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Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine vs. “turtles all the way down . . .”

UD’s resident journalist, Mrs Denise O’Leary, notes on how Mr Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine and Scientific American (etc.) has written on his new book, The Believing Brain: Why Science Is the Only Way Out of Belief-Dependent Realism:

. . . skepticism is a sine qua non of science, the only escape we have from the belief-dependent realism trap created by our believing brains.

While critical awareness — as opposed to selective hyperskepticism — is indeed important for serious thought in science and other areas of life, Mr Shermer hereby reveals an unfortunate ignorance of basic epistemology, the logic of warrant and the way that faith and reason are inextricably intertwined in the roots of our worldviews.

To put it simply, he has a “turtles all the way down” problem:

"Turtles, all the way down . . . "

The image of course comes from the old story of the lady who told the scientist that the world rests on the back of a turtle. The scientist challenged her, and where does that turtle stand? On another one. And that one? “It’s turtles all the way down . . . ”

The same problem holds for warranting a given claim. As I noted in a comment in Mrs O’Leary’s thread (which Mr Arrington suggested be promoted to a full post):

Take any given claim of consequence A. Why accept it?

It has grounds of some sort B.

Why accept B?

C.

And so forth.

You will then have the choice of:

(i) infinite regress ["turtles all the way down . . . "],

(ii) a circle ["turtles in a loop . . . "] or

(iii) stopping at some set of first plausibles F that are accepted as that, plausible without further demonstration. ["The last turtle stands on something, hopefully something solid"].

The first two are absurd and fallacious in turn.

Since many such sets F are possible, the matter now turns to comparative difficulties on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power across live options F1, F2, F3 etc.

Have a look here on.

But, every such set F, is a Faith-point. Faith and reason are inextricably intertwined in the roots of our worldviews.

This brings us to the real issue: not whether we live by faith — we must — but in what do we put our trust, why.

That is, we seek to have a reasonable faith.

We are thus forced to stop at some set of first plausibles or other — that is, a “faith-point” (yes, we ALL must live by some faith or another, given our finitude and fallibility) –  and then compare alternatives and see which is least difficult. (At this level, all sets of alternative first plausibles bristle with difficulties. Indeed, the fundamental, generic method of philosophy is therefore that of comparative difficulties.)

John Locke aptly summed up our dilemma in section 5 of his introduction to his famous 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. 2:13Titus 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. [Emphases added. Text references also added, to document the sources of Locke's biblical allusions and citations.]

So, we must make the best of the candle-light we have. At worldview choice level, a good way to do that is to look at three major comparative difficulties tests:

(1) factual adequacy relative to what we credibly know about the world and ourselves,

(2) coherence, by which the pieces of our worldview must fit together logically and work together harmoniously,

(3) explanatory relevance and simplicity: our view needs to explain reality (including our experience of ourselves in our common world) elegantly, simply and powerfully, being neither simplistic nor a patchwork where we are forever adding after-the-fact patches to fix  leak after leak.

Two key components of this process of comparative difficulties in pursuit of a worldview that is a reasonable faith, are: (i) first principles of right reason, and (ii) warranted, credible truths.

And, when it comes to matters of fact, our challenge is aptly summed up by founder of the modern theory of evidence, Simon Greenleaf, in his famouse treatise on Evidence:

The word Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . .

None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [Greenleaf was almost a century before Godel] , and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction. Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone ; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration.

In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to he proved . . . .

By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt. The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man ; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest joncern and importance to his own interest . . . .

Even of mathematical truths, [Gambler, in The Study of Moral Evidence] justly remarks, that, though capable of demonstration, they are admitted by most men solely on the moral evidence of general notoriety. For most men are neither able themselves to understand mathematical demonstrations, nor have they, ordinarily, for their truth, the testimony of those who do understand them; but finding them generally believed in the world, they also believe them. Their belief is afterwards confirmed by experience; for whenever there is occasion to apply them, they are found to lead to just conclusions. [A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, 11th edn, 1868 [?], vol 1 Ch 1 , pp. 45 – 46.]

So the key challenge is that one must have a reasonable and responsible consistency in standards of warrant on important matters of fact or matters rooted in facts.

We thus see the standard of reasonable and consistent, albeit provisional warrant that appears in all sorts of serious contexts such as the courtroom, history, science [especially origins sciences], and many matters of affairs.

Mr Shermer needs to do some fairly serious rethinking on the relationship between faith and reason. END

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75 Responses to Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine vs. “turtles all the way down . . .”

  1. I would say, along with the majority of people who post in favor of science, that science produces provisional explanations rather then truth.

    It is the nature of science to look for regularities that are predictive or which have entailments. Explanations that give rise to questions that suggest further research.

    We all have our personal standards for accepting stories as fact. UD has recently hosted several threads on conspiracy theorists. Apparently there are no histories of any consequence that are accepted by everyone.

    But science does not in principle worry about the absolute truth of any historical account. Rather it worries about where the stories lead and what they imply or predict for future discoveries.

    In astronomy, for example, a hypothesis about planetary formation is strengthened or weakened by finding other solar systems and noting the configurations.

    In biology, hypotheses about sequences of change are strengthened by finding expected fossils in expected places.

  2. Petrushka:

    First, note that Shermer was being corrected on his epistemology, not just his view of science. In order to reason and warrant claims of consequence, at the root of our reasoning, there are unavoidable faith-commitments and limitations, so the honest thing to do — intellectual virtues/vices come in as the points I made are not THAT hard to find out about — is to acknowledge that,and to soberly assess difficulties on a comparative basis across the alternatives.

    Now, too, the provisionality of scientific warrant — why do you come across as though I have not said, linked and more on that? — is a commonplace, and is elaborated in the linked in the OP that I again link here. Let me clip the “definition” that you will find there — and which BTW (despite your snide hint) is plainly in favour of science as opposed to favouring evolutionary materialism imposed as an ideological a priori under the false colours of science [have a run through the linked course . . . ]:

    science, at its best, is the unfettered — but ethically and intellectually responsible — progressive, observational evidence-led 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.

    Unfortunately, science and especially origins science have often been turned into an ideology with a grossly exaggerated view of its power to warrant claims, including those on the deep, unobserved and unobservable past.

    That is what Lewontin also documented in his 1997 NYRB article, and let me clip that too:

    . . . the problem is to get [people] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [[i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    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 [[another major begging of the question . . . ] 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 [[i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [Reader, if you think that the immediately following words JUSTIFY the above, go to the link and read the rest of the quote,t eh notes and the following materials. There is now a talking point that the above is a "quote mining" that should be brushed aside. That is a false accusation, and by now a willful one.]

    There is something seriously rotten in the state of science and science education in our day.

    GEM of TKI

  3. In the days of Newton, science gladly entertained theistic explanations. In fact, one of the major reasons for founding the science of geology was to find evidence for the global flood.

    Turning away from this motivation did not happen overnight. It happened over centuries, and it happened as a result of experience. Theology just contributed less and less to science.

    There are some archaeological investigations that benefit from scripture. But not much in biology, geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry and such. (I’m aware that the big bang was championed by a theist in part for theistic reasons.)

    If ID benefits biology it does so by spurring the investigation of things like the search for transitional fossils and the search for OOL scenarios, and the search for evidence of common descent.

    If you read the rest of Lewontin’s essay, he explains why naturalism is the default position of biology. Naturalism has entailments. If you start your investigation with the assumption that there must be a natural explanation, you have to look for it, no matter how difficult the search or how long it takes. Explanations of gravity have taken centuries and are yet incomplete.

    If you assume that events like evolution are the results of unspecifiable interventions, you cannot develop or test hypotheses that require regularity. The history of science does not offer proof that regularities will be found, but it has been for centuries an effective strategy.

  4. Ammendment: ID certinly does not forbid or prevent the investigation of regularities, and there are many working scientists who are sympathetic to ID.

    But I have seen several post in the last couple of days that assert the OOL research is hopeless. Actually I read something along this line in Koonin’s book.

    I have no way of knowing where OOL reseasearch will lead. there are many difficult problems in science that do not yield results quickly. I don’t think anyone thinks nuclear fusion is supernatural, but decades of very expensive research have not made it a practical method of generating electrical power. The most optimistic projections always put it thirty years in the future.

    I’ve wanted to do a psychology experiment on the effects of “faith.” Take a look at the PC game of FreeCell. It is not obvious, but virtually every deal can be won (all but one). I’ve wanted to find out if knowing this makes any difference in people’s way of playing. the people who built the first atomic bombs said the biggest secret was not how to do it, but that it could be done.

    Mainstream biologists approach the problem of OOL with the assumption that it can be won. (I suppose ID theorists would say, all but that one last hand!)

    Regardless of whether there is a hand that cannot be won, science continues to play to win.

  5. Petrushka:

    Science is not about a priori imposition of evolutionary materialism, or it has sacrificed the central value of objectivity in seeking the truth about our world.

    Without that value, origins science in particular is little more than politics, materialist mythology and a rhetorical stalking horse for atheism.

    Period.

    When those who dominate science and science education in a given era have done that — as Lewontin and others document (as can be seen if you read on here), they have thereby revealed the utter bankruptcy of their values and their stewardship of science and education needs to come to an end.

    Period.

    Science and science education therefore now need to be rescued from such hands, and exposure of the usurpation as has been seen, is the first step to that.

    Period.

    Going back to the main focus of the original post, it is no business of science to censor worldviews. Especially, when the relevant methodology of warrant for provisional knowledge claims, inference to best current abductive explanation, is critically dependent on the absence of such censorship. Otherwise the inference is not to the best explanation, but only to the best materialistic explanation, which begs BIG questions.

    Questions that the design theory thinkers are highlighting, in the face of not only the threat but now the repeated act of expulsion from institutions dominated by materialist ideologues.

    You have also, unfortunately, obviously failed to read or seriously reckon with my notes on why Lewontin’s attempted justification for imposition of a priori censorship spectacularly fails. Pardon directness: that does not speak well of your level of thought on this.

    To correct, let me now continue the clip, and enfold the explanatory note immediately following:

    . . . for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen. [[Perhaps the second saddest thing is that some actually believe that these last three sentences that express hostility to God and then back it up with a loaded strawman caricature of theism and theists JUSTIFY what has gone on before. As a first correction, accurate history -- as opposed to the commonly promoted rationalist myth of the longstanding war of religion against science -- documents (cf. here, here and here) that the Judaeo-Christian worldview nurtured and gave crucial impetus to the rise of modern science through its view that God as creator made and sustains an orderly world. Similarly, for miracles -- e.g. the resurrection of Jesus -- to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary course of the world, there must first be such an ordinary course, one plainly amenable to scientific study. The saddest thing is that many are now so blinded and hostile that, having been corrected, they will STILL think that this justifies the above. But, nothing can excuse the imposition of a priori materialist censorship on science, which distorts its ability to seek the empirically warranted truth about our world.]

    [[From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997. Bold emphasis added.

    [ . . . . ]

    Mr Lewontin and a great many other leading scientists and other influential people in our time clearly think that such evolutionary materialist scientism is the closest thing to the “obvious” truth about our world we have or can get. This has now reached to the point where some want to use adherence to this view as a criterion of being “scientific,” which to such minds is equivalent to “rational.” . . .

    If you need more, there is a significant explanatory note that I have clipped out of the cite just now. Let me put this further note into play:

    [ . . . ]

  6. (NB: The key part of this quote [from the NYRB article] comes after some fairly unfortunate remarks where Mr Lewontin gives the “typical” example — yes, we can spot a subtext — of an ill-informed woman who dismissed the Moon landings on the grounds that she could not pick up Dallas on her TV, much less the Moon. This is little more than a subtle appeal to the ill-tempered sneer at those who dissent from the evolutionary materialist “consensus,” that they are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked. For telling counter-instance, Wernher von Braun, the designer of the rocket that took NASA to the Moon, was an evangelical Christian and a Creationist. Similarly, when Lewontin cites “eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck” as declaring that “anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything,” drawing as bottom-line, the inference that “[[t]o appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen,” this is a sadly sophomoric distortion. One that fails to understand that, on the Judaeo-Christian theistic view, for miracles to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary, there must first be an ordinary consistently orderly world, one created by the God of order who “sustains all things by his powerful word.” Also, for us to be morally accountable to God — a major theme in theism, the consequences of our actions must be reasonably predictable, i.e. we must live in a consistent, predictably orderly cosmos, one that would be amenable to science. And, historically, it was specifically that theistic confidence in an orderly cosmos governed by a wise and orderly Creator that gave modern science much of its starting impetus from about 1200 to 1700. For instance that is why Newton (a biblical theist), in the General Scholium to his famous work Principia, confidently said “[[t]his most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being . . . It is allowed by all that the Supreme God exists necessarily; and by the same necessity he exists always, and every where. [[i.e. he accepts the cosmological argument to God] . . . We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final cause [[i.e from his designs] . . . Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. [[i.e. necessity does not produce contingency]. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing. [[That is, he implicitly rejects chance, Plato's third alternative and explicitly infers to the Designer of the Cosmos.]” In such a context of order stamped in at creation and sustained through God’s power, for good reason, God may then act into the world in ways that go beyond the ordinary, i.e. miracles are possible but will inevitably be rare and in a context that points to such a higher purpose. For instance, the chief miracle claim of Christian thought, the resurrection of Jesus with 500+ witnesses is presented in the NT as decisive evidence for the truth of the gospel and authentication of God’s plan of redemption. So, since these contextual remarks have been repeatedly cited by objectors as though they prove the above cite is an out of context distortion that improperly makes Lewontin seem irrational in his claims, they have to be mentioned, and addressed, as some seem to believe that such a disreputable “context” justifies the assertions and attitudes above!)]

    Lewontin is wrong, and if the clip from Beck does not distort nuances, Beck would be worse than merely wrong, he would be sophomorically ill-informed. By contrast, Newton is philosophically far more sophisticated than Lewontin is, and tan Beck appears to be; understanding the implications of chance, necessity and agency for the way the world would operate — and your attempt to trash newton as a theist instead of dealing with the philosophical issues he echoes from Plato, is sadly revealing.

    That set of concerns is why Johnson’s rebuke to Lewontin (also cited in the linked, as you read on beyond Coyne, the US NAS and NSTA) was so well merited:

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

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    I then continued: >> In short, the root problem is not the evidence as such, but the a priori imposition of ideological materialism on origins science. Worse, Lewontin and others apparently do not realise that the claim, assumption or inference that “science [[is] the only begetter of truth” is not a claim within science but instead a philosophical claim about how we get warranted, credibly true belief, i.e. knowledge. So, they have contradicted themselves: appealing to non-scientific knowledge claims to try to deny the possibility of knowledge beyond science! >>

    Please, think again.

    Good day

    GEM of TKI

  7. I suggest you begin here on, to begin to see the un-answered issues on origin of life. Trying to work in a circle where we reconstruct a world we did not observe and cannot observe by imposing the a priori censorship that we must only consider the best explanations acceptable to materialism, is an obvious blunder — save to ideologues.

    Let’s ask:

    Q1: What is the known source of digital code, algorithms, data structures, and implementing co-ordinated executing machinery, again?

    Q2: What is the evidence on observation that such things can come about by blind chance and mechanical necessity?

    ANS 1: Design.

    ANS 2: Nil, there are entire industries full of evidence that show that the best known explanation for these things is design. And, they are backed up by pretty sobering analyses on the search challenge for the relevant configuration spaces. In short there is a very good explanation for why the observations are so.

  8. I have not attempted to trash Newton. I point out that he assumed that the best explanation for the stability of the solar system was divine intervention.

    That was a reasonable and common assumption at the time, but it was overturned by Laplace.

    You assert that:

    … for miracles to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary, there must first be an ordinary consistently orderly world…

    I think that statement is entirely consistent with Lewontin’s statement. What science looks for is order and consistency.

    The history of Galileo, Newton and Einstein illustrate how difficult it is to discover order and consistency, and illustrate that centuries may elapse between defining a problem and finding solutions.

    Without trashing Newton, it must be pointed out that in at least this one instance, he overlooked the possibility of order and consistency and missed an opportunity to resolve a problem.

    I’m not sure how you can avoid this error unless, as an investigator, you attempt to find order and consistency.

  9. Q1: What is the known source of digital code, algorithms, data structures, and implementing co-ordinated executing machinery, again?

    The brain has been called a digital computer, but one cannot derive the properties and limitations of the brain from the properties and limitations of computer programs. Nor can you assert that a brain requires a programmer in order to learn.

    Brains learn and biological systems learn. Both learn, at least in part, by trial and error. Brains increase their store of knowledge, at least in part, by trial and error. Information can be accumulated through trial and error.

    So it is untrue that information can only be accumulated by intervention of an outside designer. Information can be the result of learning, and it can be accumulated.

  10. It isn’t clear from your earlier post that you were responding to the narrow issue of Newton and Laplace, and not to some broad issue.

  11. Quick note: inference to best explanation on abduction is not an “assumption.” Please read here for a starter. Later, got a constitutional crisis to deal with.

  12. Second quick note, the neural network in the brain and CNS is ANALOGUE, not digital.

  13. Kindly cf the OP, the context is epistemology which applies to science and warrant of worldviews on inference to best explanation across live options. Look carefully at the turtles all the way down challenge. And, remember, it has us ALL in its grip. Locke and Greenleaf are very wise on this subject.

  14. Inference to best explanation is subject to error, as illustrated by Newton and Laplace.

    Both ID advocates and evolutionists make inferences to best explanation.

    I have merely pointed out that in the case of Newton and Laplace, the inference of supernatural intervention was premature and wrong. And it was not because Newton was incompetent or intellectually deficient.

    It was because Newton failed to look for regularity and consistency, and inferred intervention.

    I’m not aware of any example from the history of post-Newtonian science (geology, physics, chemistry, astronomy) where the inference of intervention has been affirmed by positive evidence. In those sciences where we successfully use the design inference — archaeology and criminal forensics — we have vast knowledge of the capabilities and proclivities of the designer, from direct observation.

    But applying heuristics, is makes no difference whether the naturalistic explanation is most likely. The ID inference lacks entailments, and cannot generate research questions.

    In the case of archaeology, we have entailments. We know the capabilities and limitations of humans. We know a lot about the history of humans. We know a lot about the sequence of inventions and art. We know a lot about cultural geography.

    We can make mistaken inferences, and we can have controversies about migration times and tool development, but we can formulate research questions to resolve controversies.

    I remain uninformed of any heuristic value of the design inference in cases where we know nothing about the capabilities and limitations of the designer, have observed no examples of intervention, have no hypotheses about the methods used or the times and places where intervention has occurred.

  15. I personally tend to agree that firing rate is important, and rate appears to be analog. So I’m paying attention to you line of reasoning.

    But neuronal firing is all or nothing, so the substrate is digital.

    The genome is digitally coded, but its expression is modulated by environmental hormones, chemicals and many other factors that are effectively “smooth” rather than discrete.

    Not to mention, that the “learning” taking place in a biological population is a matter of allele frequency and reproductive success rate.

  16. I think it needs picking apart a bit more (but I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine so beware)

    I think that anything that is encoded by means of a state of matter has to be digital in the sense that it is discrete, it can be tied down to a definite state. You are correct with the comment about neuronal firing – Neurons either fire or they don’t so they are binary in that regard, but they operate in asynchronous parallel and in real time so the firing rate is only ‘digital’ if you are talking about the timing in terms of planck length – where we might assume that temporal measurements become essentially quantized.

    Anything encoded in matter HAS to be digital in the sense of being discrete, but this also renders the arguments about DNA being digital irrelevant – perhaps just an appeal to design inference by analogy.

    Can anyone suggest a way of encoding information in a cell that is not entirely temporal and also not discrete?

  17. Petrushka:

    There are several matters to be addressed on points.

    But first, pardon a general attitude remark. You and I have different worldviews, but perhaps it has not dawned on you that I have spent decades of my life both studying and teaching in the pure and applied sciences and allied fields.

    You must therefore realise just how offensive you come across when you speak thusly in a partisan manner, as though only those of your party care about the sciences:

    would say, along with the majority of people who post in favor of science . . .

    Science, ought not to be confused with evolutionary materialistic scientism, nor should partisans of this ideology imagine that they have a monopoly on science. Science will only profit when it is conducted in an objective manner, not on the sort of ideological a priorism that Lewontin et al espouse. And, when such a priori ideologues then turn around and pretend that they have a monopoly on science, that conceit rings utterly hollow.

    So, kindly cease and desist.

    Now, let me turn to particular points:

    1 –> In the General Scholium to Principia and in Opticks Query 31, Newton was precisely NOT discussing the stability of the planets [which BTW is again an open question . . . ], but was discussing the general context of science and the difference between explanation on chance, necessity and agency relative to a cosmos governed by principles of order.

    2 –> In adverting to these classic texts, I was highlighting in response to the appeal to Beck et al, that in fact, Judaeo-Christian tehism withthe possibility of miracles is DEMONSTRABLY not inimical to the practice of science, at he very highest levels.

    3 –> So, in 5 above you have dragged a red herring away from the real issue, then pulled it over to an erected strawman — which was then triumphalistically knocked over, sadly typical for those of your party.

    4 –> Inference to best explanation, of course is the foundational method of investigation in science, and it is how it makes progress. That its results are provisional is a given, and that is why we will always make errors. That is a truism about inductive methods of investigation; which we are bound to undertake once we examine the world of facts. So, the possibility of error is no objection to any particular inference, as it holds for all such inferences and explanations.

    5 –> In your haste to dismiss a “supernatural” explanation, you proceed to pummel the strawman on the ground; oblivious to the fact that once laws and reasonable circumstances do explain an object the inference to chance and necessity is reasonable and in fact the default for the explanatory filter. The relevant case of course, which you have not been able to touch, is that functionally specific, complex information is a well tested and empirically reliable sign of design.

    6 –> And, meanwhile the actual issue to be addressed, that the reference to Beck as though it warrants imposing a priori materialism, is utterly unwarranted, is insistently ignored.

    7 –> You are also of course refusing to look at cases that abundantly confirm that FSCI is a reliable sign of design. And, in trying to spend time on this side issue,t he question of MATERIALIST CENSORSHIP on science that subverts it from objectively seeking the truth about our world on evidence, is being massively begged.

    8 –> The notion that you can merely assert that an inference to design is not fruitful of onward investigations would be laughable if it were not so sadly specious.

    9 –> The founders of modern science saw the cosmos as God’s design, and its contents as God’s design. Their ENTIRE research programme was one of reverse engineering, thinking God’s thoughts after him, i.e. the point of “natural LAW” was that this was what seemed to be a design principle used to regulate our world.

    10 –> And, today, inferring to say the design of DNA etc would lead logically to reverse engineering and forward engineering, just the opposite of a science stopper.

    11 –> BRAINS learn. A partyline, question-begging assertion. Our experience, instead is that conscious, intelligent agents learn cognitive things, and use brains and the rest of bodies in the process. To infer onward that BRAINS do the learning is to impose a worldview level a priori.

    12 –> In addition, the most important kinds of learning that we do are well beyond the reach of blind trial and error on the scope of the cosmos [just think about he number of states for a cluster of just 1,000 bits or 125 bytes], what we actually are doing is investigating on mental models and rough and ready explanatory or dynamical models, which we test against reality.

    13 –> For instance, neither you nor I composed our posts in this comment thread by blind trial and error processes, or we would get nowhere significant.

    14 –> And if the only contribution of design theory — and it is not — wee to teach us to see beyond blind trial and error, to see how intelligence actually acts, that would be a lot.

    15 –> Learning of course, in the relevant sense, is internal to the intelligent agent involved. But again, we see the blinding effect of the materialist paradigm.

    ___________

    GEM of TKI

  18. I’m not convinced that quantum level effects are necessary to describe the behavior of brains. I know that Penrose disagrees, but I think his is a minority opinion.

    By talking about firing rate I am merely suggesting that neurons “vote” continuously about what to do (so to speak). A great deal of serendipity and complexity could result from the timing of enabling and inhibiting pulses. I don’t pretend to know as much about this as someone working in the field. I just speculate.

  19. But first, pardon a general attitude remark. You and I have different worldviews, but perhaps it has not dawned on you that I have spent decades of my life both studying and teaching in the pure and applied sciences and allied fields.

    Ah, start with an argument from authority, well done, now let me reciprocate.

    The problem I have KF is that many of your comments indicate a superficial and deeply biased understanding of these topics, and attempts to engage you with the deeper matters just result in goal shifting or equivocation (or sometimes just paranoid rants). This is from someone who has spent decades of their life both studying and teaching in the pure and applied sciences and allied fields – and has earned their PhD. Of course you will just dismiss this because of your paranoid conspiracy theories about evo-materialism and the Darwinist majesterium.
    None of those qualified experts are really experts, no, you are the real expert, but there is a vast conspiracy preventing people from seeing the truth.

    Sad really, you actually come across as someone who is quite bright. As a fellow dyslexic I recognize something in then way your train of thought flows, the problem is that to a large degree is is unstructured, deeply biased, and consequently incoherent at a deeper level.

  20. In what sense, kf?

    Why would you call the firing of a neuron “analog”, and not, for example, the change from “high” to “low” impedance in an electronic system?

  21. Exactly. Discrete inputs are summed over time.

    I’m not sure that the digital vs analogy distinction is really a useful one.

  22. analogy=analog

    My fingers have free will, it seems.

  23. Yes – In a very real sense the switches that form a gate in a digital logic circuit are just very high gain amplifiers with hysteresis, and I seem to recall that some of the evolved FPGA circuit configurations produced in evolvable hardware research were actually found to be exploiting this analogue element of a system that had been intentionally designed to operate digitally.

  24. I intended no insult. Rather than “scientists,” I should have used your term: “scientistic evolutionary materialists.”

    As to Newton and divine intervention, his opinion is found in a letter to Bentley, December 10, 1692:

    http://homepages.wmich.edu/~mcgrew/bent1.htm

    To your second Query I answer that the motions which the Planets now have could not spring from any naturall cause alone but were imprest by an intelligent Agent. For since Comets descend into the region of our planets and here move all manner of ways going sometimes the same way with the Planets sometimes the contrary way and sometimes in cross ways in planes inclined to the plane of the Ecliptick at all kinds of angles: its plaine that there is no naturall cause which could determine all the Planets both primary and secondary to move the same way and in the same plane without any considerable variation. This must have been the effect of Counsel. Nor is there any natural cause which could give the Planets those just degrees of velocity in proportion to their distances from the Sun and other central bodies about which they move and to the quantity of matter conteined in those bodies, which were requisite to make them move in concentrick orbs about those bodies. Had the Planets been as swift as Comets in proportion to their distances from the sun (as they would have been, had their motions been caused by their gravity, whereby the matter at the first formation of the Planets might fall from the remotest regions towards the Sun) they would not move in concentric orbs but in such excentric ones as the Comets move in. Were all the Planets as swift as mercury or as slow as Saturn or his Satellites, or were there several velocities otherwise much greater or less then they are (as they might have been had they arose from any other cause then their gravity) or had their distances from the centers about which they move been greater or less then they are with the same velocities; or had the quantity of matter in the Sun or in Saturn, Jupiter and the earth and by consequence their gravitating power been greater or less then it is: the primary Planets could not have revolved about the Sun nor the secondary ones about Saturn, Jupiter and the earth in concentrick circles as they do, but would have moved in Hyperbolas or Parabolas or in Ellipses very excentric. To make this systeme therefore with all its motions, required a Cause which understood and compared together the quantities of matter in the several bodies of the Sun and Planets and the gravitating powers resulting from thence, the several distances of the primary Planets from the Sun and secondary ones from Saturn Jupiter and the earth, and the velocities with which these planets could revolve at those distances about those quantities of matter in the central bodies. And to compare and adjust all these things together in so great a variety of bodies argues that cause to be not blind and fortuitous, but very well skilled in Mechanicks and Geometry.

  25. Dr Bot:

    Unfortunately the above ad hominem has become par for your course here at UD, and has now reached the level of outright personal attack.

    I will not indulge the sort of exchange that would simply encourage more of the same.

    Nor, am I merely alleging an imaginary conspiracy [as you would use to try to dismiss the problem of a very real party-spirited agenda that has damaged science in our time, and not just Origins Science], as the recent spate of fines resulting from legal actions has demonstrated.

    If there were no problem of ideological materialist bias, you would not for instance see the US’ National Science Teachers’ Association trying to redefine science — in the teeth of a lot of relevant history and issues, thusly:

    The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts . . . .

    [[S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements in the production of scientific knowledge. [[NSTA, Board of Directors, July 2000. Emphases added.]

    Perhaps that is not sufficiently august. So, let us clip the US’ National Academy of Science, in a similar vein:

    In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. Any scientific explanation has to be testable — there must be possible observational consequences that could support the idea but also ones that could refute it. Unless a proposed explanation is framed in a way that some observational evidence could potentially count against it, that explanation cannot be subjected to scientific testing. [[Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008, p. 10 Emphases added.]

    Both of these remarks, show an institutionalised failure to appreciate that the key distinction relevant to our cases is that between nature and art rather than the natural and the supernatural, and fail to appreciate that the artificial can and does leave reliable empirical signs that are amenable to study.

    In short, we see how methodological naturalism is exerting precisely the sort of bias that Lewontin acknowledged so inconveniently.

    The interested onlooker can examine a more detailed discussion here.

    Good day,

    GEM of TKI

  26. Pulse mod systems are commonly analogue.

  27. Dr Liddle:

    Do you have any evidence of stepwise variation in the signals in neuronal systems, where values between “adjacent” states are meaningless or impossible? if not you are moving along a continuum [like climbing up a rope by hanging on anywhere along its length], which is the key to an analogue system.

    So far as I am aware, there is a continuous response, just it is pulse-based. But analogue pulse mod systems — pulse rate, pulse amplitude, and pulse time — are quite common.

    (Or, used to be . . . )

    Unless you have the sort of “rungs on a ladder effect” — no valid values between “rungs” — in action, you have some form of analogue pulse mod system; seems to me a blend of amplitude and repetition rate i.e. pulse rate, and it seems something like a log compression is in use to get high dynamic range out of a fairly small actual signal variation.

    GEM of TKI

  28. In your haste to dismiss a “supernatural” explanation…

    I am in no haste to dismiss supernatural explanations. I am in agreement with you when you say supernatural phenomena must be discerned amidst a background of regularity and consistency.

    It is the prevalence of regularity that enables us to discern irregularities. Thus the search for intervention requires us to rule out regularity.

    I’m not convinced that arguments from pure mathematics can dissuade mainstream scientist from searching for regularities in biology. Even when the task is difficult or unlikely to be resolved in one’s lifetime.

    There has never been a greater genius than Newton, and yet he seems to have given up the task prematurely.

  29. Well, an action potential is a discrete event, triggered when a value on a continuum (depolarisation) reaches a threshold. But the same is true of the pins of a parallel port, and we call those values binary.

    But I don’t think it’s a terribly important point. What is important is the summation of inputs over time.

  30. Summing digital data over time is what’s done by a digital to analog converter. Pulse code modulation.

  31. …an institutionalised failure to appreciate that the key distinction relevant to our cases is that between nature and art rather than the natural and the supernatural…

    1. There is no precedent in modern science for finding an artifact as complex as life for which we have a history rather than an inference. The artifacts we find are made by humans or animals or plants. In general, we are able to observe them being made.
    2. There are instances in modern science, such as the one I cited from Newton, in which it has been claimed that natural explanations are impossible, and for which natural explanations have been found. The history of intervention inferences is mostly a history of the inference being disproved.
    3. It is possible to look for regularity. It is impossible to look directly for for interventions without having some knowledge of the properties of the intervening agent.
    4. Failure to explain is not a useful argument. Scientific problems have gone unsolved for centuries.

  32. Dr Liddle

    Pausing from other things for a moment.

    The issue is not whether you have specific events or pulses but how the pulses are processed. If they are continuous state, the matter is analogue.

    The inputs are in effect integrated or accumulated until a firing threshold is triggered, in the neuron. That, too is an analogue process, though with a saturation level that triggers response.

    The neuron is a more sophisticated gate than the digital ones we are used to, and it is not a mere amplifier manipulated by feedback networks either — that is how mathematical operations are done in electronic analogue computers.

    Parallel and serial ports use discrete state events [voltage levels, etc], whether synchronous or asynchronous.

    Of course there is no general clock signal in the CNS, so that is asynchronous.

    GEM of TKI

  33. Petrushka [and onlookers], kindly read here, busy just now. GEM of TKI

  34. Newton, General Scholium:

    >> . . . This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems: and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances one from another.

    This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God pantokrator , or Universal Ruler; for God is a relative word, and has a respect to servants; and Deity is the dominion of God not over his own body, as those imagine who fancy God to be the soul of the world, but over servants. The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect; but a being, however perfect, without dominion, cannot be said to be Lord God; for we say, my God, your God, the God of Israel, the God of Gods, and Lord of Lords; but we do not say, my Eternal, your Eternal, the Eternal of Israel, the Eternal of Gods; we do not say, my Infinite, or my Perfect: these are titles which have no respect to servants. The word God usually signifies Lord; but every lord is not a God. It is the dominion of a spiritual being which constitutes a God: a true, supreme, or imaginary dominion makes a true, supreme, or imaginary God. And from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being; and, from his other perfections, that he is supreme, or most perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. He is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite; he is not duration or space, but he endures and is present. He endures for ever, and is every where present; and by existing always and every where, he constitutes duration and space. Since every particle of space is always, and every indivisible moment of duration is every where, certainly the Maker and Lord of all things cannot be never and no where. Every soul that has perception is, though in different times and in different organs of sense and motion, still the same indivisible person. There are given successive parts in duration, co-existent puts in space, but neither the one nor the other in the person of a man, or his thinking principle; and much less can they be found in the thinking substance of God. Every man, so far as he is a thing that has perception, is one and the same man during his whole life, in all and each of his organs of sense. God is the same God, always and every where. He is omnipresent not virtually only, but also substantially; for virtue cannot subsist without substance. In him are all things contained and moved [i.e. cites Ac 17, where Paul evidently cites Cleanthes]; yet neither affects the other: God suffers nothing from the motion of bodies; bodies find no resistance from the omnipresence of God. It is allowed by all that the Supreme God exists necessarily; and by the same necessity he exists always, and every where. [i.e accepts the cosmological argument to God.] Whence also he is all similar, all eye, all ear, all brain, all arm, all power to perceive, to understand, and to act; but in a manner not at all human, in a manner not at all corporeal, in a manner utterly unknown to us. As a blind man has no idea of colours, so have we no idea of the manner by which the all-wise God perceives and understands all things. He is utterly void of all body and bodily figure, and can therefore neither be seen, nor heard, or touched; nor ought he to be worshipped under the representation of any corporeal thing. [Cites Exod 20.] We have ideas of his attributes, but what the real substance of any thing is we know not. In bodies, we see only their figures and colours, we hear only the sounds, we touch only their outward surfaces, we smell only the smells, and taste the savours; but their inward substances are not to be known either by our senses, or by any reflex act of our minds: much less, then, have we any idea of the substance of God. We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final cause [i.e from his designs]: we admire him for his perfections; but we reverence and adore him on account of his dominion: for we adore him as his servants; and a god without dominion, providence, and final causes, is nothing else but Fate and Nature. Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. [i.e necessity does not produce contingency] All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing. [That is, implicitly rejects chance, Plato's third alternative and explicitly infers to the Designer of the Cosmos.] But, by way of allegory, God is said to see, to speak, to laugh, to love, to hate, to desire, to give, to receive, to rejoice, to be angry, to fight, to frame, to work, to build; for all our notions of God are taken from. the ways of mankind by a certain similitude, which, though not perfect, has some likeness, however. And thus much concerning God; to discourse of whom from the appearances of things, does certainly belong to Natural Philosophy. >>

    Opticks Query 31:

    >> As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations. >>

    And:

    >> Now by the help of [[the laws of motion], all material Things seem to have been composed of the hard and solid Particles above-mention’d, variously associated in the first Creation by the Counsel of an intelligent Agent. For it became him who created them to set them in order. And if he did so, it’s unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature; though being once form’d, it may continue by those Laws for many Ages . . . .

    And if natural Philosophy in all its Parts, by pursuing this Method, shall at length be perfected, the Bounds of Moral Philosophy will be also enlarged. For so far as we can know by natural Philosophy what is the first Cause, what Power he has over us, and what Benefits we receive from him, so far our Duty towards him, as well as that towards one another, will appear to us by the Light of Nature. ” >>

    These are what I am referring to int eh direct context of responding on the Lewontin citation of Beck. Kindly address them.

    In short, Beck is plainly wrong, at least as Lewontin cites him, and there is no good warrant to infer that theistic thinkers are incapable of scientific reasoning or contribution.

    Gotta go now.

  35. Onlookers:

    I would really appreciate a response on the actual issues in the OP.

    GEM of TKI

  36. I’ve seen that. It has no bearing on what I said.

  37. The only process we have observed modifying populations of living things is evolution, and we have large amounts of data on the power of directed evolution, or selective breeding. So we can estimate the effectiveness and time requirements of selecting changes in regulatory genes.

    Human breeding programs seldom select for more than a few traits at a time, whereas natural selection is net really limited in the number of dimensions it can “monitor” simultaneously.

  38. Since the OP ends with an appeal to standards of evidence suitable for the courtroom, Id be curious to see what the onlookers would think, as members of the jury, to a defense attorney who pleads that the murder was the result of divine intervention.

    Is there any particular reason that isn’t done? Are jurors just scientistic materialists, or do they draw on a lifetime of experience? Is this any different from science drawing on centuries of experience?

    Is it ever reasonable to give up hope of finding a human murderer?

    Those of you who read mystery stories might recall the popularity of the locked room murder, a genre that includes all kinds of impossible murders.

    Why is it that the detective hero always infers a human killer rather than a ghost or spirit, even when everyone else thinks that is the cause?

  39. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy.

    I’m wondering how you interpret this. It’s generally regarded as excluding induction of causes not experimentally testable.

    When Laplace published his analysis of planetary orbits he specifically used this construction to mean he used no appeal to supernatural causes. He was addressing this to Newton’s invocation of supernatural forces.

  40. Petrushka,

    You said:

    “Nor can you assert that a brain requires a programmer in order to learn.”

    Why not? Practice and common sense lead me to believe in quite the opposite. I believe it would be fair to assert this by induction until further data is available to demonstrate the assertion to be wrong.

    Could you give a provable example of spontaneously self-organised code, bearing in mind the distinction between “self-ordering” (which is routinely observed in highly non-equilibrium systems) and “self-organisation” (which involves hierarchical formal relationships between system components)?

    I can refer you to this article here that discusses this issue. In case the link breaks, it’s David Abel “The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity”.

  41. Hi,

    I guess, the bottom line of the argument is whether on not to include Intelligence in the set of valid scientific explanations, in addition to Neccessity and Chance. For one, I can see no reason why it should not be included. Such inclusion is traditionally attributed to Aristotle. I can only say that I agree with him on this point :)

    In my opinion, Necessity and/or Chance cannot parsimoniously and reliably explain what we see in all its depth. By far, the best example of how absurd “scientific” explanations can be is the idea of “multiverse” in an attempt to explain the anthropic principle or the fine-tuning of the basic constants of the world. The idea of “multiverse” to me is as scientific as the idea of a turtle supporting our world in the ocean of eternity, because it is both untestable and unfalsifiable.

    As to parsimony, I am happier with the idea of an Omniponent Designer, which (the idea) buries in itself all possible infinite regressions rather than with the idea of “matter out of matter” which does not really explain anything. BTW, Paul Davies discusses these issues in his “God of the 21st century”. The materialistic position is just the inverse of the former religious axiom. But ethically it is less appealing because it makes us believe it is “scientific” :)

    Petrushka, man in limited and science is limited as well. And as a result, scientific questions may go unanswered for more than centuries, to say the least, depending on the questions :) I think that the biggest problem of today’s science is that it presumes upon a lot more than it can deliver.

    The argument between Religion and Science is a meme. The more science knows the finer our picture becomes of how the two coexist.

  42. Petrushka,

    What regularity is there in terms of the origin of the world or the emergence of life?

  43. Petrushka, man in limited and science is limited as well.

    I think that the biggest problem of today’s science is that it presumes upon a lot more than it can deliver.

    Science is limited to questions that can be addressed by empirical research. It can’t really deal with “ultimate” questions such as why is there something rather than nothing.

    But the issue at hand is a problem of forensics, and as the original post suggests, we are examining evidence as if in a courtroom. Evidence that supports a story about what happened.

    I don’t think it is a coincidence that much of the arguing is being done by lawyers. Much of the debate centers on what kinds of evidence is most plausible.

    This thread is not asking anyone to render a verdict in the case. It is not asking anyone to decide between one story or another. That is done on other threads, but not this one.

    This thread is about what kinds of evidence should be collected to support the alternative stories.

    My opinion is, using the courtroom metaphor, is the evidence in forensic science needs to be of the same type and quality as that which is used in court.

    Repeating myself, it is reasonable on this thread for the ID side to claim that the evolution case is not proved. This particular discussion is not about what has already been proved, but about what kinds of evidence are acceptable in court.

  44. 44

    I think a more properly worded analogy is, why does the detective think that an intentional event occurred at all, when everyone else is satisfied with the answers “it was just a happenstance occurrence” or “nothing caused it” and what necessary grounding (assumptions based on extrapolations of observation & fact) gives support to any of those explanations?

    Also … what philosophical grounding supports that the latter two are even explanations at all? Are “happenstance” (chance) and “nothing” really explanations in any meaningful sense?

  45. While continuing the courtroom theme suggested by the original post, I think it is fair to point out that when evaluating evidence, there is a particular kind of evidence that is considered particularly strong.

    And that would be evidence that is entailed or predicted by a particular hypothesis of what happened.

    That is why evolution advocates place such emphasis on finding particular kinds of fossils in particular strata. In cases where much of the evidence has been lost or destroyed, it is particularly important that scraps of evidence be consistent with the story being presented.

    In biology there are other kinds of entailments, the most powerful of which is the necessity that genomes fit a nested pattern of descent.

    Predicting the finding of extremely odd bits of evidence in unusual locations is particularly powerful in court cases.

  46. I think a more properly worded analogy is, why does the detective think that an intentional event occurred at all, when everyone else is satisfied with the answers “it was just a happenstance occurrence” or “nothing caused it”

    That’s a fair question, and I would have to say that it boils down to experience. In the early stages of an investigation noting is settled, and experience guides the investigator. At that point the main question is what kinds of evidence to look for.

    I’ve tried to give my answer to that question by invoking the history of science. In the early centuries of science, investigators in astronomy, geology and biology were looking for evidence that would support the Genesis story.

    Over time — and we are speaking of centuries — the expectations of finding such evidence dimmed. There are certainly people who have not given up, but among science professionals, they are in the minority.
    _____________

    ED: Fixed this, again [the close block was at the end of the comment], and it seems five comments have vanished mysteriously. Was there a glitch and rollback on the thread?

  47. I goofed up the formatting on the last post and failed to close the blockquote.

  48. Petrushka:

    The only process we have observed modifying populations of living things is evolution,..

    ID is not anti-evolution. So what type of evolution are you equivocating about?

    Also modifying something does not account for the origin of that something.

  49. Petrushka

    You have again committed a classic red herring led away to a strawman.

    The prosecutor is arguing to INTELLIGENT and INTENTIONAL cause of death, by a KNOWN designer; known to moral certainty.

    Before that can be done, there have to be good grounds to infer deliberately inflicted death, as in “accident, suicide or murder.”

    In short there are two inferences at work in such a courtroom: (i) nature vs art, and (ii) which agent is credibly responsible.

    An attempt to infer that some demon did it, is an answer to (ii) not to (i) and leaves untouched the inference at (i).

    It is (i) that is the relevant design inference, on credible empirical signs.

    As has been repeatedly pointed out, design inference on tested signs, is and inference to design as relevant causal process, not to identity of the designer, much less whether said candidate/culprit is within or beyond the cosmos.

    Why is it that there is such a persistent insistence on this red herring and strawman combi fallacy?

    GEM of TKI

  50. Petrushka:

    This is inadvertently telling on the key pattern of flaws in your reasoning:

    There has never been a greater genius than Newton, and yet he seems to have given up the task prematurely.

    1 –> The original issue for the thread, from the OP is the inescapable intertwining of trust in first plausibles — i.e. faith — and reasoning, however critically aware, in ALL worldviews; in reply to Shermer’s imagined skeptical “scientific” (in fact, scientism-laced) worldview that requires no faith, and which in his mind is supposed to define science and its capabilities:

    . . . skepticism is a sine qua non of science, the only escape we have from the belief-dependent realism trap created by our believing brains.

    2 –> This was answered by the issue of “turtles all the way down, leading to the choice of infinite regress, or circular worldview foundations, or a foundation tested through comparative difficulties. Only the last, reasonable faith, is not patently absurd.

    3 –> This defining context has been persistently avoided through a pattern of red herring distractors, beginning with your very first post, at 1 above:

    I would say, along with the majority of people who post in favor of science, that science produces provisional explanations rather then truth.

    It is the nature of science to look for regularities that are predictive or which have entailments. Explanations that give rise to questions that suggest further research . . .

    4 –> I have already called you out on the implied party-spiritedness, and you have said this was not intentional. (I need not elaborate on those who went further above, in fact, too far.)

    5 –> Now, already, you are unwilling to explicitly acknowledge the credibility of the main point, and have gone on to repeatedly try to indict theists as not being able to practice proper science by your plainly evolutionary materialistic lights.

    6 –> In general response I have pointed out to an indisputable fact of history, it was Judaeo-Christian theism, and overwhelmingly theists who founded modern science, on the implications of their worldview that the realm of creation would reflect an intelligible order tracing to its author.

    7 –> In a further distraction, you have repeatedly tried to raise God of the gaps type arguments, and have now culminated in a declaration of how Newton gave up, evidently meaning to imply that heists will fail to do “real” science.

    8 –> This is a classic case of a live donkey kicking a dead lion.

    9 –> As was already pointed out, ALL science is provisional, which you actually acknowledged [but seemingly cannot bring yourself to acknowledging what that implies: science is based on reasonable faith]. And BTW, FYI, I am on public record on that provisionality of science for over 15 years. (The just linked was first produced for the local Min Edu, for use in training of teachers, c. 1995.)

    10 –> Thus, the possibility for error exists in all cases, and making such an error does not constitute “giving up” (especially where the analytical techniques to go beyond that were a century off in the future, as in cf on study of planetary perturbations here. Notice, Newton’s challenge starting with the fine details of the orbit of the moon: “It causeth my head to ache.” That does not sound like a blase “giving up” on “Goddidit” to me or any reasonable onlooker), as you caricature.

    12 –> And BTW, there are issues . . .

    [and here I again use Wiki as testifying against known interest: Though the planets have been stable historically, and will be in the short term, their weak gravitational effects on one another can add up in unpredictable ways. For this reason (among others) the Solar System is chaotic,[1] and even the most precise long-term models for the orbital motion of the Solar System are not valid over more than a few tens of millions of years ]

    . . . that point to long term stability of a solar system as a challenge in a world of sensitive dependence on initial conditions and exposure to disturbances.

    13 –> In short, things are not at all so simple as you have been led to imagine. Beyond those “few tens of millions of years” of model time, we are taking long term solar system stability on faith, to this very day!

    14 –> And with the picture of very disturbed solar systems that is emerging from extrasolar planetary research, we have ever more reason to see we live on a very privileged planet indeed. “It’s as though there’s an angel pushing . . . ” [to borrow from another context, tongue firmly -- literally, in cheek].

    _________________

    So, kindly, pull back on the red herrings and strawmen.

    Deal with the central issue from the original post, first, then address onward questions on a more balanced basis.

    Good day.

    GEM of TKI

  51. Au contraire Petrushka the linked has every relevance to the case, for there is an isolable regularity we routinely observe in the case.

    Functionally specific, complex organisation and related information.

    We do routinely see it formed in our time and place, and have done so for millennia.

    In EVERY observed case, it traces to design by art, not to undirected chance and necessity. So, when we turn to explain unobserved cases, we have every epistemic right to use the uniformity principle that when we have a tested sign for how “like causes like,” we may then credibly explain cases where we did not see on inference to best empirically anchored explanation.

    This is the foundational principle of origins science work.

    What is happening here is quite obvious: now that the uniformity principle is pointing where you would not want to go, you are playing selectively hyperskeptical objections games.

    GEM of TKI

  52. Great point ES

  53. In EVERY observed case, it traces to design by art, not to undirected chance and necessity.

    Every case where we can observe the creation of the information and the actions of the creator.

    That’s kind of the point.

    Exactly what prevents populations of organisms from learning? By learning, I mean trial and error learning. Reproducing with variation and accumulating those variations where the are not detrimental?

  54. F/N: More details here.

  55. By the way, as to your suggested murder case, it would be a bad idea to exclude a priori possibilities other than a murder. Filtering out possibilities should only happen as a result of a careful investigation of facts.

  56. Group think, intimidatory thought police in action, again in the halls of the academy; for the thought “crime” of daring to question the “consensus” in a student presentation.

    Yes, a student presentation.

    Notice, how having a student reduced to tears and shaking seemingly did not trigger any sense that they were going beyond any reasonable behaviour; a classic sign of thought police in self-righteous action, hoping to trigger fear and/or guilt as an emotional response on the part of one who has failed to toe the partyline, similar to the U Colorado case recently handled by Barry A.

    I hope there were witnesses willing to speak.

    We need to make some financial bloody-nose examples of a few intellectual bullies like this, to stop this sadistic –and I MEAN that term (“who di cap fit. let ‘im wear it . . . “, cf. senses 2 & 3) — grown up version of the school yard bully.

    Bullies like that only respect superior force.

    (And believe you me if you were to attack and intimidate one of my students in front of me like this — especially a young lady, and ignored warnings to back off, I would step in decisively. Bully-boy. And if you persist, you will get what you are asking for, jackbooted SS bully-boy. As in, student harassment with power/status abuse and obvious sexual intimidation overtones. Kiss your career goodbye. Bully Verbal rapist!)

    See why dismissive rhetoric that pretends there is not a serious problem in science or science education, as can be seen above, have no impact on me?

    I know too many cases in point of abusive behaviour, and I can tell the foul demonic stench of SS bully-boyism a mile off, upwind.

    Ganging up on a GIRL to intimidate her for presenting a student presentation!

    And, keeping at it till she is reduced to tears and shaking!

    Frankly, you should be taken to the schoolyard wood-shed and thoroughly whupped, with a good old fashioned tamarind switch . . . one soaked in saltwater first.

    Maybe, it has not got through your thick comfortable skulls that if you keep on doing that sort of thing, you are going to pick on the wrong girl one of these days and her bro or boyfriend or husband or dad or uncle or cousin is going to come for you and give you a very literal bloody nose.

    Regardless of consequences.

    Those are the matches you are playing with, academic bully-boys.

    Lesson no 1 of half-decent broughtupcy: don’t pick on girls, or on someone who cannot hit back.

  57. I think the thing that most separates you from mainstream biology is your assumption, when calculating information content, that the current configuration of the genome represents a goal or target or destination.

    I can see where the toy computer genetic algorithms could lead to that impression. It is also a rather traditional way of looking at life, that the current status was intended.

    But that is not how biologist see it. We have come to see that the modal state of life is single-celled if not viral. Multi-celled life is a tiny hill on a generally flat landscape comprised of bacteria and viruses. Nearly all protein evolution (origination of new coding genes) occurred in this domain, prior to multi-celled life. Nearly all modern sequences bear similarities to these ancient sequences, even if the modern ones code for new proteins.

    Genomics is a new science, just getting started, but it is making and extending discoveries like this.

    So it might difficult to follow the mainstream argument that the dominant mode of evolution is not progress or increase in complexity, but merely change.

  58. That’s why the phase (i) inference to INTENTIONAL death at the hands of a second party is so vital to a murder investigation. And, this is a classic design inference.

  59. In detective fiction, the only reason to investigate is if it’s murder. Some of the most celebrated scenarios involve deaths that are ruled suicide by the police.

    There’s a difference between the conclusion of the investigation and the investigation itself, which focuses on finding a murderer.

    The analogy I’m using is comparing a premise or inference that suggests avenues of investigation vs one that shuts down the investigation.

    If one infers that an object is designed by an immaterial designer having no attributes, there is nothing to investigate. One has shut down questions about who, what, when, where and how.

    If the object is attributed to a known artisan, it is possible to test whether that is realistic and whether all the known facts are consistent with the story.

    If one infers that an object has a “natural” history, one must build a story that fits all the evidence and requires no supernatural intervention. One must answer the “W” questions.

    In the case of biology, the Who question is irrelevant, but the where, when, how and what questions must be addressed.

    Cases unfold. One starts with conjectures and tests them against fact. This leads to modified conjectures and hypotheses. Sometimes the conjectures lead easily to theories and sometimes not.

    the origin and evolution of life are immense problems that are likely to occupy researchers for hundreds of years.

  60. Putting my question another way:

    What kinds of research now being done would you not fund, given the power?

    And why.

    If you would not defund any ongoing research, why not?

  61. Yet another “no concessions” tangent.

    In particular, I observe that you seem not to have absorbed the point that solar system stability is an OPEN issue to this day. One that is pointing to an extraordinary degree of fine tuning of our system.

    It is clear that we are dealing with ideological control and censorship on science, and that career and funding decisions are being made in an indefensible way. The case of Gonzalez is a capital example in the general fields that have come up in this thread (complete with blame the victim, slanderously demonising rhetoric).

    Once universities are publicly funded, research decisions should not be made on viewpoint discrimination, and the peer review system should not be abused to enforce a reigning orthodoxy. Which is happening and not just in this field.

    In addition, phil and ethics of sci with key historical and contemporary case studies should be incorporated as a compulsory component of both undergraduate and graduate level science education.

    Not that I have any confidence that such will be seriously entertained by the reigning orthodoxy.

  62. Note to readers: something odd seems to have happened overnight, so it is possible five comments vanished on some sort of glitch. (I infer that from seeing the number of comments rolled back, and noting that a comment with a problem I fixed reverted to un-fixed state.)

  63. This post seems to belong to another thread.

    I believe one of my posts got applied to another thread, but I haven’t found it.

  64. A revealing exchange:

    [KF] In EVERY observed case, it traces to design by art, not to undirected chance and necessity.

    [P]Every case where we can observe the creation of the information and the actions of the creator.

    That’s kind of the point.

    Exactly what prevents populations of organisms from learning? By learning, I mean trial and error learning. Reproducing with variation and accumulating those variations where the are not detrimental?

    [P] I think the thing that most separates you from mainstream biology is your assumption, when calculating information content, that the current configuration of the genome represents a goal or target or destination.

    1 –> It is obvious from the above, that it has not registered [and I do not now expect it to register, this is for record . . . ] that we have here an inductive generalisation based on a very broad base: functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information have one known cause [intelligence], and we have an analytical framework — not an “assumption” [see the turnabout rhetorical device once the Lewoninian a priori is on the table?] — that explains it, in fact on essentially the same “search of a configuration space” analysis that grounds the statistical form of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This has been gone over, again and again [cf here at UD for the last time around, in response to the MG sock-puppet agenda and how it is being trumpeted in the anti-ID ideological fever swamps], and is plainly well warranted; but is routinely brushed aside and ignored by those who find its results inconvenient to their a priori materialist ideology (or as fellow travellers). So kindly take patience for us to outline the matter again.

    2 –> What happens (and, no this is not an error on toy examples of GA’s) is that there are inherently many possible configs for a set of physical components, which goes through a combinational explosion as the number of components goes up.

    3 –> So, for instance, random strings of text elements where ASCII characters appear with the same probabilistic patterns as in English (or more simply flat random), will rapidly reveal that contextually responsive English text strings — we have here defined a specific function — will be extraordinarily rare in the space of possibilities. This is the context of “islands of function” that you may see here at UD.

    4 –> At the same time, chance-and-fail/succeed trial and error is by definition, an algorithmic search process:

    (i) a config occurs by chance,*

    (ii) if it works or works better keep it — there is a self-reinforcing, hill climbing mechanism

    (iii) if it is inferior, or does not work, drop it.

    (iv) repeat, as long as the relevant resources are available.
    _______________

    * If you wish, instead, to argue that the laws of the cosmos have life and its elaboration into complex body plans built-in, you have just presented the strongest possible argument that the physics and chemistry of the cosmos are designed for the purpose of creating life, i.e. that our cosmos is programmed by the ultimate form of front-loading. In fact, the argument is that accidental circumstances that just happen to occur lead to progress if they happen to improve performance, measured by relative reproductive potential. And of course for OOL, it is origin of reproduction that is one of the complex phenomena to be explained. For complex body plans, systems of reproduction are often on the table, but the more basic issue is embryological feasibility as body plans are shaped early in development from the zygote or equivalent, i.e. the issue is that a chance change in such an integrated process is extraordinarily likely to be lethal. CF Meyer PBSW, 2004 etc.

    5 –> Notice that “or works better.” It highlights the crucially begged question in most discussions of evolutionary materialism, and the reason why its advocates usually do not “get” the issue that design theory is highlighting:

    not, (a) how do you climb upwards within an island of function by incremental change,

    but (b) how do you get to the shores of an island of complex and specifically organised function beyond a reasonable threshold without intelligently directed search,

    within (c) a relevant gamut of physical resources and time.

    6 –> For instance, within the gamut of the solar system’s 10^57 atoms [mostly H, He, within the sun, BTW, this is a conservative estimate], and in about 10^17 s, we have at most 10^102 available Planck-time, quantum states, where the fastest [ionic] chemical processes take about 10^30 such states.

    7 –> The number of possible configs for a 500-bit string is 3 * 10^150, usually rounded to 10^150. This is 10^48 times the scope of the 10^102 possibilities above. Or, converting to hay-bale terms, you are to pick a single straw-sized sample from a cubical bale, a light month across, without intelligent direction.

    8 –> Our solar system out to Pluto could be hiding in that bale [not merely a needle or all needles, nails and the like that have ever been made], and the overwhelming likelihood is that such a small sample, however scattered, will pick up a straw. Your scope of sample is so small in the field of possibilities that it will be all but impossible for it to pick up an atypical result. (This, BTW, is the underlying basic framework of analysis for classical Fisherian hypothesis testing, which — from some pretty sharp exchanges at UD — seems to be systematically misunderstood today.)

    9 –> That is why [cf again linked here, and onward discussions] I modified and simplified the Dembski chi metric as follows:

    Chi_500 = I*S – 500, in bits beyond the solar system threshold,

    where I is an info metric based on I = – log p or the like [where -- per NFL, p. 144, cf. p 148 -- p relates not to the observed event E but the zone of functionally equivalent outcomes T], and S is a dummy variable that takes values 1 or 0 according as something is or is not specific.

    10 –> If you want to argue on a bigger scale [e.g. for OOL], moving to 1,000 bits will even more deeply isolate the scope of resources of the observed cosmos as a whole, in a haystack that would dwarf the cosmos. Beyond that, multiverse speculations are metaphysics, not science and even more cannot properly a priori censor out live options.

    11 –> So, we see that within our solar system, our practical universe for chemical level interactions, 72 ASCII characters worth of info is a threshold where we can comfortably say on analysis that the resources of our observed cosmos will be hopelessly inadequate to stumble on an island of function, within the reasonable lifespan of the solar system. Move up to 143 characters, and you are beyond the scope of resources of the observed cosmos.

    12 –> In his recent book, Meyer pointed out how this sort of threshold of complexity undermines hopes that blind chemistry in some still little pond or a similar environment, will ever get us to the sort of cell based life we see that starts out at 100,000 to 1 mn 4-state base pairs.

    13 –> In his earlier paper, he pointed out on the Cambrian revolution, the challenge for the dozens of novel body plans to have come about spontaneously on earth, is about 100 mn new bases worth of info. We are not bothering with the higher levels of info in the cell as that simply adds to the challenge.

    14 –> So, we are not dealing with assumptions — the new favourite dismissive squid-ink cloud escape word at UD for objectors to design theory, but analyses and empirical observations.

    15 –> Here is the real challenge to advocates of evolutionary materialism: show how we can reasonably surmount that sort of algorithmic challenge, empirically. Without smuggling in intelligence into the analysis and exercise. (There are a LOT of cases where that inadvertent snuck in the backdoor is the key to a result that appears to break the above analysis. This was MG’s repeated blunder over the past 6 months or so.)

    16 –> We have a KNOWN cause of FSCI, and only one KNOWN cause, empirically and analytically justified in the present. This entitles us to inductively take FSCI as a reliable sign of design.

    17 –> We find relevant phenomena in life, starting with DNA, RNA and the protein-assembling process.

    18 –> On the very same uniformity principle championed by Lyell, Darwin et al, we are entitled to explain the observations on their known best causal explanation. Design.

    19 –> To make sure we do not make blunders, we take a phenomenon, object or process etc, and we conceptually split it up into various aspects.

    20 –> We assume that as first default, the best explanation is law of mechanical necessity. This is defeated by high contingency; which has the known causes, chance or design.

    21 –> In a highly contingent situation [e.g. DNA or protein, AA strings], the second default is CHANCE.

    22 –> This is defeated by finding complex and specified information beyond the sort of threshold we see above, especially functionally specific, complex information. For the reasons identified above.

    23 –> So the problem is not whether we and the “mainstream” Lewontinian a priori materialists have a difference, but who has a well warranted case. And it is plain that the FSCI threshold barrier is an unacknowledged, resisted, but well warranted challenge to the claimed “best” explanations offered by the dominant school of thought for origin of life and for origin of body plans.

    24 –> But, not only is this a barrier, we ALSO have a serious, empirically and analytically warranted alternative on offer that is being resisted on the a priori injection of materialism as a constraint on scientific explanation, backed up by strawman caricatures of the alternative.

    25 –> in short, the plain case is that science in our day is in ideological captivity to materialism, and needs to do some serious rethinking.

    ______________

    That re-thinking needs to start with the turtles all the way down analysis that appears in the original post for this thread.

    So, it is extraordinarily revealing that — several days after the thread has been posted (and after sixty-odd posts), there has not been ONE serious response by an evolutionary materialism advocate to the actual core analysis.

    That should tell us a lot about what is going on.

    GEM of TKI

  65. F/N: I have responded above, here, to the argument that ID thinkers misunderstand the way evolution explains complexity on chance plus necessity, linked to the notion that trial and error/success is not a search algorithm.

  66. I’ll stipulate that science and its products are not entirely philosophically satisfying. (In response to your turtles problem.) Science is pragmatic, and trades finality for usefulness.

    Deep problems ,like the stability of the solar system, may never have philosophically satisfying answers.

    But Newtons response — which wasn’t based on his head aching or mere difficulty — was that some things were inherently beyond human reason and empirical investigation. He actively posited divine intervention as an explanation. He did not answer the question by saying he lacked data, or that he had not yet developed the necessary analytical tools, or that perhaps another person would take up the challenge.

    So here are the core questions I pose to you:

    Is common descent through natural kinds of variation a problem worth perusing? Yes or no? And why?

    Is the origin of life a problem worth perusing? Yes or no? And why?

  67. Sigh, a definite lost comment, one of my own.

    P, the quick answer is that a look at what N wrote in Opticks Query 31 will reveal at once that he is discussing inductive generalisation and its limitations in warranting conclusions, on empirical testing of scientific hypotheses; which he explicitly describes as inductive conclusions.

    So, his use of “hypothesis” above must mean a different class, namely, a priori speculative metaphysical impositions.

    Observe, it is actually quite plainly stated — not a good sign for the way that the “general view” you describe is being held:

    This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy.

    In short, Newton is objecting to precisely the sort of a priori that Sagan, Lewontin, the NAS and NSTA et al would impose on us, a priori materialism by the back-door of so called methodological naturalism. We owe Lewontin thanks for making he problem so plain.

    Now, of course N did not discuss abductive inference, as the analysis for that was 200 years later down the line, with Peirce et al. But, he was in fact intuitively using it, when he speaks about conclusions. Initial observations are explained on alternative hyps, and these are tested until we winnow out and find a provisional best one that is held to be a general and empirically reliable result, subject to further tests. Inference to best current, tested and provisional explanation.

    Which also brings us right back to the turtles all the way down point, science works by confidence in provisional results, i.e. trust — reasonable faith — and critically aware reason are inextricably intertwined int eh fabric and foundations of science.

  68. how do you get to the shores of an island of complex and specifically organised function beyond a reasonable threshold without intelligently directed search…

    That’s a good question. It’s an empirical question.

    I’ve seen hundreds of journal articles addressing it. Many of them doing the same basic kind of work done by Douglas Axe.

    The metaphor of the functional landscape was invented by Sewall Wright in 1932. It’s been a central topic of research since then.

  69. P:

    The point is that we do have an answer, especially where so obvious a case as string based, digital, functional data — DNA, RNA, Proteins — is concerned.

    There is a longstanding, well known source of digital, coded string data. Intelligence.

    And, beyond any reasonable threshold of complexity, it is not only the only empirically known source, it is a case where the analysis of the relevant config space points to chance + necessity being maximally implausible as sources.

    But, because the evidence points where a priori materialists would not go, the logical, well warranted conclusion is stoutly resisted and even labeled anti-science or even “giv[ing] up.”

    Sorry, it is quite plain where the empirical and analytical evidence is, and it is plain where the a priori materialism is, and it’s not on the same side.

    GEM of TKI

  70. The turtles all the way down problem is a logical and epistemological challenge that confronts any knowledge oriented enterprise. Until it and its ramifications are squarely faced — as opposed to brushed aside — you do not have a sound basis for addressing knowledge questions. Including in science.

  71. I asked two simple questions that are not rude or insulting or irrelevant.

    Is common descent through natural kinds of variation a problem worth perusing? Yes or no? And why?

    Is the origin of life a problem worth perusing? Yes or no? And why?

  72. In particular, I observe that you seem not to have absorbed the point that solar system stability is an OPEN issue to this day. One that is pointing to an extraordinary degree of fine tuning of our system.

    But Newton wrote that the system required constant supervision and attention. He even speculated on how many ongoing calculations were required to keep it in repair.

  73. F/N: I used to present a form of the “turtles all the way down” problem — yet another emerging icon of design thought, joining the burning matchstick as a way to teach the closely related issues and logic of causality — routinely to my students [cf presentation here]; the “turtles all the way down” formulation is just a colourful way to present it.

  74. Nope, the post belongs here as documentation of an identified but all too often denied problem.

  75. “The only case … if it’s murder.”

    How do you know for certain if it is murder before investigating?! First you have to prove it is and then find out who did it. Maybe it is suicide or just an unlucky coincidence? My point is you have no right to filter out any thinkable possibility prior to starting your analysis.

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