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Why science can’t study the supernatural – A physicist’s view

boo

Oh please, let us guess just this once: You were going to say ... Boo! Right?

From Rob Sheldon

Why can’t the paranormal and spiritual realms be subject to scientific analysis? The materialist says “Because they don’t exist.” and therefore all signals are spurious and a waste of resources.

The intelligent design theorist says “coherence is not just a sign of extra dimensions, but a sign of front-loaded purpose”. Therefore the paranormal might not be “spooky action-at-a-distance” but a design feature of simultaneous causation. If A is correlated to B, it may be that A doesn’t cause B, or B cause A, but previous design C causes both A and B such that they are correlated.

Lipstick and breast cancer are correlated, but neither causes the other.

But if we look at the meta-studies, if we ask, what is the benefit of studying the paranormal versus ignoring it? We find the curious phenomenon that the Enlightenment advanced precisely where it ignored the paranormal. Thus it would seem that studying the paranormal wasn’t merely a distraction, but a degradation of science.

Stanley Jaki argues in “The Savior of Science” and several of his other books, that bad metaphysics, such as looking for paranormal effects, waylaid the nascent scientific progress of the Greeks, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Caliphate and even the Jewish Kabbala. Only the severe discipline of the Enlightenment materialism could negotiate the shoals of bad metaphysics.

I’ve come to a similar answer, though phrased a little differently. Inasmuch as the paranormal and spiritism are “personal”, possessing the characteristics of contingent personality, then it is dangerous to study them as a machine. This is like BF Skinner studying humans as if they were a computer program.

Economists can tell you the danger of doing this. Not only does this give the wrong answer, but it even gives the wrong questions. What makes people people, and what makes the divine divine is precisely the personal, and therefore science does a disservice to theology when it reduces the personal to machinery. But worse, it invites the ghost into the machine.

More precisely, the Bible condemns even the exploration of the occult, because of its parasitic relationship to persons.

We all understand computer viruses. And thanks to global warmists, we are beginning to understand the power of positive feedback and what money does to our science models. But we have yet to understand what psychology does to common sense, or what evolutionary biology does to our sanity.

Inasmuch as the paranormal is personal, it is forbidden for the same reason that the occult is forbidden–it infects our mind.

Thoughts? – UD News

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162 Responses to Why science can’t study the supernatural – A physicist’s view

  1. Wait, whaa?? The post seems to say that studying material things as personal is bad, and that studying personal things as material is bad, but then also says that studying personal things as personal is also bad when it comes to the occult and the paranormal, because the Bible says so I guess, and to top it off says that the paranormal is like a virus, which is itself an example of treating the personal as material. So the point, whatever it was supposed to be, is less than clear.

  2. Presumably this is based on something posted by Rob Sheldon. Can you provide a link to that source material?

  3. Empirical science is about the measurable isn’t it? Moreover, human personality partakes of a literally immeasurably more profound order of truth than the physical world, even at the quantum level, although the latter marginally addresses it.

    It may well be that spiritualism is forbidden according to the canons of Judaeo-Christianity, because it is potentially dangerous, in that parasitic sense alluded to.

  4. The strength of science resides in its exclusion of fields of knowledge that are not relevant, together with the incremental pace and meticulous pedantry, whereby research reaches its conclusions, whether confirmatory or falsificatory, in relation to the hypothesis under consideration.

  5. Wait, what are you smoking, Nick?

    Take a look at athletes- you can measure how tall they are, how much they weigh, their body fat %, their 40 yard dash time, how far they can throw, etc., meaning there is quite a bit for science to do. However as evidenced by the likes of Ryan Leaf and Jamarcus Russell- both had all the science numbers to support drafting them as early as they were drafted (#2 Leaf & #1 Russell), but neither one had the unmeasureable intangibles.

    And those unmeasureable intangibles cost two teams millions of dollars.

    IOW science is good for things that can be measured, but there are some other things that exist that can’t be measured (observed, yes) and to try to force those other things into the science box does a disservice to both.

  6. Rob Sheldon wrote it, as a note to News, and News posted it. This is the source material.

  7. Nick,
    No, I wasn’t clear, and yes, this was written as a response to some other conversation. So I will try to clarify.
    a) science tends to study material causes (formal, material, efficient), and doesn’t do well on the final causes. ID argues that final causes do influence our science, but doesn’t advocate any particular approach. History, and the experience of the Enlightenment, seem to suggest that focussing on final causes is a detriment to science. That is, explaining phenomena theologically interferes with explaining phenomena materially.

    Stanley Jaki argues this in his books. The reason Science was still-born in Babylon, Rome, Greece, Persia, etc, was that they permitted final causes to “shut down” science.

    Conversely, the reason that science bloomed in the West, was Western metaphysics, with a Trinitarian view of God.

    Now you might think that this is reintroducing the final causes again, and you’d be right. But the Trinity doesn’t permit the roadblocks of theological dualities to interfere with science. The unheralded secret to the success of the West is Trinitarian science. Think of it this way–neither theoretical science, nor experimental science is allowed to dominate, but they must exist in communication with something external called alternately “Laws of Nature”, and “Nature” by the two groups. This trinity reflects the contribution of Christianity to Science.

    b) So why can we not study God the same way we study Nature? Why can we not subject the Bible to the same empirical tests, the same philosophical tests that we use on our science?

    The Church Fathers pointed out that to do so, was both to assume our own divinity–that the finite could comprehend the infinite–and to create God in our own image. This is the positive feedback that goes unstable in a big hurry. This is the source of idolatry. This is the source of the bad metaphysics Jaki warns us against. For if we use the tools of science to investigate the tools of science, we end up with circular arguments, “circles of death”, self-fulfilling prophecies. This is the final end of Socialist economics, Communist freedom, Monarchist power and Nietzschean philosophy. This is why the Church Fathers insisted we cannot know the Trinity, we can only know what it is not.

    c) But where is the boundary between (a) and (b)? What are the things we can study, and the things we can’t? I use the word “personal” to distinguish between these things. Persons are beings who have consciousness, who have self-awareness, who know that they know, who believe that they believe. These are all recursive, self-referencing things, and therefore have all the power, all the explosive potential that made (b) so dangerous. But we deal with people everyday! Yes, and we do not treat them as chairs or tables. We treat them as people.

    So my version of Gould’s NOMA is “treat science as science and people as people”. The version my wife taught me is “Use things and love people, but don’t love things and use people”.

    Finally, the danger of the occult and the paranormal, is that we are treating things that are self-conscious, things that are aware of themselves, as if they were things rather than persons. Demons and angels and people and God are not things, they are persons. We endanger ourselves and our children if we treat them as things. Because that is when the recursion gets us. That is when we are in danger of getting infected and modifying our behavior to reinforce the result.

    So it is not that the paranormal is “forbidden knowledge” so much as it is recursive knowledge, parasitic knowledge, infectious knowledge. We can know a lot about the paranormal and the occult, just like we can know a lot about the uncle who wears an ankle bracelet. But it must be personal knowledge, knowledge that is aware of recursion.

    Neil,
    I write about this occasionally on my blog. Here’s an old blog on the subject:
    http://procrustes.blogtownhall.....rt_2.thtml
    where my term for the recursion of persons is “the holy”.

    Axel,
    I do hold to a form of NOMA, but it divides along slightly different lines than is usually expressed. I attempted to clarify it above, but in a nutshell the separation is between the impersonal and linear, and the personal and recursive.

  8. Science can’t study the supernatural because, the way supernatural is typically defined, it can’t exist. For most people, the reasoning goes something like this:

    ——–
    Premise I: The supernatural is anything that isn’t natural.

    Premise II: Anything that exists is natural.

    Conclusion: The supernatural doesn’t (can’t) exist.
    ——–

    This is why I typically reject any usage of the term supernatural unless it’s explicitly defined in a way which doesn’t devolve into the circular-reasoning nonsense demonstrated above.

    From my experience, the term “supernatural” is primarily used as a loaded word/ad hominem used to discredit ideas. Claim an idea is supernatural, then associate it with other so-called supernatural ideas (leprechauns, unicorns, fairies, etc.), and make it an either/or proposition: You either accept them all, or you reject them all.

    “You believe in God? That means you believe in the supernatural! Believing in the supernatural means you believe in the tooth fairy and leprechauns and break-dancing unicorns! You’re so stupid!”

    My belief is that we should abandon any natural/supernatural demarcation and simply debate individual ideas on their own merits, absent any biasing classification.

    God either exists or does not exist. That someone chooses to label God as supernatural has zero impact on which is true.

    Likewise, God is either a testable premise or a untestable premise, and, again, any natural/supernatural labeling is irrelevant to the question.

  9. Science can certainly study certain kinds of claims about paranormal phenomena. It could certainly confirm whether a particular person can reliably do paranormalish things, like predict the future, move objects without touching them, read minds.

    Harry Potter kinds of things.

    The failure to confirm is never taken as evidence that the phenomena do not exist, but it would be useful to confirm the existence of a phenomenon before worrying about its causes or its moral status.

  10. It is not that the paranormal and spiritism are “personal”, but rather that a very strong characteristic of mind is that it is creative. Creativity, by its very nature is unpredictable, not subject to any kind of law that determines outcome.

    One of the consequences of ID which has not been stressed enough, IMHO, is the central “dogma”, if you will, that it is only intelligence that is capable of producing complex, functionally specified information (CFSI). Another way of putting this is that it is only intelligence that is creative. A third way (a la Granville Sewell) is that the only known phenomenon that is capable of violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics is intelligence. And we don’t need to be Shakespeare, Beethoven, or Leonardo da Vinci to do this. I am doing this right now as I write this. We do it any time we figure out how to repair something, or speak a meaningful sentence longer than 20 characters or so. What does that say about us human beings?

    In my view, one of the aspects of our being made in the “image and likeness” of God is that we, like Him, are creative. Others are that our essence is Love and that we are capable of knowing.

  11. The supernatural is simply too complicated for mankind.
    We would normally say its invisible but real but really in a greater sense of existence God and the spiritual world is simply too atomic or complicated for mankind.
    The natural world is touchable.
    In fact its been the discovery of the atom and mechanisms of forces that have come too define human intelligence discovery.
    Not my idea as I insist biology is more complicated but still its logical to see the spiritual world as just really more atomic.

  12. Bruce,

    Humans don’t violate the second law. If they did, it wouldn’t be a law.

    As for Granville Sewell, I explained the problems with his argument to Collin here.

  13. “It could certainly confirm whether a particular person can reliably do paranormalish things, like predict the future, move objects without touching them, read minds.”

    It doesn’t even need to go that far. If consciousness is indeed “supernatural”, that is, something other than an epiphenomenon caused by brains, then we could one day conceivably acquire evidence of this if we can simultaneously monitor quantum events within billions of neurons, and see that something at the quantum level is “acting in parallel” contra statistical randomness. If this turns out to be true, then miracles are indeed happening every time we decide to move a finger.

  14. Your response to Granville Sewell’s argument merely demonstrates that you don’t understand it. Granville Sewell is no dummy. He writes textbooks on the solution of differential equations by numerical analysis, and widely used computer programs to solve them by numerical methods. If you’re going to claim that he doesn’t understand the Second Law, you’d better make damn sure you thoroughly understand his reasoning. His argument can be summarized as follows:

    1. The equations which constitute the Second Law apply to open systems as well as closed ones. (This is fortunate, because the only closed system is the entire universe! (my note))

    2. For an open system, they imply that the amount of order in such a system cannot increase beyond the amount of order that is imported across its boundary.

    3. The amount of order that comes from sunlight (by far the major source of order crossing the boundary of the system composed of the earth and its atmosphere) in a given period of time does not even remotely equal the amount of order produced during that time by living systems and human activity.

    4. Thus, it is ludicrous to suggest that sunlight can account for the far from equilibrium conditions that exist on earth.

    The following are my own conclusions based on Sewell’s argument:

    We human beings do violate the Second Law every day, repeatedly. So also do non-human living organisms in their metabolic, growth, and reproductive and other activity. And since it is the conclusion of ID that the best explanation for the order (CFSI) that is found in living things is the result of design by intelligent agents, an implication of ID is that the only phenomenon known to be capable of violating the Second Law is intelligence.

    If this means that the Second Law is not a law after all, then so be it. Personally, I think that it would be more productive simply to note that there are exceptions to its range of application.

  15. @Bruce David,

    1. The equations which constitute the Second Law apply to open systems as well as closed ones. (This is fortunate, because the only closed system is the entire universe! (my note))

    I am not sure if this is phrased in a lawyerly fashion (“equations which constitute the Second Law…”) or not, but the Second Law ITSELF does not apply to open systems. Entropy increases, necessarily, and does not increase, for ISOLATED (closed) systems.

    2. For an open system, they imply that the amount of order in such a system cannot increase beyond the amount of order that is imported across its boundary.

    The Second Law is a principle of thermodynamics: energy. “Order” is not used in this context in the way a cleaned-up bedroom has more “order” than a messy room, but rather “order” refers to the amount of energy in the system available to do work. In an open system, all bets are off, and the Second Law doesn’t apply, as the energy inflows and outflows are dynamic.

    3. The amount of order that comes from sunlight (by far the major source of order crossing the boundary of the system composed of the earth and its atmosphere) in a given period of time does not even remotely equal the amount of order produced during that time by living systems and human activity.

    You’re right the amount of energy from the sun introduced to the earth system does not even come close the amount of entropy decrease achieved by biological life on earth, but it goes the other way. The energy taken in by the earth from the absolutely dwarfs the available energy gains made by biological life. The biosphere doesn’t harness even a tiny fraction of what’s available.

    The earth receives about 1.8 x 1017 Joules/s of energy (see here, for example).

    4. Thus, it is ludicrous to suggest that sunlight can account for the far from equilibrium conditions that exist on earth.

    Oy. That is way, way confused. The earth receives orders of magnitudes more energy every second from the sun than it can use, than can be converted into energy available for work (negative entropy). Not even close.

    The following are my own conclusions based on Sewell’s argument:

    We human beings do violate the Second Law every day, repeatedly. So also do non-human living organisms in their metabolic, growth, and reproductive and other activity. And since it is the conclusion of ID that the best explanation for the order (CFSI) that is found in living things is the result of design by intelligent agents, an implication of ID is that the only phenomenon known to be capable of violating the Second Law is intelligence.

    The Second Law doesn’t forbid decreases in entropy (gains in the amount of energy available for work). The Second Law just holds that the TOTAL entropy for an isolated system can only increase. The TOTAL energy available for work when you inventory the entire isolated system goes down. So if the available energy for work increases in one local part of a system, it’s not a violation of the Second Law. The Second Law just states that the if X amount of energy is made available for work in one part of the system, some amount MORE THAN X will be unavailable for work in other parts of the system.

    And the earth isn’t an isolated system, and is inundated with new inbound energy from the sun every second.

    I’m sure many IDers here understand the glaring mistakes at work in your argument here, and maybe will be more convincing if they speak up than an ID critic for you. This is not a controversial or ambiguous issue.

  16. As this confused piece is written by a physicist, I respond with a very famous remark from a very famous physicist, “not even wrong”.

    ‘The enlightenment advanced by ignoring the occult’ blabla, it makes me wince. You assume what you need to prove. What ‘enlightenment’ is that again? The industrial revolution and later the technological revolution predicated on the former? I assume that’s what Sheldon is getting at? Uh no, plenty of the prominent figures of modern astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology and medicine had more than a passing interest in the paranormal/occult and related. Same can be said for many of the fathers of psychology, anthropology, sociology (whatever their failings and flaws, being human you know). Never mind that many of the ‘advances’ in science and society during the industrial revolution and the so-called Enlightenment are dubious. That’s a whole other thing. That kind of thing fills whole encyclopedias.

    There is such poor metaphysics in Sheldon’s piece, comes across as something written by a literalist bible thumper in Kallawhacky Alabama, who is not even familiar with the nuances of the bible (Old and New Testament) and has probably never even read it properly in a semi-decent translation (that’s a whole other problem). The bible says a number of things about the occult, often contradictory. These kind of things have been debated and argued about for centuries (longer) and are still argued about, by scholars and theologians who have given their life to such study. Also what do we mean by the occult? This is not so simple, there is a lot of disagreement here.. How broad is the brush, how narrow. One man’s occult is another man’s light of day..

    Sheldon assumes the occult means discarnate spirits and communication with them, he assumes what he needs to prove. Who says? Sure that is a mainstream traditional belief, it’s not by any means the only one. Sheldon is clearly not familiar, not even in vague outline, with the modern scientific research in parapsychology (since the 1880s) which goes way beyond that, and often calls into question such simplistic narratives. Many parapsychologists who take psi seriously are often skeptical of the notion of discarnate spirits or the belief in communication with them (as am I, I don’t think that’s what is necessarily going on). This is where psychology/sociology comes into play, the depths and powers of the unconscious and dare I say it, the collective unconscious. Alfred Russel Wallace for one took the paranormal very seriously, it was a major factor in his breach with Darwin. Ho hum.

    Sheldon cuts his nose off to spite his face and he does so out of a confusion born of a very weak theology. What’s that about religion driving science again? Oh wait it depends on the religion, of course.

  17. I should add that the very term ‘supernatural’, like ‘occult’, is a loaded word. What do we mean by it? It is not so simple and the lines between the natural and the supernatural (assuming the latter is real) are often blurred and overlap, or they could do so easily enough.

    Is telepathy (assuming it is real) natural or supernatural, what of psychokinesis (assuming there is something to it)? Is it supernatural only if we don’t have a mechanism to explain ‘em? And if mechanism/s are discovered, does it then become natural (as Dawkins would have it)?

    To the romantic and mystical poets like Blake and Wordsworth there were no sharp divisions between the natural and the supernatural. Perhaps they were closer to the truth than the so-called hard-nosed scientists who scoff at the former as daydreamers.

  18. Eigentstate has addressed the substance of your post, but I’d just like to comment on this:

    Granville Sewell is no dummy. He writes textbooks on the solution of differential equations by numerical analysis, and widely used computer programs to solve them by numerical methods.

    I’m sure Granville Sewell is no dummy. However, appealing to expertise in support of a conclusion that is refuted by many people with equivalent expertise is clearly fallacious.

    If one smart person says one thing and many smart people say the opposite, why believe the one smart person?

  19. Actually I will add one thing:

    Bruce, intelligence simply doesn’t violate the second law, for the simple reason that we need to eat in order to be able to think.

    The reason Maxwell’s hypothetical Demon was able to was because it was a Demon and didn’t need to eat.

  20. I am doing this right now as I write this. We do it any time we figure out how to repair something, or speak a meaningful sentence longer than 20 characters or so. What does that say about us human beings?

    Please excuse my ignorance but I wonder how you do it? How can you do anything, anything at all without using even the slightest amount of energy? If you do, you are right, you are breaking the law!

    The next thing we should do sould be to harness that ‘power’, the ability to go against the 2nd law of entropy. That would give access to unlimited sources of energy.

    Wouldn’t that be an interesting research project for ID scientists?

  21. In fact, it occurs to me that “supernatural” or “miracle” could be defined as “something that violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics”.

    So essentially, ID amounts to the proposition that the 2nd Law had to be violated (by an intelligent agent that didn’t need to eat) for life to exist.

    Interesting.

  22. So essentially, ID amounts to the proposition that the 2nd Law had to be violated (by an intelligent agent that didn’t need to eat) for life to exist.

    Except ID doesn’t say anything about the designer, which means we don’t know if it ate or not.

    So what is “interesting” is your strawman…

  23. And the earth isn’t an isolated system, and is inundated with new inbound energy from the sun every second.

    The universe is an isolated system and the energy from the sun has never been observed to construct anything biological.

  24. @Joe,

    The universe is an isolated system, but the earth isn’t the universe. It receives enormous amounts of energy from the sun. And photosynthesis is an everyday process happening around you that harnesses the sun’s energy to grow and sustain plants. Those plants store energy received from the sun, which is available for work, and can, in turn sustain grazing animals or other organisms that can convert that stored energy in the plant into energy available for their use.

    Biology is sun-powered.

  25. Zephyr,
    I may not even own a pair of shoes down here in Alabama, but it would seem to me that ad hominem arguments are more a characteristic of your “literalist bible thumper” than the “hard nosed scientist” you would like to think you are. For that matter, hard nosed scientists would have done a Google search on the name before they wrote libelous comments, I mean, he might just turn out to be your son’s physics teacher’s advisor or somebody “really important”.

    Since you may not know how to Google, I’ll give you the link directly: http://rbsp.info/rbs/RbS
    I hope that helps.

    I don’t suppose you would ever read Stanley Jaki, who would inform your vague Wikipedia-knowledge about the Enlightenment, since he had PhDs in physics and the history and philosophy of science. In fact, even if you despise Jaki, you might acquaint yourself with HPS since it would disabuse you of your 20th century bias about what the Enlightenment was.

    And finally, I note that you introduce terms that I never mentioned, and then set fire to them, as proxies for things I never said. I hope it makes you feel better. This is what happens when we talk to ourselves, and otherwise engage in recursive behavior. Some people would say it is an early sign of schizophrenia when we hear voices talking back. This is precisely the sanity that is lost when we treat things as persons, and persons as things.

    And yes, I do believe that they are hearing voices. And no, these cannot be explained by “scientific” phenomena such as brain chemical imbalances. That’s because voices are persons, and not things. Which is why we need a protocol, an ethic, a set of manners for dealing with such persons. Which is why the Bible gives us instructions on the occult.

    Oh, and Zephyr,
    the voices you are responding to do not wish you well.

  26. The earth is part of the universe and therefor part of a closed system. And energy from the sun does not explain photosynthesis, nor does it explain biology.

  27. It’s even worse than that. Sewell is operating outside of his area of expertise, against thousands of physicists operating inside theirs.

    Bruce, the argument from authority only works if authority is on your side.

  28. ES:

    I cannot resist — there is in fact a serious phil debate implied and question begged in asserting that the observed cosmos is an isolated system.

    I remember all the way back to my good old Sears-Salinger on that one. The isolated system is a model ideal, that sets the base for addressing entropy in more realistic systems opened to energy, info and mass flows.

    The fundamental point, is that once we open up to flows, we ADD degrees of freedom as a rule, so entropy tends to rise. For instance, here is my App 1 the always linked note, on Clausius’ first example for deducing the entropy principle, carried forward to address heat engines. Basic lesson, onward, is that for energy to increase complex, functional organisation — not merely order, we are looking at properly arranged coupling, and highly informational structures for that to happen.

    In short, that the earth is open to energy inflows from the sun does not by itself credibly, plausibly and properly explain the origin of highly organised life forms based on sophisticated C-chemistry, coded functional information, algorithms and implementing machinery.

    This is yet another case of a priori materialists ducking and dodging a serious issue.

    GEM of TKI

  29. Well, if the 2LoT wasn’t violated, I guess it must have eaten, right?

    Is there any ID research going on into its dietary habits?

  30. Hi eigenstate,

    I generally agree with your comment, but I have to take issue with this:

    …the Second Law ITSELF does not apply to open systems.

    You’re partially correct in that the second law is usually stated in a way that applies only to isolated systems, but it can also be stated in terms of open systems. The underlying principle remains the same.

  31. You are so dense that you are a walking black hole.

    That is something one shouldn’t be proud of yet you are quite happy with it.

    Strange…

  32. Ch:

    It so happens that I can claim some degree of competence to look at the matter.

    And, having looked, here is my finding: Sewell — pace detractors — is fundamentally correct. The mere opening up of a system to energy and mass inflows does not properly explain the origin of complex, specifically functional organisation, much less life. those narrow zones T in a large space of possibilities W, will get you every time, if you are trying to find them on blind chance and mechanical necessity. (Besides, if you want to play at paper chase games, Sewell is a bit of a strawman target, the right name to call here is a certain Walter Bradley, polymer expert. As in, the B in the TBO of the very first technical ID book, TMLO. He is still around, and has some interesting things to say.)

    And in particular, the key reason for the problem, searching a large space of potential configs in a domain with a quite limited scope of search resources, is quite easily accessible to a mathematician, or a chemist, or an engineer, or even a good statistician, and these days philosophers too, it is not just physicists.

    Yes, I have no doubt that many physicists have signed on to the line that the open system answers to the problem, but it does not.

    Let’s start with Clausius, from the App 1 my always linked:

    ____________

    >> Let us reflect on a few remarks on the link from thermodynamics to information:

    1] TMLO: In 1984, this well-received work provided the breakthrough critical review on the origin of life that led to the modern design school of thought in science. The three online chapters, as just linked, should be carefully read to understand why design thinkers think that the origin of FSCI in biology is a significant and unmet challenge to neo-darwinian thought. (Cf also Klyce’s relatively serious and balanced assessment, from a panspermia advocate. Sewell’s remarks here are also worth reading. So is Sarfati’s discussion of Dawkins’ Mt Improbable.)

    2] But open systems can increase their order: This is the “standard” dismissal argument on thermodynamics, but it is both fallacious and often resorted to by those who should know better. My own note on why this argument should be abandoned is:

    a] Clausius is the founder of the 2nd law, and the first standard example of an isolated system — one that allows neither energy nor matter to flow in or out — is instructive, given the “closed” subsystems [i.e. allowing energy to pass in or out] in it. Pardon the substitute for a real diagram, for now:

    Isol System:

    | | (A, at Thot) –> d’Q, heat –> (B, at T cold) | |

    b] Now, we introduce entropy change dS >/= d’Q/T . . . “Eqn” A.1

    c] So, dSa >/= -d’Q/Th, and dSb >/= +d’Q/Tc, where Th > Tc

    d] That is, for system, dStot >/= dSa + dSb >/= 0, as Th > Tc . . . “Eqn” A.2

    e] But, observe: the subsystems A and B are open to energy inflows and outflows, and the entropy of B RISES DUE TO THE IMPORTATION OF RAW ENERGY.

    f] The key point is that when raw energy enters a body, it tends to make its entropy rise . . . .

    [Skip over a marbles in a box model discussion, on what that means]

    . . . So, plainly, for the injection of energy to instead do predictably and consistently do something useful, it needs to be coupled to an energy conversion device.

    g] When such energy conversion devices, as in the cell, exhibit FSCI, the question of their origin becomes material, and in that context, their spontaneous origin is strictly logically possible but — from the above — negligibly different from zero probability on the gamut of the observed cosmos. (And, kindly note: the cell is an energy importer with an internal energy converter. That is, the appropriate entity in the model is B and onward B’ below. Presumably as well, the prebiotic soup would have been energy importing, and so materialistic chemical evolutionary scenarios therefore have the challenge to credibly account for the origin of the FSCI-rich energy converting mechanisms in the cell relative to Monod’s “chance + necessity” [cf also Plato's remarks] only.)

    h] Now, as just mentioned, certain bodies have in them energy conversion devices: they COUPLE input energy to subsystems that harvest some of the energy to do work, exhausting sufficient waste energy to a heat sink that the overall entropy of the system is increased. Illustratively, for heat engines — and (in light of exchanges with email correspondents circa March 2008) let us note: a good slice of classical thermodynamics arose in the context of studying, idealising and generalising from steam engines [which exhibit organised, functional complexity, i.e FSCI; they are of course artifacts of intelligent design and also exhibit step-by-step problem-solving processes (even including "do-always" looping!)]:

    | | (A, heat source: Th): d’Qi –> (B’, heat engine, Te): –>

    d’W [work done on say D] + d’Qo –> (C, sink at Tc) | |

    i] A’s entropy: dSa >/= – d’Qi/Th

    j] C’s entropy: dSc >/= + d’Qo/Tc

    k] The rise in entropy in B, C and in the object on which the work is done, D, say, compensates for that lost from A. The second law — unsurprisingly, given the studies on steam engines that lie at its roots — holds for heat engines.

    l] However for B since it now couples energy into work and exhausts waste heat, does not necessarily undergo a rise in entropy having imported d’Qi. [The problem is to explain the origin of the heat engine -- or more generally, energy converter -- that does this, if it exhibits FSCI.]

    m] There is also a material difference between the sort of heat engine [an instance of the energy conversion device mentioned] that forms spontaneously as in a hurricane [directly driven by boundary conditions in a convective system on the planetary scale, i.e. an example of order], and the sort of complex, organised, algorithm-implementing energy conversion device found in living cells [the DNA-RNA-Ribosome-Enzyme system, which exhibits massive FSCI].

    n] In short, the decisive problem is the [im]plausibility of the ORIGIN of such a FSCI-based energy converter through causal mechanisms traceable only to chance conditions and undirected [non-purposive] natural forces. This problem yields a conundrum for chem evo scenarios, such that inference to agency as the probable cause of such FSCI — on the direct import of the many cases where we do directly know the causal story of FSCI — becomes the better explanation. As TBO say, in bridging from a survey of the basic thermodynamics of living systems in CH 7, to that more focussed discussion in ch’s 8 – 9:

    While the maintenance of living systems is easily rationalized in terms of thermodynamics, the origin of such living systems is quite another matter. Though the earth is open to energy flow from the sun, the means of converting this energy into the necessary work to build up living systems from simple precursors remains at present unspecified (see equation 7-17). The “evolution” from biomonomers of to fully functioning cells is the issue. Can one make the incredible jump in energy and organization from raw material and raw energy, apart from some means of directing the energy flow through the system? In Chapters 8 and 9 we will consider this question, limiting our discussion to two small but crucial steps in the proposed evolutionary scheme namely, the formation of protein and DNA from their precursors.

    It is widely agreed that both protein and DNA are essential for living systems and indispensable components of every living cell today.11 Yet they are only produced by living cells. Both types of molecules are much more energy and information rich than the biomonomers from which they form. Can one reasonably predict their occurrence given the necessary biomonomers and an energy source? Has this been verified experimentally? These questions will be considered . . . [Bold emphasis added. Cf summary in the peer-reviewed journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, "Thermodynamics and the Origin of Life," in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 40 (June 1988): 72-83, pardon the poor quality of the scan. NB:as the journal's online issues will show, this is not necessarily a "friendly audience."] . . . >>
    _____________

    I trust this should be clear enough on the basic challenge.

    Merely opening up a system to energy and mass inflows is actually liable to further disorganise it. Indeed, that is part of why cells have protective membranes with controlled access ports, all under internal control.

    What is to be explained is the origin of the complex, functionally specific organisation of the living cell, and there is an excellent reason why there is no viable model that can see the light of day, backed up by adequate empirical warrant, for spontaneous origin of life in some chemical soup or other.

    GEM of TKI

  33. Bruce,

    Energy and entropy are not subjective quantities. They’re measurable, and I can assure you that no one has found a single macroscopic violation of the second law by any system, living or not (microscopic violations have been seen, but only over short time scales — the second law is a statistical law).

    It isn’t for a lack of effort. People have tried (and are still trying) to do it. If you could violate the second law, you could create a perpetual motion machine and solve the world’s energy problems forever.

    I guarantee a Nobel to anyone who can show that life (or any other macroscopic phenomenon) violates the second law.

  34. Living organisms arising from non-living matter via unplanned, unguided, blind processes would violate the second law.

  35. F/N: Excerpting Bradley:

    __________

    >> 9] Recently, Bradley has done further work on this, using Cytochrome C, which is a 110-monomer protein. He reports, for this case (noting along the way that Shannon information is of course really a metric of information-carrying capacity and using Brillouin information as a measure of complex specified information, i.e IB = ICSI below), that:

    Cytochrome c (protein) — chain of 110 amino acids of 20 types

    If each amino acid has pi = .05, then average information “i” per amino acid is given by log2 (20) = 4.32

    The total Shannon information is given by I = N * i = 110 * 4.32 = 475, with total number of unique sequences “W0” that are possible is W0 = 2^I = 2^475 = 10^143

    Amino acids in cytochrome c are not equiprobable (pi ? 0.05) as assumed above.

    If one takes the actual probabilities of occurrence of the amino acids in cytochrome c, one may calculate the average information per residue (or link in our 110 link polymer chain) to be 4.139 using i = – ? pi log2 pi [TKI NB: which is related of course to the Boltzmann expression for S]

    Total Shannon information is given by I = N * i = 4.139 x 110 = 455.

    The total number of unique sequences “W0” that are possible for the set of amino acids in cytochrome c is given by W0 = 2^455 = 1.85 x 10^137

    . . . . Some amino acid residues (sites along chain) allow several different amino acids to be used interchangeably in cytochrome-c without loss of function, reducing i from 4.19 to 2.82 and I (i x 110) from 475 to 310 (Yockey)

    M = 2^310 = 2.1 x 10^93 = W1

    Wo / W1 = 1.85 x 10^137 / 2.1 x 10^93 = 8.8 x 10^44

    Recalculating for a 39 amino acid racemic prebiotic soup [as Glycine is achiral] he then deduces (appar., following Yockey):

    W1 is calculated to be 4.26 x 10^62

    Wo/W1 = 1.85 x 10^137 / 4.26 x 10^62 = 4.35 x 10^74

    ICSI = log2 (4.35 x 10^74) = 248 bits

    He then compares results from two experimental studies:

    Two recent experimental studies on other proteins have found the same incredibly low probabilities for accidental formation of a functional protein that Yockey found

    1 in 10^75 (Strait and Dewey, 1996) and

    1 in 10^65 (Bowie, Reidhaar-Olson, Lim and Sauer, 1990).

    –> Of course, to make a functioning life form we need dozens of proteins and other similar information-rich molecules all in close proximity and forming an integrated system, in turn requiring a protective enclosing membrane.

    –> The probabilities of this happening by the relevant chance conditions and natural regularities alone, in aggregate are effectively negligibly different from zero in the gamut of the observed cosmos.

    –> But of course, we know that agents, sometimes using chance and natural regularities as part of what they do, routinely produce FSCI-rich systems. [Indeed, that is just what the Nanobots and Micro-jets thought experiment shows by a conceivable though not yet technically feasible example.] >>
    ___________

    KF

  36. F/N 2: What Sewell had to say:

    __________

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

    The discovery that life on Earth developed through evolutionary “steps,” coupled with the observation that mutations and natural selection — like other natural forces — can cause (minor) change, is widely accepted in the scientific world as proof that natural selection — alone among all natural forces — can create order out of disorder, and even design human brains, with human consciousness. Only the layman seems to see the problem with this logic. In a recent Mathematical Intelligencer article ["A Mathematician's View of Evolution," The Mathematical Intelligencer 22, number 4, 5-7, 2000] I asserted that the idea that the four fundamental forces of physics alone could rearrange the fundamental particles of Nature into spaceships, nuclear power plants, and computers, connected to laser printers, CRTs, keyboards and the Internet, appears to violate the second law of thermodynamics in a spectacular way.1 . . . .

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

    THE EVOLUTIONIST, therefore, cannot avoid the question of probability by saying that anything can happen in an open system, he is finally forced to argue that it only seems extremely improbable, but really isn’t, that atoms would rearrange themselves into spaceships and computers and TV sets . . . >>
    ___________

    Now, let us back off the appeals to authority, pro and con and simply deal with the matter on the merits.

    Notice, particularly Sewell’s ALONE above.

    That is the focal issue, and it needs to be cogently answered on solid empirical evidence.

    As Einstein reportedly said when the Nazi state called out panels of physicists to denounce his “Jewish” physics, i.e relativity theory, if I were wrong just one would have done.

    KF

  37. @8.1.1.3.4

    Joe, that’s totally unwarranted. Why on earth would you say that?
    It’s a sad reflection on posters at this forum that this behaviour has gone unrebuked.

    For shame!

  38. You mean I swallow up ID arguments and leave no trace of their existence?

    Why, thanks, Joe :)

  39. @champignon,

    You’re partially correct in that the second law is usually stated in a way that applies only to isolated systems, but it can also be stated in terms of open systems. The underlying principle remains the same.

    The principle applies everywhere — energy is conserved, and for any static context, inside of an open environment or no — entropy can only stay the same or increase. That principle doesn’t apply when the thermodynamics are open, the principle being the one-way ratchet of entropy for that system. If you have a system like the earth, dramatic transfers from outside (like the sun) will nullify any “ratcheting up” for entropy for the earth, as a necessity.

    The thermodynamics of energy distribution, conversion an waste are the same, everywhere. The tendency toward equilibrium and the irreversibility apply in all contexts. But entropy can, and does, go down in local, open contexts.

  40. @KF#8.1.1.1.4

    I cannot resist — there is in fact a serious phil debate implied and question begged in asserting that the observed cosmos is an isolated system.

    Totally irrelevant for the issue at hand. “Observed cosmos” is not a feature of the SLoT, or the objections here. Moreover, the observed cosmos is uncontroversially an OPEN system – there is much beyond our powers of observation in the universe that we know exists by indirect means, and those regions of the universe are thermodynamically connected.

    There’s no debate, and it’s not relevant to the point at hand anyway. In thermodynamics, the extent of the universe is defined by the thermodynamics — the universe is all of that which is thermodynamically connecte. If you said “wait, there’s more”, then anything more is just covered under the definition of this universe.

    I remember all the way back to my good old Sears-Salinger on that one. The isolated system is a model ideal, that sets the base for addressing entropy in more realistic systems opened to energy, info and mass flows.

    Unless you suppose that this universe is not a closed system — not what we can observe of it, but everything that is thermodynamically connected — then it’s not just an ideal. And that’s a trick “unless”, just to save you some time; if it’s not a closed system, then whatever it takes to enclose THAT is the “container” for our closed system. Even in an infinite universe, whichever way you want to take it, so long as there is no thermodynamic exchange with anything external to it, you have an actual, isolated system.

    The fundamental point, is that once we open up to flows, we ADD degrees of freedom as a rule, so entropy tends to rise. For instance, here is my App 1 the always linked note, on Clausius’ first example for deducing the entropy principle, carried forward to address heat engines. Basic lesson, onward, is that for energy to increase complex, functional organisation — not merely order, we are looking at properly arranged coupling, and highly informational structures for that to happen.

    No, the Second Law doesn’t care a whit about complex, functional organization, for or against. Thermodynamic entropy is a measure of energy available to do work. That’s it. Full stop. You can have lots of energy available to do work (low entropy), with low functional complexity, and you can have lots of energy available to do work with high functional complexity. Complexity and function are not energy potential. Your paragraph here indicates a thorough confusion on the basics of thermodynamic entropy.

    In short, that the earth is open to energy inflows from the sun does not by itself credibly, plausibly and properly explain the origin of highly organised life forms based on sophisticated C-chemistry, coded functional information, algorithms and implementing machinery.

    Energy has to come from somewhere. If low entropy situations are going to arise, you will need energy made available to do work. That’s what “low entropy” means. So with the enormous influx of energy from the sun we receive every second, we have a overflowing supply of inbound energy which can be (and is) converted into low entropy configurations. See my example of photosynthesis I brought up with Joe.

    The solar energy itself doesn’t manage the organization or any biological structuring itself. It *powers* it, provides the energy capital that enables other processes that produce biological structures to work. Creationists and other confused parties routinely object to these low entropy contexts, citing them as a violation of the Second Law. It’s not a violation of the Second Law, and it betrays a very basic confusion about physics and thermodynamics to suggest that it does. One can complain all one wants about doubts about selection or genetic recombination or whatever structure-building process you want. But the energy supply to enable LOTS of low(er) entropy structures in biology is not any problem at all.

    The entire system overall must always rise in entropy, but local pockets, like we see in earth’s biosphere of lowered entropy, are not problematic in the least.

  41. ES: to define that all that exists is the universe, is indeed to beg big questions. your understanding of the second law and its foundations are simply incorrect, and indeed, the point of times arrow, once we look at the statistical underpinnings, is indeed relevant to accessible microstates. In that context, the issue of resources and special zones becomes extremely relevant to the problem in hand. So, the brushoff attempt fails. But of course, that is not very politically correct to say in today’s climate. Let me put it this way: when we blindly add energy to a system, we are generally adding to the number of ways mass and energy can be arranged at micro levels, resulting in a rise of entropy. That is the root of the expression on increment ds, that it exceeds d’q/T. In turn, T is a metric of the average random energy per micro-level degree of freedom in a body. Merely dumping mass and/or energy into the primitive earth’s atmosphere is nowhere near a reasonable explanation for the origin of life based on organised systems of information rich macromolecules, codes, algorithms, or even von Neumann self replicators joined to metabolic entities with encapsulation and controlled in/out flows. And you know that or should know that. The ONLY empirically warranted source for FSCO/I is design based on knowledgeable intelligence. If you object, kindly provide a case, especially an empirically well supported explanation of the spontaneous origin of cell based life. KF

  42. Stanley Jaki argues in “The Savior of Science” and several of his other books, that bad metaphysics, such as looking for paranormal effects, waylaid the nascent scientific progress of the Greeks, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Caliphate and even the Jewish Kabbala. Only the severe discipline of the Enlightenment materialism could negotiate the shoals of bad metaphysics.

    I gather that this principle does not rule out the possibility of using science to confirm a medical miracle or, for that matter, any kind of miracle that could not reasonably be classified as “paranormal.” Miracles do, after all, surpass paranormal events because there can be little doubt as to their source (think Lourdes). To provide another example, if Moses came back to part the waters of the Red Sea, would you have have any problem with a resident meterologist on the scene affirming that the event did not likely occur as a result of natural causes?

  43. This wasn’t addressed to me, Robert, but I find the comment rather curious:

    “For if we use the tools of science to investigate the tools of science, we end up with circular arguments, “circles of death”, self-fulfilling prophecies.”

    Are you suggesting there is no merit to the field of ‘science studies’ (aka ‘science of science’)?

    Would you not agree that some fields *can* be reflexive, while others at the same time strive to be positivistic?

    - Gregory

  44. No, I mean that you are so thick that you don’t have a clue. And obvioulsy you swallow up evo arguments and leave no trace of their existence.

  45. Wrong again Bydand and obvioulsy you have issues following along.

    Ya see Elizabeth has been told many, many times that ID is not about the designer and yet she stills spews nonsense pertaining to ID and the designer.

    And yes it is sad that her behaviour goes on and on. But it is even worse for someone to try to stand up for her…

  46. Eigenstate,

    The second law governs the behavior of open systems and isolated systems alike. To see this, just take an isolated system and write down the second law inequality that describes it. Now divide the isolated system into two open subsytems. You can derive the inequalities for the subsytems from the inequality for the original isolated system — you just have to account for any entropy transfers across their shared boundary.

    Another way of putting it is that the second law inequalities are general and apply to open and isolated systems alike. It’s just that in the case of the isolated system, the term representing the entropy transferred across the system boundary is zero, while for open systems it is nonzero.

  47. ID not about the designer? The increasing levels of religious fervour on some threads at UD tell a different story, old bean!
    And can you imagine what would happen to a poster here who used your insulting language to, for example, Denyse O’Leary?

  48. ID is about the DESIGN- always has been.

    One ignorant person trying to support another, although humorus, doesn’t work.

  49. Come off it, Joe! Are you trying to tell me that many people posting here at UD, such as kairosfocus, BA77, Dembski himself, are not absolutely certain that their intelligent designer is the Christian god?

    Cdesign proponentsists, the lot of ‘em!

    I’m not saying, mind you, that some don’t take the dispassionate view of the designer’s identity. But the overwhelming majority have that certainty

  50. People’s personal opinions are theirs and have no reflection on ID.

    ID is about the design, period.

    And nice to see you are stuck in propaganda-land- geez darwin came right out and used the word “Creator”, which means the theor of evolution is a creation theory- according to evo “logic”.

  51. @champignon#8.1.1.1.11,

    The second law governs the behavior of open systems and isolated systems alike. To see this, just take an isolated system and write down the second law inequality that describes it. Now divide the isolated system into two open subsytems. You can derive the inequalities for the subsytems from the inequality for the original isolated system — you just have to account for any entropy transfers across their shared boundary.

    Yes, sure. The fascination with the isolated system is ONLY tied the ratcheting of entropy, it’s inexorable increase. That is the factor that creationists identify as being violated by local (non-system wide) decreases in entropy. The mistake is apparently the idea that since the Second Law says that entropy as an OVERALL MEASURE will only increase (for an isolated system), that entropy cannot be lowered anywhere as a part of it.

    Or to put it in an analogical frame that has worked elsewhere, if we suppose there is a “Second Law of Hedge Funds” that says that for any given fund, over time, the fund’s overall value will decrease in value, that does NOT mean that for any given hedge fund, some of its trades are not profitable, even wildly profitable. The law, as such, only governs the overall “net” effect. Creationists commonly suppose that no local decreases in entropy can occur anywhere, thinking this is what the SLoT dictates, rather than “losses and gains” across the system, which when averaged out, always result in an increasing amount of entropy in the system.

    That’s not news to you. But the “ratchet” is the key in creationist circles. If we just concern ourselves with open system like the earth, there’s no basis for creationist objection on violation-of-SLoT grounds.

    There isn’t any even putative violation, then, from a creationist objection standpoint, for an open system, unless one is able to “de-open” the system by measuring any transfers in and out, what you called “account[ing] for any entropy transfers across their shared boundary”. If we could measure all the energy contributed to the earth by the sun, and do all the math for “earth + sun”, then the entropy of “earth+sun” increases; between the two, netted out, less energy is available for work as time goes by, in accordance with SLoT’s principles.

    TL;DR: on an open system, there’s nothing to discuss on this in terms of evolution or biology violating SLoT.

  52. Yes, I know that’s what you meant, Joe.

    But aren’t there civility rules on this site? I thought I’d give you an out.

  53. I would think that civility rules would pertain to continuous strawmen.

    Ya see it is obvious that people who continually erect strawmen, as you do, are just on an uncivil agenda of provocation.

  54. I would not have a problem with a supernatural designation in your hypothetical scenario.

    Now suppose the parting was a natural phenomena whose timing was chosen by God.

    Based on currently available data, the north end of the Ballah Lakes appears to be the most likely location for the sea crossing. In this model an east wind did not produce a land bridge since the orientation of the Ballah Lakes is northeast-southwest. With a northeast wind of 62 miles per hour a dry crossing place appears for 2.8 hours. If the wind speed is increased to 75 miles per hour, the crossing time is increased to 8.4 hours. In both cases there would be no water on the north side of the crossing place and only shallow water on the south side.

    While these computer simulations are interesting, none of them produce a result consistent with the biblical description of “a wall of water on their right and on their left.” In the end we must conclude that what took place when the Israelites left Egypt was a miraculous act of God which cannot be duplicated by a natural phenomenon.

    http://www.biblearchaeology.or.....ssing.aspx

    http://www.plosone.org/article.....ne.0012481 (accessed September 21).

    While science could not confirm that the timing was supernatural/miraculous, it could reasonably classify the event as natural or “normal.” if Moses came back to part the waters of the Red Sea, would you have have any problem with a resident meterologist on the scene affirming that the event likely occured as a result of natural causes?

  55. 55

    Rham, great point, that argument is commonly advanced by Frank Tipler.

  56. Now suppose the parting was a natural phenomena whose timing was chosen by God…… If Moses came back to part the waters of the Red Sea, would you have have any problem with a resident meterologist on the scene affirming that the event likely occured as a result of natural causes?

    If the meteorologist could explain how nature could push two walls of water in the opposite direction and coordinate that effort with Moses’ act of raising his arms, I would have no problem with it. For my part, I can’t imagine any such explanation. Can you?

  57. I don’t understand your response, are you objecting?

    What does the raising of arms have to do with the meteorologist affirming the parting was a natural phenomena? The meteorologist has made no claim for or against God responding to Moses, or of ability of Moses summon God or nature. The meteorologist merely claims that the water was pushed by the wind.

    Now Moses would make such a claim, but how would science verify it? I don’t think it (or the meteorologist) can relying only on empirical evidence.

  58. I don’t think meteorologist could “verify the miracle,” as such. What he could say is this: “Based on all my training, experience, and scientific knowledge about weather dynamics, I don’t think natural causes can explain this event.

    The issue on the table, however, is whether or not the meteorologist, as a scientist can, in the name of science, address this event which, as I described it, would clearly be a supernatural event. I am sympathetic with Mr. Shelton’s problem with science studying “preternatural” events for the reasons that he stated, but I find no problem with using science to determine if a given event was truly miraculous, a standard which surpasses the preternatural or “paranormal.” Preternatural does not = supernatural.

  59. Well, my goodness. I go away for 24 hours and find that I’ve generated quite a discussion. Let me try to get caught up.

    First of all, regarding the “appeal to authority”, both you, Elizabeth, and you, Champignon took my quote out of context. I did not say you should believe him because he has expertise. I said, “If you’re going to claim that he doesn’t understand the Second Law, you’d better make damn sure you thoroughly understand his reasoning.” I then proceeded to summarize it. My point was that Champignon’s critique did not address his argument.

    Secondly, my last post included a summary of Sewell’s argument, not the details. He gives the argument in detail in Chapter 5 of his collection of essays titled, In the Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design. It spans 28 pages in the book. If you really are interested, you should read it carefully and then, if you disagree, find the flaw in his argument. Attacking my summary is not really relevant.

    Thirdly, I would say that all the arguments I have seen above are basically a restatement of the party line regarding why life and human technology do not violate the Second Law. Sewell is well aware of all those arguments, and it is precisely those arguments that he refutes. Simply restating them, as you all have done, does not address his reasoning.

    Some other points:

    Eigenstate:

    You’re right the amount of energy from the sun introduced to the earth system does not even come close the amount of entropy decrease achieved by biological life on earth, but it goes the other way. The energy taken in by the earth from the absolutely dwarfs the available energy gains made by biological life. The biosphere doesn’t harness even a tiny fraction of what’s available.

    The earth receives about 1.8 x 1017 Joules/s of energy (see here, for example).

    …The earth receives orders of magnitudes more energy every second from the sun than it can use, than can be converted into energy available for work (negative entropy). Not even close.

    You are confusing energy with order. Order is the opposite of entropy. When entropy is maximum (eg., at thermodynamic equilibrium), order is 0. But this by no means implies that energy is 0. The energy of sunlight striking the earth does introduce thermodynamic disequilibrium, as evidenced by the temperature gradient between the equator and the poles, but it does not account for the distance away from equilibrium, the amount of order, found in the totality of living things plus human technology. Again, see Sewell’s essay for a thorough explanation.

    Elizabeth:

    Bruce, intelligence simply doesn’t violate the second law, for the simple reason that we need to eat in order to be able to think.

    You are also confusing energy with order. You are also assuming that creativity is a function of brain activity, which has not been established. The brain uses the energy from food to operate. However, if the order produced by the mental activity of human beings exceeds the order in the consumed food, then the Second Law is violated.

    Champignon:

    Energy and entropy are not subjective quantities. They’re measurable, and I can assure you that no one has found a single macroscopic violation of the second law by any system, living or not (microscopic violations have been seen, but only over short time scales — the second law is a statistical law).

    The reason no one has found a single violation in spite of the fact that the earth itself is one massive violation of the Second Law is because they are simply unwilling to see it. “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

    I’ll end with another quote from Sewell which also summarizes his argument:

    In Appendix D of The Numerical Solution of Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations…I take a closer look at the equations for entropy change, which apply not only to thermal entropy but also to the entropy associated with anything else that diffuses, and show that they do not simply say that order cannot increase in a closed system, they also say that in an open system, order cannot increase faster than it is imported through the boundary. According to these equations, the thermal order in an open system can decrease in two different ways—it can be converted to disorder, or it can be exported through the boundary. It can increase in only one way: by importation through the boundary…

    The “compensation” argument was produced by people who generalized the model equation for closed systems, but forgot to generalize the equation for open systems. Both equations are only valid for our simple models, where it is assumed that only heat conduction or diffusion is going on; naturally in more complex situations, the laws of probability do not make such simple predictions. Nevertheless, in [Sewell 2001] I generalized the equation for open systems to the following tautology, which is valid in all situations: “If an increase in order is extremely improbable when a system is closed, it is still extremely improbable when the system is open, unless something is entering which makes it not extremely improbable.” The fact that order is disappearing in the next room does not make it any easier for computers to appear in our room—unless this order is disappearing into our room, and then only if it is a type of order that makes the appearance of computers not extremely improbable, for example, computers. Importing thermal order [eg., sunlight (my addition)] will make the temperatjure distribution less random, and importing carbon order will make the carbon distribution less random, but neither makes the formation of computers more probable. [Emphasis in the original.]

  60. Joe: Please go easy on tone. Dr Liddle has a point. KF

  61. KF,

    Joe: Please go easy on tone. Dr Liddle has a point. KF

    Says the hypocrite who just minutes ago accused Dr Liddle and others of being “morally abnormal, or even warped, even monstrous.”

  62. BD:

    I had forgotten that remark of Sewell’s, but that is also quite on target.

    I think we need to understand three things: disorder, order, organisation.

    Entropy is in the end a metric of micro-scale disorder due to the number of possible configs of a complex entity consistent with its energy etc and a given macro-observable state. In the simple case Boltzmann’s s = k log W tells us this, where W is the number of ways that a system may distribute mass and energy on micro level consistent with a given macro-level observable state. The natural tendency is for systems to move to states where that number of ways is higher and higher, for all sorts of reasons.

    The simplest case I can think of to illustrate how this works is to consider a marbles in a box exercise with an impulse of energy, and then see how the system evolves naturally in light of forces at work. This is of course a classic case and ends in a Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution. But the same basic ideas extend to quantum cases, though of course the resulting statistics will be different. I won’t bother to clip my outline, qualitative discussion in App 1 my always linked through my handle, LH column, but any interested party can look it up. It should be intuitively obvious why we reliably end up with raw energy injections giving rise to higher entropy.

    What is more interesting, especially given the sort of line of reasoning Abel et al have been going down for several years in the literature, is the emerging understanding and broad acceptance of the entropy-information link that was first glimpsed when Shannon’s average info per symbol metric took the same form as a form for entropy in stat mech. Let me clip Wiki as testifying against known interest:

    At an everyday practical level the links between information entropy and thermodynamic entropy are not close. Physicists and chemists are apt to be more interested in changes in entropy as a system spontaneously evolves away from its initial conditions, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, rather than an unchanging probability distribution. And, as the numerical smallness of Boltzmann’s constant kB indicates, the changes in S / kB for even minute amounts of substances in chemical and physical processes represent amounts of entropy which are so large as to be right off the scale compared to anything seen in data compression or signal processing.

    But, at a multidisciplinary level, connections can be made between thermodynamic and informational entropy, although it took many years in the development of the theories of statistical mechanics and information theory to make the relationship fully apparent. In fact, in the view of Jaynes (1957), thermodynamics should be seen as an application of Shannon’s information theory: the thermodynamic entropy is interpreted as being an estimate of the amount of further Shannon information needed to define the detailed microscopic state of the system, that remains uncommunicated by a description solely in terms of the macroscopic variables of classical thermodynamics. For example, adding heat to a system increases its thermodynamic entropy because it increases the number of possible microscopic states that it could be in, thus making any complete state description longer. (See article: maximum entropy thermodynamics.[Also,another article remarks: >>in the words of G. N. Lewis writing about chemical entropy in 1930, "Gain in entropy always means loss of information, and nothing more" . . . in the discrete case using base two logarithms, the reduced Gibbs entropy is equal to the minimum number of yes/no questions that need to be answered in order to fully specify the microstate, given that we know the macrostate.>>]) Maxwell’s demon can (hypothetically) reduce the thermodynamic entropy of a system by using information about the states of individual molecules; but, as Landauer (from 1961) and co-workers have shown, to function the demon himself must increase thermodynamic entropy in the process, by at least the amount of Shannon information he proposes to first acquire and store; and so the total entropy does not decrease (which resolves the paradox).

    So, when we see a functionally constrained system, which is built up from many components in particular arrangements that are specific to observable function, then that system is necessarily in a highly constrained, low entropy state, relative to the sea of possibilities for the same components. Just observing the function, for one who knows the underpinnings, tells us MUCH about the underlying configuration. This implies a high information, low entropy state. And of course this can be given practical expression by taking a leaf from the sort of nodes and arcs and exploded view diagrams that are ever so common in engineering praxis: we have a specification on a chain of yes/no questions given suitable answers — eight bits per ASCII character if we include the parity check bit that says, we can rely on that character with high confidence — that can be converted into an information value and related to the entropy involved. (And BTW, this is pretty much the actual path way I came through to get to the concept of FSCO/I.)

    So, we can see why FSCO/I locks us down to a narrow zone T in a space of possibilities W, which makes a blind search on chance plus necessity in a warm little electrified pond or whatever, even with clay beds, a highly implausible account for the origin of the organised integrated systems of metabolising, vNSR replicating life in the cell. Volcanic vents, here or on Titan or the like make but little difference to the point.

    Notice, such are open systems, but the problem is that as energy is dumped in blindly, the strong trend would be towards maximum disorder, not order. Much less, aperiodic, organised functional structures. Worse yet, code based systems with algorithms and co-ordinated execution machines.

    We do know that intelligences can create FSCO/I, but that is not explained by for example the fact that embodied intelligences eat. That is just mass and energy flow through, with organised harvesting for utility.

    The issue is INFORMATION.

    Where does complex, functionally specific info come from? The organisation of physical components that expresses or embeds it?

    The consistent answer is: intelligence.

    And, we live in a contingent world exhibiting fine tuned functional organisation of its physics that makes such C-chemistry cell based life possible.

    That strongly points to transcendent intelligence as the author of such a cosmos, even through a multiverse speculation. Which BTW is a main area of Dr Sheldon’s online writings.

    Science — per argument — may not be well suited to studying the “supernatural,” whatever that means, but it is definitely well suited to the empirically based study of signs of intelligent action, acting by art that gives rise to functionally specific, complex organisation and information.

    Which seems to be what all too many are ever so desperate to see that we do not recognise.

    That’s why I take the whole natural vs supernatural talking point as a grand strawman exercise. Ever since Plato in The Laws Bk X, the real issue on the table has been to discern cause on blind chance plus necessity on the one hand, or art on the other.

    That’s why Lewontin, NCSE, NAS and NSTA are all in my IOSE rogues gallery, here on.

    It is high time that the strawman was retired.

    GEM of TKI

  63. OOPS BD, Missed the proper reply point, sorry, go here above. These threaded discussions can get ticklish to follow and disentangle when they get long. KF

  64. Dr Sheldon, it is sad that you have to in effect link your resume to speak. KF

  65. To R Sheldon

    Just who is engaging in laughable ad hominems? You accuse me of suffering from paranoid schizophrenia after all. Lame more than anything else really.

    Just who is engaging in the burning of straw men here? I would have to say that’s projection on your part. You simply don’t get what I’m getting at. I can’t write a huge article here, this is just commentary to a blog posting, so I only make brief allusions to a few things which quite clearly pass over your head. Heck a whole book wouldn’t disabuse you of your rather uh charming notions anyway.

    You then cite Stanley Jaki! as some kind of refutation of points I was alluding to. Sheldon, citing a Catholic priest (yes I know he was also a scientist) on the ‘occult’ and science, that’s not going to convince anybody who isn’t in your camp to start with. I am actually familiar (just a little) with Jaki (his writings on the Fatima visions notably and no I am not a Catholic). Actually the Fatima miracle (so-called) touches on what we are arguing about. Jaki filtered it all through his Catholicism, what he wrote on Fatima is certainly interesting and well-researched, yet ultimately lacks objectivity.

    You continue to assert that the “Bible gives us instructions on the occult”, making it clear your POV is driven by orthodox organized religion, not science. As far as “voices in the head” are concerned, clearly your opinion here is staunchly and narrowly religious, and not anything but. And no I don’t care for the scientific materialism that explains it all away neither, but you go to the other extreme.

    You clearly are not familiar with the literature on abnormal psychology any more than you are familiar with the literature on parapsychology (not that you think it matters at all). I do not care too much for the extent to which psychology has been handicapped by materialism, yet it’s not all psychobabble you know. Heard of Multiple Personality Disorder? Are those real people too? (well they are to the person suffering from MPD of course). Truth is they are neither ‘real people’ as distinct from the sufferer any more than they are ‘things’. Sheldon’s false duality (his black and white thinking) on ‘voices in the head’ is so ridiculously simplistic and sloppy, it’s not even at the undergrad level.

  66. “So essentially, ID amounts to the proposition that the 2nd Law had to be violated (by an intelligent agent that didn’t need to eat) for life to exist.

    Interesting.

    It is not interesting when people say absurd things. Any textbook on thermodynamics will tell you that the 2nd law is of statistical nature. Shall I have to explain more or is this enough?

    ID says that based on empirical observation control does not emerge spontaneously. So any system in order to be controlled needs purposeful and structured external intervention. What’s more, formalisms such as prescriptive information or algorithms or cybernetic control, from empirical observation, strongly point to choice contingency, and consequently to intelligence simply because nature is inert to choice. That I find very interesting. That is also very appealing and very simple, which are aesthetic indications of the gist of ID being perfectly scientifically legitimate and true.

  67. First of all, regarding the “appeal to authority”, both you, Elizabeth, and you, Champignon took my quote out of context. I did not say you should believe him because he has expertise. I said, “If you’re going to claim that he doesn’t understand the Second Law, you’d better make damn sure you thoroughly understand his reasoning.”

    Fair enough. Although I’d still say that given that his conclusion flies in the face of modern physics, coupled with the fact that he is not himself a physicist, would at the minimum, give me low priors regarding the validity of his conclusion.

    If is correct, that means that the whole of physics since Newton is wrong.

    I then proceeded to summarize it. My point was that Champignon’s critique did not address his argument.

    Well, it does address your version of it. It may not address an argument that you did not present.

    I have not read his book,but I have read his paper:A second look at the second law, in which he himself writes, in conclusion:

    Of course, one can still argue that the spectacular increase in order seen on Earth does not violate the second law because what has happened here is not really extremely improbable. Not many people are willing to make this argument, however; in fact, the claim that the second law does not apply to open systems was invented in an attempt to avoid having to make this
    argument.

    His first sentence is,of course, correct. However, his second sense is doubly wrong. It is precisely the argument of evolutionary biologists that what has happened on earth is “not really extremely improbable”, so his statement that “not many people are willing to make this argument” betrays complete ignorance of evolutionary theory. And the idea that “the claim that the second law does not apply to open systems was invented in an attempt to avoid having to make this argument” is simply false. The claim is made because it is demonstrably true.

    So while his math may be just fine. It’s the wrong math.

  68. Dr Liddle, the known physicist count for this thread includes Drs Sheldon and Selensky. You could count me in at one step lower in the academic rankings. All of us are arguing the design side of this matter. What is that telling you? Can you answer tot he issues I have summarised, for instance? And of co8urse ES is precisely correct to highlight the issue of statistics at the foundation of the 2nd law. Notice, Dr Sewell’s point in the end is a statistical, probabilistic one. KF

  69. It is not interesting when people say absurd things. Any textbook on thermodynamics will tell you that the 2nd law is of statistical nature. Shall I have to explain more or is this enough?

    Well, you don’t have to explain it, I am well aware of it, but it seems to me irrelevant to my point.

    ID says that based on empirical observation control does not emerge spontaneously. So any system in order to be controlled needs purposeful and structured external intervention. What’s more, formalisms such as prescriptive information or algorithms or cybernetic control, from empirical observation, strongly point to choice contingency, and consequently to intelligence simply because nature is inert to choice. That I find very interesting. That is also very appealing and very simple, which are aesthetic indications of the gist of ID being perfectly scientifically legitimate and true.

    Well, I don’t think that makes sense. I don’t even know what you mean, and I think that there are fallacies lurking in your terms.

    What, for instance, do you mean, precisely, by “choice contingency”?

    And “prescriptive information”?

    And “cybernetic control”?

    And “spontaneously”?

    And please don’t brush me off, by either recoiling at my ignorance, or, alternatively, the accusation that I am nitpicking, because it seems to me your argument hangs on those concepts,and I want to know exactly what you mean by the terms.

    Because using at least some meanings those terms, your that claim that control systems cannot arise spontaneously is simply not supported.

  70. Bruce,

    However, if the order produced by the mental activity of human beings exceeds the order in the consumed food, then the Second Law is violated.

    So if I drink a well-shaken, disordered glucose drink, and then assemble a model battleship, I have violated the 2nd Law? I think you are missing the point about energy and order. The energy in glucose is contained in its carbon bonds. This was locked in in the first instance by a photosynthetic complex trapping the energy in a photon of sunlight and utilising it to energise an electron. The electron can only go down a thermodynamic gradient from that point, unless energy is put in to raise it again. Descending the thermodynamic gradient allows the energy to be utilised, via a series of intermediates, to convert CO2 and water into complex carbohydrate. Turning complex carbohydrate back into CO2 and water releases that stored energy.

    At all points, the energy of the initially excited electron flows ‘downhill’, thermodynamically. When CO2 and water are released by our respiration, and we do work using that energy, it has returned to the bottom of the thermodynamic slope. We need a further input of energy to push electrons back up the slope and combine that CO2 and water again. It is closely akin to a ‘real’ gradient system – eg hydroelectric generation, which uses gravitation instead of the serial electronegativity gradient of the biological systems, and warmth to raise the water uphill instead of photon energy.

    We can use free energy to decrease entropy – to make a model battleship, walk uphill, or whatever else takes our fancy. But the amount of order in the food is really immaterial. And – I may have misread – it is not the warmth of sunlight that permits biology to decrease entropy locally, but the quantum energy of photons. At any moment, the amount of photon energy striking the earth may be minor. But because Life traps photons sequentially, and locks that energy in carbon compounds, vast amounts of energy can be intercepted, and vast amounts of material can be ordered, with no thermodynamic violation. Your car runs on the fossil light of an ancient sun, trapped in a disordered molecular soup.

  71. Joe: Please go easy on tone. Dr Liddle has a point.

    I respectfully disagree as it is obvious that Dr Liddle is nothing but a strawman erector

  72. A couple of evo fallacies:

    1- Having enough energy available to do the work does not mean the available energy can do the work required

    2- The sun provides energy but that does not mean that energy can produce a living organism

  73. A couple of evo fallacies:

    1- Having enough energy available to do the work does not mean the available energy can do the work required

    2- The sun provides energy but that does not mean that energy can produce a living organism

    Strawman erection, Joe? You complain about Elizabeth‘s supposed strawmen? Then offer a twofer? ‘Evos’ don’t (1) argue that energy is always free and available, nor (2) argue that energy can produce a living organism. They would rarely even mention the 2nd Law were it not for the perennial Creationist error that Life violates it.

  74. ‘Evos’ don’t (1) argue that energy is always free and available,

    tat’s not what I said- you have reading issues and an agenda that doesn’t allow you to focus.

    (2) argue that energy can produce a living organism

    They argue that living organisms are reducible to matter and energy.

    And living organisms do violate the second law.

  75. Well, Joe, obviously I disagree, and, indeed, consider that the straw man erecting is being done by IDists around here. And I’m delighted to have your word now for the garbled versions of Darwinism I often see: Garwinism. But of course you, and other IDists think the reverse.

    In other words, neither “side” thinks the other side is fairly representing their own position.

    That situation will only be resolved only by people taking the time to try to understand what the other is saying. It will not, IMO, be resolved by one side telling the other side that they are stupid.

    That’s the reason civility matters in these discussions: because it gets in the way of actual discussion.

    I don’t actually mind you calling me “dense” if you point out the mistake you think I am making. But if it is a substitute for reasoned discourse then, then you are wasting both my time and your own.

    I do, however, mind you accusing me of deliberate dishonesty, because that not only does not contribute to the discussion, it undermines its very basis.

    This is why I tend to ignore posters who accuse me of lack of integrity, but on the whole am reasonably happy to trade jocular jibes with someone who merely calls me “dense”.

    It’s not as though I’m not fully aware of my own occasional density.

    But I don’t lie.

  76. What strawman have I erected? Please be specific.

    And I have pointed out your mistakes. You just refuse to be corrected.

    As for lying, well it is a lie to say the theory of evolution produces testable hypotheses and you say that all the time.

  77. Chas: ‘Evos’ don’t (1) argue that energy is always free and available,

    Joe (who else?): tat’s not what I said

    Fair enough. But you declared the following an evo fallacy: “Having enough energy available to do the work does not mean the available energy can do the work required”. There are, I admit, a few of ways to read that, in the context of it being an ‘evo fallacy’, and it is not at all clear what the fallacy is, if not my first reading. What is it that evos argue on energy availability and the work it needs to do that is fallacious? How much more energy does it take to make (say) a chicken than is available in its feed?

    - you have reading issues and an agenda that doesn’t allow you to focus.

    Are you familiar with the term ‘irony’, Joe?

    (2) argue that energy can produce a living organism

    They argue that living organisms are reducible to matter and energy.

    And so they are. Try eating a chicken.

    And living organisms do violate the second law.

    No they bloody don’t!

  78. But you declared the following an evo fallacy: “Having enough energy available to do the work does not mean the available energy can do the work required”.

    Yup read eigenstate’s posts. That is a response to what he has been posting.


    They argue that living organisms are reducible to matter and energy.

    And so they are.

    Evidence please. Ya see if you had suchj evidence then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. IOW you lied.


    And living organisms do violate the second law.

    No they bloody don’t!

    Yes, they bloody do!

  79. Joe, it’s because ID refuses to consider the design processes that it is bad science (well, there are other reasons but that’s one of them).

    Simply inferring a pattern that you think is only producible by an intelligent designer is completely useless unless you hypothesise the kind of design and implementation processes that would have led to the observed pattern. This is because there are other contenders, e.g. Darwinian evolution.

    But, as you say, most IDists refuse to go there.

    One good reason for not doing so, is of course, if you posit that the designer is supernatural, and there is no scientific test for the supernatural.

    But that’s your problem not ours.

  80. Well, firstly, it is not a lie to say something that you believe to be true, and I believe my statement to be true.

    Secondly, all you have to do to find testable hypotheses for evolution is to use Google Scholar to locate papers in which such hypotheses have been tested. They are countless.

    As for straw men, you posted two in your post 18.

  81. Joe, it’s because ID refuses to consider the design processes that it is bad science (well, there are other reasons but that’s one of them).

    That- the design processes- is a SEPARATE question. Geez Dembski goes over that in “No Free Lunch”

    Ya see we still don’t know how Stonehenge was designed or constructed, but we know it was designed and constructed by agencies.

    Your position doesn’t have anything to offer pertaining to “how”. So it is pretty pathetic for you to insist ID needs that when your position doesn’t have a clue.

    Also ID does not posit the designer is supernatural. What ID says is that if the designer is supernatural, so what? Science only cares about reality.

    YOUR problem is tat you cannot even test your position.

  82. Well, firstly, it is not a lie to say something that you believe to be true, and I believe my statement to be true.

    I don’t care what you believe. It is obvious you cannot support that belief.

    Secondly, all you have to do to find testable hypotheses for evolution is to use Google Scholar to locate papers in which such hypotheses have been tested. They are countless.

    Except for the fact that ID is not anti-evolution, which makes you an equivocating loser.

    As for straw men, you posted two in your post 18.

    Chas said the same thing and he is being proven wrong.

    Go figure…

  83. Joe:They argue that living organisms are reducible to matter and energy.

    Chas: And so they are.

    Joe: Evidence please. Ya see if you had suchj evidence then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. IOW you lied.

    So … I LIED that eating a chicken would be a demonstration of the reducibility of living organisms to matter and energy? Bwahahaha. We are having this .. er … “discussion” due to your cluelessness on the second law of thermodynamics. May we lock you in a room without food, and periodically check up on your entropy?

    This is your stock MO. You run out of half-intelligent things to say (…) and pull out that lame, dog-eared “evidence” card. Even on such straightforward matters as energy flow through living systems! There is a vast literature. I can’t imagine what your standards as regards evidence would be, in light of your credulous swallowing of UFOlogy and crop-circlism. Perhaps if I donned a big silver suit and flattened some corn…

    It is evident that you barely grasp the subjects on which you pontificate so prolifically – and you have no shame on that score whatsoever. You see oafishness as a virtue – I’ve seen your blog. “Gee, if a dumb ol’ guy like me can see why science is such baloney…”. Yuk yuk yuk, etcetera.

  84. So … I LIED that eating a chicken would be a demonstration of the reducibility of living organisms to matter and energy?

    I didn’t say that.

    You are obvioulsy a twisted and confused person.

    That said even if living organisms require matter and energy to stay living, that does not mean living organisms are reducible to matter and energy. Only an ignorant person would make such a correlation, and here you are.

  85. Except for the fact that ID is not anti-evolution, which makes you an equivocating loser.

    Well what are you arguing about then? If you aren’t anti-evolution, what do you think “our side” is actually proposing?

  86. Well what are you arguing about then? If you aren’t anti-evolution, what do you think “our side” is actually proposing?

    As I have been saying-

    Why are you even here seeing that you don’t have a bleeping clue as to what is being debated even though it has been spelled out many times over many years?

    This is somewhat dated but it gets the point across:

    Evolution has several meanings. The meanings of evolution, from Darwinism, Design and Public Education:

    1. Change over time; history of nature; any sequence of events in nature

    2. Changes in the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population

    3. Limited common descent: the idea that particular groups of organisms have descended from a common ancestor

    4. The mechanisms responsible for the change required to produce limited descent with modification, chiefly natural selection acting on random variations or mutations.

    5. Universal common descent: the idea that all organisms have descended from a single common ancestor.

    6. “Blind watchmaker” thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common ancestors solely through an unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural selection acting on random variations or mutations; that the mechanisms of natural selection, random variation and mutation, and perhaps other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, are completely sufficient to account for the appearance of design in living organisms.

    The debate isn’t as black & white as saying it is evo #6 against IDists, Creationists and theistic evolutionists. However it is obvious that evo #6 is what is being debated.

    (Theistic evolutionists are a different breed. They don’t seem to acknowledge that evo #6 is what is being taught in our public school system. And therefore don’t appear to understand the issue. The TE’s I have debated with tell me that humans were an intended outcome of the evolutionary process, which is OK for evo #5 but defies evo #6. IOW TE’s are closet IDists.)

    Creationists go with 1-4 (above), with the change in 4 being built-in responses to environmental cues or organism direction as the primary mechanism, for allele frequency change, culled by various selection processes (as well as random effects/ events/ choice of not to mate/ unable to find a mate). The secondary mechanism would be random variations or mutations culled by similar processes. IOW life’s diversity evolved from the originally Created Kind, humans included. Science should therefore be the tool/ process with which we determine what those kinds were.

    With Creation vs. “Evolution #6″ the 4 main debating points are clear:

    1) The starting point of the evolutionary process. (What was (were) the founding population(s)?)

    2) The phenotypic & morphological plasticity allowed/ extent the evolutionary process can take a population (do limits exist?).

    3) The apparent direction the evolutionary process took to form the history of life. (ie from “simpler” bacteria-like organisms to complex metazoans)

    4) The mechanism for the evolutionary process.

    With ID vs. Evo #6 it is mainly about the mechanism- IDists go with evolution 1-5, with the Creation change to 4 plus the following caveat in 5: Life’s diversity was brought about via the intent of a design. The initial conditions, parameters, resources and goal was pre-programmed as part of an evolutionary algorithm designed to bring forth complex metazoans, as well as leave behind the more “simple” viruses, prokaryotes and single-celled eukaryotes.

    IDists understand that if life didn’t arise from non-living matter via some blind watchmaker-type process, there is no reason to infer its subsequent diversity arose soley due to those type of processes (point 1 up top).

    What does the data say? Well there isn’t any data that demonstrates bacteria can “evolve” into anything but bacteria. Therefore anyone who accepts evolution 5 or 6 has some splaining to do. Preferably splainations with scientific merit.

  87. Gregory,
    The derivative of a function has different properties than the function, which was a mistake that I made in the first paper I wrote after getting my PhD. (I had assumed that if f(0)–>0, then df/dx(0)–>0. It took the referee a year to straighten me out. The only time I can say that peer review worked.)

    So the meta-study is not the same as the study. Metascience is not the same thing as science. And if we attempt to study the methods of science–say, Methodological Naturalism–we cannot employ the same tools as science. The History and Philosophy of Science field knows this, and uses tools of philosophy to discuss the foundations of science. This point is made over and over again, but never seems to stick, that Methodological Naturalism, or Logical Positivism, would disqualify its own criteria; the philosophy of what makes things true does not pass its own “truth test”.

    Okay, is this a problem?

    Absolutely. Because it means that either all science is “hypocritical” or that science is “incomplete”. Goedel makes the same argument for math. Poythress and a few other theologians argue that religious metaphysics establish the foundation of modern science, because otherwise we get into these navel-gazing recursive definitions that go nowhere. Solipsism. Anti-realism. Spiritism are all examples of circular-logic philosophies that destroy science. And one, if not the main purpose of ID is to show that MN does the same thing to science–it eviscerates it, distorts it, sends it into cul-de-sacs of useless investigation. This is what Jaki attributes the cause of the still-birth of science in all other cultures.

    But then what rescues theology from the same fate? Or for that matter, how do we handle psychology or any of the sciences that think about our thinking?

    We can handle recursion, and indeed, must handle recursion every day, but we do not use the tools of science. We use the tools of personality, of persons. All those things your mom told you to do, be polite, say you are sorry, don’t be bossy, keep your promises–are person-tools. None of them make any sense to, say, astronomy. Everyone of them matters when dealing with people, with psychology, with theology.

    So you see, we actually do make this separation between things and people every day, it is just that MN materialists have falsely convinced us that the mind can be studied as if it were a machine. The outcome of that false view, is a series of “discoveries” that reveal more about us than the object of study–Freud’s “discoveries” are all about Freud, Jungian psychology is all about Jung, etc. And when we think we have achieved some power, some control, some possession through these “tools”, we are like Margaret Mead thinking she was describing “coming of age in Samoa” when all she was getting was projections of her frustrated desires.

    This is why most of paranormal research turns out to be junk. Not because the people are crooks or cranks but because the tools they use are traitorous. Irving Langmuir discusses this problem in his essay on “pathological science”. Whenever we deal with recursive things, we must be very, very careful. Positive feedback is an enormously powerful force, that no amount of care can control. It is like an unstable computer solution (the mistake that cost me an extra year to get my PhD), that no amount of damping or diffusing can prevent from exploding. Therefore we must discard all tools that show this trait, and only use tools known to have stable properties.

    Well, that’s been broad brush, but if you have some borderline cases, perhaps some analysis can separate the recursive part from the materialist part, which might allow progress in both fronts.

  88. Hi Joe:

    A couple of evo fallacies:

    I take it that the statements you have numbered below are statements that you think are a) true and b) denied by “evos”. I am addressing them on this assumption.

    1- Having enough energy available to do the work does not mean the available energy can do the work required

    This statement is true as far as I can parse it. It is certainly true that having lots of energy does not, alone, mean that I can use it to do work. I have lots of heat energy in the walls of my house right now, but I can’t use it to make myself a cup of tea.

    But it is not true that “evos” believe that the statement is false, nor is it true that any evolutionary theory is based on the assumption that it is false. Nobody proposes that a seed can grow into a tree without the input of energy, nor do they propose that result is a decrease in entropy. As a result of sunlight reaching the leaves of the tree, carbon dioxide and water were converted into a form of energy that could be used by the tree, namely sugar, which was subsequently broken down by the tree, releasing heat. That heat represents the increase in entropy. It cannot do the work that the original sunlight could. No energy has been lost, but entropy has increased, and there is thus now, in the universe, less energy available to make trees than there was before the tree grew. There is still some energy stored in useful form, and I can chop down the tree to burn a fire, but I won’t get anything like the energy out of my fire than went into growing the tree. And when the fire has burned down there will be even less usable energy around.

    2- The sun provides energy but that does not mean that energy can produce a living organism

    Well, again, this statement is true, but “evos” do not believe it is false. The reason the sun can provide the energy needed to produce a living organism is that the sun’s energy is in a form that can be used for work on earth. This is because it is at a higher temperature than we are. Heat can flow from the sun to earth, and things on earth can use it to do work. However, as a result of doing that work, heat is dissipated, and total entropy increases. A planet orbiting a vast dead sun, with the same energy as our sun but at the same temperature as the planet, would not be able to produce solar-powered life-forms.

    In other words, nothing, including living things, violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, and “evos” don’t say that anything can.

    So you do indeed have two straw men, there, Joe. Both statements are true, and “evos” are happy to agree that they are true. Indeed, we frequently do, in response to the claim that life violates the 2LoT.

    Or perhaps you think the statements are false, but evos believe them?

    In which case, I retract my accusation that you have erected two straw men here, and change it to “you have made two mistakes”.

  89. StephenB,
    I didn’t realize how difficult it was to discuss these topics without a long series of definitions of the words. “Paranormal” usually excludes the miraculous.
    “occult” definitely excudes the miraculous.
    That’s because “miracles” are attributed to God, “paranormal” are attributed to people, and “occult” are attributed to demons etc. Only if one ignores final causes, can these three categories collapse into “supernatural”. Which, come to think of it, is another reason for rejecting the use of the word “supernatural”.

    My original post was intended to lump “paranormal” and “occult” into the same category, but not “miraculous”. That is, there is no danger than studying the miracles of God will cause a man to fall into idolatry, but there is every danger that the occult and the paranormal will do so.

    One more definition, and I’m done.

    Idolatry is not just the worship of images. It is not just the worship of man made stuff. Idolatry is recursion, the worship of something we define, whether it be images, money, power, nationality, race, sex or creed. Because idolatry is the presence of positive feedback, of runaway recursion, of attitudes allowed to become reality. Even good things, when put into a recursive position, will become idols. And idols eat us. They have to eat us, because we are their power, their energy, their source of food and existence. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

  90. In that case, Joe, I will simply rephrase my claim:

    “Secondly, all you have to do to find testable hypotheses for evolution common descent and heritable variation in reproductive success is to use Google Scholar to locate papers in which such hypotheses have been tested. They are countless.”

    However, I’ll make a couple of comments on your 5 and 6, as there are some small straw men lurking there:

    5. Universal common descent: the idea that all organisms have descended from a single common ancestor.

    It’s perfectly possible that abiogenesis occurred more than once, and that we are the result of some kind of symbiosis between more than one common ancestral population.

    And a single common ancestor seems unlikely. Most current OOL theories propose a set of conditions in which Darwinian-capable self-replicators tended to form from non-replicating materials.

    So we’d have to say we simply do not know whether there is a single root of to the tree of life or whether there were several contributing branches. We do know that the tree is bushy at the base.

    So evolutionary theory does not stand or fall by the hypothesis that we have a single common ancestor. Indeed, it is completely independent of it. What it does posit is that given a population of self-replicators replicating with variance in reproductive success in the current environment, is that adaptation to the environment will occur. And this of course has been observed in real time.

    6. “Blind watchmaker” thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common ancestors solely through an unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural selection acting on random variations or mutations; that the mechanisms of natural selection, random variation and mutation, and perhaps other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, are completely sufficient to account for the appearance of design in living organisms.

    Well, the hypothesis is that these mechanism account for the patterns we observe in lviing organisms, including, most notably, their fittedness to thrive in their environments. No scientific theory ever includes the clause that “this theory is completely sufficient to account for” the observed phenomena.

    It is in the very nature of scientific models that they are never assumed to be sufficient.

    This is a very important point, because I think a lot of the angst in discussion here rests on the idea that evolutionary theory (by which I mean your 5 and 6 more or less) is the theory that life is “natural”. It isn’t. It’s the theory that a specific set of natural processes resulted in the the observed pattern of life.

    Those two things may sound similar but they are crucially different. The first is untestable. No matter how well our theories fit the data, we simply cannot rule out that the whole thing was set in motion by an omniscient God who knew, and intended, every single event that occurred, and made sure that no other event that we might imagine could have occurred, did.

    The second, however, is eminently testable, and has passed a whole series of tests with flying colours. That doesn’t mean that the theory is true; it does mean that it is a highly successful theory.

  91. You are obvioulsy a twisted and confused person.

    That’s the first thing you’ve got right today! But back to thermodynamics:

    That said even if living organisms require matter and energy to stay living, that does not mean living organisms are reducible to matter and energy. Only an ignorant person would make such a correlation, and here you are.

    Living organisms order disordered chemistry. Or, they turn the ordered chemistry of other ‘ordered’ living things into their own ‘order’. And they use energy to do the work.

    At a very basic level, something like a chemoautotroph takes the energetic electrons in, for example, hydrogen sulphide, and using that energy alone, constructs carbohydrate from CO2 and water. It is not thermodynamically favourable to make glucose from CO2 and water. So energy has to come in.

    Then something eats the chemoautotroph – a rich fauna operates at deep-sea vents feeding directly on sulphur-feeders. Crabs, tube worms, fish. Then something eats that, converting crab-ordering into fish-ordering. Then we eat the fish … whenever an organism uses the consumed energy to do work (including creating its own ‘ordered’ form) it siphons off a little of the trapped energy. The ‘exhaust gases’ of this system are CO2 and water.

    Now, you are correct that there is a mysterious ‘something’ additional to the matter/energy flow. There is some kind of organising principle at work – something causes these various kinds of “orderer” to actually do that ordering. But at no point does this organising principle step outside the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Without energy, living ‘orderers’ cannot order. DNA utilises energy to sustain and replicate itself, without violating any thermodynamic principle. How the “First Replicator” may have got round the thermodynamic problem of creating and sustaining that initial ordered state is a different matter, but once started, Life is simply a chain reaction pulling order from disorder, with ongoing energy input.

  92. Joe says that living things are not reducible to matter and energy. I wonder if he simply means that an organism so reduced is no longer “living”(in which case, he can hardly be argued with) or whether there is something other than matter and energy with which living organisms are imbued.
    A conundrum.

  93. Hi Rob,

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking post. So if I understand you rightly, you would oppose psychic research, since at best, it merely uncovers scientifically unproductive long-range (spatial or temporal) correlations between various kinds of mental phenomena, rather than true causal connections?

  94. Well, there are a couple of vitalists here. I can’t remember whether Joe is one.

  95. Hi Lizzie. You said,

    I have not read his book,but I have read his paper:A second look at the second law, in which he himself writes, in conclusion:

    Of course, one can still argue that the spectacular increase in order seen on Earth does not violate the second law because what has happened here is not really extremely improbable. Not many people are willing to make this argument, however; in fact, the claim that the second law does not apply to open systems was invented in an attempt to avoid having to make this
    argument.

    His first sentence is,of course, correct. However, his second sense is doubly wrong. It is precisely the argument of evolutionary biologists that what has happened on earth is “not really extremely improbable”, so his statement that “not many people are willing to make this argument” betrays complete ignorance of evolutionary theory. And the idea that “the claim that the second law does not apply to open systems was invented in an attempt to avoid having to make this argument” is simply false. The claim is made because it is demonstrably true.

    I agree that many people regard as not improbable the proposition that life arose from inanimate chemicals and then became more and more diverse until the present day. But that is exactly the bone of contention, isn’t it? I would argue that first, it is on its face highly improbable, and second, there is no actual evidence for its claimed probability. No one has even a viable theory of how life could have arisen initially in any way that is remotely probable, and there is no evidence that Darwinian processes can have produced any macro-evolutionary change without repeatedly overcoming impossibly huge probabilistic barriers.

    Secondly, the Second Law does apply to open systems. That is precisely his point. The mathematics of the Second Law can be paraphrased as, “The amount of thermodynamic order in an open system cannot increase faster than that which is imported across the boundary of the system.”

    So I’ll repeat my original point. ID implies that the only phenomenon capable of violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics is intelligence. This has major implications for the nature of intelligence.

  96. How the “First Replicator” may have got round the thermodynamic problem of creating and sustaining that initial ordered state is a different matter, but once started, Life is simply a chain reaction pulling order from disorder, with ongoing energy input.

    I don’t see that it’s a different matter. Most OOL theories propose some kind of temperature gradient that gives rise to convection cycle, where endothermic reactions happen at the top and exothermic at the bottom. As soon as you’ve got a cyclical energy storage-and-release system, you’ve got the potential for feedback loops, and thus for nonlinear self-perpetuating patterns.

    In another part of the internet there’s a long-running and acrimonious thread (actually many, scattered over several boards) about a wind-powered cart that goes downwind faster than the wind. It clearly works. And yet people still insist that it can’t, because it violates the 2LoT – and that it’s a perpetual motion machine. Obviously it isn’t, because it stops when the wind stops. But that doesn’t convince the Unbelievers. And nor does it violate the 2LoT. Although it was, admittedly, Intelligently Designed :)

  97. Dr Liddle, the known physicist count for this thread includes Drs Sheldon and Selensky. You could count me in at one step lower in the academic rankings. All of us are arguing the design side of this matter. What is that telling you? Can you answer tot he issues I have summarised, for instance? And of co8urse ES is precisely correct to highlight the issue of statistics at the foundation of the 2nd law. Notice, Dr Sewell’s point in the end is a statistical, probabilistic one. KF

    Not a lot, I’m afraid kf. I know rather a lot of physicists (indeed I’m married to one, and I work with several more, and Some Of My Best Friends and all that), and they all agree that Granville Sewell’s work is fallacious.

    As for the issue you raise, well, tbh your argument simply isn’t making any sense to me, for reasons I’ve given in previous conversations on this subject. As far as I can tell, I don’t think your concept of FSCO/I is sound, as I tried to demonstrate to you in our discussion about Chesil Beach.

    At best, it is extremely unclear.

    What does the bolded below mean,for instance:

    So, when we see a functionally constrained system, which is built up from many components in particular arrangements that are specific to observable function, then that system is necessarily in a highly constrained, low entropy state, relative to the sea of possibilities for the same components.

    ?

  98. “Secondly, all you have to do to find testable hypotheses for evolution common descent and heritable variation in reproductive success is to use Google Scholar to locate papers in which such hypotheses have been tested. They are countless.”

    1- That is NOT evidence for any mechanism, so you lose

    2- Again you are equivocating

    I take it you didn’t understand the post you are responding to.

    It’s perfectly possible that abiogenesis occurred more than once, and that we are the result of some kind of symbiosis between more than one common ancestral population.

    I said it was a bit dated.

    However now you should understand why we wouldn’t expect one tree of life.

    So evolutionary theory does not stand or fall by the hypothesis that we have a single common ancestor.

    You totally missed the point. How typical.

    The point is we can have universal common descent without any regard for the mechanism.


    6. “Blind watchmaker” thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common ancestors solely through an unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural selection acting on random variations or mutations; that the mechanisms of natural selection, random variation and mutation, and perhaps other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, are completely sufficient to account for the appearance of design in living organisms.

    Well, the hypothesis is that these mechanism account for the patterns we observe in lviing organisms, including, most notably, their fittedness to thrive in their environments.

    That is as vague and meaningless as the “theory”.

    And what “tests” has it passed?

    As far as anyone knows prokaryotes only give rise to prokaryotes. Humans only give rise to humans.

    There aren’t any tests that demonstrate otherwise.

    but anyway all that is moot because obvioulsy you didn’t grasp what I posted.

  99. Living organisms order disordered chemistry.

    That’s just a bald assertion.

  100. Elizabeth,

    Evos think that living organisms are reducible to matter, energy, necessity and chance.

    Urey/ Miller added ENERGY to a mixture of gases to get amino acids.

    And allegedly that is how living organisms arose- via energy being added to the earth.

    So the argument goes that given energy and time we can get a living organism from non-living matter.

    THAT is the fallacy I am talking about.

    Again you need to read eigenstate’s posts in this thread to understand my position.

    As for my second point- well you have demonstrated it in your response. The fallacy is thinking there would be “things on earth to do the work required to get a living organism”.

    And yes, I know evos think both are true- THAT is the fallacy as they are not.

  101. The EVIDENCE says living organisms are not reducible to matter and energy.

    The EVIDENCE says only life begets life.

    So you guys need to get a life and some evidence…

  102. From The Deniable Darwin:

    Sheer Dumb Luck

    Chance alone,” the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Jacques Monod once wrote, “is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, is at the very root of the stupendous edifice of creation.”

    The sentiment expressed by these words has come to vex evolutionary biologists. “This belief,” Richard Dawkins writes, “that Darwinian evolution is ‘random,’ is not merely false. It is the exact opposite of the truth.” But Monod is right and Dawkins wrong. Chance lies at the beating heart of evolutionary theory, just as it lies at the beating heart of thermodynamics.

    It is the second law of thermodynamics that holds dominion over the temporal organization of the universe, and what the law has to say we find verified by ordinary experience at every turn. Things fall apart. Energy, like talent, tends to squander itself. Liquids go from hot to lukewarm. And so does love. Disorder and despair overwhelm the human enterprise, filling our rooms and our lives with clutter. Decay is unyielding. Things go from bad to worse. And overall, they go only from bad to worse.

    These grim certainties the second law abbreviates in the solemn and awful declaration that the entropy of the universe is tending toward a maximum. The final state in which entropy is maximized is simply more likely than any other state. The disintegration of my face reflects nothing more compelling than the odds. Sheer dumb luck.

    But if things fall apart, they also come together. Life appears to offer at least a temporary rebuke to the second law of thermodynamics. Although biologists are unanimous in arguing that evolution has no goal, fixed from the first, it remains true nonetheless that living creatures have organized themselves into ever more elaborate and flexible structures. If their complexity is increasing, the entropy that surrounds them is decreasing. Whatever the universe-as-a-whole may be doing — time fusing incomprehensibly with space, the great stars exploding indignantly — biologically things have gone from bad to better, the show organized, or so it would seem, as a counterexample to the prevailing winds of fate.

    How so? The question has historically been the pivot on which the assumption of religious belief has turned. How so? “God said: ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let fowl fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”‘ That is how so. And who on the basis of experience would be inclined to disagree? The structures of life are complex, and complex structures get made in this, the purely human world, only by a process of deliberate design. An act of intelligence is required to bring even a thimble into being; why should the artifacts of life be different?

    Darwin’s theory of evolution rejects this counsel of experience and intuition. Instead, the theory forges, at least in spirit, a perverse connection with the second law itself, arguing that precisely the same force that explains one turn of the cosmic wheel explains another: sheer dumb luck.

    If the universe is for reasons of sheer dumb luck committed ultimately to a state of cosmic listlessness, it is also by sheer dumb luck that life first emerged on earth, the chemicals in the pre-biotic seas or soup illuminated and then invigorated by a fateful flash of lightning. It is again by sheer dumb luck that the first self-reproducing systems were created. The dense and ropy chains of RNA — they were created by sheer dumb luck, and sheer dumb luck drove the primitive chemicals of life to form a living cell. It is sheer dumb luck that alters the genetic message so that, from infernal nonsense, meaning for a moment emerges; and sheer dumb luck again that endows life with its opportunities, the space of possibilities over which natural selection plays, sheer dumb luck creating the mammalian eye and the marsupial pouch, sheer dumb luck again endowing the elephant’s sensitive nose with nerves and the orchid’s translucent petal with blush.

    Amazing. Sheer dumb luck.

  103. So Joe – if we remove the matter and the energy from an organism, what’s left?

  104. Dr Liddle,

    This will go in circles if you are at this stage going to object to a simple metaphor. You know full well that the issue of CSI comes up in a case where in a set of possible configurations W, we may define special, relatively isolated and rare zones T, which are separately and simply describable. You full well know that if you had a lottery with a set of prizes E1, E2 . . . En making up a set T such that |T| :|W| less than 1:10^150, such a lottery would be unwinnable on the gamut of our solar system’s resources.

    That is, inaccessible to chance and necessity.

    You could use a warmer-colder metric to select better guesses, but that would be foresighted design.

    And so forth.

    So, sorry, the basic point Sewell is making is on that challenge and opening up your lottery to blind inputs of energy is not going to make a difference.

    The sort of complex functional organisation in life is not going to come about by blind energy and mass flows into Darwin’s warm little pond. And for reasons relating to the strong tendency of systems to move to more disorderly states on injection of energy,

    Sure we have special ordered systems shaped by relatively simple configuration patterns like a hurricane, but these are irrelevant to the sort of information rich functional organisation we are looking at, just like crystallisation or the like.

    And, that is Orgel and Wicken, back to the 70′s speaking.

    KF

  105. Information and life- the other two fundamental entities.

  106. Bydand,

    It is safe to stay the position of Intelligent Design is that living organisms are not reducible to matter, energy, chance and necessity. IOW it isn’t something that pertains to just me.

  107. Chas: Living organisms order disordered chemistry.

    Joe: That’s just a bald assertion.

    Well, it is an observable fact. That is what they do. A tree turns disordered molecules of CO2 and water into “tree-stuff” – complex carbohydrates, with a bit of help from nitrogenous compounds and trace minerals supplied by its mycorhizzal symbionts.

    You turn a month’s worth of McDonald’s and chicken and celery and Cheerios into “Joe-stuff”. A billion billion copies of your enzymes are breaking down chicken-stuff etc and turning it into Joe-stuff.

    A bacterium absorbs carbohydrates through its cell wall and turns it into “bacterium-stuff” … Well, you get the idea. Biology, Joe. Acting against the tendency of raw materials to remain in a disordered, or differently ordered, state.

  108. So, sorry, the basic point Sewell is making is on that challenge and opening up your lottery to blind inputs of energy is not going to make a difference.

    Of course it makes a difference. Without energy, living things could not reproduce, and without self-replication there could be no exploration of the space of possibilities. Without energy, brains could not function, and intelligent designers could not design.

    The sort of complex functional organisation in life is not going to come about by blind energy and mass flows into Darwin’s warm little pond. And for reasons relating to the strong tendency of systems to move to more disorderly states on injection of energy,

    So are you saying that when a seed grows into a tree it violates the 2LoT?

  109. Whatever, I don’t do mc’s steak house and what you are saying has absolutely nothing to do with anything I have claimed.

    And it certainly doesn’t support any claim that living organisms are reducible to matter and energy.

  110. Amazing. Sheer dumb luck.

    Berlinski schmerlinski! Sheer dumb luck picked the genes that made you from the billions of combinations that your mum or your dad could have made with one of the billions of other individuals on earth, or with each other for that matter, and so on back through the generations. Or do you think you were put together specially? In which case, your mum and dad were destined to meet, and none of your ancestors had free will. It all had to happen just so, so as little Joe could come into being. Awww.

    Stochastic or deterministic genetics?

  111. Without energy, living things could not reproduce,

    Question-begging- you can’t use living organisms in your example because you need to explain them.

    So are you saying that when a seed grows into a tree it violates the 2LoT?

    More question-begging- where did you get that seed and the place to plant it?

  112. Really? After you remove matter and energy from an organism?

    Is the carrot you ate for dinner still alive and full of information?

  113. Chas spaz, wanker tanker.

    Nice strawman. Or is it a non-sequitur?

  114. Whatever, I don’t do mc’s steak house

    What? You’ll be telling me you don’t like celery next! Oh no, my whole argument comes crashing to the ground!

    and what you are saying has absolutely nothing to do with anything I have claimed.

    It specifically responds your statement “that is a bald assertion” wrt MY statement “Living organisms order disordered chemistry”. So it has a lot to do with a claim you have made – ie, ‘”Living organisms order disordered chemistry” is just a bald assertion’. Do keep up.

  115. After you remove matter and energy from an organism?

    If done properly.

    Is the carrot you ate for dinner still alive and full of information?

    I had (brick oven) pizza with artichokes, broccoli and roasted red peppers. I am sure the extreme heat killed anything that was living.

    My body is processing the information, matter and energy now.

  116. LoL!- “Living organisms order disordered chemistry”- doesn’t have anything to do with anything I have ever said.

    You seem to just say stuff as if it is relevant when in fact it has nothing to do with anything.

    Yes, do try to keep up…

  117. Joe, wanking into a tank won’t do it. Both of the parents needed to be present.

  118. Sounds like Berlinski didn’t actually read Monod.

    Here is Monod:

    The initial elementary events which open the way to evolution in the intensely conservative systems called living beings are microscopic, fortuitous, and totally unrelated to whatever may be their effects upon teleonomic functioning.

    But once incorporated in the DNA structure, the accident – essentially unpredictable because always singular – will be mechanically and faithfully replicated and translated: that is to say, both multiplied and transposed into millions or thousands of millions of copies. Drawn from the realm of pure chance, the accident enters into that of necessity, of the most implacable certainties. For natural selection operates at the macroscopic level, the level of organisms.

    Even today a good many distinguished minds seem unable to accept or even to understand that from a source of noise natural selection could quite unaided have drawn all the music of biosphere. Indeed natural selection operates upon the products of chance and knows no other nourishment; but it operates in a domain of very demanding conditions, from which chance is banned. It is not to chance but to these conditions that evolution owes its generally progressive course, its successive conquests, and the steady development which it seems to suggest.

    So Monod and Dawkins have precisely the same view.

    I think they are both misleading, actually, as I’ve said, or, at any rate, out of date – I don’t think it makes sense to call variation-generation “chance” and natural selection “necessity”. I think both are stochastic process that are also highly constrained.

    But it certainly makes no sense to pit Monod against Dawkins.

  119. Nice strawman. Or is it a non-sequitur?

    You choose. It was a response to an argument from personal incredulity, examining a system where one does not tend to feel the same incredulity, for compare-and-contrast purposes. A relevant system, genetics, since evolution is multi-generational genetics.

  120. It had absolutely nothing to do with what Berlinski said.

  121. Dawkins says NS acts on the level of genes, Monod says it operates on the level of the organism, and Elizabeth sez they have precisely the same view.

  122. LoL!- “Living organisms order disordered chemistry”- doesn’t have anything to do with anything I have ever said.

    Sigh. I said it. You picked it out of a prior post and declared it a “bald assertion”, which I then defended. Now you are carping that it has nothing to do with anything YOU have ever said. Any other phrases you might like to pick out and cavil over, then start wondering what their relevance is to your mighty words? Or is it time to play the “YOUR position has no evidence” card?

  123. My body is processing the information, matter and energy now.

    What are you doing with the information?

  124. I know you said it- and only you know why.

    So tell us what does ““Living organisms order disordered chemistry”- have to do with the question “Are living organisms reducible to matter and energy?”

  125. Processing it- you read it, you responded to it, yet you ask?

    I am starting to understand how a rag-tag group of farmers and merchants started the United States over the objections of the British.

  126. Oh read both, for goodness’ sake, Joe.

    No, natural selection doesn’t operate on the level of the organism, and Dawkins doesn’t say so. Genes that make the organism do what benefits the gene end up being selected. Hence Dawkins’ phrase “the selfish gene”.

    He doesn’t say that the gene can be selected on its own. Obviously, it can’t. It’s only selected for what it does to the organism.

    Although for a very different take, I recommend, as usual, Denis Noble:

    http://videolectures.net/eccs07_noble_psb/

  127. Elizabeth,

    Your anger betrays you. But it is entertaining-

    No, natural selection doesn’t operate on the level of the organism, and Dawkins doesn’t say so.

    Monod said NS operates on the organism:

    For natural selection operates at the macroscopic level, the level of organisms.

    YOU provided the quote.

    But anyway NS is a RESULT, which is something you nor dawkins seems to understand.

  128. Oops quite right. Meant to type:

    “No natural selection doesn’t operate on the level of the gene, and Dawkins doesn’t say so.”

    My bad.

    You are right, I was a bit cross when I typed that. Still at least I didn’t call you a wanker tanker. Although I have to say, I came so close.

    And yes, of course natural selection is a result, and Monod, Dawkins and I all understand that. It’s the result of differential reproduction of organisms. And what the factors that determine that differential reproduction are factors that affect the organism

  129. I don’t see that it’s a different matter.

    Energetically the same constraint must apply, yes. That is, there is no free lunch. Whatever ordering must take place to form the ‘first replicator’ cannot violate the 2nd Law.

    But having a replicator that can replicate (with suitable energy input) is a different matter from getting a replicator that can replicate. It depends to some degree on the manner of specification. Once a replicator system can create copies of itself, with suitable energetic input, that system is off and running. But the very first replicator may conceivably have used a different energy source (or no energy source). Replicating a replicator needs energy, but forming one may not, if (for example) there is simply a random bumping of molecules that eventually hits upon some ‘replicator configuration”. I can hear the slumbering UD keyboards sparking up at such a suggestion!

    I don’t think they are necessarily divorced, but nor are they necessarily entwined, is all I’m saying.

    Most OOL theories propose some kind of temperature gradient that gives rise to convection cycle

    I think that would be unlikely, myself. I think it is all about electrons, and I think that is a necessary start point. I don’t see a temperature cycle turning into a more ‘modern’ system. You need a source of energetic electrons. And (I think) you need a membrane. The electrons pump protons across the membrane, and this stores the energy.

    The likeliest source of energetic electrons is a molecule such as hydrogen sulphide. You also need a terminal acceptor. Then there is no need to dream up a cyclic system. Energetic electrons flow from top to bottom. Gradually, you’d start to run out of energetic electrons, but not as long as there is a steady stream.

    The reason I favour the electron-first scenario is the central role of ATP in both energetic and informatic biochemistry. 3 or 4 of the main cofactors of electron transport pathways, and ATP itself, have ATP as a central component. And it is also an RNA subunit. Condensing RNA against the energy gradient both consumes the energy in ATP, and uses its ‘stuff’ as a subunit in an ordered configuration. This suggests a connection between energy and ‘information’ that I think runs very deep.

  130. Joe: I had (brick oven) pizza with artichokes, broccoli and roasted red peppers. I am sure the extreme heat killed anything that was living.

    My body is processing the information, matter and energy now.

    Chas: What are you doing with the information?

    Joe: Processing it- you read it, you responded to it, yet you ask?

    I read and responded to the information in your pizza?

  131. It’s the result of differential reproduction of organisms.

    The differential reproduction has to be due to heritable random variation.

    I will look into Dawkins- it has been a while since I read “The Selfish Gene”-

  132. Yes, it has to be due to heritable variation. The variation doesn’t have to be “random”.

    I don’t think “The Selfish Gene” is a great book tbh. But if you are going to re-read it, I do suggest you also either listen to that Denis Noble lecture or read Noble’s very short book, The Music of Life which is an excellent counter-weight.

    I keep recommending that lecture, but haven’t had any feedback on it from anyone here! I’d be interested in your reaction.

  133. VJ,
    Yes, I would oppose psychic research, and perhaps for the reasons you mentioned, but here’s my way of saying it. Long-range correlations are a fine thing to research, but you are right, they don’t give causality. To assume causality is to make a decision as to whether we are looking at a machine or a person. That is, if I were to say, “Obama’s education in Indonesia caused him to become President” you would treat this as an interesting thesis that could never be proven. If I were to say, “the double slits caused the photon to produce an interference pattern” you would think this hypothesis could be proven true or false.

    Which of these two objectives is psychic research purporting to be? If you think it is anything like the 2nd one, then I argue you are making the Margaret Mead error.

    Even if, like some have tried to convince the military, a psychic with 60% success is a big advantage over a 50% chance, I would argue that the moment you rely on the psychic, you will see that success rate plummet below 50%. Why? Because the psychic knows that you are relying on her. And therefore the result is never objective, never even probabilistic, it is personal. Even Ahitophel, whose psychic powers were reported to be nearly divine, could not figure out whether he should support David or Absalom. He could give advice to others, but he could not advise himself. Why? Recursion. He couldn’t imagine anyone not listening to him, so when he was undermined, he hung himself–again, unable to imagine others showing him the mercy he could not himself provide.

    And I think the military came to the same conclusion, probably more than once, that despite a psychic’s better than average abilities, they are never able to deliver when it mattered. Which, as I have repeatedly suggested, is the characteristic of (unreliable) persons, not of things, and therefore requires the person-toolset not the science-toolset to properly utilize. E.g., psychic research comes under the scrutiny of Proverbs, not of Science.

  134. So tell us what does ““Living organisms order disordered chemistry”- have to do with the question “Are living organisms reducible to matter and energy?”

    It was the first sentence of a longer piece on that very topic at 19.1.1.4. A brief look at the energy-matter relations of living organisms, and the relationship between their informational and thermodynamic constraints. Care to move on to sentence 2 now? We’ll allow you to digest that, then move on to 3 in a little while. The trouble is, when you read so slowly, you lose track of the argument. Try and read it all together.

  135. Joe,

    It is safe to stay the position of Intelligent Design is that living organisms are not reducible to matter, energy, chance and necessity.

    I completely agree with you – that is indeed the position of Intelligent Design.

    However, this position is based solely on metaphysical assumptions, since at present it can neither be verified nor falsified by appeal to empirical evidence. Since ID is predicated upon this claim, it means all of ID is utterly dependent upon the truth of an ancient metaphysical claim that cannot be demonstrated.

    But scientific paranormal research has the potential of changing all this! If ID was serious about being a science instead of a religion, it would actively pursue some evidence – any good evidence – that human thought transcends physical cause.

    Unfortunately, here is Ms. ID News arguing against the study paranormal phenomena!

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ists-view/

    Go figure.

  136. It had absolutely nothing to do with what Berlinski said.

    Of course it did – you just didn’t get it. Anyway, what did the Berlinski quote have to do with the OP or the thermodynamic subthread? You throw in something OT and then complain about non-sequiturs?

  137. I keep recommending that lecture, but haven’t had any feedback on it from anyone here! I’d be interested in your reaction.

    Liz, I’ve fed back twice! I know these things can get lost in the cross-talk, though …

  138. Sorry! And did I respond already and forget, or did I just miss it?

    Things do get lost here, I find.

    Did you like it?

  139. I agree that many people regard as not improbable the proposition that life arose from inanimate chemicals and then became more and more diverse until the present day. But that is exactly the bone of contention, isn’t it? I would argue that first, it is on its face highly improbable, and second, there is no actual evidence for its claimed probability. No one has even a viable theory of how life could have arisen initially in any way that is remotely probable,

    Well, there are several potentially viable theories.

    and there is no evidence that Darwinian processes can have produced any macro-evolutionary change without repeatedly overcoming impossibly huge probabilistic barriers.

    Well, I’d disagree, I think, but it depends of course on what you call “macro-evolutionary change” and what you count as a “natural” process.

    Secondly, the Second Law does apply to open systems. That is precisely his point. The mathematics of the Second Law can be paraphrased as, “The amount of thermodynamic order in an open system cannot increase faster than that which is imported across the boundary of the system.”

    So I’ll repeat my original point. ID implies that the only phenomenon capable of violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics is intelligence. This has major implications for the nature of intelligence.

    Well, it would if true, but it isn’t true. Intelligence can’t violate the 2LoT. Nothing can.

    Unless, as I suggested upthread, you are suggesting that supernatural intelligence can. In which case, of course, we have no precedent, because natural intelligence can’t.

  140. Yes, it has to be due to heritable variation. The variation doesn’t have to be “random”.

    If it is directed by some built-in response then it can hardly be called “natural”. The variation for natural selection has to be by chance.

    Why would I listen to Noble if I want to know what Dawkins says?

    Does the lecture contain any evidence that blind and undirected chemical processes can construct new, useful multi-protein configurations? How about any evidence from developmental biology/ evo-devo that would support the claim of mammals having a fish for an ancestor?

    I started listening to it but didn’t find it compelling enough to get through it. And it didn’t strike me as good discussion material.

    Let me try it again…

  141. I read it all and it doesn’t have anything to do with the question “Are living organisms reducible to matter and energy?”

    The trouble is you say stuff that is irrelevant and you think it is relevant.

  142. Nothing to get as it didn’t have anything to do with what Berlinski said.

    And Berlinski talks about the second law-> that is how it is relevant to the subthread.

  143. However, this position is based solely on metaphysical assumptions, since at present it can neither be verified nor falsified by appeal to empirical evidence.

    I disagree and I say you are making a bald assertion.

    And I also say if the evidence leads us to the metaphysical then so be it.

  144. I didn’t say the evidence leads us to the metaphysical – it doesn’t. I said there is no empirical evidence, which means the question remains in philosophical (metaphysical) debate rather than the realm of the scientific.

    If you disagree, then you are referring to paranormal research. Yet ID proponents (like the recent O’Leary post, linked above) refuse to consider any evidence for paranormal phenomena!

    Sounds like a bit of a bind for ID pretending to be scientific :-)

  145. I said IF the evidence leads us to the metaphysical, then so be it. Others have said that same thing- eg Scott Minnich.

  146. Any evidence (for mind transcending physical cause) that you might be referring to would be from paranormal research. Given that paranormal research has not been pursued with much funding or enthusiasm by either ID enthusiasts or mainstream science, the evidence for paranormal phenomena is presently at best controversial and at worst nonexistent.

    Since you’ve already agreed that ID is predicated on the truth of paranormal claims, one would think you’d be arguing for starting an ID research program to try and scientifically support the claim that mind can operate outside of brains. But you don’t. And even worse, other ID proponents actively argue against this sort of research.

    Sounds to me like ID really doesn’t want to submit its claims to scientific testing after all.

  147. I read it all and it doesn’t have anything to do with the question “Are living organisms reducible to matter and energy?”

    The trouble is you say stuff that is irrelevant and you think it is relevant.

    I addressed matter. I addressed energy. I addressed the ‘informatic’ principle that underlies the ordering of matter and energy into supposedly thermodynamically improbable configurations. I explained how Life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics. How can all that NOT have anything to do with the question “Are living organisms reducible to matter and energy?.

    You have babbled vaguely about the additional components Information (as though it was something you could eat and turn into other information), and Life. As I said in my post, Life IS matter, energy and an ‘organising principle’ that derives entirely from the chemical properties of certain remarkable molecules and their interactions – ie matter and energy. That’s the biological viewpoint. You may subscribe to some woolly notions about biological information occupying some realm outside of the physical, but that seems unsupported.

    Unless you are proferring some kind of supernatural essence that has to keep operating in order for organisms to stay alive – ie, individual organisms don’t just ‘run themselves’ – then I don’t see what else is on offer.

  148. Hi aiguy:

    Any evidence (for mind transcending physical cause) that you might be referring to would be from paranormal research.

    That’s what you say, but who are you?

    Since you’ve already agreed that ID is predicated on the truth of paranormal claims,

    Nope, you are confused.

    Also ID is NOT about the designer. ID is about the design and the design is not paranormal.

    IOW you are really confused.

  149. I addressed matter. I addressed energy.

    No, you haven’t. To address those you have to explain how those came to be and you haven’t done that.

    I explained how Life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics.

    You have NOT explained how the OoL from non-living matter via blind and undirected processes does not violate the second law.

    You are a misguided liar.

  150. Chas: I addressed matter. I addressed energy.

    Joe: No, you haven’t. To address those you have to explain how those came to be and you haven’t done that.

    Moving the goalposts much, Joe? I wasn’t making a cosmological argument for the origin of matter-energy-space-time. I was addressing the question of the media through which biological entities manifest themselves. Life runs itself, with (as far as we can tell) no thermodynamic exceptions. But it is not a perpetual motion machine. Incoming energy keeps it spinning.

    Chas: I explained how Life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics.

    Joe: You have NOT explained how the OoL from non-living matter via blind and undirected processes does not violate the second law.

    I was talking specifically about living organisms. This is neither a cosmological question, nor an ‘OOL’ one, but about the energetic relations of individual organisms. Their lives are conducted ENTIRELY within the rule of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Clearly, this principle would also govern the OOL – we cannot expect ANY reaction to take place against its thermodynamic gradient without the input of energy. But I was talking of trees, and bacteria, and you, and pizzas – things already living, or recently so, begat by things also living. Not about “First Life”.

    You are a misguided liar.

    Misguided I certainly may be, but liar I am not. I make honest attempts to address the science behind your blithering. If I do so incomprehensibly, that is a problem, but I am being honest.

    So far, in this subthread, you have called me a liar on several occasions, and a “spaz”, and a wanker. Water off a duck’s back really, but your mask’s slipping, Joseph.

  151. 8.1.1.3.13

    Elizabeth,

    It is no use repeating that somebody’s claims are not supported until one actually learns what the opponent is actually saying. I use the definitions provided by Abel in “The first gene”. Please refer to the book for explanations and nomenclature.

  152. Joe,

    You’ve said that ID claimed that mind was not reducible to matter. I’ve asked you what evidence you have for this, and you have replied that there is evidence for ghosts. Things like ghosts are called “paranormal” phenomena. Therefore, ID’s claims are based on evidence from paranormal research.

  153. I don’t quite see how “life” can be rightly termed an “entity”, nor how anything resembling life can be present without energy or matter.

    I’m also interested in knowing how “information” can persist and be “processed” without matter or energy – the one to record it, the other to transmit it.

    Sorry, Joe – once you take away matter and energy, you have NOTHING.

  154. Hi aiguy:

    You’ve said that ID claimed that mind was not reducible to matter. I’ve asked you what evidence you have for this, and you have replied that there is evidence for ghosts.

    AGAIN, that is incorrect. As I said the evidence for ghosts means there is evidence for non-human agency.

    The evidence that a living organism is not reducible to matter and energy is in abiogenesis research.

  155. I wasn’t making a cosmological argument for the origin of matter-energy-space-time.

    I was.

    I was talking specifically about living organisms.

    You can’t do that until you can demonstrate how they arose from non-living matter via blind and undirected processes.

    And my mask is slipping because YOU keep moving the goalposts?

    My position about the second law has ALWAYS pertained to the OoL- ALWAYS.

    My claim has NOTHING to do with what living organisms do. Yet here you are still pushing the strawman.

  156. I don’t quite see how “life” can be rightly termed an “entity”, nor how anything resembling life can be present without energy or matter.

    Oh well, geez, someone named “Bydand” can’t quite see- that is the best scientific refution EVER!

    I am doomed.

    I’m also interested in knowing how “information” can persist and be “processed” without matter or energy – the one to record it, the other to transmit it.

    Did I say that?

    Sorry, Joe – once you take away matter and energy, you have NOTHING.

    Good luck finding evidence to support that.

    “Information is information, neither matter nor energy. Any materialism which disregards this, will not survive one day.”- Norbert Weiner

  157. Hi Joe,

    The scientific evidence for ghosts is very poor, and since ID needs to demonstrate the possibility of non-human agency in order to support its hypothesis, it would behoove ID to invest in paranormal research. But not only does ID fail to engage any such research, ID proponents (like Dembski and O’Leary) actually deny that paranormal research has anything to do with ID! Unless this changes, ID will never actually be able to support its hypothesis that non-human agents exist.

    As far as abiogenesis research providing evidence that living things are not reducible to matter/energy: Are you making the point that since we don’t understand how to produce a living thing, then it must be the case that something other than matter/energy is involved?

  158. The scientific evidence for ghosts is very poor,

    I disagree and would love to have any scientist stay a night at any of a short list of places.

    and since ID needs to demonstrate the possibility of non-human agency in order to support its hypothesis

    No, all we need to do that is the evidence and the knowledge that something caused it to be the way it is.

    As for abiogenesis I am saying that all you have to do to refute my/ ID’s claim is demonstrate that a living organism can arise from non-living matter via blind and undirected processes.

  159. Unless this changes, ID will never actually be able to support its hypothesis that non-human agents exist.

    What about animal agents? Have you just forgotten about them or do you think animals are unintelligent?

  160. Eugene,

    What about animal agents? Have you just forgotten about them or do you think animals are unintelligent?

    Whether or not animals are “intelligent” depends entirely on how you define “intelligent” rather than on our views about animals, of course. If ID ever bothered to publish a canonical, technical definition of this ill-defined word, there would actually be a fact of the matter.

    I would say all living organisms are intelligent and all natural (non-man-made) intelligent things are living organisms. The only exception to this would be computer systems, which can also be intelligent (i.e. they can learn, solve novel problems, generate plans, etc).

  161. Hi aiguy,

    I have told you that “intelligence” in this case refers to agency and all livng organisms would fall into that category.

    And as Meyer has written all computer stuff can be traced back to us.

    I have also told you that if it is ever demonstrated that blind and undirected processes can produce a living organism from non-living matter then ID’s claim that agency is something other than nature is nicely refuted.

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