factors that may take +/- values, and fluctuate RANDOMLY around a centre. With some bias to one side or the other, we get skewed distributions [basically by raising one tail or the other], e.g. the M-B family — strictly it is a family of distributions — will often be skewed.

    To give an idea, a demonstration I used to do with my students was to take one of those ice trays for minicubes, so there is a large number of compartments. Then take a few beads (I used to use the small hair braiding beads) and scatter at random: a plastic bag or a cover for the tray will help this happen. You will see no-bead, one bead, two bead , three bead etc compartments. A count of numbers with zero, one , two etc will show the M-B pattern pretty well. And as numbers of beads go up, the distribution will pull away from the dominance of zero-bead compartments, until we can see a more or less symmetrical result.

    [The beads stand in for quanta of energy or whatever. I suspect they could be extended to give a picture of the gaussian, with say red beads + and black ones -, then see how they scatter in trays, to give a pattern of fluctuations. use a very large number of beads so several of each type will on average be in each compartment.]

  99. kairosfocus,

    You are free to take that hidden God view, but you are not then free to avoid its consequences, and to avert the force of the responses that your invisible gardener is a grown up version of a childhood imaginary friend.

    You keep bringing this back to theology, as if I’m making claims about how God actually acts, and that God is ‘hidden’. I’ve never said this – not even implied it. I’ve limited myself to saying that the best that science can establish is various patterns, stochastic and not. It cannot say word one about the presence or lack of purpose behind even ‘random’ distributions, and stochastic processes as they are actualized in the world. The best it can do is establish the presence or lack of correlations with this or that particularity. It is unable to start detecting a lack-of-guidance, lack-of-intention, a lack-of-purpose, etc. In many cases, it will fail to detect even the presence of these things when they are there as a matter of fact.

    As for the gardener parable itself…

    You may view this as materialist nonsense, but in fact, it is a fair response; especially when posed as a challenging difficulty; comparative difficulties and choice being what we face at serious worldviews level.

    And what I’m saying undermines this response and renders it void and worthless. The ‘Invisible gardener’ presupposes, among other things, a detection of a lack of purpose, a lack of guidance, a lack of intention, etc to do any work. I’m pointing out that this measurement of lack is not available. It is assumed, imagined, brought in illicitly. There’s all the difference in the world between using a tool to search for a design and detecting its lack, and realizing the tool in hand cannot detect the presence or lack of intention in the given situation. The moment the latter is realized – like it or not – the materialist case on this front crumbles. It is gone.

    Beyond this, the gardener parable requires the believer insisting that the gardener’s presence is demonstrable based on the observation of the garden itself. But I have nowhere said this, and I’ve denied making this move at least once. More apt is another parable, where a skeptic denies my claim that the hundred dollar bill I lost on the beach is still present there, on the grounds that he just swept the entire place with a metal detector and turned up nothing. I’m pointing out that the metal detector cannot even hope to detect the presence or lack of a hundred dollar bill out on the beach. The tool has limits, and this problem is simply beyond said limits.

    Further, I’ve said repeatedly that design can be reasonably inferred (or stronger, if one accepts the five ways, etc), even outside of scientific consideration. Even if science is incapable of determining the presence or lack of intent in stochastic outcomes, there do remain other avenues available to reason, to philosophy, and to metaphysics.

    So, when we see evidence that points to such a limit on us as observers who have to exert energy to observe, instead of being immediately aware of all that happens everywhere and everywhen, then we are well warranted to respect the evidence. Randomness is such a case.

    We are warranted to respect what the evidence shows – lacking warrant from other areas (revelation, theology, philosophy, metaphysics), we are warranted no further. I am the one pointing out the limits of the evidence, the line that science itself is incapable of crossing because the sort of evidence needed at the point is simply not available. If someone wants to cross that line, they’re welcome to it. They are not welcome to claiming the position they take in the breach of science’s limits as being a scientific position itself.

    I’ve said previously that I am not saying that if someone goes on to determine that this or that is random in the sense of lacking guidance, intention, purpose, foresight, etc, I will deride them as unreasonable. I think there are some subjects where reasonable people can come to different views, certainly given certain priors and/or information. But their view would not be one that is wholly scientific – it would be an extra-scientific judgment, it would be going beyond science upon the instant. That really does happen.

    Before going on, I again protest, you are misusing the term pseudo-randomness.

    That would be very hard, since I’ve already stated explicitly what I meant by that term.

    In the case of Lorenz’s computer model, wha thappened is thast he needed to stop a run, then went back some days later to re-run it, from what he thought was a known point. To his astonishment, the new run did not replicate the older one, probably due to small differences in rounding or the like. In short sensitive dependence on initial conditions can cause even digital simulations to diverge as they face the fact of rounding off.

    But knowledge of those initial conditions in Lorenz’s case would have resulted in his being able to produce the exact same simulation each and every time he ran it. Humans are subject to limited knowledge, to fallibility, to error – and even then, they’re still able to pull off some impressive tasks. Consider the relevance of Lorenz’s simulations to a greater mind – not even God’s, necessarily.

    On the subject of nudging, you ate missing out on one of the key points of a miracle: to stand out as a sign, such REQUIRES that there be an orderly world that has an ordinary course. That is, miracles — precisely to function as signs — need to be rare and evident. And, the biblical cases of guidance by lots are in fact striking for evidently picking out the right person or alternative.

    But in order for miracles to stand out, the ‘orderly world’ they need, need not be ‘truly random’ in the sense of containing events utterly unforeseen, unplanned, etc. They need to have a regular pattern of this or that type. What’s more, you yourself mentioned the ability for a ‘nudge’ to take place within an otherwise ‘random’ situation – but to admit that control is to admit that what we are unable to attribute intention, purpose, guidance, etc to, may as a matter of fact contain it, and in some situations will in fact contain it. Which is enough to put the question of ‘randomness’, as I’m talking about, well beyond science.

    The moment you open the door to ‘nudging’ in the stochastic case, even in principle, you’ve opened the door to noting that nudging – or pre-determining, so that a mid-stream ‘nudge’ is not needed – can be rife in the world. This is in addition to the examples of that which seems random, actually not being random at all. This highlights the problem of going beyond science, of understanding the limits of even a scientific inference, and at the same time skunks the invisible gardener question.

    And again – not every ‘nudge’ needs to be known. God or any designer is not limited to only intervening in the world when we can directly detect that intervention. And again, allow a nudge in one case, and the door opens to spoil the rest of the cases in theory. Which is why there are certain limits to what science can comment meaningfully on.

    Namely: that a random process is open to Divine intervention does not mean that such a process will normally be disturbed to the point where scientific investigation and warrant of the usual course of the world can be airily dismissed.

    I’m not dismissing the scientific investigation – I’m marking the difference between the scientific investigation and the non-scientific determination. That’s an important difference.

    Knowledgeof the world is possible, and it is perverse to defy the balance of the evidence. Which, in this case, isthat randomness, correctly understood, is real.

    If it’s perverse to note the limits of science, then get me the riding crop and the cowboy outfit I suppose. I have a correct understanding of ‘randomness’ insofar as what can be determined by the limits of science. I accept the patterns, the distributions – I have no reason to accept claims of ‘no foresight, no purpose, no intention, no guidance’, and in fact multiple good reasons to reject those claims.

    Kairosfocus, I really have to ask at this point – are we going to be going at this for weeks? Clearly we disagree about what is a reasonable inference here, what is a limit of scientific observation and theory, etc. Honestly, you’ve given this one hell of a shot – but frankly, I remain entirely unconvinced that I’m mistaken in my altogether tame, limited, and (I say, I’m sure you’ll disagree) well-supported claim. I respect you, I welcome the exchange, but sometimes people do reach an impasse. Honestly, I’d rather just note we see things very differently here, put things aside, and move on for now. I’m sure I’ll revisit this topic again in the future – why not save our respective energy for then, eh?

  100. Null:

    A few quick notes.

    I already provided a point by point response, and have gone over most of the substantial claims made just above, so a roundup is the best onward response:

    1 –> The point of the invisible gardener parable is the indiscernibility of identicals. An undetectable gardener is most likely equivalent to an imaginary one: if it looks, walks, quacks and swims like a duck, most likely it is one, and the burden of showing — not simply asserting or assuming — otherwise lies with the objector.

    2 –> The point of the Lorenz case is exactly that it lieth not in our gift to have the exact degree of knowledge and precision that would be required to transform the weather equations or the marble boxes or the six sided fair die into a deterministic system. Laplace’s demon claiming to predict the course of he cosmos from its start points and the laws of motion — despite the appearance of certainty in the differential equations — is out of a job.

    3 –> Under those realities, we face the fact that there are systems that are characterisable only up to the limit of a distribution, not a deterministic conclusive result; as close at hand as a die, or a coin [equivalent to a two-faced die], or the sort of box of marbles above that points to the behaviour of gases, liquids and solids and to phenomena vital to life that use that randomness advantageously. Indeed, even the experiements that we use to confirm scientific laws will have a residual that we characterise as random scatter and smooth off. Randomness in the observable world is as observable as anything else we commonly encounter; it is a well-substantiated fact, and one is not going to be wise or credible if one resorts to rejecting evident facts, even if one can come up with metaphysical interpretations that make invisible gardeners seem a good thing. [Invisible entities in the sciences are evident through their effects, e.g. the electron.]

    3 –> When we go to the quantum case, we don’t even have the luxury of deterministic models, uncertainty and distributions are built-in from the ground up. Q-th is currently the best evidenced scientific theory, to the greatest degree of precision and accuracy.

    4 –> So, we are well warranted to conclude that randomness is real, in the sense as noted. It is you the objector who has a burden — not of speculation, but of evidence — to warrant the claim that randomness is not real, that all cases that appear random are in fact underneath, determined. So far, that burden has not been met, apart from claims that science is provisional. Yes, science provides no absolute certainty beyond revision. What in life does? [Science is fully capable of warrant to moral certainty, such that we would be irresponsible not to act on the relevant well-supported and reliable conclusions. I submit, that he existence of randomness as characterised in probability and statistics, is one of these cases. So would the people responsible for the quality control of critical assembly lines in industry, who have to struggle to statistically control their processes within safe and effective limits in the face of the stubborn stochastic variability of real-world systems.)

    5 –> To go beyond that and to deny the reality of intelligent design or evidence for that, on grounds that we could conceivably have a chance occurrence that could give rise to all apparent cases of design — including the posts in this thread — would equally fly in the face of strong evidence that design is also real. the astonishingly lucky noise hypothesis is not empirically or analytically credible, as say Abel’s plausibility bound paper points out.

    6 –> I must protest, too, that it is a little unfair of you to be appealing to God as making systems only appear to be random, then object to my responding to the explicit and implicit characterisations you have made. Once theology and philosophy are a part of the discussion, they cannot be switched off to one’s convenience.

    7 –> As to the balance of the case, I find that you are projecting to me something I have explicitly denied, that randomness entails a chaos not a cosmos. Similarly, that I am claiming that science provides certainty in warrant, kindly cf the cite from Locke above on that: I speak of warrant to sufficient reliability that we are responsible to act on our findings, not to the mythical beast: certainty beyond correction or doubt. Even proofs are subject to the objection that P => Q entails an assumption somewhere, and if one is sufficiently motivated s/he can always assert that I object to Q so much that I reverse the proof: NOT-Q so NOT-P. The only effective response to that is that one may be indulging selective or radical skepticism that reduces one to absurdity, or else that the implicit assumptions to make the denial of Q are equally absurd or at any rate dubious.

    8 –> It thus seems to me that the issue of warrant needs to be faced, especially in the face of the possibility of selective hyperskepticism: applying an inconsistent degree of demand for warrant. Science provides empirically grounded, provisional warrant on inference to best explanation. That does not mean that scientific conclusions are not well grounded and can be dismissed at will; one needs to provide a better explanation that better matches evidence.

    10 –> In the case of say, claiming that blind chance and mechanical necessity offer a well-warranted explanation for he origin of life from some variety of prebiotic soup, or of the origin of novel body plans, the specifically functional information origination challenge leads to the conclusion that design is a far better warranted case.

    11 –> In the case of the claim that randomness exists, there is more than adequate, even abundant evidence that it does. Indeed, it is quite plain that to reject this, one ends up at the sharp end of the invisible gardener challenge.

    12 –> That credible factual reality of chance does not equate to causeless events or effects, nor does it translate our world into a chaos. Nor, does it undermine the possibility or probability or even warrant that the world shows forth the design of its Creator.

    _________________

    I therefore ask you to reflect on the issue: is chance a credible fact of our world? If not, why not, and how can that be justified to one who goes with the common sense import of the experience of playing with dice? How is such a one going to be given grounds to trust the invisible gardener over the patent facts of experience on tossing dice?

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  101. kairosfocus,

    1 –> The point of the invisible gardener parable is the indiscernibility of identicals. An undetectable gardener is most likely equivalent to an imaginary one: if it looks, walks, quacks and swims like a duck, most likely it is one, and the burden of showing — not simply asserting or assuming — otherwise lies with the objector.

    Actually, the point of the gardener parable is about detecting a gardener that someone says the garden provides evidence of, in spite of the undetectability of the gardener. But I’m not making the claim that the ‘garden’ in question itself provides evidence of a gardener – I am saying that the methods being used to detect the presence OR lack of a gardener are of no use. It’s like the story of the russian cosmonaut who announced that, while he was up in space, he didn’t see this ‘God’ everyone’s been talking about. That observation works – if someone was saying that one may be able to see God if only they were able to get in the sky.

    I don’t know how many times I have to repeat that I am not claiming God is undetectable by all means (including philosophy, reason, metaphysical argument, or in theological views, etc) before it will sink in. I am making the very limited claim that when it comes to detecting the presence or lack of intention behind particular stochastic processes, we don’t have the tools. It does no good to insist “Well if we lack the scientific tools to settle this question one way or the other in this context, we should conclude no designer exists!”

    Laplace’s demon claiming to predict the course of he cosmos from its start points and the laws of motion — despite the appearance of certainty in the differential equations — is out of a job.

    I’m not interested in LaPlace’s demon. I’m interested in God and/or various other designers (even ranging to Bostrom’s hypothetical simulator), who are still as employable as they ever were on these questions.

    Randomness in the observable world is as observable as anything else we commonly encounter; it is a well-substantiated fact, and one is not going to be wise or credible if one resorts to rejecting evident facts, even if one can come up with metaphysical interpretations that make invisible gardeners seem a good thing.

    Then it’s a good thing I’m not rejecting any of the evident facts. I’m only expressing the limitations of those facts and the metaphysical extrapolation that boldly goes beyond them, or at least the mistake of failing to realize when one is as a matter of fact moving beyond observation and science.

    3 –> When we go to the quantum case, we don’t even have the luxury of deterministic models, uncertainty and distributions are built-in from the ground up. Q-th is currently the best evidenced scientific theory, to the greatest degree of precision and accuracy.

    And QM has a small army of competing interpretations, all of which are compatible with the data. Yes, indeterministic models for QM do exist – but models they are. What’s best evidenced of QM are the results; the underlying nature of reality remains as mysterious as ever, a thing of questions.

    “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

    4 –> So, we are well warranted to conclude that randomness is real, in the sense as noted. It is you the objector who has a burden — not of speculation, but of evidence — to warrant the claim that randomness is not real, that all cases that appear random are in fact underneath, determined.

    And I’m well warranted to continue to note that not all warrant is scientific warrant, and not every reasonable conclusion is a conclusion of science as science. As I’ve noted repeatedly, I have evidence in piece after piece – the apparently random but demonstrably designed, ranging from cryptology to elsewise. That’s not only enough to demonstrate the logical possibility of an alternate reading, but to demonstrate the necessarily subjective nature of randomness, and the reason why science has the limit it does on this question.

    I must protest, too, that it is a little unfair of you to be appealing to God as making systems only appear to be random, then object to my responding to the explicit and implicit characterisations you have made. Once theology and philosophy are a part of the discussion, they cannot be switched off to one’s convenience.

    I appealed to God and any suitable designer as being capable of doing this as far as science can tell, not mounting any argument that this is in fact the case. If I note that for all science knows, every instance of apparent ‘randomness’ is designed and intended – just as any particular instance of such could be designed and intended, while other instances not – I am not therefore arguing that this is actual. To highlight a limit of science is not to argue that a possibility beyond that limit is truth.

    As to the balance of the case, I find that you are projecting to me something I have explicitly denied, that randomness entails a chaos not a cosmos.

    I’ve done this nowhere. Show me where I’ve even implied it.

    It thus seems to me that the issue of warrant needs to be faced, especially in the face of the possibility of selective hyperskepticism: applying an inconsistent degree of demand for warrant. Science provides empirically grounded, provisional warrant on inference to best explanation. That does not mean that scientific conclusions are not well grounded and can be dismissed at will; one needs to provide a better explanation that better matches evidence.

    Not when what is being contended is not a ‘scientific conclusion’ at all, but a conclusion that is a mix of science and superfluous metaphysics. Further, not all skepticism is hyperskepticism – sometimes, the tools in question aren’t sufficient to supply enough data to make a proper inference. Other times, we’re dealing with a question which practically mandates the inclusion of reasoning and knowledge that is not strictly scientific (Philosophy, metaphysics, theology, etc.), and should recognize as much.

    In the case of the claim that randomness exists, there is more than adequate, even abundant evidence that it does. Indeed, it is quite plain that to reject this, one ends up at the sharp end of the invisible gardener challenge.

    Then it’s a good thing I’m able to dispense with that challenge handily. Regardless, said challenge doesn’t apply to the point I’m making, for reasons I’ve already outlined above. I’m not insisting that a stochastic pattern is obviously or evidently designed – I’m noting the limitations of our ability to investigate the claims in either direction with the tool in question. If I point out that a metal detector can’t be expected to find a hundred dollar bill lost on the beach, and the reply is that then the hundred dollar bill is no different from an imaginary one if a metal detector can’t find it, I’m not going to be stunned by the force of the reply.

    I therefore ask you to reflect on the issue: is chance a credible fact of our world? If not, why not, and how can that be justified to one who goes with the common sense import of the experience of playing with dice? How is such a one going to be given grounds to trust the invisible gardener over the patent facts of experience on tossing dice?

    And I ask you to reflect on something in turn: Is there always enough data present for any given question, particularly scientific data, to make one particular answer the absolutely most reasonable inference? Is there ever a question that science itself is incapable of adequately addressing? Is the data ever in short supply enough, or not of the necessary type, to make one say “Beyond this we are engaging in speculation”, or “Multiple, distinct answers could be reasonable in this particular case”? Better yet, is it possible that warranted belief can come from areas other than the area of science itself? And why should someone trust a claim that a gardener is non-existent based on a method of inquiry that is utterly inadequate to properly inform on the question in either direction?

  102. Null:

    I think at this point our diverse views have been sufficiently articulated for onlookers to see and decide for themselves.

    I am grateful that the tone has been civil; a positive contrast to too many cases of the trifecta fallacy as favoured by too many evolutionary materialistic commenters. (In short, your specifically Christian orientation and the inclination to civility that it inculcates, is showing. I trust onlookers will duly note that this shows one aspect of how the Christian view helps to foster communityo.)

    Now, on a few points.

    A basic common sense [cf here Thomas Reid et al, and even Locke as already cited] rule of warrant on empirical matters, is that unless there is substantial reason to reject the reality of the observed world, it is credibly real.

    To reject that rule at once lands one in all the absurdities of not being able to trust the deliverances of one’s senses and common sense reasoning. The end of that road is radical subjectivism and relativism. Indeed, a self referential incoherence lurks in the depths of the swamp: how can you know enough about the external world to make the denials, on the assumptions that one has taken?

    The reality of randomness on those terms is an observable [you concede the empirical case], and we can show the sorts of things that give rise to it, starting with at molecular levels. There being no specific empirically anchored reason to infer to an underlying design and deterministic case that only looks like chance, the high-condingency, no credible intelligent direction — aka chance — node of the explanatory filter kicks in. Likewise, we have reason to prefer real choice and mind to yet another species of determinism.

    So, the reality of chance and of randomness is accepted.

    No grand metaphysical import of a chaos not a cosmos is at stake, as we have sen how a lawful nature, indeed a basically newtonian world, will give rise to random distributions.

    As to the question of projections unto me, I think — as fair comment — there is more than enough in the thread above to point to that, including some pretty serious questions and suggestions that forced me to be far more detailed on matters philosophical and theological than I am wont to in a primarily scientific context.

    Okay, all things said, I think we have passed the point of diminishing returns. That is why I have not gone on to a point by point response to the more recent posts this morning.

    G’day, and happy new year to you and to all.

    GEM of TKI

  103. nullasalus, kairosfocus:

    I have no intention of getting embroiled in a long debate over randomness, but I’ll make some simple points:

    1. We can divide events into “naturally caused” and “supernaturally caused.”

    2. Of naturally caused events, we can say that any given natural event must be produced either deterministically or indeterministically.

    3. Classical physics assumed that all was produced deterministically.

    4. Quantum theory (or at least one school, the dominant school, of quantum theory) says that some natural events are produced indeterministically, i.e., there are “effects” which do not, strictly speaking, follow from “causes.” Thus, while the emission of alpha particles from radioactive nuclei has a *general* natural cause (the internal instability of the nucleus), the timing of any particular emission of an alpha particle has no particular cause. (And similar things could be said of energy levels of electrons, etc.)

    5. Thus, there are natural events which do not have sufficient causes. Their occurrence is, in the strictest sense of the word, random. Not merely random in the sense that we cannot handle the math of millions of deterministic motions, and so have to treat them statistically, but random in the sense of “underdetermined and therefore in principle unpredictable.”

    6. When we “see” what appears to be a “random” event at the “quantum” level, it could be that this randomness is the real randomness that is part of nature (according to quantum theory); or it could be that God is tinkering with nature at a level at which we cannot detect; since the timing of certain subatomic events is random, we can never be sure, whether an event “just happened” or was subtly steered by God. This means that if God directs evolution by subtly steering the “random” mutations, his intervention, though real, will be completely undetectable.

    7. TEs use this last conclusion to refute ID, but this just shows their confusion of thought about what ID is. ID does not claim to infer God’s existence from *particular mutations*. It claims to infer the existence of a designer from the overall pattern of mutations. Thus, if mutations were truly random (I have in mind here mainly the mutations which are said to result from radioactive emissions), we would expect a disorderly sequence of mutations which would hardly produce the astounding order we see in living things, in so short a time as the fossil record gives us, and so we infer design. We don’t have to say anything at all about whether a particular mutation was caused by God or only by “randomness” in order to be sure that the overall pattern indicates design.

    8. In any case, I see no reason why ID as such is committed to the indeterministic view of quantum theory. ID people challenge the scientific consensus on Darwinian evolution, and I see no reason why they are bound to accept the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory. I think a purely deterministic account of nature is still possible. Further, in a purely deterministic account of nature, God the creator of nature can still intervene whenever he wants, breaking the causal nexus at will, so he can guide evolution just as surely as he can in a Copenhagen-quantum model. In other words, God can be thought of as guiding the evolutionary process whether you are a determinist or indeterminist in your physics. So I don’t understand why questions of indeterminism so often come up in discussions of evolution. They aren’t relevant to the question of interventionism (God has to intervene either way; he just does so undetectably in an indeterministic universe), and they aren’t relevant to the conflict between ID and TE, which is over the detectability of design, not the detectability of individual divine actions. So why does this subject keep cropping up? I see it as mainly a TE diversion from the substantive issues.

    T.

  104. Timaeus,

    Thanks for the comments. Some replies.

    1. We can divide events into “naturally caused” and “supernaturally caused.”

    I actually wonder about this, at least in certain senses. There may be multiple levels of explanations, where a given event may at one level be determined by (say) the sufficient and necessary physical conditions, but on another level God may be permitting or ensuring that said conditions come to pass. But I think that’s likely off the topic you’re considering.

    6. When we “see” what appears to be a “random” event at the “quantum” level, it could be that this randomness is the real randomness that is part of nature (according to quantum theory); or it could be that God is tinkering with nature at a level at which we cannot detect; since the timing of certain subatomic events is random, we can never be sure, whether an event “just happened” or was subtly steered by God. This means that if God directs evolution by subtly steering the “random” mutations, his intervention, though real, will be completely undetectable.

    I think the accent should be put on ‘we can never be sure’, really. There are a number of interpretations of quantum mechanics, even various views of what is meant by the Copenhagen interpretation, and they’re generally summed up by speculation about what’s “really going on”, with it being noted that this can’t be known at least at the moment, possibly can’t be known practically, and possibly in principle.

    The wiki entry on Copenhagen mentions: “Many physicists have subscribed to the instrumentalist interpretation of quantum mechanics, a position often equated with eschewing all interpretation. It is summarized by the sentence “Shut up and calculate!”" As ever, I don’t mind speculation beyond our capabilities, so long as said speculation is noted for what it is.

    7. TEs use this last conclusion to refute ID, but this just shows their confusion of thought about what ID is.

    Do TEs really do this? I mean offer up the uncertainties at the quantum level, and the fact that God (Or any designer?) could well be working at such level, to “refute ID”.

    I ask this for a number of reasons. First, I recall Dembski writing on this site that if TEs are serious about design ‘working’ at the quantum level, that they are in essence making an ID proposal, since they would have to at least cop to the idea that such ‘intervention’ could – at least potentially – be inferred scientifically. Perhaps by noting the patterns. Perhaps by some other method.

    Second, that move would require a TE being agnostic about the ultimate causes of mutation – are mutations actually unguided? Are they, in fact, intended (even if we can’t find the pattern, or note the intention behind them individually)? But to be agnostic on the question of the causes and ‘direction’ of mutation is to be agnostic on the question of Darwinism itself.

    As ever, I’m fine with such agnosticism. Will a TE, particularly the TEs you have in mind here, be comfortable with such? Somehow I doubt it.

    So I don’t understand why questions of indeterminism so often come up in discussions of evolution.

    I’ve actually seen suggestions (by philosophers, rather than ID proponents) who argue that it’s better to view God as ‘fixing the quantum results’, so to speak, rather than accepting some kind of brute indeterminism. (My understanding is that such brute indeterminism has been embraced at least partially on the grounds that whatever could possibly be responsible for what we see at the quantum level would have to be quite unlike what we normally expect in nature, and would beyond our ability to ascertain regardless. Ergo, some would like to simply conclude that there’s nothing we’re missing, rather than cop to the possibility that we’re missing something important, and that scientifically this may stay the case.)

  105. nullasalus:

    Thanks for your response.

    I was speaking in shorthand when I spoke of TEs using quantum indeterminacy to “refute” ID, and I blurred together some positions which should be kept distinct.

    What I had in mind was a number of comments in Biologos columns and elsewhere, where TEs try to prove that God works “through randomness,” and therefore that ID is wrong to contrast God’s design with randomness. They see randomness as the tool through which God achieves the design, rather than something which would upset or counteract design.

    But of course this has the problem that even very high probability is not certainty, and if God used purely stochastic processes to generate new species, then he was in fact leaving the outcome of evolution to chance. Certainly neither the time nor the place of man’s emergence could be guaranteed by such a means of creation, if indeed man’s emergence could be guaranteed at all.

    It all gets murky because TEs are so philosophically unclear. What do they mean by saying “God uses randomness”? Are they talking about the randomness associated with quantum phenomena? Or merely “randomness with respect to the outcome” regarding macroscopic phenomena? Sometimes the two ideas appear close together in TE prose, but since no philosophical care is taken to distinguish them, TEs’ meaning is unclear.

    Some TEs — mostly not on Biologos — have advanced the view that God tinkers quietly “under the quantum radar,” so that his divine action is scientifically indetectable, and looks like a natural process of random mutation. R. J. Russell has advanced this view. It is this view which is compatible with the Dembski view that you cite. But only a very small number of TEs (I think Murphy and Davis, and possibly, in a half-hearted way, every third Thursday, Ken Miller) have advanced it. Mostly TEs just lay randomness (quantum or other) and divine design side by side, and wave their magic NOMA wands, and say that the two are compatible. TEs like to think of this as profound paradox; those of us who read a lot of philosophy call it intellectual incoherence.

    As for your other point, if there are Copenhagen-view physicists who are happy to eschew talk of real randomness and speak simply of an effective mathematical randomness while remaining agnostic about the underlying reality, that’s fine with me. But such physicists would surely not support some of the remarks made about “real randomness” by some TEs or even by some commenters here. So their authority could not be invoked to prove that “real randomness” does anything in nature. But I think you have already made that point yourself.

    T.

  106. T,

    It all gets murky because TEs are so philosophically unclear. What do they mean by saying “God uses randomness”? Are they talking about the randomness associated with quantum phenomena? Or merely “randomness with respect to the outcome” regarding macroscopic phenomena? Sometimes the two ideas appear close together in TE prose, but since no philosophical care is taken to distinguish them, TEs’ meaning is unclear.

    I had a feeling you meant that, and should have just run with that idea to begin with. Yes, when someone says that God ‘uses randomness’, I’d personally ask them exactly what they meant. If someone were to say that randomness were merely apparent, an artifact of limited humans modeling the world and that God thus knew what the outcome of the evolutionary process would definitely be, I could understand their position. The same with the position that God intervenes directly, maybe even constantly, at the quantum level and the effects “bleed up” to achieve His desired results.

    Maybe the lack of clarity is purposeful. I get the impression from many TEs that what is paramount for them is being lauded as pro-science by all the right people, and as being living proof that evolution and Christianity are compatible.

    In fact, as I typed this up, I decided to open up Biologos to see if any articles relevant to randomness and God came up. “Stochastic Grace” was right at the top of the list. Sy writes well, but his treatment of randomness leaves me confused. “Apparent randomness” makes a mention, as is putting “random” in quotation marks – is he saying God then foreknows the results and outcomes in nature?

    I did find this:

    Belief in a supernatural creator always leaves open the possibility that human beings are a fully-intended part of creation. If the Creator chooses to interact with creation, he could very well influence the evolutionary process to ensure the arrival of his intended result. Furthermore, an omniscient creator could easily create the universe in such a way that physical and natural laws would result in human evolution.

    So, that’s something. Of course, the million dollar question is “If an omniscient creator did that, is Darwinism true?” Ruse says no, and Biologos hosted him on their site when he said no, so…

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